The evening will include music, poetry, an art exhibit and a celebration of the contributions of “ordinary people” and “unsung heroes” from the black community in Middletown.
“If you don’t tell your own story, you leave it up to someone else,” Ahmad noted. “And they might not tell if correctly.”
And, as if too often the case these days, some people don’t want it told at all.
‘I try to live up to that every day’
Ahmad and his younger sister “Cookie” were raised in a supportive household.
Their mother was a longtime school teacher at Garfield Elementary in Middletown and their dad worked at Armco Steel.
“It was a good life and there was a lot of love,” Ahmad said. “There were expectations, too. We were taught to strive to be the best.”
At Middletown High, he was in the National Honor Society, was the vice president of his class and was co-captain of the basketball team.
A three-year starter for the Middies, he won Greater Miami Conference first-team honors and was part of the team that got legendary coach Paul Walker his 600th career victory.
He initially wanted to play at Miami University — he had gone to camps there and the Middies played tournament games at Millet Hall — and he also visited Kentucky State when “they had Travis ‘The Machine Gun’ Grant and some real players.”
But then he got the offer from Wright State head coach John Ross and he said: “That was it. That’s where I wanted to go.”
He was the first African-American to receive a basketball scholarship to WSU, which was in just its third season of college basketball and didn’t have a gym of its own and played most of its home games at Stebbins High.
Although luxuries were limited in those early years — “we got $15 a month laundry money” — he quickly prospered on the court and started as a freshman.
That year the Raiders had their first winning season and by his senior year, they won 20 games, went 14-0 at home and made their first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament. They qualified for the Division II Regional, where they lost to Evansville and beat St. Joseph of Indiana.
Martin was the co-MVP team and ended his career with 1,182 points. He remains second all-time in career steals (261) at WSU and steals in a season (103).
After college he was the freshman head coach and a varsity assistant at Fairborn Baker High and then became involved in a yoga institute in Dayton. His wife was the instructor and along with yoga meditation, they had an incense factory and ran the largest food co-op in the area.
Eventually, after spending a couple of years in Alabama, he returned to work at the Middletown Community Center and with the Parks and Recreation Department. He was a youth director with the NAACP and in Dayton he worked with Parks and Recreation, the YMCA and with the juvenile courts system..
Ahman helped raise six children, three of whom were local athletes of some note. He second wife died several years ago and he now lives in Dayton’s Oregon District..
At the yoga institute he studied the religions of the world and in 1979 — after being raised a Baptist — he converted to the Ahmidiyya movement of Islam. Two years later he changed his name and while he said his parents were supportive, he admitted his mom, Imogene, told him “to me you’ll always still be Ricky.”
He said Abdul means “student” and Shakur means “respected.”
“I try to live up to that every day,” he said.
‘I love Wright State’
Although his dad died 13 years ago and his mom passed away in 2017, he said “I see my parents every morning. Their picture is right next to my prayer rug. They’re looking out for me.”
He said their lessons have resonated with him throughout his life and especially recently as he’s focused on bringing to light some of the forgotten or under-appreciated accomplishments of people in Middletown.
He’s spent a lot of time researching, documenting and then presenting the story of the Underground Railroad that ran through Middletown and the surrounding areas and ferried escaped saves from the South to safety in northern states and up into Canada.
Over 40,000 slaves passed though or settled in Ohio thanks to the network of people who made up the Underground Railroad.
In 2012, Ahmad and Middletown historian Sam Ashworth collaborated on an hour-long documentary called “The Long Path to Freedom: African American Settlement in Middletown, Ohio.”
Ahmad still follows WSU basketball. He’s at many of the home games and listen to radio broadcasts of the rest. In recent years, he said he’s gotten to know a few of the players including Loudon Love, DaShaun Wood and current big man, Brandon Noel.
He said he used to tell Love to do finger-tip pushups to strength his grip. It would make getting the ball away from him almost impossible.
Love went on to become the two-time Horizon League Player of the Year.
“I love Wright State,” he said. “It’s my school.”
And that prompted a question.
Since he still identifies as a point guard, can he still get up and down the court?
He paused a moment and then laughed:
“Sure…in my mind.”