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19:09, 20 August 2018 Monday
Update: 11:32, 30 November 2013 Saturday

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Muhammad Ali poem on the Attica prison massacre
Muhammad Ali poem on the Attica prison massacre

The world famous boxer Muhammad Ali read a poem he wrote for the the Afro-American victims of the 1971 Attica prison massacre.

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World Bulletin / News Desk

The world famous boxing champion Muhammad Ali appeared in an interview which was televised in Ireland, in which he recited a poem he wrote about the 1971 Attica prison riots.

The riots which took place 42 years ago resulted in the death of 39 people, including some prison guards. It all started on September 9, 1971, when a black inmate was killed while trying to escape the prison. Over the following four days, up to 2,200 black prisoners rebelled against the prison guards, taking 42 of them hostage.

Nelson Rockerfeller, the then governor, refused to negotiate with the prisoners demands for better treatment and conditions. Soldiers raided the prison facility on September 13, dropping teargas and then shooting randomly into the smoke for two minutes non-stop. 29 prisoners were killed on the spot. 9 prison guards were also killed on that day, some with slit throats, suggesting that the prisoners had killed their hostages in retaliation for the raid. 1 hostage died of a gunshot wound later on.

After reading the poem, Muhammad Ali related the struggle of the Afro-Americans for freedom and justice to the struggle of the Irish against British imperialism. The transcript of the poem can be read as follows

Freedom - Better Now

Better far— from all I see—
To die fighting to be free
What more fitting end could be?

Better surely than in some bed
Where in broken health I'm led
Lingering until I'm dead

Better than with prayers and pleas
Or in the clutch of some disease
Wasting slowly by degrees

Better than a heart attack
or some dose of drug I lack
Let me die by being black

Better far that I should go
Standing here against the foe
Is the sweeter death to know

Better than the bloody stain
on some highway where I’m lain
Torn by flying glass and pane

Better calling death to come
than to die another dumb,
muted victim in the slum

Better than of this prison rot
if there’s any choice I’ve got
Kill me here on the spot

Better for my fight to wage
Now while my blood boils with rage
Less it cool with ancient age

Better violent for us to die
Than to Uncle Tom and try
Making peace just to live a lie

Better now that I say my sooth
I’m gonna die demanding Truth
While I’m still akin to youth

Better now than later on
Now that fear of death is gone
Never mind another dawn.



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