Coinciding with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Illinois will mark the first observance of Muhammad Ali Day on January 17 as part of a new legislation to recognize the contributions made by Americans of different faiths.
“We saw it as an opportunity to celebrate these two huge icons and how they relate to each other and how they fit into our collective culture,” said Fatima Siddiqua, coordinator of voter engagement efforts and lead fellow for specials projects at Oak Brook-based Illinois Muslim Civic Coalition, Chicago Tribune.
The coalition is a group of activists and organizations who led efforts to get Muhammad Ali Day recognized statewide as part of a larger legislation that requires history courses to include the study of the contributions made by Americans of different faiths.
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To mark the event, the Illinois Muslim Civic Coalition is hosting a roundtable with high-profile activists including Rev. Jesse Jackson, Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, Chicago History Museum President, Donald Lassere, Ali’s daughter, Maryam Ali, and other notable figures.
“It’s pretty crazy … and so exciting,” Siddiqua said.
“I’m almost relieved at how easy it was to have people agree to speak at this event, that just shows that people are excited and want to be a part of it.”
Deliberate Dialogue on 1/17 @ 1 PM CST. IL made Ali’s birthday, a commemorative holiday. This year MLK Day is also on the 17th. Let’s honor Ali & King’s unique models of civic justice. Order a free Ali/King poster/tool kit. https://t.co/QNGrI7MD8f pic.twitter.com/ICU8CXxpL5
— Maryum Ali (@maryum7) January 11, 2022
Spread the Word
To spread the word about the first ever Muhammad Ali Day, organizers commissioned 10,000 posters that anyone can request for free using a Google form found on the Coalition’s website to hang up in their home, work, classroom or business.
Along with the posters, the Coalition will send out a free, easy educational tool kit created by educators across the state to guide discussions surrounding the life and impact of Ali. The posters and tool kits are available from Jan. 10 to Feb. 28 to encompass Black History Month.
Rachael Mahmood, 5th grade teacher at District 204′s Georgetown Elementary, described the resource as a “steppingstone to having these conversations.”
“What they’re getting is something that lasts beyond that one hour conversation. It’s something that can be used year after year,” Mahmood said.
Muhammad Ali, being a legend and a universal figure loved by everyone, is still being showered with honors years after his death.
Named Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr after his father, the sporting champion, who died aged 74, reverted to Islam in 1964 and changed his name to Mohammad Ali, dubbing his former alias, Cassius Clay, “my slave name”.
Ali was a legend as a boxer, philanthropist and social activist.
In 2019, Philadelphia renamed Philly’s 52nd Street after the late boxer.