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Ex-Wife of Muhammad Ali Raising Money for Black Firefighters Museum

By Wendell Hutson | January 14, 2014 8:07am
 A documentary about Muhammad Ali will be shown Saturday at the Harold Washington Cultural Center in Bronzeville.
A documentary about Muhammad Ali will be shown Saturday at the Harold Washington Cultural Center in Bronzeville.
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BRONZEVILLE — The ex-wife of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali is in Chicago to help raise money for a nonprofit organization behind the planned Chicago African-American Firefighters Museum.

Khalilah Camacho-Ali, 63, will moderate a documentary, "The Trials of Muhammad Ali," at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Harold Washington Cultural Center, 4701 S. King Drive. Proceeds will benefit the museum effort, spearheaded by retired Chicago firefighter Morris Davis.

"If we ever want our young people to know their history, then [adults] must be involved in teaching them," she said. "There are young people who do not know who Muhammad Ali is or that he lived in Chicago."

Tickets, which range from $10 to $50, can be bought online or at the door, said Davis, president of the museum.

The documentary will show Ali's rise in the boxing world, his refusal to enlist in the armed forces as required by federal law and his conversion to Islam, which led to him to change his birth name, Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., to Muhammad Ali.

Camacho-Ali, who was married to Ali from 1966-77, is a Chicago native, "born around 55th and Vincennes," she said.

In town also to celebrate her father's 86th birthday, she said she planned "on going by my old neighborhood before I head back to Florida."

During her marriage to Ali, Camacho-Ali said they had four children together, and Ali fathered two more outside their marriage, including retired boxer Laila Ali.

"After he had a second child on me, I decided enough was enough. I could not take him disrespecting our marriage like that, so I filed for divorce," Camacho-Ali said. "But the funny part about Laila is that she came out looking like me."

Davis said the museum originally was scheduled to open in February, but now it should open by June.

"Things are moving a little slower than expected, but we are getting there," Davis said. "Once it opens, admission would be free because we want everyone to know the history of black firefighters and the contributions they have made to Chicago."

The museum will be housed in a vacant firehouse at 5349 S. Wabash Ave. thanks to the City Council's decision to give the museum a 10-year, $1 lease.

The contributions firefighters make day in and day out are something the world needs to know about, Camacho-Ali said.

"I have firefighters in my family, and I cannot think of another profession where people give so much of themselves to help others than firefighters," she said.