In celebration of Black History Month, the Smithsonian Channel is featuring all-new premieres of Cassius X: Becoming Ali, beginning Monday, starting February 20 at 9 pm ET/PT.
Cassius X: Becoming Ali, which explores Muhammad Ali's early years, is directed by Muta’Ali Muhammad. The film is a creative look into Ali’s rise to becoming a heavyweight champion while coming to terms with himself. "Cassius X: Becoming Ali is a creative look into Muhammad Ali’s fight to claim his identity while kicking butt in the boxing ring and eventually becoming our Heavyweight Champion. Ali’s actions in his early twenties in the ‘60s inspire us today and are an integral part of our history and Black History," Muhammad tells EBONY.
"Of course, directing Cassius X hit home for me personally as an African-American filmmaker whose parents gave him a Muslim name," continues Muhammad. "As the film will tell you, part of Ali's story includes a number of fans and lovers who rejected the champ for shedding his slave name and for his religious beliefs. But none of that could stop the man once known as Cassius Clay from emerging as Muhammad Ali."
The revealing documentary begins in 1959 when the young boxer, Cassius Clay, begins his journey towards achieving his lifelong dream of becoming World Heavyweight Champion and embarking on a secret spiritual journey. The film explores the next five years in which Clay evolves as both a boxer and a global star while also risking everything—his career, public persona, family and the love of his popstar girlfriend—for both a new religion and a new name.
The film includes interviews with Attallah Shabazz, Malcolm X’s eldest daughter, Dee Dee Sharp, the R&B singer and girlfriend of Ali in the early 1960s, and boxing broadcast legend Jim Lampley, who was a friend of Ali and more.
The specials will air as part of month-long networking that honors and celebrates African American history and culture. Catch some of the channel’s most beloved specials every Monday in February starting at 9 pm ET/PT with programs such as Black in Space: Breaking The Color Barrier; Afrofuturism: The Origin Story; The Obama Years: The Power of Words and Picturing The Obama’s: Portrait of Hope; Sports Detectives: Ali’s Missing Gold Medal and The Green Book: Guide To Freedom.