EL HAJJ MALIK EL SHABAZZ (Malcolm X)
May 19, 1925 –February 21, 1965
When actor Ossie Davis eulogized Malcolm X at the Faith Temple Church of God in Harlem New York on Saturday February 27, 1965 he spoke these words, “…what we place now in the ground is no more a man- but a seed- which after the winter of our discontent, will come forth again to meet us…” That seed as long been germinated, and has grown forty years now into an Evergreen Plant, sending out countless seedlings transplanted all over the earth through the teachings, opinions, ideals and philosophies of El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (Malcolm X).
For me, my first introduction of Malcolm X came one day while I was going through Sir William Grant Park in (Kingston ) Jamaica at the age of nineteen; there a man sat selling portraits of other men. I could easily identify that the pictures were that of important people in African History. Some of which were that of the American Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King (jr.) and Marcus Garvey, for while at Horizon Park All Age School and at Kingston College I was taught much about them, but for one particular frame I knew not who he was. To say the least, I was intrigue by the pose; that of a fist leaning against the cheek with the index finger sticking upwards to the brain, while the eyes bore a defiant look of contemplation and determination the face had a composure of a man who seemingly is about to outsmart a trickster with smooth utterance and wit.
So compelling was the pose that I at once asked my fellow co-worker Lorna Lewis who is that man, to which she replied, “Malcolm X,” and who is Malcolm X? “Oh! He is one of those Civil Rights Leader from America like Martin Luther King,” came the response. I pondered then why I had never ever heard of this man yet inquired nothing more of him from Lorna or from anyone else.
Three years later I emigrated from Jamaica to Canada and on a cold October’s night in Montreal while working as an Extra on a movie set my life and passion changed forever . A friend of mine Leroy Francis sitting next to me was reading a book in between takes. Being bored, I peered over his shoulder and my eyes read where this man was gunned down in a hail of bullets numbering twenty-one, that created in me an instance of poignancy. Shit! I mumbled in soliloquy then rhetorically asked why would someone shoot a person twenty one times. My friend hearing me, turned and said, “No it’s seventeen times,” but I insisted on twenty one to which he remarked, “Ha, I just wanted to know if you were reading over my shoulder.” I apologize and then ask him the title of the book and was told it’s the Autobiography of Malcolm X. The name Lorna had told me co-insided with the title of the book and the portrait seen back in Jamaica came to my memory. Curiosity gave in and wanting to know more about this man the next day I went to the library and borrowed a copy. Since that day I have been hooked on what he stood for and his messages has provided me with the impetus to a state of Black Consciousness and Black Pride, Dignity and Courage with a never ending quest for Social Justice, Economic Prosperity, Education and Knowledge.
Malcolm X taught us that Black is Beautiful at a time when a black skin was still a mark of servitude and to many a burden of shame. He taught us that freedom was a right for us to claim and should by any means necessary. Many people then labeled him a demagogue to which Malcolm clarified in an interview in 1963 by Playboy Magazine,” What I want to know is how the white man, with the blood of black people dripping off his fingers, can have the audacity to be asking black people (why) they hate him?” In the same interview Malcolm shed light on Overcoming: “At the bottom of the social heap is the black man in the big-city ghetto. He lives night and day with the rats and the cockroaches and drowns himself with alcohol and anesthetizes himself with dope, to try and forget where and what he is. That Negro has given up all hope. He’s the hardest one for us to reach, because he’s the deepest in the mud. But when you get him, you’ve got the best kind of Muslim. I look upon myself as a prime example of this category-as graphic an example as you could find of the salvation of the black man.”
On Segregation this is what Malcolm said during WUST interview 1963, “Segregation is that which is forced upon inferiors by superiors. Separation is done voluntarily by two equals… The Negro schools in the Negro communities are controlled by whites; the economy of the Negro community is controlled by whites. And since the Negro…community is controlled or regulated by outsiders, it is a segregated community…Muslims who follow the Honorable Elijah Muhammad are as much against segregation as we are against integration. We are against segregation because it is unjust and we are against integration because (it is) a false solution to a real problem.”
On Integration: …when you’ve got some hot coffee that’s too black, which means it’s too strong, what do you do? You integrate it with cream…But if you pour too much cream in it, you won’t even know you ever had coffee. It used to be hot, it becomes cool. It used to be strong, it becomes weak. It used to wake you up, now it puts you to sleep.
The aims and objectives of Malcolm X are self-help, self- defense, responsibility, discipline, education and a commitment towards Black Unity. He often insisted that we as a people cannot think of being acceptable to others until we have first proven acceptable to our selves. To many he was a militant yet is militancy was only with words not with bullets and booms, firehouse and billy-clubs. He was not for war but for human justice and so he internationalized America’s Race problems by lifting it from the level of civil rights to a struggle for the universally recognized Human Rights.
On Revolution this is what Malcolm X said during an Interview with A.B. Spellman in May 1964… People involve in a revolution don’t become part of the system; they destroy the system…The Negro revolution is no revolution because it condemns the system and then asks the system it has condemn to accept them…Revolutions are base upon land. Revolutionaries are the landless against the landlord. Revolutions are never peaceful, never loving, and never nonviolent. Nor are they ever compromising. Revolutions are destructive and bloody. Revolutionaries don’t compromise with the enemy; they don’t even negotiate. Like the flood in Noah’s day, revolution drowns all opposition or like the fire in Lot’s day, the black revolution burns everything that gets in its path.
One can never under-mind the achievements of Malcolm X; A devout Muslim whose teachings were laden with references to the faith of Islam. A self educated man who after dropping out of school from grade seven, reformed himself while in prison to gain the respect of scholars , statesmen and leaders all over the world. He debated at some of the world’s most prestigious learning institutions, Oxford University and Harvard Law Forum and traveled to Kenya and all over Africa and the Middle East to meet Kings and Dignitaries and fellow Comrades in the fight for Human Justice and Black Unity. “To have been in prison is no big stick, to remain is,” he would later told a gathering. We must never forget that in 1984 the government of Iran issued a stamp commemorating Malcolm X on the Universal Day of the Struggle Against Race Discrimination. Today there are many books , movies and documentaries written about Malcolm X and we all owe it to ourselves to scatter this seed of our beloved plant and as Malcolm X once stated, “Of all our studies history will best reward us for our research.”
Asalaam Alikum… Happy Black History Month.