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Thread: Muhammad Ali Dead at 74 - Much more than an athlete!

  1. #1

    Default Muhammad Ali Dead at 74 - Much more than an athlete!

    Political activist, proud Black man/fighter for civil rights; and Proud Muslim - fighter for many causes beyond boxing. He refused to fight in Vietnam. More on him later....... Sadly, the boxing likely caused many of his later illnesses. He died from them hours ago after a brief admission to the hospital with breathing problems. I don't pay any attention to boxing, but I did to Ali.
    Last edited by Peter Lemkin; 06-06-2016 at 07:02 PM.
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

  2. #2

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    Very sad. I didn't pay any attention to boxing either but he certainly was one of The Greatest!
    "I think it would be a good idea." Mahatma Gandhi, when asked what he thought of Western civilization.

    The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.
    Karl Marx.

    "Well, he would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies, 1963, replied Ms Rice Davies when the prosecuting counsel pointed out that Lord Astor denied an affair or having even met her.

  3. #3

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    If you grew up in the 70's you knew Muhammad Ali.


    As it turns out, the negro boxer, when he said "I ain't got nothing against no Vietnamese", got it more right than anybody. The status quo had to struggle with his anti-war stance so they pushed it off onto Islam.


    The irony is Muhammad's Parkinsons was probably related to too many hits to the head as a boxer. A violent sport.

  4. #4

    Default A close friend of Malcolm X and much more....much, much more!

    Thousands are expected to gather in Louisville Friday for the funeral of Muhammad Ali, one of the world’s most iconic figures of the 20th century. He was considered by many to be the greatest boxer of all time, but he will also be remembered for his activism against racism and war. In 1966, Ali announced his refusal to fight in Vietnam. After his conscientious objector status request was denied in April 1967, he refused induction. Ali’s title was taken away from him, and he was sentenced to a five-year prison term. He appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, and in 1971 his conviction was finally reversed.

    TRANSCRIPT

    This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
    AMY GOODMAN: Thousands are expected to gather in Louisville on Friday for the funeral of Muhammad Ali, one of the world’s most iconic figures of the 20th century. He was considered by many to be the greatest boxer of all time, but he will also be remembered for his activism against racism and war. He died Friday in Arizona after suffering for decades from Parkinson’s syndrome. Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Clay in Louisville in 1942. He first gained fame in 1960 when he won the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Rome.
    NEWSREEL: But the most popular U.S.A. winner was the lighthearted Cassius Marcellus Clay V, in white here, who easily defeated Poland’s Zbigniew Pietrzykowski. Clay was by far the best of the U.S.A. boxers.
    AMY GOODMAN: After winning the gold medal, the young Cassius Clay returned to the segregated South. In a 1971 interview on the BBC, he described what happened next.
    MUHAMMAD ALI: Won the Olympic gold medal in Rome, Italy, Olympic champion—the Russian standing right here, and the Pole right here. Is Poland considered a communist country?
    MICHAEL PARKINSON: Yeah.
    MUHAMMAD ALI: Yeah, I’m defeating America’s so-called threats or enemies. And the flag is going don-ton-ton-ton-tonnn, don-ton-ton-ton-ton—I’m standing so proud—don-ton-tonnn, ton-ton-tonnn—because I done whooped the world for America—don-ton-ton-ton-ton-tonnn. I took my gold medal, thought I’d invented something. I said, "Man, I know I’m going to get my people freedom now. I’m the champion of the whole world, the Olympic champion. I know I can eat downtown now."
    And I went downtown that day, had my big old medal on and went in a restaurant. See, at that time, like, things weren’t integrated; black folks couldn’t eat downtown. And I went downtown, I sat down, and I said, "You know, a cup of coffee, a hot dog." He said—the lady said, "We don’t serve Negroes." I was so mad, I said, "I don’t eat them, either. Just give me a cup of coffee and a hamburger."
    You know, and I said, "I’m the Olympic gold medal winner. Three days ago, I fought for this country in Rome. I won the gold medal. And I’m going to eat." The manager—heard her tell the manager, and she says—he said, "Well, I’m not the—I’m not the man—he’s got to go out." Anyway, I didn’t raise—they put me out. And I had to leave that restaurant, in my home town, where I went to church and served in their Christianity, and fought—my daddy fought in all the wars. Just won the gold medal and couldn’t eat downtown. I said, "Something’s wrong."
    AMY GOODMAN: That was Muhammad Ali describing his return to Louisville, Kentucky, after winning the 1960 Olympic gold medal. Four years later, he became the heavyweight champion of the world, defeating Sonny Liston. After the fight, he declared, "I am the greatest." On the next day, the then-Cassius Clay shocked the sports world and announced he was joining the Nation of Islam and changing his name. After briefly being named Cassius X, Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad renamed him Muhammad Ali. For years, many news outlets refused to refer to the boxer by his new name, instead using what Ali called his slave name. Muhammad Ali grew close to Malcolm X, and he became a vocal critic of U.S. actions at home and abroad. The FBI and National Security Agency soon began monitoring his communication. In 1966, Muhammad Ali filed for conscientious objector status and announced his refusal to fight in Vietnam.
    MUHAMMAD ALI: My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people or some poor, hungry people in the mud, for big, powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger. They never lynched me. They didn’t put no dogs on me. They didn’t rob me of my nationality, and rape and kill my mother and father. Why would I want to—shoot them for what? I got to go shoot them, those little poor little black people, little babies and children, women; how can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to jail.
    AMY GOODMAN: After Muhammad Ali’s conscientious objector status request was denied in April 1967, he refused induction. Muhammad Ali’s title was taken away from him. He was sentenced to a five-year prison term. He appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and in 1971 his conviction was finally reversed. He did not go to prison, but was forced to wait four years before regaining his boxing license. In 1974, Muhammad Ali reclaimed the world heavyweight champion title, defeating George Foreman in what was known as the Rumble in the Jungle, an historic boxing match in Kinshasa, Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is a clip from the documentary When We Were Kings.
    MUHAMMAD ALI: Yeah, I’m in Africa. Yeah, Africa is my home. Damn America and what America thinks. Yeah, I live in America, but Africa is the home of the black man, and I was a slave 400 years ago, and I’m going back home to fight among my brothers.
    AMY GOODMAN: In addition to fighting overseas, Muhammad Ali grew increasingly involved in world affairs. During a visit to two Palestinian refugee camps in southern Lebanon, Ali said, quote, "In my name and the name of all Muslims in America, I declare support for the Palestinian struggle to liberate their homeland and oust the Zionist invaders," unquote. In 1990, Muhammad Ali traveled to Baghdad and met with Saddam Hussein against the wishes of the U.S. government. During the trip, he secured the release of 15 Americans being held by the Iraqi government.
    To talk more about Muhammad Ali, we’ll be joined by two guests: Ishmael Reed and Elizabeth Alexander. Ishmael Reed is the educator, writer and activist. He wrote the book, The Complete Muhammad Ali, which was published last year, recipient of the MacArthur "genius" award, currently a visiting scholar at the California College of the Arts. And we’ll be joined by Elizabeth Alexander, poet and professor, director of Creativity and Free Expression at the Ford Foundation, former chair of African Studies—African American Studies at Yale University. She is the author of the poem "Narrative: Ali," written from the perspective of Muhammad Ali.

