Muhammad Ali and the Liberty Square Housing Development
My Inspirational meeting with Muhammad Ali
By P. L. Wright Ph.D.
I would like to say thank you Muhammad Ali for encouraging the world on how to follow their beliefs no matter what may happen as long as they are not harmful to themselves or anyone else. Rest in peace Muhammad Ali, the greatest fighter and one of the most encouraging and inspirational persons in the entire world.
Before I toured the world as a guitarist with bands, I was born and I lived in Miami, Fla., in the Liberty Square Housing Development. I believe it was during 1959 or 1960, I was taking a walk, while in my eyesight I caught Muhammad Ali, then called Cassius Clay, driving and about to pass me by in a convertible white Cadillac with the top down. It was on 62nd Street. I called out to him and asked if I could ride with him and he slowed down and said come on get in. I was about 15 or 16-years-old. I opened the door and got in. I told him how my little brother, whom we call Hank, looks like him. His birth name was Michael and he truly looked so much like Muhammad Ali. Hank was about 10 or 11 years old at that time. Clay drove us to my residence in the Liberty Square Housing Development on 62nd Terrace and 12th Avenue. I asked him to wait until I go inside the house and bring my little brother out for him to see. My little brother Hank and I came out and Hank ran to the car in his excitement and immediately jumped over into the back seat, looking ready to go riding anywhere, because he knew he was with Clay. The convertible top was down, ready to take a ride in the wind.
Clay turned around and looked into the back seat. In his amazement, he said to me, “You’re right, your brother sure does look a lot like me as if he could be my little brother or my son.” I then asked if he could drive us around the Liberty Square. I wanted my friends to see us riding with Cassius Clay, the greatest fighter of all. I am sure he understood that I was so proud of him and he was my idol in many ways. Some of my friends did get the chance to see us riding with Clay and they talked about it for a long time to come. He took us back to my house in the Liberty Square and I told him thanks. I felt especially proud to have met and talked and rode with Clay in my neighborhood, the Liberty Square Housing Development which is now called the Pork and Beans. It is about to be demolished, but hopefully saving the main building, called The Center and the Liberty Square Monument, in the same area across the street. It would be a historical site for others to know about and remember that every place that has some type of new destructive and dangerous occurrences may not have always existed there.
Let us save the good and positive historical facts for future generations to embrace and build their self-esteem with hopes of creating a better life. I can recall many memories of famous celebrities who came to our projects to visit, or participate with us in some type of event. We also had academic teachers to help us with our school les-sons there, and there were all types of sports, too. I do believe that those memories encouraged, gave inspiration and enlightened the aspirations of those residences who wished to accomplish their goals such as a Grammy Award winner, Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, Broadway stars, music recording hit makers, producers and performers; not without the many types of successful entrepreneurs and judges who all grew up in the Liberty Square Housing Development.
Let us keep those historical memories alive to display and overshadow the dangerous times of today that are occurring in the surrounding areas and the Liberty Square Housing Development in Liberty City Miami, Fla. The only way to do that is to save the main building and the monument to continue to display part of what stood there as a reminder of what was our meeting place of peace where we learned, played and developed our skills to make a better life and empower ourselves and our families for the future.