“Once I let go of the control the government was trying to have on me, I gained confidence. Maturity is a balance between confidence and consideration.
The red and blue lights flashing around the house in conjunction with a tense pressure surrounded James Strohl on April 21, 2014.
It was that moment when he went from hearing a whistle blow at his boxing gym, to blowing a whistle while protesting in the middle of the street he now calls home.
It was that moment when he went from feeling like he lived at the university library studying for his test in Illinois, to living in front of a university in Las Vegas on its sidewalk.
It was that moment where his life was no longer dedicated to focusing on becoming a boxer, but now it was to survive and bring awareness to the injustices he had learned about and gone through, particularly the government and Palestine.
It was that moment, where it all changed. James Strohl became Cinderella Man.
A graduate from Eastern Illinois University with a degree in Physical Education, Strohl’s goal was to be a P.E. teacher and a boxing coach. Besides teaching about health and sports, Strohl had a passion that moved him throughout the country in search to be the best he could be, boxing.
Boxing was his savior and his motivation to continue he says. It saved him from alcoholism and pushed him to move from Illinois to Arizona to Las Vegas in search of a good manager who would help him be the best boxer he could be and win fights.
He followed boxing everywhere he went and boxing followed him.
Upon arriving in Las Vegas in 2005, his boxing career started off steady but did not show momentum as he hoped. Serving tables at Outback Steakhouse on the strip and substitute teaching throughout the Clark County School District was his way to get by while his main focus remained training everyday.
His tunnel vision brought him to be one of the fighters others didn’t want to meet inside the ring.
“The way he moves, the way he focuses, the way his body reacts, he’s actually a lot better than most of the guys at the gym,” says Eddie Sanchez, a boxing partner at his old gym, Pound for Pound.
The days passed and throughout the daily discoveries of life, Strohl discovered something that changed his life forever. The truth appeared. A truth that drives his life now.
After not knowing who his dad was his whole life, he went in search of his personal history and tried to look for relatives. He was ignored by numerous people on Facebook and after many searches, he came in contact with his father’s cousin.
The life changing moment occurred when his dad’s cousin told him he was Palestinian and Muslim, not Lebanese and Christian. A secret held by his mom until she passed away, he found out his father was a refugee from Palestine, his great grandfather was in Odd fellows in the 1800s and his mom’s family was in the Masonic Temple.
“That’s when I woke up and realized I’ve been mislead on a lot of things. Our politics. Our religion,” says Strohl.
It all made sense to the now 44-year-old. His realization of finding out he was Palestinian gave him a conclusion as why he was let go of football in high school at Mt. Zion and why many things happened in his life. He felt discriminated against and lied to.
His inquisition to find the truth led him to spend hours at the library and his hands became tainted black from the ink of the newspaper.
As time passed, 2009 came and the intensity of the knowledge obtained started taking power and he could no longer believe what he was finding out.
“I picked up the Quran after finding out my dad was Muslim and I felt it was written directly toward me. It tells you to fight against Jihad which is fighting against the oppressor. When I woke up and realized who the oppressor really is, Uncle Sam Rothschild, everything changed for me. The government is a big Caucasian country that helps the white man destroy all the diversity and people of color and they’re serving the illuminati, the Freemasonry, the Masonic Temple, the Shriners, the Odd fellows and the Mafia and they want us to obey by putting us in debt and keeping many truths from us,” says Strohl.
The disconnect with the truth from his family led him to find a connection with his beliefs and his protests.
So, the protests began. He called it his “Palestinian Awareness campaign,” which includes Occupy Wall Street, a big red flag that screams for him when he can’t any longer. It included newspapers posted on light poles throughout the street that highlight certain sections and have Palestine written all over them in colored crayons and markers, as if a child would have doodled over paper with no care of what people think, just letting their thoughts free.