    To talk more about the life and legacy of Muhammad Ali, we are joined by two guests. Ishmael Reed, educator, writer, activist, his new book is The Complete Muhammad Ali. Reed is recipient of the MacArthur "genius" award and is currently a visiting scholar at the California College of the Arts. And in New York, we’re joined by poet and professor Elizabeth Alexander. She’s the director of Creativity and Free Expression at the Ford Foundation, former chair of African American Studies at Yale University, author of the poem "Narrative: Ali," written from the perspective of Muhammad Ali. Elizabeth Alexander recited the inaugural poem when President Obama first took office in 2009.
    We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Ishmael Reed, why don’t we begin with you? Can you start off by sharing your reaction to hearing of the death of Muhammad Ali? And talk about why you spent years researching his life.
    ISHMAEL REED: Well, I think that his death sort of represents a great tragedy, because this is a man who stayed in the ring too long, was abandoned by his entourage, was broke and suffering from brain damage when he fought his last two fights, according to Angelo Dundee, his trainer. It’s a great tragedy. And without the intervention of his current wife, I think he might be—might have died a long time ago. So, I’m very skeptical about this adulation that’s happening now, because none of those people who are praising him wanted to rescue him or tried to intervene when, for example, he was suffering horrible physical damage from taking punches from people like Larry Holmes. So I think that this is a great tragedy.
    I think that not enough attention has been given to the influence of the Nation of Islam on Muhammad Ali. You played some of his speeches. Those speeches were taken right out of Elijah Muhammad’s Message to the Blackman. So I think that this is the great flaw in what I’m hearing from commentators about his death, is that without the Nation of Islam, nobody would have ever heard of Muhammad Ali.
    AMY GOODMAN: Ishmael, can you start off by giving us a thumbnail sketch of Muhammad Ali’s life?
    ISHMAEL REED: Well, he grew up in a middle-class home. His father, Cash, was a great provider. He was a man who earned a living by painting signs. I went to Louisville and talked to some of the people who knew Muhammad Ali when he was growing up. So he lived a relatively comfortable life. I also interviewed Rahman, his brother, who said the same thing, that they were provided for. And I’m always sort of like offended by the fact that some of the biographers of Muhammad Ali dismiss Cash as some kind of an alcoholic or some ne’er-do-well. This is a man who lived up to his responsibilities.
    I interviewed Ed Hughes, the late Ed Hughes, who was Muhammad Ali’s oldest friend, and he talked about how Muhammad Ali had the gift of gab and could spout and express himself and how he’s very generous, would give people whom he didn’t know—for example, in the Philippines, he gave a man $25,000. So he’s very generous with his money and with, you know, giving to charities. So I think he’ll be remembered as somebody with a big heart.
    But on the other hand, he had, you know, hangers-on and parasites and people who would con him, took his money, got him involved in criminal enterprises, used his name. So this is a great tragedy. This is a kid who had a big heart and was just exploited, all the way up to the last fight or the second-to-last fight, when he fought Larry Holmes, where he was shortchanged money that was owed to him for that fight. And the attorney who was suing Don King, when he heard that Muhammad Ali was swindled, he burst out into tears. So it’s a sad story.
    AMY GOODMAN: In 1964, Malcolm X spoke out in support of Muhammad Ali after the press began to attack him for joining the Nation of Islam.
    MALCOLM X: Well, he’s never been involved in any trouble. His record is clean. He’s actually an all-American boy, or an all-African boy, as you will. And an effort on the part of the press to attack him actually hurts America all over the world. I’ve gotten letters from countries myself, foreign countries, expressing confidence and pride in the clean image that Cassius represents. And I think to attack him, especially on religious grounds, would be most destructive to America’s image abroad. My advice always to Brother Cassius is that he never do anything that will in any way tarnish or take away from his image as the heavyweight champion of the world, because I frankly believe that Cassius is in a better position than anyone else to restore the—a sense of racial pride to not only our people in this country, but all over the world. And he is trying his best to live a clean life and project a clean image. But despite this, you find the press is constantly trying to paint him as something other than what he actually is. He doesn’t smoke, he doesn’t drink. In fact, if he was white, they would be referring to him as the all-American boy, like they used to refer to Jack Armstrong.
    AMY GOODMAN: So that’s Malcolm X talking about Muhammad Ali, the fact that he had converted. Ishmael Reed, over the weekend, you know, the media was filled with images and discussions of Muhammad Ali, and there were a number of photos that would go by of him standing with Malcolm X, but there was almost no reference. I mean, I didn’t see any reference to that relationship. Talk about his decision to join the Nation of Islam, his relationship with Malcolm X.
    ISHMAEL REED: Well, you know, I think it’s a mistake to say that Malcolm X recruited Muhammad Ali for the Nation of Islam. Actually, it was a man named Abdul Rahman, whose name before that was Sam X. Muhammad Ali saw Rahman selling copies of Muhammad Speaks in Florida and approached him and told Rahman that he had been reading Muhammad Speaks. And it was Rahman who invited him into the Nation.
