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Muhammed Ali celebrates his 70th birthday

Gary Younge pays tribute to Muhammed Ali

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Writers Against Racism Patron Gary Younge reflects on the impact of Muhammed Ali

Most people who have had to negotiate not just the most obvious manifestations of discrimination, but also the petty, daily, social expressions of prejudice which serve to undermine and overwhelm can identify with Ali. His own personal reinvention demanded, of everyone, not only a reassessment of your relationship to him, but to the issues he raised. He was the champion and to some extent he could dictate the terms of engagement.

Earlier in his life he said: "I liked being who I was because they would put me on television and when I say, 'I'm the greatest, I'm pretty', that means that little black children and people who felt like nothing say, 'We got a champion. Look what he's doing. Look at him over there.' "

I was one of those children. At home we had a rabbit - a black rabbit with a white patch around its eye - that we called Muhammad. And I had a T-shirt, with wording stretching over my toddler's pot belly reading: "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." I never thought I was nothing. But when I wore that T-shirt, I felt like a million dollars.

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Gary Younge at The Guardian

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