The Greatest

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                           Muhammad Ali (l.) and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (r.) in Louisville                                 (AP Photo via The Nation)

“Like Muhammad Ali puts it, we are all—black and brown and poor—victims of the same system of oppression.” – Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Happy Birthday Muhammad Ali! Mainstream media continues to revere him for his extraordinary achievements as an athlete and his influential oratory style (How many of us have alleged to “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”?).  However, Ali is beloved to the progressive community and the African diaspora for his candid criticism of racial discrimination and poverty as well as his refusal to be inducted in the US Army during the Vietnam War due to his religious beliefs.  Ali could have exercised his class privilege, entered the army and fought entertaining exhibition bouts without ever being in any physical danger.  Instead, he chose to take a principled stand which in the short run cost him millions of dollars and some of his peak years as a boxing champion.  In the long run, Ali’s example made him a legend.

To learn more about Muhammad Ali, see the Academy Award-winning film When we Were Kings, or read this Dave Zirin article in The Nation.

Power and Soul

James Brown and The Fania All-Stars were some of the renowned Latino, African American and African musicians that were brought together in Kinshasa, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) for a 3-day music festival in 1974. The planners had approached Don King to combine the event with the title fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman.  Although the events were linked, the fight was pushed back to October. The footage filmed was originally to create the Academy Award Winning boxing documentary When We Were Kings. Hours of footage had previously remained unseen until Jeffrey Levy-Hinte released the film Soul Power in 2008.

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