    Now, many people talk about that famous expression, "No Vietnamese ever called N-word," as they say nowadays. That was created by Rahman. They were at a house. The Muslim women were cooking for the gathering there, and the reporters were outside. Ali comes in and says—asks Rahman what he should tell them. And Rahman says, "Tell them that no Vietnamese ever called you nigger." And so, that’s one of the mythologies that we hear about Ali’s career.
    Now, back up some, he also was following the precedent of Elijah Muhammad, who’s some sort of bogeyman, even though he organized people, brought in $70 million a year, started cattle farms, which were sabotaged by racists, and was engaged in international trade. I mean, there was the other side to it, I mention that, the criminals who were involved in the Nation of Islam. But Elijah Muhammad refused to fight in World War II. He was a conscientious objector in World War II, because he would not fight the Asiatic black man. This is where Ali gets his idea of not fighting the Vietnamese. As a matter of fact, Elijah Muhammad went around the country making pro-Japanese speeches. They tried to get him for sedition. They couldn’t get him for sedition, so they got him as a draft dodger, and he spent five years in prison. So, a lot of people don’t understand that when the Japanese Navy defeated what was considered a white nation, the Soviet Union, in 1905—or Russia, tsarist Russia, excuse me, in 1905, there was rejoicing all over the country. People like W. E. B. Du Bois, George Schuyler and others praised this as a victory of a black nation over a white nation, imperialist nation. So, this is the kind of background that led to Muhammad Ali refusing to fight in the Vietnam War.
    AMY GOODMAN: This is a clip from the documentary The Trials of Muhammad Ali, featuring Abdul Rahman Muhammad, who helped introduce Ali to the Nation of Islam.
    ABDUL RAHMAN MUHAMMAD: Cassius Clay was training for the Sonny Liston fight, for the heavyweight championship. I wanted him to be a registered Muslim. When you come into Islam, we write a letter saying we believe in the teachings, and we put our slave name in the letter. Those are the names the slave masters had when they owned our ancestors. So he wrote his letter, sent it off to Chicago. And then they sent back what we call "X." He became "Cassius X."
    And then the promoters, they was trying to get Ali to denounce the religion. And they told Ali, "You’ve got to get rid of them Muslim cooks and Captain Sam"—that’s me—"and denounce that religion; otherwise, there ain’t gonna be no fight." Well, Ali had been training all his life for the fight for the heavyweight championship, so that’s something to scare a man to death. And I was all, "Man, don’t believe that." I said, "Money is the white man’s god." And I said, "You’re the only one can make any money for him." I said, "Hold to your belief."
    AMY GOODMAN: After Cassius Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali, many news outlets refused to use his name. The debate over his name even extended into the ring. During a ’66 interview with Howard Cosell, Muhammad Ali accused challenger Ernie Terrell of being an Uncle Tom for refusing to call him Muhammad Ali.
    HOWARD COSELL: You continue to be unafraid of this man.
    ERNIE TERRELL: Yeah. I’d like to say something right here. You know, Cassius Clay is—
    MUHAMMAD ALI: Why do you want to say 'Cassius Clay,' when Howard Cosell and everybody is calling me Muhammad Ali? Now, why you gotta be the one, of all people, who’s colored, to keep saying 'Cassius Clay'?
    ERNIE TERRELL: Howard Cosell is not the one who’s going to fight you. I am.
    MUHAMMAD ALI: You’re making it really hard on yourself now.
    ERNIE TERRELL: Well—
    MUHAMMAD ALI: Why don’t you keep the thing in the sport angle? Why don’t you call me my name, man?
    ERNIE TERRELL: Well, what’s your name? You told me your name was Cassius Clay a few years ago.
    MUHAMMAD ALI: I’ve never told you my name was Cassius Clay. My name is Muhammad Ali. ... You’re just acting just like an old Uncle Tom, another Floyd Patterson. I’m going to punish you.
    ERNIE TERRELL: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Let me tell you something, man. You ain’t got no business calling me no—
    MUHAMMAD ALI: Back off of me! Back off of me!
    ERNIE TERRELL: Don’t call me no Uncle Tom, man.
    MUHAMMAD ALI: That’s what you are, a Uncle Tom.
    ERNIE TERRELL: Why are you going to call me an Uncle Tom? I ain’t do nothing to you for you to call me no Uncle Tom.
    MUHAMMAD ALI: You heard me. Just back off of me!
    HOWARD COSELL: And so, ladies and gentlemen—
    MUHAMMAD ALI: Uncle Tom.
    HOWARD COSELL: —as the two contestants prepare for battle right now—
    MUHAMMAD ALI: Wait what? Back off of me, man! Back off of me, man!
    HOWARD COSELL: Another interview has been recorded for posterity, as the two gentlemen continue to promote the fight.
    AMY GOODMAN: So that was Howard Cosell with Muhammad Ali and Ernie Terrell. And, Ishmael Reed, in the midst of that fight, which Muhammad Ali won, as he was punching Ernie Terrell, he was saying, "What’s my name? What’s my name?" Is that right?
    ISHMAEL REED: Well, I think that’s the showmanship that we expected of Muhammad Ali. Floyd Patterson recalls an incident where he ran into Muhammad Ali and called him Cassius Clay, and he wasn’t offended. He said, "It’s perfectly all right if you call me Cassius Clay." But I think some of those antics that we hear from Muhammad Ali was to sort of like juice the gate up. He got these antics from Gorgeous George. Many people don’t remember Gorgeous George, who was this flamboyant wrestler. And according to Rahman Ali, Muhammad Ali had seen Gorgeous George in Louisville. Gorgeous George used to get up in these flamboyant costumes, and he was like the villain. He was a heavy, and he boasted a lot. I think Donald Trump is influenced by both Ali and Gorgeous George. He played the heavy to sweeten the gate, and he sort of like played at androgyny, but nobody’s going to pick a fight with a Gorgeous George or question his manhood. Clark Blaise, who is a great French-Canadian writer, I interviewed him, and he said when he heard that the heavyweight champion of the world was calling himself "pretty," he knew there had been a change in the culture of boxing.
