*Najee Ali may not be as active nowadays since protesting Hollywood’s lack of diversity on the day of the Oscars, but the 53-year-old Los Angeles activist still remains a powerful force in the fight against injustice and discrimination through his newest ally: social media.
In a profile written by Los Angeles Times reporter Angel Jennings, the publication reveals that doctors, who advised him to slow down, diagnosed Ali with Stage 3 lymphoma, a form of cancer, two years ago. Adding to the doctors’ suggestion were physical signs for Ali to fall back from his activist endeavors.
“The wear and tear with chemotherapy is taking its toll,” Ali told Jennings while sipping a marsh green cold-pressed juice — part of his effort to live healthier.
“A protest or march has never solved a problem in the black community,” Ali said. “But it puts the issue out there and it keeps the conversation going on the issue until we can figure out how we can solve the problem.”
Along with the physical toll, bouts of chemotherapy also left Ali ragged. Jennings acknowledged that Ali’s fight against cancer has taken a lot out of him, despite his hair growing back and regaining some weight. Nevertheless, there are days, Ali admits, where he’s too tired to get out of bed.
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While recovering from treatments designed to keep him alive, Ali discovered the power of social media as a way to fight for social justice without physically maintaining a presence. As a result, Ali found renewed vigor to continue with utilizing Twitter and Facebook accounts to reach people, in addition to a weekly column he writes for a local newspaper.
“My whole life has been one of evolving,” Ali said. “So it dawned on me, let this be an opportunity to rest and heal, but evolve and do something different.”
Ali’s new method of operation comes amid a noticeable shift in the activist landscape with the rise of groups like Black Lives Matters transferring the focus from “individual, ordained leaders of the black community.” In L.A., the change has coincided with the ascendance of women leading protest movements.
With more than two decades of activism under his belt, Ali has been a prominent voice in LA’s black community with speaking out against various issues that include controversial police shootings and gang violence, while criticizing police, politicians and others.
Although he has been praised for his activism, Ali has taken his lumps as well with some branding him a sellout for his relationship with Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck, and calling him a mouthpiece for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who gets regular praise from Ali in his column.
“I realized sometimes it is better to be inside City Hall, advocating for South L.A. as opposed to protesting outside the mayor’s house,” Ali explained to Jennings while taking a dig at Black Lives Matters protesters, who camped out at Garcetti’s Windsor Square home last summer.
For Jennings’ full report on Ali, click here.