During the summer of 1996, unfortunately, I was waiting to go to bootcamp. But they never came and got me so I was able to take in the moment of the Olympics in Atlanta. The city hosting the Olympics is a moment I can remember clearly. Watching Muhammad Ali light the torch was dope. That was the moment Atlanta became a metropolis. That was when people started to notice the city’s potential.

The night of the torch lighting, [I] was at my grandmother’s house watching on television. I just couldn’t believe that so many people from different countries were all in Atlanta. It was astronomical. And any time you got to see Ali, it was a moment. In my house and in my family, he was somebody we celebrated. My grandparents and parents always praised him. Any time he was on television they’d want to watch.

Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for 100,000 Opportunities Initiative

Seeing Ali lighting the torch set the bar kinda high for me. That’s the type of energy I’ve always been pushed towards. That’s the type of effort I want to convey. When people ask what I would write if I could use my talents and fame for good, Ali is the pinnacle of that. He came to my school a few times growing up and we’d have to write papers about him and his activism.


I’m in no way worthy of filling the same shoes as Ali or should even be spoken of in the same breath. But I recognize that that’s the bar. If I’m going to attempt to make a difference, I’m going to do what I can to emulate that. I can’t necessarily compare.

Some people like to forget about what Ali stood for. I do feel like the intention of some is to want us to just entertain, like they wanted Ali to just stick to boxing. Personally, I don’t think people who remain conscious will forget about all of the hard work, blood, sweat and tears that Ali put in.

Seeing Ali lights the torch gave me a lot of motivation. It gave me the authority and the audacity to dream big.

— As told to A.J. Springer

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