Muhammad Ali: watch and learn

In today’s lesson where students had to decide who is the biggest hero, Mother Teresa or Muhammad Ali, the latter was a clear winner. Below are some documentaries and films which will provide you with a heaps of information and inspiration from the great man himself.

  • Muhammad Ali – The Whole Story (1996): This is a six hour series which covers the whole of Muhammad Ali’s life.
  • When We Were Kings (1996): I watched this for the first time at University as part of  a film festival and the documentary transfixes you with the heat and passion of boxing. It covers the infamous 1974 ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ between Ali and George Foreman in Zaire in 1974. The focus is, naturally enough, the aging Ali, who was thought at the time to have little chance of beating Foreman yet his ‘rope-a-dope’ strategy –pretending to be in more trouble than you actually are, and cunningly wearing your opponent down in the process – proves devastating.
  • Ali (2001): Will Smith who is most famous for the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Men in Black stars in this biopic that chronicles ten years in the life of Cassius Clay, from 1964, when he took the heavyweight title from Sonny Liston, to 1974 and the Rumble In The Jungle with George Foreman. In between, there are the wider issues of Ali’s controversial opposition to the Vietnam War as a conscientious objector, his conversion to Islam, his banishment from boxing and his initial return against Joe Frazier.
  • The Trials of Muhammad Ali (2013): This is an American PBS documentary which focuses on Ali’s life outside the ring. A lot of times is given of course to his refusal of the Vietnam draft and the legal and professional problems it caused him (he faced prison, was stripped of his heavyweight title and had his boxing licence suspended for four years).
  • I am Ali (2013): This documentary is just about Ali as a man. There isn’t the focus on Ali as a boxer like other films or documentaries. It shows him as a warm-hearted family man through lots of  audio recordings Ali himself  in the ‘70s.

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Other short clips about Ali are worth watching to learn more about this hero:

  1. BBC News reporting on his death
  2. Inside Story by Al-Jazeera
  3. Muhammad Ali Obituary by the New York Times
  4. The last US President Obama gives a tribute to Ali 
  5. BBC Sports Personality of the Century

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Desmond Tutu for the Old AQA GCSE

In South Africa there was Apartheid  from the late 1940s that saw the separation of black and white people and was enforced by law. Apartheid came to an end in the 1990s.

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Many Christians who believed in the Bible’s teaching about equality campaigned against Apartheid. Trevor Huddleston was a white vicar who lived in a black township, he organised non-violent protests and urged countries to boycott sporting and cultural links with South Africa until Apartheid came to an end.

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Archbishop Desmond Tutu was born in South Africa in 1931. He became a priest during the apartheid regime and spent years campaigning to end it. He was a black bishop who used his sermons and speeches to explain how apartheid was against Jesus’ teaching, he travelled to pursue other governments to help bring apartheid to an end. He led non-violent protests and saw prayer as vital to seeing change.After Apartheid had ended, Archbishop Tutu wanted to encourage black and whites to both admit the wrongdoing they had caused and he set up the ‘Truth and reconciliation’ Commission to look into human rights abuses and protect those who were willing to admit what they had done.

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God does not show favouritism” is a quote from the Bible which reflects the belief Christians have that God loves everyone equally. “If there is an alien living in your land do not ill treat him” is another quote that suggests prejudice and discrimination against people of different races or ethnic origin is wrong and that instead we should, ‘Treat others as you wish to be treated’ (the Golden Rule).

Why would a Christian be against Racism?

  1. Everyone is made ‘In God’s image’ therefore should be treated equally
  2. Jesus taught people to ‘Love your neighbour’  with the parable of the Good Samaritan teaching that everyone is our neighbour and we should treat people equally regardless of race.
  3. Martin Luther King was a Christian who fought against racism in America through non-violent peaceful protests. His beliefs in equality for all regardless of race prompted him to change people’s attitudes towards black people in America.
  4. St Paul wrote, ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, all are one in Christ.” This suggests that we shouldn’t discriminate as we all equally valuable regardless of race, gender…

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Helping you understand Gandhi

It is a fabulous film, though rather long, but will help you understand the great Hindu peace activist Mahatma Gandhi – Gandhi. In fact when my sister was in Year 11 she watched the film to prepare for her GCSE History which had a unit on the Partition of India. I watched it too (in Year 9 at the time) which then helped me understand when my sister and I argued in the future, why rather than have a sisterly catfight, she used to sit there and simply say “passive resistance’ to my hair pulling and light punches!

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There are numerous BBC documentaries to give you an insight into Mahatma Gandhi: In Search of Gandhi; The Making of Mahatma Part 1 (all other parts are available on YouTube); and a five hour marathon of original news coverage of Gandhi!

A short 4 minute radio interview with Gandhi’s grandson allows us to understand how it must have felt being related to such a key 21st century figure.

Finally if reading is more your thing then once again iWonder on the BBC has a substantial and well designed webpage about Gandhi, as does the BBC Religion pages.

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Helping you understand Martin Luther King Jnr

If you’d rather watch films to help you learn about Martin Luther King Jnr…

Selma is the 2014 drama by famed director Ava DuVernay which brought perspective to the 1965 marches to Selma in regards to the voting rights movement. The film won critical acclaim for actor David Oyelowo as MLK and the song “Glory” from the soundtrack won a Golden Globe.