    AMY GOODMAN: And his—
    ISHMAEL REED: Now, now, now, one more thing—Amy, I want to mention this. Ernie Terrell was considered the Mob fighter. There was a—my book was published in Canada. And so, some of my passages have a Canadian emphasis. There was a showdown between organized crime, which ran boxing, up to the Nation of Islam, introduced the organization called Main Bouts. The showdown happened in Toronto. Ali and Herbert Muhammad were warned that if Ali didn’t take a dive and didn’t, you know, fall to Ernie Terrell, he would wind up at the bottom of Lake Michigan. Now, according to George Chuvalo, whom Ali fought, the man who made the threat was paid a visit by the Nation of Islam. And if you want to know what happened after that, you can read my book.
    JOHN LEGEND: [reading Muhammad Ali] "Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam, while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No, I am not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would put my prestige in jeopardy and could cause me to lose millions of dollars which should accrue to me as the champion.
    But I have said it once, and I will say it again: The real enemy of my people is right here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality. If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people, they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. But I either have to obey the laws of the land or the laws of Allah. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail. We’ve been in jail for 400 years."
    AMY GOODMAN: That was John Legend, yes, the singer-songwriter, in a clip from The People Speak, which was inspired by the late great historian Howard Zinn’s groundbreaking books, A People’s History of the United States and Voices of a People’s History of the United States. That speech was Muhammad Ali’s speech. Ishmael Reed, talk about what happened to him, being—announcing that he would not go to war, being sentenced to five years in prison, being stripped of his heavyweight title, the case going right to the U.S. Supreme Court, before it was overturned, before it was reversed.
    ISHMAEL REED: Well, Ron Lyle, who fought Muhammad Ali, said that the three years that were taken out of his career missed a—did not provide an opportunity for us to see him at his prime. And after that three-year absence from the ring, he lost his speed, slowed down. Before, you couldn’t hit the guy. I mean, he said he was pretty because people couldn’t touch him. But after he lost his speed, people could hit him, and you could touch him, and that continued to the end of his career. Now, I interviewed the great trainer, Emanuel Steward, who said that—who incidentally said that he thought that Joe Louis was the greatest heavyweight champion of all time. But he said that Ali should have quit after he fought George Foreman. And even in that fight, he took a lot of punishment to the body. So, I think the three years deprived him of, you know, our seeing him at his prime.
    AMY GOODMAN: George Foreman was the Rumble in the Jungle?
    ISHMAEL REED: Mm-hmm.
    AMY GOODMAN: In what was then Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. Mobutu Sese Seko set up this whole battle, one that the dictator didn’t even go actually to see, perhaps afraid he would be assassinated if he came out in public?
    ISHMAEL REED: Well, he thought—they thought that the people would elect Muhammad Ali leader, you know, the president of the Congo. That’s why Mobutu was afraid. But, you know, Muhammad Ali did sort of play footsies with dictators like Mobutu, Marcos. I interviewed the great journalist Emil Guillermo, who used to work for NPR. I met him, a Harvard graduate. He said that the fight in Manila brought the Philippines into the 20th century. They were no longer dismissed as "our little brown cousins," but became a first-class nation because of that fight and the publicity that came as a result of that fight. Now, the Aquino family was in San Francisco and other places. They objected to that fight, because they thought it would bring prestige to Marcos. But at the same time where he’s palling around with Marcos, he went out and met with the rebels during Ramadan. So, that shows you how complex Ali was.JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We end today with a new look at the boxing legend Muhammad Ali. Ali is considered the greatest boxer in the history of sports. In his prime, he was an outspoken advocate of the Black Muslim movement and critic of the Vietnam War. When he refused to be drafted and he filed as a conscientious objector, he was sentenced to prison and stripped of his heavyweight title. He appealed his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and did not go to prison but was forced to wait four years before regained his boxing license.
    Well, in a broadcast exclusive, we bring you excerpts from a new documentary that examines the struggle Ali faced in his conversion to Islam, his refusal to fight, and the years of exile that followed before his eventual return to the ring. The film is called The Trials of Muhammad Ali, and it has its world premiere tonight in New York City at the Tribeca Film Festival. This is a clip from early in the film, in 1964, when the 22-year-old Ali is preparing for his first heavyweight championship. At that point, he was still widely known as Cassius Clay.
    CASSIUS CLAY: Fifty-five thousand people came that night. You should have seen the people: one layer, two layers, 10,000 on each layer, 15, 20 on some, four layers and a fifth layer. People were looking down on the ring, fifty-five thousand, and Cleopatra was at ringside. We don’t believe it, the fifth round came. Aaah! I hit him. Here, I said, "Come on, sucker!" Man said, "Break it up." I said, "There he is."
