'Trials of Muhammad Ali' Provokes Conversation

May 19, 2014

Community members left WKAR Community Cinema on May 8 with interests heighten from the screening and conversation featuring "The Trials of Muhammad Ali."

Panelists (l-r) Pero Dagbovie, Daniel Manville and Waseem El-Rayes
Credit Aaron Snyder / WKAR-MSU

The new documentary from Independent Lens explores the extraordinary and complex life of the legendary athlete outside the boxing ring.

The film explores Ali's exile years when he was banned from boxing and found himself in the crosshairs of conflicts concerning race, religion and wartime dissent. It is the story of Ali's toughest bout: his battle to overturn the five-year prison sentence he received for refusing U.S. military service.

Beka Guluma
Credit Aaron Synder / WKAR-MSU

  "I thought it was an interesting start to the film," said East Lansing resident Beka Guluma. "I'm really intrigued to watch the rest of it."

After a short preview of the film, the evening's conversation explored the historical, legal, and international perspectives of Ali's life.

On the panel from Michigan State University was Waseem El-Rayes, coordinator of Muslim Studies Specialization in James Madison College; Daniel Manville, director of the Civil Rights Clinic in the College of Law; and Pero Dagbovie, director of the Department of History graduate program.

"I really like the selection of the panel members," said one audience member. "All three of them enriched the presentation."

As Professor Dagbovie stated, "Ali was the manifestation of the times."
He was a figure that joined other major icons in the liberal movements that sought not just equality but a way to lift the feelings of oppression. Professor El-Rayes shared his personal experience as a young boy living in the Middle East at the time and how Ali was a source of inspiration for many.
When the discussion geared towards Ali's title being stripped, Professor Manville explained how the boxer's actions challenged the principles of the Vietnam War. A challenge that the audience also discussed on how it drove Ali to succeed in the court trials and in life.

Lynn Jondahl
Credit Aaron Snyder / WKAR-MSU

At the end of the event the discussion encouraged many to further explore Ali's life. Audience member Lynn Jondahl of East Lansing said he was "eager to go home, sit down and do some work on the internet to find out [more on the topic]."

To watch the full documentary tune in Thurs., May 29, 8 p.m. on WKAR World.