When it came to teaching students, the idea of informing them about history he did not believe in curled his spine, so he resigned teaching. To him, it was a form of forcing students to obey obey, obey, something he says the government is powering people to do.
He was let go from Outback Steakhouse that year and through all of his life changes, he was still focused on boxing.
He let it all out in the gym, but slowly the straight road he was following, started taking turns and unexpected sharp curves that has led him to now follow a road that is all he knows and now calls home, Maryland Parkway to be exact.
The day came when a big note appeared on his front door and a day later, the red and blue lights sirened around his now old house as he was being evicted.
Always living around Maryland Parkway since he moved to Las Vegas, two years later, Einstein Bros Bagels is now where he calls home.
“He is one of the nicest, most respectable homeless men that come inside here. Such a smart humble guy that has bad luck. He’s open to talk to anyone in a respectable way, states Drew Lee, a worker at Einsteins.
The few who have the courage to sit and talk to him, experience his strong security as he speaks with a soft hurting truth and the staring into their eyes as if he can read the insides of their thoughts and never loses focus.
Miles from the boxing gym, Strohl still finds ways to refocus and train 3–4 days a week. His journey to the gym gave him leeway to protest on the way. He would blow the whistle for miles, yelling “Palestine Arabia,” push his cart that is covered with cardboard that has links of organizations to help educate people and quotes like “Si Se Puede” and bringing awareness to the fluoride that is being put in our water. It’s his free form of marketing and education he hopes everyone who passes him sees and realizes.
He would enter the gym, leave the flag outside and let it all go. “It became a different world for him,” says Eddie Sanchez and ex-gym partner. “Right away you could see the big change. He needed it to decompress with whatever he was dealing with. He killed the misconception of what others judged him to be by his hard work, focus and tentativeness in the ring.”
After only one fight in two years and losing six fights, he got his boxing license taken away and his motivation to continue to fight was snatched out of his hands.
His fight was no longer inside the ring once he lost his boxing license, it was with everything else around him. It was with his truth, his discoveries and politics.
“I guess I just threw the fear aside and I jumped right in front of the bus,” says Strohl. “Our government is a fascist bus. They’re riding down the road. For you to run right in front of them and say stop, it’s kind of risk taking. They’re just going to run over me. There are people that want me to be silent and do what? Beg on my knees begging for food stamps? I refuse to work for the government and help them with their lies and what they’re doing and most of all pay Uncle Sam.”
His goal went from becoming a professional boxer, to not sweating in a day so he doesn’t have to do laundry. His focus went from staying centered at the gym, to politics and turning the lights on Palestine and writing on that flag.
The undeniable red cape he wears with painted letters brushed in the front and back that obtain efforts to scream to everyone who drives through one of the most driven streets in Las Vegas screams for him when his voice is gone.
“Once I let go of the control the government was trying to have on me, I gained confidence. Maturity is a balance between confidence and consideration. Now after they told me I could never fight again, my confidence is way up, but maybe I’m less considerate, I don’t know,” says Strohl.
Just like every human being, there’s a reason why they are doing what they are doing. For Strohl, he reads and reads and analyzes and edits. Newspapers have become his daily educative source of discovering truth. The truth that lead him to become “Facebook President of the World,” as his red cape yells on his back with his front saying “Occupy Wall Street.”
“He’s an element of surprise,” says Sanchez. People can learn many things from him through his charisma and character but first, you have to sit down with him and listen to him and not underestimate him. He’s very smart and an overall good guy.”
His hopes to have a roof over his head one day, box again and teach have not left. “I would like to be a teacher again but not in this system. Only when they get the fluoride out of our water and we can eat healthy food,” says Strohl.
“Until then, maybe I’ll just stand out there and yell, “Look at Cinderella Man the book, page 109 where he speaks about Palestine,” says Strohl. Just how in the book, James was fighting in NYC and wrote about how Jews were being mistreated in Palestine, Strohl serves to be a reflection of Cinderella Man in Las Vegas.