Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude
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Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude

#Attica45: Muhammad Ali Recites His Powerful Poem About the Attica Prison Uprising

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In 1972, one year after the Attica prison uprising, Muhammad Ali traveled to Ireland to fight Alvin Lewis. While there, he was interviewed by Cathal O’Shannon. Just as pretty as ever, “the Greatest” spoke on his boxing career, the importance of being Black (with a capital B), getting rid of our “slave” names, the Nation of Islam, racism, militarism, the historical oppression of the Irish people, and the ridiculousness of Tarzan and white Angel food cake.

It was an entertaining, insightful and hilarious interview (it can be watched in full here). By far, though, the most powerful moment of the interview came at the end when he recited the following poem.


Watch the clip after this transcript.

For Attica.

Better far from all I see
To die fighting to be free
What more fitting end could be


Better surely than in some bed
Where in broken health I'm lead
Lingering until I'm dead

Better than with prayers and pleas
Or in the clutch of some disease
Wasting slowly by degrees


Better than by heart attack
Or some dose of drug I lack

Let me die by being Black.

Better far than I should go
Standing here against the foe
Is there sweeter death to know


Better than the bloody stain
On some highway that I'm lain
Torn by flying glass and pain

Better call on death to come
Than to die another dumb
Muted victim in the slum

Better than of this prison rot
If there's any choice I've got
Kill me here on the spot


Better for my fight to wage
Now while my blood boils with rage
Lest it cool with ancient age

Better violent for us to die
Than to Uncle Tom and try
Making peace just to live a lie


Better now that I say my sooth
I'm going to die demanding truth
While I'm still akin to youth

Better now than later on
Now that fear of death is gone
Never mind another dawn

*Machine gun fire*

They opened fire on them
But they died telling it like it was


Incarcerated people in 40 prisons in 24 states across the U.S. have initiated a work strike to coincide with the 45th anniversary of the Attica prison uprising, which began Sept. 9, 1971, and lasted four days.

Read more about the labor strike to end prison slavery here.