    REPORTER: Let me see you close your mouth and just keep it closed.
    CASSIUS CLAY: Well, you know that’s impossible.
    REPORTER: No, no, now keep it closed.
    CASSIUS CLAY: You know that’s impossible. I’m the greatest. And I’m knocking out all bums. And if you get too smart, I’ll knock you out.
    ABDUL RAHMAN MUHAMMAD: Cassius Clay was training for the Sonny Liston fight, for the heavyweight championship. I wanted him to be a registered Muslim. When you come into Islam, we write a letter saying we believe in the teachings, and we put our slave name in the letter. Those are the names the slave masters had when they owned our ancestors. So he wrote his letter, sent it off to Chicago. And then they sent back what we call "X." He became "Cassius X."
    And then the promoters, they was trying to get Ali to denounce the religion. And they told Ali, "You’ve got to get rid of them Muslim cooks and Captain Sam"—that’s me—"and denounce that religion; otherwise, there ain’t gonna be no fight." Well, Ali had been training all his life for the fight for the heavyweight championship, so that’s something to scare a man to death. And I was all, "Man, don’t believe that." I said, "Money is the white man’s god." And I said, "You’re the only one can make any money for him." I said, "Hold to your belief."
    AMY GOODMAN: That was a clip from the new film, The Trials of Muhammad Ali. The last voice you heard, Captain Sam, who helped bring Muhammad Ali into the Nation of Islam, which gave him the name Muhammad Ali.
    For more, we’re joined by the film’s director, Bill Siegel, ahead of its world premiere tonight at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film is set to broadcast next spring on PBS’s Independent Lens. Bill also co-directed the Academy Award-nominated documentary The Weather Underground. And we’re joined by Gordon Quinn, executive producer of The Trials of Muhammad Ali, founding member of Kartemquin Films, where he has spent four decades making documentaries that investigate and critique society by documenting the lives of real people.
    We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Bill, why you decided to make this film?
    BILL SIEGEL: Well, I think your last story about the integrated prom, coupled with integrating Little Rock High School, shows both how far we’ve come and how far we need to go. And Muhammad Ali was at the crosshairs of the black freedom struggle and the anti-Vietnam War resistance while he was finding himself. And so, to me, it’s a journey film that I hope says as much about us as it does about him. And I was—I first—I discovered Muhammad Ali as a kid growing up in Minneapolis. I discovered Muhammad Ali beyond the ring about 23 years ago as a researcher on a six-hour series called Muhammad Ali: The Whole Story. And I came out of that, long before I co-directed Weather Underground, thinking, "Some day I want to make Muhammad Ali: The Exile Years," because, to me, that’s the most important, notorious and valuable fight of his life in terms of informing us in the present day.
    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, and because there have been so many films made about Ali in the past, and most focusing obviously on his incredible skills as a boxer, those years in exile from the sport were actually the—he was in the prime of his life at that time, could have been a much greater boxer than even we remember, if he had been allowed to continue in the sport at that period of time.
    BILL SIEGEL: Yeah, a lot of people say we never saw the best Ali in the ring. But I think it gave us an opportunity to get the best Ali beyond the ring, which, to me, is even more valuable, as much as I love him as a boxer.
    AMY GOODMAN: Bill, the film opens in a just shocking way with David Susskind. Explain.
    BILL SIEGEL: That was a clip that we came onto late in the editing process. And, you know, I was sitting in the room with Aaron Wickenden, who did a masterful job editing the film. Rachel Pikelny also—just had a baby—produced the film. And Aaron and I, when we saw that clip, said, "That’s the beginning of the film." And for that reason, it just—
    AMY GOODMAN: Describe it to us.
    BILL SIEGEL: Susskind is in London on a talk show with Eamonn Andrews in 1968. Ali is in exile. He’s been banned. And he’s on—Ali is on this—he’s sort of imprisoned in this box, you know, black-and-white TV by Early Bird satellite. And Susskind just attacks him for everything he’s doing in that moment. And it’s a powerful reminder, or perhaps discovery, that Ali was villainized at that point by so many in this country—not everyone—who—
    AMY GOODMAN: He says, "I don’t even want to talk to you."
    BILL SIEGEL: Yeah.
    AMY GOODMAN: "You are a felon." And he went on and on.
    BILL SIEGEL: A pawn.
    AMY GOODMAN: A pawn?
    BILL SIEGEL: Yeah, incredible.
    AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to a clip of a news report from Muhammad Ali, sentenced to prison and stripped of his heavyweight title for refusing to fight in Vietnam.
    NEWSREEL: Cassius Clay, at a federal court in Houston, is found guilty of violating the U.S. selective service laws by refusing to be inducted. He is sentenced to five years in prison and fined $10,000.
    AMY GOODMAN: That’s an excerpt that came from the documentary When We Were Kings.
    BILL SIEGEL: By Leon Gast, who I met on this 23-years-ago film. And Leon—that film collapsed. Leon pulled his segment out; that became When We Were Kings. And he’s another executive producer on this film.
    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Gordon, your decision to get involved with this project and to make this film, what it means for you?
    GORDON QUINN: Well, there’s a personal dimension, that when Ali was fighting with the draft and refusing to go to Vietnam and took this moral stand, I was, too. I was a student at the University of Chicago. There’s a rally in the film that I actually went to. And he’s the only sports figure that I’ve ever cheered for flat out.
