“It takes only one man to start a fire.” —- Dick Gregory, June 10, 2016
By Lyndale V. Pettus Sr.
I had the opportunity of being in Louisville, Ky. during the services and praise given to “The Greatest”, Muhammad Ali, his legacy and the loss of the most iconic sports figure and social activist in the history of the world.
The city went all out and gave incredible support to their favorite Son, the Ali family, friends and thousands of people from all points of the globe who converged on the beautiful city of Louisville, Ky. for the homegoing memorial services.
I witnessed first-hand so many details and outpourings of kindness, shared by everyone who was there to praise what Ali did for them and the consciousness of the world.
Everyone I met and spoke with had learned something from his actions that will be for-ever in their hearts.
There were parents who came with kids and toddlers to pay respect and to never let Ali be forgotten. The rich, poor, the young and old came from a far and near to say thank you.
Though there were many celebrities and dignitaries in attendance, I was thrilled to run into Dick Gregory, another one of my heroes who led the fight for change during the Civil Rights movement. I asked to shake his hand, to thank him for what he did for me as a kid growing up in the times of fighting for our rights.
When asked if I could take his photo, he replied, “Yes of course.” After taking his photo and shaking his hand he made a comment that was one of the most profound things I have ever heard. In his most philosophical Dick Gregory voice he said, “It takes only one man to start a fire”!
I felt confused for the time it takes to blink. Then we both smiled immediately and nodded in harmony, acknowledging the wisdom of the moment, what it all had meant and the true meaning of his words and everything Ali did for us all as a people. I watched him walk away with even more passion and respect for Ali and others who stood up to change our conditions.
On the plane ride home the next day reflecting on the events in Louisville, looking out the window at a beautiful sunny sky filled with fluffy pure white clouds, the thought came to me reflecting on what I had witnessed.
I had this incredible feeling of calmness. I suddenly felt Ali had orchestrated the whole week where we as a people of all faiths and denominations came out to build bridges across divides and rekindle the fire and speak about solving issues that seems lost in red tape and rhetoric.
He did it again even in his passing; he has given to us the ultimate challenge to do better for one another and coexist in friendship and respect, no matter your faith, race or creed.
His last round is clearly the beginning in so many ways. Ali in death has shown an example of togetherness that, duplicated, could unite the world.
Thank you Muhammad Ali for everything you’ve done for our world inside and outside the ring.