Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the Harlem Renaissance in His Soul

January, 15, 2007
1/15/07
12:27
PM ET
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's On the Shoulders of Giants, which I believe is both a Spike Lee documentary  (having trouble fact-checking Lee's involvement) and a book, is about basketball, jazz, and the multifaceted fruit of the Harlem Renaissance. Some Abdul-Jabbar comments from a press release:

  • "For most people, the degree of success they achieve in life is based on the role models they choose to emulate. Those who choose money-hungry athletes or fame-hungry movie stars will soon discover a hollowness at the core of their quest. I was fortunate enough to discover the intellectual and athletic giants of the Harlem Renaissance when I was only seventeen. Their writings on politics, race, and the arts inspired me to become the man I did—a man interested in pursuing professional success, but just as interested in seeking social justice, creating a harmonious community, and celebrating my cultural heritage."
  • "Jazz personally inspired me as a teenager. The intensity of the music somehow empowered me in the way that gospel music can empower certain congregations. Yet, it wasn’t just the sound of the music that I found so inspiring, it was also that the musical form was an original form created by African-Americans. Listening to it made me feel like I was part of, not just a Black community, but also the endless stream of Black culture reaching back to Africa. I’m especially proud of the prominence and popularity that jazz has achieved worldwide."

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