Friday, February 19, 2021

Movie Review: ‘One Night in Miami’ can teach powerful lessons

By Matt Pascarella

Originally written as a play in 2013, now a movie available on Amazon Prime, “One Night in Miami” follows Muslim minister and human rights activist Malcom X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), musician Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), football player and actor Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and boxing legend Cassius Clay (Eli Goree) as they gather in a hotel room to celebrate after Clay defeated Sonny Liston to win the Heavyweight Boxing Title. What starts as a celebration, evolves into a discussion about racism, inequality and civil rights.

The movie begins in Wembley Stadium, London, 1963; a young Cassius Clay (who would later be known as Muhammad Ali) is in the ring with Henry Cooper. The announcer says everyone watching this boxing match is cheering for Cooper. Despite the crowd jeering Clay, after the announcer watches him box, he says they may have underestimated him.

The location switches to the Copacabana where Sam Cooke is waiting to go on but is met with opposition. Once Cooke takes the stage, the crowd isn’t receptive; with some even getting up to leave.

Jim Brown arrives at the home of Mr. Carlton, a wealthy white man and family friend. He is very friendly, until Brown offers to help him move some furniture and is met with a racial slur. This comes shortly after Mr. Carlton saying Brown is a credit to the entire state of Georgia.

Malcom X returns home after preaching and has a discussion with his wife, Betty X (Joaquina Kalukango) regarding issues of misconduct among Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad.

Feb. 25, 1964, Miami; 22-year-old Cassius Clay is preparing for a match against Sonny Liston. Malcom X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown are all set to meet up at a convention center after Clay’s fight.

They return to Malcom X’s hotel room, which is in a particular section of hotels for African Americans, after Clay wins the Heavyweight Boxing Title. The four begin discussing race and civil rights.

Much of the conversation is led by Malcom X, who the movie somewhat revolves around. They discuss instances of inequality African Americans faced during the early sixties, some of which still exist today.

At one point, later in the movie, Cooke makes a comment that Malcom X is always upset, Malcom X says with what is happening around us, everyone should be upset. Arguments erupt. Each have different viewpoints regarding how to deal with racism.

I was captivated by the important conversation had by these icons. While progress has been made, there’s always more that can continue to be made.

Prior to seeing this movie, I had some blind spots. When I thought of these four individuals, I did not think of anyone discriminating against them. I thought of their talents; their messages, what they brought to the general population. Fame and talent did not exclude them from discrimination. But it did not stop them from doing what they thought was right.<

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