I was prompted to create the above after reading a couple of stories about the courage, honour and tenacity of Rosa Parks and Muhammad Ali.
In December, fifty years ago, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man, sparking a boycott by black people of buses to bring an end to segregation on public transport. On November 13th, 1956, that segregation in Montgomery, Alabama, finally came to an inglorious end. Rosa Parks’ action inspired people to take up the struggle for civil rights which had been on-going but which had fuel added to its fire by her actions.
I also read again something I’d forgotten about Muhammad Ali (who started his boxing career as Cassius Clay and converted to Sunni Islam in 1975). Ali refused to serve in Vietnam, a stand for truth and justice, but one which also led to great hardship for him as, in the backlash sparked off and fed by reactionary forces, he was arrested and found guilty of draft evasion charges. He was stripped of his boxing title and didn’t fight again for nearly four years. Eventually, he was found not guilty of the charges after appealing through the courts.
On Vietnam, Ali said:
“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?
No, I am not going ten thousand miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would put my prestige in jeopardy and could cause me to lose millions of dollars which should accrue to me as the champion. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is right here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality…
If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to twenty-two million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. But I either have to obey the laws of the land or the laws of Allah. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail. We’ve been in jail for four hundred years.”
The painting is deeply symbolic:
- the moon represents the emotional response of those taking action, those supporting them but also the great anger and resistance they both faced from those opposed to their actions.
- the clouds represent the confusion many people felt about their actions although this clarified over time.
- the stairs represent the difficulties they had to overcome in taking their stand.
- the hearts represent the courage in the hearts of Rosa Parks and Muhammad Ali.
- the hearts also represent the love and respect people have for these two heroes and the stand each took so many years ago.
- the darkness around the edge represents the difficulties and hostility both encountered in taking their respective stands.
- the blue represents truth and justice.
- the pink represents the love of both Rosa Parks and Muhammad Ali for truth and justice.
These two people – pursuing different goals in life but arising from the same desire for right action – inspire me. They are heroes and stand tall in history for their courage and determination.