Glenn Ligon (b. 1960, Bronx, NY)
Give us a Poem (Palindrome #2), 2007
Gift of the Artist

After a speech by Muhammad Ali at Harvard University in 1975, a student asked Ali to give the audience a poem, Ali replied, “me, we.” As a star athlete and celebrated spokesman for political awareness in the black community and beyond, Ali imbued those two words with poetic and political meaning that resonated long after the crowd dissipated. Arguably one of the shortest poems ever recited, “me, we” highlighted the intimate relationship between the individual and the community. Here, Ali’s poignant verse is commemorated in a neon installation by Glenn Ligon. Give us a Poem introduces us to Ligon’s Characteristic appropriation of provocative texts and visuals that engage the viewer or spectator in both historical and current discourses on identity and contemporary art.

Tyson explained that when he was 14 Cus D’Amato took him from their home in Catskill, N.Y. to Albany to watch on closed circuit as Larry Holmes retained the title in a 1980 Destruction of the faded Muhammad Ali. Tyson even recalled the exact date : Oct. 2.

"I was offended by how bad he beat up Ali" Tyson said. "When we drove home to Catskill about an hour from Albany nobody in the car said a word,we were all so upset. The next morning, Cus was on the phone with Muhammad Ali after taking this shellacking from Holmes. He said to Ali ‘I have this young black kid who is going to be Heavyweight Champion someday and I want you to talk to him.’"

Tyson got on the phone and said he told Ali : " ‘When I grow up, I’ll fight Holmes and I’ll get him back for you.’ I was 14 at the time. Cus had wanted me to beat him so bad."

When Tyson did meet Larry Holmes seven years later, Muhammad Ali was a guest at the fight. Tyson said Ali whispered to him beforehand, "Get him for me." "I moved my head, you got it."  Tyson knocked him down twice then knocked him out in 4th round  laid Larry Holmes flat on his back vicious right hooks.