A great day for a funeral
I must start off by stating that no one ever wants to attend a memorial service, especially if it’s a person whom you love dearly. However, we are born, we live and then we die; it’s simply the order of life and there’s no way of getting around it.
I had the privilege of attending the services the city of Louisville, Ky., held for its most beloved son, Muhammad Ali. And I might add that other than my own mother’s funeral, I was never more moved. The mood went from cheers of joy to tears of sorrow as I listened to various celebrities reminisce about Ali’s life at the memorial service.
Below is a recap of how my day unfolded on Friday, June 10, 2016.
It started off with me mingling with the enormous crowd gathered at the corner of Ninth and Muhammad Ali Boulevard. We waited anxiously for the motorcade that would be transporting the body of “The Greatest” throughout the city of Louisville, a request Ali had made 10 years prior to his death.
Violent crime in Louisville is at an all-time high this year; however, the spirit of Ali must have been soaring throughout the streets. Even though there was such a massive gathering, there were no arguments, no fights and, most important of all, no shootings.
There were people with roses in their hands waiting to toss them on the hearse when it passed by. There were thousands of people wearing shirts depicting various stages of Ali’s life. Surprisingly, I was one of only a few people with a sign. My sign read ALI “BOMA-YE!!” and below those words it read, A.K.A. THE G.O.A.T. (THE “GREATEST OF ALL TIME”). For some inexplicable reason, it was a media magnet. I gave well over 20 interviews to newspapers, most of which were from different countries, England, Israel, South Africa, etc. They were mostly interested in knowing how Ali had affected my life. I even did a live shout-out on ESPN.
When the motorcade stopped at 3302 Grand Ave., the pink structure Ali called home growing up, the crowd erupted. The hearse, as well as the street, were blanketed by flowers that were tossed by his loving admirers; it was as though the vehicle was a matador who had bowed after successfully slaying a bull. While making its way down Broadway, the motorcade was again mobbed by tens of thousands of cheering fans, until it reached Ali’s final resting place, Cave Hill Cemetery.
Later, the memorial service was held at the KFC YUM Center. I was lucky enough to acquire a ticket. As I sat listening and watching the parade of celebrities as they spoke highly about The Champ, I was most moved by the daughter of Malcolm X, Attallah Shabazz, as she tearfully spoke about her relationship with Ali after a wedge was forced between her father and Ali due to religious reasons. It took nearly every ounce of strength I had within me to fight back the tears that were threatening to run down my cheeks.
In closing, I know there is never a good day for a funeral. But if there was such a thing, on June 10, 2016, in Louisville, Ky., it occurred.
DAPO AKERS, formerly Bruce Akers, attended Prince Edward County Public Schools. He is a writer who lives in Louisville, Ky., and still has relatives in Prince Edward County. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.