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Caribbean legislator wants New York street co-named after Ali

A Caribbean American legislator here wants to honour the memory and legacy of the late Muhammad Ali by co-naming a popular Brooklyn street after him.

New York City Councilman Council Member Jumaane D Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, on Saturday announced plans to co-name Flatbush Junction “Muhammad Ali Triangle”.

Williams said Ali, who died on June 3 at 74, was “a pivotal figure around the world and championed for peace, acceptance of Muslims and justice.

“In life, Muhammad Ali stood by his convictions, even though he wasn’t always well liked because of it,” said Williams, representative for the 45th Council District in Brooklyn. “Now the world lifts him up and offers him praise for the very same reason.

“He symbolised much more than a championship fighter; he embodied the spirit and perseverance of a true warrior,” Williams added.

He noted that, in 1967, Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title after he refused to enter the US Army and go into battle with Vietnam.

“The United States demonised him for it, calling him unpatriotic, and even convicted him for it,” said Williams, stating that Ali was sentenced to five years in prison, banned from boxing for three years and faced a US$10,000 fine.

“This country tried to take everything away from him because of his beliefs and right to exercise his religious freedom by not taking part in a war,” Williams added. “As he is rightfully celebrated now, let’s not forget his label for so many years as an outcast. Too often, we celebrate later in life that which is initially hastily admonished.

“There will never be another force like him,” Williams continued. “It is with great pleasure and anticipation that I propose dedicating the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Nostrand Avenue, the site of the popular Flatbush Junction shopping and transit hub, as a tribute to his impact on our community, the nation and the entire world.”

Williams said co-namings are specifically enacted to honour individuals who have made indelible contributions to New York City “and to serve as a teaching tool to future generations about the impact these persons made during their lifetime.

“I can think of no one whose life story meets that criteria more than the man universally acknowledged as the Greatest – Muhammad Ali,” Williams said.

He said “The Junction” is a vibrant hub in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn that offers commerce, education, transportation, and entertainment options.

The three-way intersection is considered a “gateway” to the southern part of Brooklyn.

Williams said the co-naming of Flatbush Junction will elevate the area socially and economically, providing a tourism destination in Brooklyn outside of the downtown area.

“The co-naming of the Junction to Muhammad Ali Triangle is an exciting prospect that has the potential to attract tourism to the Flatbush-Nostrand Junction, and offer our local businesses significant growth opportunities,” said Kenneth Mbonu, executive director of Flatbush-Nostrand Junction BID (Business Improvement District).

“Muhammad Ali connected with people of diverse cultures; just as the Junction serves as a transportation and shopping hub connecting the diverse Flatbush community,” he added.

On Friday, thousands of people paid their final respects to Ali, as a funeral procession drove through his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.

“He was bold in everything he did, and did not compromise his beliefs for anyone,” Williams said. “These are traits that should be admired and duplicated by us all.

“With this proposed co-naming, future generations of children of all colours, creeds and faiths will be able to look up at Muhammad Ali Triangle and learn about the man who stood for principles and transcended sports, politics and race,” he added.

“It is my hope that all New Yorkers of goodwill will join me in this tribute,” Williams continued. “I encourage everyone to send their thoughts and support for this endeavour via email, social media or by signing on the Change.org petition, as I will introduce legislation in the City Council to enact this co-naming.”

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