Boycott is television film starring Jeffrey Wright as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The film is based on the book Daybreak of Freedom by Stewart Burns and tells the story of the Montgomery Bus Boycotts.

The Witness: From the Balcony of Room 306 is a documentary short film. It was released in 2008 to commemorate the 40th annual remembrance of MLK. It highlights the events of that fateful day when Martin was shot outside of Room 306 at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis.

Selma Lord Selma is a 1999 film based on the events of March 1965 known as Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama. The story is told through the eyes of 11-year-old Sheyann Webb.

Our Friend, Martin is an animated film about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement. Two best friends travel through time and meet MLK at different points during his life. It features an all-star voice cast including John Travolta and was nominated for an Emmy award.

A TV documentary about MLK is only 45 minutes long and shows you how he rose to prominence and then his assassination which shocked the world.

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Whereas if TV and film is not your thing you might listen instead to the numerous radio recordings from the BBC all about Martin Luther King.

Or you could read the powerpoint called  martin-luther-king-learning (checking out the linked videos) and try to complete MLK’s quotes-and-explanation-match-up which will help you understand Christian teachings.

Hidden Figures: genius has no race, strength has no gender

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What a great tagline for a film: Genius has no race. Strength has no gender. Courage has no limit.

Hidden Figures is out in British cinemas in late February 2017 and tells the story of the contributions of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. These women defied sexism, racism and segregation to become central to NASA’s bid to put an American into space; their calculations helping to send Alan Shepard and John Glenn into orbit and back to Earth again.

For the author of the book which the film was based on, Margot Lee Shetterly, her greatest pleasure has been the positive response from the only still living woman of the trio, Katherine Johnson aged 98. Interviewed in the Independent Ms Shetterley says: ‘At every turn…these women were involved in World War Two, the Cold War, Civil Rights…so that’s the thing, I really wanted to be able to tell a multi-layered story through the same women.’

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Perhaps you recognise one of the actresses as singer Janelle Monáe? One of her big hits was with Eriykah Badu in 2013 called Q.U.E.E.N though another recent hit was with the band FUN called We Are Young in 2011.

Rest in Power

R.I.P. Rest in Power. Rest in Power is a modern, secular (non-religious), eulogy alternative to the phrase “Rest in Peace” (Latin: requiescat in pace), aka R.I.P., which historically is a prayerful request that the person’s soul should find peace in the afterlife.

It is also the name of the book written by Trayvon Martin’s parents called Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin.

trayvon-martin-in-hoodie-298x300 Trayvon Martin in his favourite grey hoodie.

On the evening of 26 February 2012, Trayvon Martin was on his way home from a 7/11 convenience store with a can of iced tea and a bag of Skittles. It was raining, he had his hoodie on, and he was listening to music and talking on the phone as he returned to the house where he was staying with his father and his father’s girlfriend. (Fulton and Martin divorced when their children were young but continued to bring up their boys together.) He was followed, shot and killed by 28-year-old George Zimmerman. The details of the case, now infamous five years on, remain deeply shocking. The fact that Zimmerman followed Trayvon against the advice of the police. That he was recorded on tape saying, “Fucking punks. These assholes always get away”, yet claimed he acted in self-defence, invoking the stand-your-ground law that is currently enacted in 22 states. The stand-your-ground law means if you reasonably believe that you face imminent death, serious bodily injury, rape, kidnapping, or (in most states) robbery, you can use deadly force against the assailant, even if you have a perfectly safe avenue of retreat. In non-stand-your-ground states, when you face such threats outside your home (and, in some states, your business), you can only use deadly force against the assailant if you lack a perfectly safe avenue of retreat.

The case is also shocking because Trayvon’s body was immediately subjected to a drug and alcohol test, but Zimmerman was not. And the fact that it took 44 days for an arrest to take place and then only as a result of a national media campaign. And the fact that during the trial the prosecution was ordered to refrain from using the term “racial profiling”. And the fact that, in July 2013, Zimmerman was found (by a jury of six women, five of whom were white) not guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter. All of it shocking.

About the book his parents said their grief meant it took five years to write and they never imagined they’d finally get there.

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Loving

Based on a HBO documentary called The Loving Story a new film at the cinema calling Loving tells the story of how on June 2, 1958, a white man named Richard Loving and his part-black, part-Cherokee fiancée Mildred Jeter travelled from Caroline County, VA to Washington, D.C. to be married. At the time, interracial marriage was illegal in 21 states, including Virginia.

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Back home two weeks later, the newlyweds were arrested, tried and convicted of the felony crime of “miscegenation.” To avoid a one-year jail sentence, the Lovings agreed to leave the state; they could return to Virginia, but only separately. Living in exile in D.C. with their children, the Lovings missed their families and dearly wanted to return to their rural home. At the advice of her cousin, Mildred wrote a letter to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who wrote her back suggesting she get in touch with the American Civil Liberties Union. From there the story of the Lovings became public news.

“I wasn’t involved with the civil rights movement … only thing I know was what everybody saw on the news. … I wasn’t in anything concerning civil rights. We were trying to get back to Virginia. That was our goal—to get back home.” —Mildred Loving

The new film Loving has some good reviews  and reports on both sides of the Atlantic. It provides young people with both a lesson in the history of racism in 20th century America as well as a reminder of how modern intolerance and hatred can leave people in unfair situations, away from the home and loved ones.