Juneteenth is on Saturday, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is celebrating with a new documentary. The 74-year-old NBA legend is the executive producer and narrator of Fight the Power: The Movements that Changed America, which premieres on the History Channel Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. PopCulture.com recently caught up with Abdul-Jabbar to talk about the documentary, which looks at some of the most impactful protests and movements in American history.
"I don't think that everybody is aware that all of the protest movements in our country really, based on the same set of circumstances, that one group or another is being denied equal protection under the law and is dealing with discrimination, that is the common theme for all of this," Abdul-Jabbar told PopCulture explaining why he wanted to be part of the project. "That's what happens in our country, certain groups are targeted, or end up behind the eight ball, and it's kind of hard to get out from behind all of that, so the only way you can call attention sometimes to your particular plight is through protests, and the first amendment guarantees us the right to go out and tell people what's wrong with America."
Some of the movements featured in Fight the Power: The Movements that Changed America are women's suffrage, civil rights LGBTQ+, and most recently, Black Lives Matter. Abdul-Jabbar wants viewers to understand that protesting is one of the things that built this country as it was something that was done in its early years.
"Well, you can start with the Boston Tea Party," Abdul-Jabbar said. "In our country, it was a protest against the unfair taxation from the English crown that eventually ended up sparking the American Revolution. We have to be able to talk about them, and our first amendment means that you always have the right to go out and let people know if something is oppressive and unfair and needs to be remedied."
The Black Lives Matter movement originally started in 2013 but gained steam last year after the death of George Floyd. Abdul-Jabbar said Floyd's death caused the entire world to see what people of color go through daily.
"The Black Lives Matter movement has already changed a lot here because of what happened last summer with George Floyd, and we have people protesting and a lot of people saying, 'What does Black Lives Matter mean? Are black people upset, and what are they protesting about?'" Abdul-Jabbar said. "And then we had the George Floyd murder, so people had a very concrete and vivid example of what Black Americans have to deal with, and it really has changed the landscape in regards to people understanding the truth about the reality of life in America. I think that we can't ignore that, that's a very important moment, and I hope that we can build on the fact that people are accepting the reality of life in America."