Nas Says We Need Racial “Healing” & Looks To Muhammad Ali For Guidance (Video)

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Earlier this year, the world lost an icon in Muhammad Ali. The legendary boxer and civil-rights activist made history inside and outside of the ring, by boldly standing up against the U.S. government when conscripted into the military in protest of the Vietnam War, and adopting the Islamic faith and a name change – all while being the most famous athlete in the world. It was the 1960s, and America was embroiled in what would become known as the Civil Rights Era, when Black Americans were forced to endure Jim Crow laws, all of which stripped them of any sense of equality with Whites.

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It’s almost 2017, and Americans are once again facing an onslaught of racially motivated inequities in society. Nas is an artist who has routinely used his platform to lend voice to the pain of the Black community, most recently through his work on both the Hamilton mixtape and the soundtrack to the film The Land. In a recent interview with a fellow icon, record-label executive and Uptown Records founder Andre Harrell, the Queensbridge MC details the inspiration behind the socially conscious take on life he presents through his music, particularly as it relates to recent events. In attending a recent New York City march for justice with Russell Simmons, Nas shares that he couldn’t help but think of the struggles of the 1960s. “I thought that we was passed it,” he says. “I couldn’t imagine that people haven’t changed since decades ago. And now the whole word is experiencing, again, what happened in the ’60s.”

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However, he argues that one need not look too far for a role model in working to affect change in society today. “I think about how did Muhammad Ali handle all of that back then? Because here he is, the champion of the world and role model. He wants to use his influence to help things, and he still has to be a role model to children. He doesn’t want to alienate himself or push a certain group back because of his views, but he has to be truthful and say what he feels and to the best that he can to help change things.” The blueprint Ali presented to the world decades ago is one that people today, particularly those with great influence, should incorporate in their own activism, says Nas.

“I think all of us in the spotlight have to look at people like Muhammad Ali and just think about what he had to go through and how did he handle it? And what did he do that was effective?” Harrell goes on to echo those sentiments, referencing Ali’s fearlessness in sacrificing himself for a greater good. “You could take away his belt, stop his money coming, but he felt he was on the side of righteousness,” he says before comparing him to the late Nelson Mandela.

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Elsewhere, Nas discusses why it will take only one brave person in politics to change the world.