In Memoriam: Malcolm X

Malcolm X – nee Malcolm Little; a.k.a. El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz

50 years ago today, a powerful voice was silenced by three gunmen. Malcolm X, nee Malcolm Little, was shot multiple times before a speech he was scheduled to give in front of the Organization of Afro-American Unity, at the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan, on this day in 1965. He was killed by members of the Nation of Islam because he was seen as having turned his back on the group due to becoming disillusioned with its then-leader, Elijah Muhammad. His intellect and charisma were seen as threatening to many, white and Black alike. At the time of his death, he was only 39 years old.
Words fail to convey the impact this man had on the consciences of generations, and his wisdom could be sorely used today. One of his daughters, Ilyasah Shabazz, recently completed a biographical novel about her father’s life, titled “X,” and was discussing it in a recent interview. She was asked, “What would your father think of the #BlackLivesMatter demonstrations?” Ms. Shabazz responded, “He would indeed agree that Black lives matter, but…he would say that the people who need to understand the message the most…aren’t going to be influenced by a hash-tag. He would want to ask what the solutions are.” This is something that I wonder, as well – we all know what the problem is, and it’s racism. The question is, what do we do about it? What are the solutions? Racism is a social construct, this is known…but it has been the foundation of US society from day one. So, how do we deconstruct it? Where can one find honest, face-to-face discussions about deconstructing racism and sexism from the ground up? I’ve yet to locate anyplace, and I’ve been searching for years. Even some who claim to fight against these very things fail miserably when confronted with some very basic questions.
What were the events that shaped this dynamic young man? Quite a few. Born on 19 May, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska, young Malcolm was one of eight children. His mother Louise, was a homemaker and his father, Earl, was a Baptist minister and supporter of Marcus Garvey. Earl’s own activism made him a target of hate groups; he relocated a number of times in attempt to elude them, but to no avail – in 1931, Earl’s body was found laying on trolley tracks in the town of Lansing, Michigan. This, and the 1929 burning of their home, were ruled as ‘accidents’ by local authorities. The stress took an unfortunate toll on Louise’s health, and she was committed to a mental institution – Malcolm and his brothers secured her release from it later on.
Malcolm served 7 years on a 10-year term on burglary charges. During his incarceration, he converted to Islam and focused on furthering his education. His evolution from “small-time hoodlum” to an outspoken, influential leader is testament to the fact that one can achieve great things, even in the face of – nay, in spite of – great adversities. I, and many others, will always wonder what this powerful individual could have accomplished if his life hadn’t been tragically and brutally cut short. Leadership such as his is sorely – and desperately – needed in this day and age.

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