Blog Entry Narrative Change, Civic Participation, Youth Development

Countdown to RYMR6: Muhammad Ali's "4 R's"

Since 2010, the Campaign for Black Male Achievement has engaged the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, KY as a gathering place for the annual Rumble Young Man, Rumble! convening (RYMR). This annual event has since evolved into the preeminent gathering of cross-sector Black Male Achievement leaders working to improve life outcomes of Black men and boys across intersecting areas including education, criminal justice, mentoring, responsible fatherhood, narrative change and capacity-building. RYMR is a space where BMA leaders gather to hone their leadership skills, promote healing, and learn from experts how to improve life outcomes for America’s Black men and boys.

RYMR is inspired by the life and legacy of Muhammad Ali, the hero, champion and humanitarian. While no man is perfect, Ali’s life and legacy provides CBMA with a perfect palette from which to conceptualize and implement Rumbles. Each year, CBMA exclusively invites and convenes only 125 “Rumblers”. This small number allows for an effective learning and networking, and ensures that Rumblers receive maximum benefit from the gathering.

Due to the exclusivity of the event, CBMA uses social media and livestreaming to provide glimpses into portions of RYMR including sessions, keynotes, and the awards ceremony and poetry slam.

While Muhammad Ali lived a colorful life, he was also a very principled man and fighter. Muhammad Ali was exceptionally disciplined. I found a pattern of behaviors and writings that I interpreted to undergird the expression of his core principles. Whether he was “dancing under those lights” in the ring, or moving through his life outside the ring, Ali demonstrated his principles in a way that is instructive for Rumblers. I refer to them as Muhammad Ali’s 4-R’s - Ready, Rumble, Reflect, Rest:

Ready – Ali spent tremendous amounts of time training, not just his body, but also his mind and spirit. Whether it was roadwork, weightlifting, sparring or trading insults with opponents, he worked to master himself so he could will his body to absorb blows, and keep his mind sharp even when his body was weak. He studied his opponents. His training regimen included exceptional amounts of study, massage, meditation, prayer, poetry and humor. Rumblers must ready themselves. 

RYMR helps Rumblers get Ready – With information, leadership development, networking, humor and spiritual training that ensures Rumblers are prepared to Rumble for America’s Black men and boys.

Rumble – Ali fought. He stepped into the ring, and traded blows with his opponents. After his boxing career ended, he rumbled through Parkinson’s disease to help people across the globe see the humanity in one another. Ali also boldly declared his wins – he was focused, goal oriented, targeted. Contrary to popular belief, Ali’s biggest bouts were not physical, they were actually spiritual. He knew that if a person’s spirit was intact, they’d be tough to defeat. Rumblers must rumble.

RYMR helps Rumblers Rumble – RYMR convening helps edify Rumblers so they stay in the ring (BMA work) and keep Rumbling. Rumblers advance boldly into arenas to Rumble – that is, help America’s Black men and boys win.

Reflect – Win or lose, after every bout, Ali spent a moment looking back on the fight, considering his and their strengths, weaknesses and strategies. These reflective times allowed him to learn from his and his opponents’ mistakes, to calibrate his training, and center his spirit and thinking. Rumblers must reflect.

RYMR helps Rumblers Reflect – RYMR is intentional about providing space, time, activities and materials that allow Rumblers to learn, share and determine how best to help America’s Black men and boys win, given what they know and what they understand.

Rest – Before and after every bout, Ali spent considerable amounts of time resting. Rest allowed Ali’s body, mind and soul to heal, and provided him the clarity for the next opponent or challenge. Because Rumblers live in a world of constant connectivity and the conditions and challenges facing Black men and boys don’t rest, Rumblers feel compelled to keep going. 

Because Rumblers live in a world of constant connectivity and the conditions and challenges facing Black men and boys don’t rest, Rumblers feel compelled to keep going.

Without rest, Rumblers are unhealthy and too weary to continue fighting. Not only does the research show us that we cannot Rumble if weary, we also know it is deleterious to helping America’s black men and boys win. Rumblers must rest.

RYMR helps Rumblers Rest – RYMR is intentional about ensuring that there are ample breaks, good food and if applicable a great place to stay while in Louisville. The event occurs n Muhammad Ali Center, which provides a meditative and calming space for the meeting. Because of the location, programming and other Rumblers, RYMR ensures that Rumblers leave feeling refreshed and rested for the Rumble back home.

After RYMR, it is expected that Rumblers are better equipped to continue the Rumble back home. I appreciate CBMA’s investment and foresight to create a safe space for Rumblers to convene. Without their vision the BMA movement and field would be disjointed. Instead CBMA has invested in the people who will ensure the BMA movement is collaborative, constructive and consequential.


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