    But Kartemquin’s model is, producers come to us with something—it’s not just their next film; it’s something that they’re passionate about. And Bill was—I mean, he—actually, how long has it been that we were—
    BILL SIEGEL: Eight years.
    GORDON QUINN: Eight years that—when he first came to Kartemquin. And it was like this was the film he had to make. This was—you know, he just had this passion for it. And that’s really what we care about at Kartemquin. We’re producer-driven. It’s a collaborative atmosphere. There’s a team of people around. But we want someone who is really, you know, not just building their résumé and their career, but this is the story I have to tell.
    AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to another clip from this film you chose to produce, The Trials of Muhammad Ali. This is later in the movie, after Ali has refused to fight in Vietnam. We hear from Ali’s former wife, Khalilah Ali; Ali himself; and Captain Sam, who helped bring Muhammad Ali into the Nation of Islam; as well as Ali’s brother, Rahman Ali.
    KHALILAH ALI: Somebody would come out of nowhere and say, "You draft-dodging nigger, go home!" Well, he didn’t like that at all. I said, "We have to do this for a living, man. Don’t worry about what people say about you. You’ve got to keep going." And then he talked back at me and says, "You’re not out there getting embarrassed. I’m out there getting embarrassed. What would you do if somebody did that to you?"
    MUHAMMAD ALI: I’m not going to help nobody get something our Negroes don’t have. If I’m going to die, I’ll die now right here fighting you. You’re my enemy. My enemy is the white people, not the Viet Cong or Chinese or Japanese. You’re my opposer when I want freedom. You’re my opposer when I want justice. You’re my opposer when I want equality. You won’t even stand up for me in America for my religious beliefs, and you want me to go somewhere and fight, but you won’t even stand up for me here at home.
    KHALILAH ALI: The exiled years were the worst years of me and Ali’s life.
    ABDUL RAHMAN MUHAMMAD: In Islam, we feel like when we’re being attacked unjustly, we feel like it’s a trial period for us, and if we stand on righteousness and truth, God going to bring us through it. And that’s the way I saw Ali.
    RAHMAN ALI: I suffered with my brother. He suffered what I suffered. We’re like that. I felt the way he felt. I share my brother’s pain. I share his—
    AMY GOODMAN: Rahman is crying.
    RAHMAN ALI: You’ve got to forgive me. I get very emotional when it comes to this. He paid a price. He did what he had to do. He was the champ.
    AMY GOODMAN: That’s Rahman, Muhammad Ali’s brother. Bill Siegel, tell us about the Supreme Court case.
    BILL SIEGEL: So, Ali was in exile for three-and-a-half years. His case was on appeal the whole time. He’s trying to get back in the ring. The Supreme Court eventually takes the case. And the climax of the film is the process through which they came to a decision. Ali, as one of the interviewees says, had one foot and three toes in prison until the very last moment, when Justice Harlan changes his mind. And I’ll let people come see the film to see the rest of that story.
    AMY GOODMAN: It’s an amazing story. I mean, you are interviewing—and it’s amazing to think that these folks have rarely been interviewed. The Supreme Court justice clerk of Judge Harlan, who originally voted for—against Muhammad Ali, a five-to-three decision, right, because Thurgood Marshall had recused himself because he worked with the NAACP.
    BILL SIEGEL: Right. And, you know, it comes out eight to nothing in favor of Ali. And the process through which that change happens is, you know, to me, an important part of the story.
    I want to say one thing about that last clip, because, to me, that clip demonstrates that this isn’t a boxing film, but it a fight film, and you can see Ali, the fighter, in that film. And also, I could walk down the streets of New York with a microphone and say, "Who has a Muhammad Ali story to tell?" And pretty soon there would be a line. And so, it was important to me to distinguish this film from all the other films about Ali by making it intimate—his wife at the time, his brother, people who were there. It’s a small amount of interviewees, and I hope the power of that intimacy comes through in that clip with Rahman there.
    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Gordon, in terms of producing the film, any particular difficulties that you didn’t expect along the process? Because you’ve done many over the years.
    GORDON QUINN: Well, you know, it never gets any easier. You know, after we did Hoop Dreams with Steve James and it broke so big, we thought, well, fundraising will be easier. But it’s been just as hard from right from the start. ITVS came in on this film, and the Ford Foundation was a big supporter near the end. But we had some rocky moments over the course where we just didn’t have the funds. And of course there’s a lot of rights issues.
    AMY GOODMAN: It’s amazing to see him winning the Medal of Freedom, Muhammad Ali, being awarded it in 2005 by President Bush. And President Bush is sort reaching for his hand—tell me if I’m reaching here, but it looked to me like Muhammad Ali pulled his hand away.
    BILL SIEGEL: I don’t know. You know, I don’t want to speculate as to what was going through Ali’s mind. I do know that—it’s not in the film, but later, former President Bush kind of stands back in a boxing pose, and Ali gives him this [motion].
    AMY GOODMAN: Gives him the sign like "You’re crazy."
    GORDON QUINN: Yeah. I mean, he does seem to really—he knows what’s going on. He’s very sharp, to this day. And I mean, for me, the core of the film is, here’s a guy who took a moral stand. It had to do with his religion. America has never understood who the Black Muslims are and what they’re about. And that’s another dimension of the film that I think is terribly exciting. And, you know, here are people are just talking about their faith in a way that we never hear in America.

