Kinshasa, Zaire, 1974.
The fight was called the “The Rumble in the Jungle”-
a time when some critics laughed at this inaccurate image of Africa.
The former Congo of Patrice Lummumba is a nation rich in diamonds, and minerals-was the setting for men who unknowingly fought at one of Kinshasa’s most notorious jail stadiums(it was underneath the grounds)located in a modern African city.
Most likely they weren’t informed.
So nobody noticed during the three day music festival, FESTAC’74.
This event was not to be missed(if you could afford it),between two heavyweights still relevant, and the excitement it now still produces makes us feel as if it happened yesterday.
Ali’s daily runs, and workouts on the beach were recorded, as well as his interactions with the local people who loved him.
Onstage we played what’s now called ‘mixed tapes’ during performance intermission of Sister Sledge, James Brown, The Spinners, Miriam Makeba, Bill Whiters, Celia Cruz, the Fania All-Stars, and a speech that brought the house down by Felipe Luciano.
Ali fighting Foreman here, with all of these popular artists –had an undocumented impact on new generations who witnessed this decades later.
It was the unofficial homecoming of Blacks, and Latinos artists, and friends as well as a Black man, many loved, but some didn’t for his mouth, and message.
Muhammed Ali’s charisma brought an avalanche of world celebrities, and artists to Kinshasa, but ‘ordinary’ people he never left out.
The ‘rich, and famous’ who attended didn’t know anything about the wealthy nation they were living in for the fight.
Or that Mobutu was no Patrice Lumumba!
Despite this history, Muhammad Ali will be remembered for his major accomplishment in boxing, and three times winning the Heavyweight Champion of the World belt, and crown.’
He was a gifted talent from Louisville, Kentucky who changed his name, and the game. An outstanding Muslim American motivated to the sport by a stolen bicycle.
Back then in my dad’s barbershop we remember when customers shared stories of that “Louisville Lip.
Muhammed Ali was the “People’s Campion.” He’s was more about fighing injustices for Black people at HOME, not in Vietnam, and his love of humanity touched the world.
Rest in peace.