From its earliest days, America has been a nation founded on the fight for civil liberties. It is this legacy that is celebrated in a new documentary from athlete and activist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, entitled Fight the Power: The Movements That Changed America.
As Juneteenth marks its inaugural celebration as a federally recognized national holiday, Abdul-Jabbar’s film looks back on the most impactful civil rights movements of American history, including the 1880s labour movement, women’s suffrage, the fight for LGBTQ+ rights and the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement. In its one hour runtime, Fight the Power features sit-down interviews with a range of notable historians and authors, tying protests of the past to the passions and concerns that drive our current social climate.
America is truly a country shaped by protest and the never-ending fight for a better and more just way of life. Abdul-Jabbar elaborated on this cornerstone of American culture, stating:
“One of this country’s greatest strengths is its willingness to listen to the voices of its people–whether at the ballot box or in the streets–and make changes to bring about a more equitable society. I think people will be able to see themselves in the position of some of the protestors–they’ll understand that people are being denied a very fundamental right. You’ll get an idea of what makes protest a part of the American DNA, and how it relates to life in America today.”
As pride month kicks into full gear, economic struggles persist, and issues of police brutality and voting rights seem more urgent than ever before, the documentary comes at a relevant and poignant crossroads. Abdul-Jabbar has long been a fierce advocate for social rights, receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016 for his work as a civil rights activist. Known in the sports world for his skill as a professional basketball player, Abdul-Jabbar snagged his first NBA title with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1971, before going on to win five additional championships with the Lakers throughout the 1980s. A fixture in American sports culture; the work of NBA’s current players in their fight for social justice has not been lost on Abdul-Jabbar.
“The great players in the game today do a great job of representing their communities,” he remarked. “So many are involved in trying to get things done with problems in their community, and they’re doing a great job of identifying problems and getting people to address these problems. Without the public platform that they have as professional athletes, I don’t think they’d be able to do that.”
Fight the Power: The Movements That Changed America is Abdul-Jabbar’s second History Channel production, following Black Patriots: Heroes of the Revolution for which he received a 2020 Emmy nomination for Outstanding Narration.