    We end today with a new look at the boxing legend Muhammad Ali. Ali is considered the greatest boxer in the history of sports. In his prime, he was an outspoken advocate of the Black Muslim movement, a critic of the Vietnam War. He was sentenced to prison and stripped of his heavyweight title for refusing to fight in Vietnam.
    NEWS ANCHOR: Cassius Clay, at a federal court in Houston, is found guilty of violating the U.S. Selective Service laws by refusing to be inducted. He is sentenced to five years in prison and fined $10,000.
    AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt that came from the documentary When We Were Kings. Sports columnist Dave Zirin has written the book, the Muhammad Ali Handbook. It’s a new account of Ali’s career and his groundbreaking political involvement. Dave writes the weekly column, "Edge of Sports," and is a regular contributor to The Nation magazine, joining us here in our firehouse studio. Welcome to Democracy Now!
    DAVID ZIRIN: Great to be here, Amy.
    AMY GOODMAN: Before we talk about Muhammad Ali, I want to go back to the top story today: Don Imus’s comments disparaging the Rutgers basketball team and Maretta Short of NOW talking about this being the 35th anniversary of Title IX. Can you talk more about this, because this is something you’ve written extensively about?
    DAVID ZIRIN: Absolutely. When Title IX was first put into play back in the early 1970s, roughly one out of 29 girls in middle school, junior high school, high school, played sports. Today, that number is roughly one out of three. And so, statistics show that young girls who play sports at an early age are actually less likely to end up in abusive relationships, less likely to have eating disorders, less likely to have issues with drugs and alcohol. So you’re talking about legislation, a direct result of the women’s movement of the late '60s and early ’70s, that has benefited the lives of tens of millions of women in this country. And the fact that it's something that both George W. Bush and Chief Justice John Roberts have both said that they opposed, I think is something that we all should be very aware of on this anniversary of this incredible legislation.
    AMY GOODMAN: And your thoughts on Don Imus, whether he should be fired?
    DAVID ZIRIN: Oh, I think he should be canned like a tuna. I mean, I think I speak for a lot of people when I say I’m just so sick and tired of the shock jocks, of the Coulters, of the Imuses, being able to say whatever they want to say and then reaping the publicity from that, and then being able to just apologize and go on with a slight bump in their ratings.
    But I’ll tell you something that’s bothersome to me, and this is why, really, I wrote the Muhammad Ali Handbook, is the silence from the world of sports. I mean, with all due respects to Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, I wanted to hear the rise of voices from NBA players, from WNBA players, from NBA Commissioner David Stern, from all the people who were offended by what Imus said. The sports world needs to have its own progressive milieu to respond to things like this.
    I mean, look how political the world of sports is, everything from Pat Tillman to gay athletes to this issue. I mean, it’s so infused with politics. Yet, too often, politics is verboten for athletes. I have spoken in the last week to NBA and WNBA players who were repulsed by what Don Imus said. But the idea of speaking out is such a foreign concept that it makes Ali’s history all the more relevant for today: the athlete who would not be silenced.
    AMY GOODMAN: Let’s talk about Muhammad Ali and what he would say out loud.
    DAVID ZIRIN: What Ali would say out loud would be — well, he certainly would say, I think, "I have a quarrel with Don Imus." I mean, and he would say — you know, even say, "I ain’t got no quarrel with the sisters at Rutgers University." I mean, that’s the thing about Muhammad Ali in the 1960s that’s so incredible. I mean, he finished in the bottom 1 percent of his high school class. He barely graduated from high school. Yet, on all the important social issues of the day, on the edge of the black freedom struggle, on the Vietnam War, while all the best and the brightest were talking about "all deliberate speed" for integration and talking about war in Vietnam, Muhammad Ali knew what side he was on, time and again. He knew there was right, and he knew there was wrong. And because he had that direct connection both to a black political tradition that was antiwar, through people like Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad, Marcus Garvey, and also because his own family came from the black working class in the South, he knew which side he was on, on a series of these questions, when the leading edge of politics, of the so-called "experts," were so patently wrong.
    AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to play another clip highlighting Muhammad Ali’s political beliefs. This, a clip from When We Were Kings, the documentary about Ali’s 1974 championship bout with George Foreman in Kinshasa that came to be known as the "Rumble in the Jungle."
    MUHAMMAD ALI: Yeah, I’m in Africa. Yeah, Africa is my home. Damn America and what America thinks! Yeah, I live in America, but Africa is the home of the black man, and I was a slave 400 years ago, and I’m going back home to fight among my brothers. Yeah!
    AMY GOODMAN: That was Muhammad Ali speaking in 1974.
    DAVID ZIRIN: Absolutely. And, you know, going back to that Kinshasa fight, I think it’s a great example of the redemptive power of Muhammad Ali, because by that time he was somebody who, you know, had returned to the world of boxing, had fought off through the Supreme Court a five-year prison sentence given down to him by the federal courts, an outrageously high sentence for a draft resister at the time, and by the end, after that fight, he was named "Sportsman of the Year" by Sports Illustrated. So he makes this amazing journey from being the most vilified, hated athlete in the history of the United States — and I don’t think there’s any contention about that — to becoming a figure of reconciliation, who was invited by Gerald Ford to the White House to shake hands. And that’s the thing about Ali, is that he was always bound up in the rhythms of the social movements of the day. So in the '60s he becomes a figure that's beloved by the antiwar movement and the black freedom struggle, hated by the mainstream, yet as the movements died in the ’70s, he became a figure of bringing those two worlds back together.
