Villa Park school names athletic center after Muhammad Ali in honor of Black History Month

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Wednesday, February 21, 2024
Villa Park school names athletic center after Muhammad Ali
Villa Park's Islamic Foundation School named its athletic center after Muhammad Ali in honor of Black History Month; his daughter cut the ribbon.

VILLA PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- In honor of Black History Month, the Islamic Foundation School in Villa Park wanted to honor heavyweight champion and humanitarian Muhammad Ali, by naming its athletic center after him.

Ali's eldest daughter visited the school that honored her father's career in and out of the ring and his impact on today's generation.

"He loved Chicago," Maryum Ali said.

She shared stories about her dad and all he accomplished outside of the boxing ring in a talk that was part history lesson, part motivational speech.

"This is what made him very famous all over the world is that, there was this Black man in America who stood up to the U.S. government, saying 'I have right to be Muslim, I have a right to not fight in this war,'" Ali said.

His life inspired Ali to write a children's book, called, "I Shook Up the World: The Incredible Life of Muhammad Ali."

It was first published 20 years ago. Ali said she called her dad often when she was writing it.

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Today, it's finding new audiences.

"It's important to keep that legacy alive. But more than that, what can you extract from his life to apply it to your life?" she said.

The message seemed to resonate with students.

"He would stand up to anyone, and he did that in a convincing way. He was really smart with his words, and I think we don't really appreciate that enough," Islamic Foundation School student Zayyan Zubairi said.

"She gave really inspiring advice on how you should always succeed and set goals for yourself," student Inaaya Fatani said.

And, as a bonus, the school's athletic center was named in honor of Muhammad Ali, with his daughter cutting the ribbon.

It's a testament to Ali's lasting impact as a cultural icon.