Saturday, January 23, 2021

Howard Bingham/ The Final Hours: An Intimate Look Back

*As some of you may know by now, we lost one of the greatest African American photographers of our time today (12-15-16).

Howard Bingham was one of those rare, skillful, and talented technicians behind the lenses who’s works rank equal to Gordon Parks, Bill Jones, and a host of others who have made significant contributions to the exposure of African American life and culture in the world of sports and entertainment.

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I must admit that it isn’t easy writing this story folks, so bear with me please. I had come to know Howard over the last 22 years through my interactions with Muhammad Ali who I first met in 1974 after he won the heavyweight title a second time from George Foreman. And it was when his volume of photographic works on the Black Panthers entitled “Howard Bingham’s Black Panthers 1968” was released several years ago that he and I began to correspond with each other even more because I am a former member of the Southern Calif. Chapter having joined the Party in 1968. And since I’ve been covering boxing as a writer for the last 8 years, I had a chance to get very acquainted with his oldest son Damon who also left us to be with Allah (God) earlier this year just before Muhammad Ali died.

Damon was also a photographer and documentary producer and the founder of the Undisputed Champions Network, an online 24 hours boxing news site.

So when I first heard that Howard was not doing too well some six months ago, I didn’t hesitate to go by his bedside at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Beverly Hills where he was being operated on to remove a tumor from his brain, and to have his colon removed.

In these last six months I’ve made an effort to check on him on a constant basis a minimum of at least once a week if not more and most of the time it would be just me and him. Sometimes he would be alert and awoke, and on other occasions he would be in and out consciousness and barely able to speak.

READ RELATED STORY: WE REMEMBER: HOWARD BINGHAM, MUHAMMAD ALI’S PHOTOGRAPHER DIES AT 77

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I mean, how could he after not being able to eat any solid foods for six months and being fed by a tube.
I constantly thought about how this man who was the best friend of “The Greatest Of All Times” and traveled all around the world with him would be laying in this hospital bed connected to all kinds of life supporting apparatus with hardly no one visiting him except his family and a few close friends.

In my religion Islam, we believe that you get blessings from visiting the sick and doing good deeds. My faith and belief in Allah (God) is what kept me by Howard’s bedside knowing that one day I too may be in the same position. I would hope that someone will visit me if I’m ever sick.

Howard had some good days, when I would see him alert and could distinguish what he would be trying to talk. “What’s up dude?” he would say in a very soft voice. My response would be, “How are you champ?”

He seemed to be having a very good day two days ago as I visited him with his wife Carolyn and his youngest son Dustin. He looked so good I thought maybe he might be coming home soon. He had that infectious smile and tried to make those weird sounds with his mouth that he and Ali used to do.

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I remember once telling the nurse outside in the hallway one day “You all don’t know who this man is, he traveled the world with Muhammad Ali and was his best friend. You all need to take good care of him”. They really didn’t know and I wanted to remind them that he was someone great in our history.

He’s now gone and has returned to Allah (God) to be together again with his son Damon and his best friend Muhammd Ali. May Allah give him peace in paradise and forgive him of all his sins, and reward him for all the good that he did on this earth. I’m truly grateful to have known him and to have been with him in his final hours.

Mohammed Mubarak can be reached at [email protected] for your comments.

Mohammed Mubarak
Mohammed Mubarak

 

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