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Springfield College and NEPM to present ‘Ali and Social Change’

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (Oct. 22, 2021) New England Public Media and Springfield College will present a discussion about Muhammad Ali’s legacy of social change, on Wednesday, Nov. 3 at 6:30 p.m. on Zoom. The event is part of Springfield College’s “Courageous Conversation Series,” and is related to Muhammad Ali, the PBS film series by Ken Burns. Panelists include the film’s co-director Sarah Burns, professor, essayist and author Gerald Early (who appears in Muhammad Ali), and former WNBA player and Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman. Springfield College professor and sports journalist Martin Dobrow will moderate the event. Springfield College’s Vice President for Inclusion and Community Engagement Dr. Calvin R. Hill is the event host.

Attendees will have the opportunity to watch a 30-minute clip from the film at 6:30 p.m., followed by the panel discussion at 7 p.m.

Registration is available here »

Muhammad Ali, which premiered on NEPM TV from Sept. 19-22, was directed by acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns, and written and co-directed by Sarah Burns and David McMahon. The series follows the life of one of the most consequential men of the 20th century — a three-time heavyweight boxing champion who captivated billions of fans with his combination of speed, agility and power in the ring, and his charm, wit and outspokenness outside of it. At the height of his fame, Ali challenged Americans’ racial prejudices, religious biases, and notions about what roles celebrities and athletes play in our society. “Ali is rightly celebrated for his athleticism in the ring, but he was equally heroic in his willingness to stand up for what he believed was right,” noted Muhammad Ali co-director and event panelist Sarah Burns.

“Springfield College strongly supports and is proud to work with New England Public Media to host a community-based conversation about Muhammad Ali, where we will use themes from the documentary to address issues around the broad premise of social change,” said Dr. Hill. “This event brings to western Massachusetts a deeper look into Ali as a social change agent. This is an important and significant initiative, and the time is right to explore the intersection of sport and social justice through one of the most consequential athletes of our time. Positioning attendees to understand their agency as it relates to social justice through the acts, accomplishments, and sacrifices of Muhammad Ali will serve to foster increased awareness and knowledge of the issues of racism, xenophobia, islamophobia, and classism which are negatively impacting our country today.”

Sarah Burns served as writer and co-director of Muhammad Ali. She is the author of The Central Park Five: A Chronicle of a City Wilding and, along with David McMahon and Ken Burns, the producer, writer and director of the documentary The Central Park Five, about the five Black and Latino teenagers who were wrongly convicted in the infamous Central Park Jogger rape of 1989. She produced and directed, along with David McMahon and Ken Burns, Jackie Robinson, a biography of the celebrated baseball player and civil rights icon, and East Lake Meadows: A Public Housing Story.

Gerald Early is an American essayist and American culture critic. He is the Merle Kling Professor of Modern Letters in the African and African American Studies Department at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. He has consulted on several Ken Burns documentary films, including Baseball, Jazz, The War and Muhammad Ali, and he is a regular commentator on NPR’s Fresh Air. He writes on topics as diverse as American literature, the Korean War, African American culture, Afro-American autobiography, non-fiction prose, sports, jazz, and more.

Nancy Lieberman became the first-ever woman head coach of a men’s professional team in any sport when she joined Power in the Big3 league. Growing up playing on rough-and-tumble courts in Harlem, she learned to play a physical, aggressive style of basketball unlike other women of her time. Lieberman went on to play professionally in the Women’s Professional Basketball League, Women’s American Basketball Association, United States Basketball League, Women’s National Basketball Association, and with the Washington Generals. She is currently a broadcaster for the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder. She was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1996.

Dr. Calvin R. Hill joined Springfield College in 2015 as the vice president for inclusion and community engagement. Previously, he served as the university diversity and inclusion officer for the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, assistant to the president and director of the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equal Opportunity at Worcester State University, associate provost and chief diversity officer for MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston, and assistant dean and director of diversity programs at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Dr. Hill is a consultant on diversity issues and presents nationally on issues of inclusion, where he focuses primarily on providing equal access to educational opportunities for underrepresented populations.

Marty Dobrow has been at Springfield College since 1999, where he also serves as faculty advisor to the student newspaper and coordinates internships for communications/sports journalism students. Dobrow has written frequently about issues of civil rights and social justice. He is the author of two books, with a third on the way about civil rights. His freelance credits include work for The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, and Six of his stories have earned recognition in the Best American Sports Writing series.