Tyrese, T.I., Rev. Run, David Banner, Diggy Simmons, Jaleel White, and many more were on hand as Urbanworld Film Festival 2015 celebrated its opening night on Wednesday, Sept. 23 with a screening of the BET News film “Muhammad Ali : The People’s Champ” and rolling out was there to discuss the legend.
“Freedom,” hip-hop artist David Banner said about what comes to mind when he thinks of Muhammad Ali. “Freedom to believe in what you want to, freedom to speak how you want to, just be great. If you are going to do it, be the best.”
Boxer Terrance Crawford called Ali “one of the greatest in and outside of the ring.”
Actor Jaleel White viewed the greatness of Ali through 2015-tinted glasses. “The man is global and that’s pre social media. And I don’t think people really understand that.” White also spoke about Ali’s relationship with a sports journalist and his impact. “I’ve watched a lot of his interviews with Howard Cosell. I know what that adversarial relationship was like. But I also know as adversarial as it was how much it helped white America appreciate who Ali was because Cosell was really a fan. He was a fan of his intellect as well as his ring prowess.”
The directors of the film, Clarence “Coodie” Simmons and Chike Oza spoke exclusively with rolling out about their approach to the film. “Of course we’re fans of Muhammad Ali and wanted to tell his story, but we definitely had to find a different way to do it. … We know he is still with us and wanted him to know how we appreciate him and all the things he’s done for us,” Simmons said.
What can we expect from the film? “Lessons, life lessons. Things that you can implement in your life to become an incredible human being,” Oza said.
Before this writer became a journalist, I worked at an investment banking firm. Riding in a corporate car to work one day, I spoke to a driver who was from a Muslim country in Africa about Muhammad Ali. The driver’s face lit up with excitement as we talked about the legendary man who was born Cassius Clay. Muhammad Ali isn’t a Black or even American icon, he is a global icon who broke barriers that had political, athletic, and religious implications that may last forever.