    AMY GOODMAN: This is another clip of Muhammad Ali, again from When We Were Kings, also before the fight with George Foreman.
    MUHAMMAD ALI: I’m going to fight for the prestige, not for me, but to uplift my little brothers who are a sleeping on concrete floors today in America, black people who are living on welfare, black people who can’t eat, black people who don’t know no knowledge of themselves, black people who don’t have no future. I want to win my title and walk down the alleys, settle in the garbage can with the wineheads. I want to walk down the street with the dope addicts, talk to the prostitutes so I can help a lot of the people.
    I can show them films. I can take this documentary. I can take movies and help organize my people in Louisville, Kentucky, Indianapolis, Indiana, Cincinnati, Ohio. I can go through [inaudible] and Florida and Mississippi and show the little black Africans in them countries, who didn’t know this is their country. You look like people in Mississippi, in Alabama and Georgia. They’re your brother, but they never knew you was over here, and you don’t know much about them. God has blessed me [inaudible] through boxing to help get to all these people and to show them films that I haven’t seen. I know they haven’t seen them. I’m well, and I haven’t seen them. Now I can go get all these films. You governments can let me take pictures. You can let me do things, and I can take all this back to America. But it’s good to be a winner. All I go to do is whoop George Foreman.
    AMY GOODMAN: That’s right, that was Muhammad Ali, right before the fight with George Foreman in 1974.
    DAVID ZIRIN: Yeah, and what I can’t help think about, hearing this, is about how distanced a lot of the star athletes are today from that kind of mindset, of saying, "I’m fighting for the people in the — for the winos, for the dopeheads, for the people who live in the gutter, for the people who are told that they can never amount to anything. You know, LeBron James, who’s the most famous player in the National Basketball Association, still only 22 years old, was asked in an interview about his career aspirations, and he said at the same time that he wanted to be a global icon like Muhammad Ali and that he wanted to be the first athlete billionaire. Now, if you actually know the history, those two ideas are so in conflict with one another, yet because all LeBron James knows is that Muhammad Ali is famous for being famous, that’s what LeBron James knows. And because few people have had their political teeth extracted like Muhammad Ali — I mean, he’s been the victim of a political root canal — so the hope for this book is to try to restore the teeth to what Muhammad Ali actually stood for in the ’60s.
    AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you about Gary Tyler. We did a broadcast with the New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, talking about his case. Explain how you’re organizing with athletes.
    DAVID ZIRIN: Yes. I mean, first of all —
    AMY GOODMAN: And explain his case quickly.
    DAVID ZIRIN: Absolutely. Gary Tyler, he’s been in Angola prison, a former slave plantation, for 32 years. The case against him is spotty, to put it mildly. I believe he’s innocent, looking at the evidence in the case. Bob Herbert believes he’s innocent, looking at the evidence of the case. And I read Bob Herbert’s three columns published over the course of a month in The New York Times, and I heard him on your show, Amy, and when I heard this, I tried to ask myself, "Well, what can I do to help?" I mean, it was so stark and so upsetting, Gary Tyler’s story.
    So, you know, my little corner of the world is the intersection of athletes and politics. So I put out a call. I wrote a letter, calling it "Jocks for Justice," sent it out to some athletes, and I wanted to see who would be willing to sign on and if we could get some publicity by doing a public statement. And I’ve got to tell you, one of the things that was really shocking about it is, usually getting in touch with former athletes, with famous athletes, it’s like trying to get in touch with Don Corleone, like you have to talk to the guy who knows the guy who knows the guy just to talk to somebody. And it was so striking to me how people just got back to me so quickly, the older athletes, people like Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, Tommy Smith and John Carlos, former Yankees pitcher Jim Bouton and Red Sox all-star Bill "Spaceman" Lee. They remembered Gary’s case from the early ’70s, and immediately they got back to me: "Sign me on."
    Some of the younger athletes, people like Etan Thomas for the Washington Wizards, or Toni Smith, the woman basketball player who made her stand protesting the war at Manhattanville College. They, like me, needed to be educated on the case, because it has been so forgotten over the last 30 years. But when they heard about it, I mean, it was just like — it has that feel of a movement right now, and they were on board.
    Last edited by Peter Lemkin; 06-08-2016 at 02:46 PM.
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

  5. #5

    Default

    Muhammed Ali and Malcolm-X were quite close...... at that point the FBI et al. started watching Ali closely.

    Ali's statement on why he refused to be drafted to Vietnam and why he'd risk jail...

    "Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam, while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No, I am not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would put my prestige in jeopardy and could cause me to lose millions of dollars which should accrue to me as the champion.
    But I have said it once, and I will say it again: The real enemy of my people is right here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality. If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people, they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. But I either have to obey the laws of the land or the laws of Allah. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail. We’ve been in jail for 400 years."
    Attached Images Attached Images
    If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” - Frederick Douglass
    "Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
    "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn

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