2.21.2010

Weighing in on Malcolm X: How should he be remembered?


(Blogger's Note: This is part of an article I originally wrote for GlobalGrind.com on the anniversary of Malcolm X's birth last year. Since today marks the day he was assassinated, I thought I would repost it. @BrotherJesse)

Today many around the world is honoring the legacy of Brother Malcolm X, also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. He was assassinated on February 21, 1965. Even the government that hated and plotted on his life made commemorative stamps years ago and corporate America has even commercialized his legacy.

I first read a book about Malcolm X as a freshman in high school titled Malcolm X on Afro-American History. It is a collection of many of the speeches he had delivered.

I learned a lot from that book and it was one of the first times in my life that I had read about the true and rich history of Black people before we were made into slaves. This was something I was not being taught in my history classes. I was blown away and shared the book with many of my classmates! They read it gladly.

Then the movie Malcolm X came out in theaters and soon all of my friends started wearing ‘X’ shirts, hats, bracelets, handbags, etc. They felt they were "down with the cause", "revolutionary" and "conscious" because they paid their money to see the movie.

Also many hip-hop artists started using his messages in their albums but my classmates were only moved by the beat and not by his words. Not like when Public Enemy or Poor Righteous Teachers used his words to move the masses to action….my friends used Malcolm X as the latest fad.

I then offered to them that Malcolm X is bigger than a t-shirt or any rap song that used his sound bites and challenged them to BE like him. They didn’t want to hear me.

Under the leadership of Honorable Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X successfully cleaned up his life in prison, lived an upright lifestyle, put down drugs, put down guns, read every book in the prison library, ate one meal a day, became a prolific speaker, did not smoke, fasted, prayed, defeated scholars in all debates, was a guest speaker at all Ivy league schools, challenge the powers of America, became an international figure, spoke out against injustice in the community, crisscrossed America weekly in his car to teach people about themselves and cleaned up people in the streets…...and he only went to the 8th grade!

Malcolm became this type of man despite losing his father at the age of 13, having his mother committed to a mental hospital, drug dealing, gambling, racketeering, robbery, and overseeing prostitutes. He was an example of how any person can transform their lives and become a giant when given a chance. But how many organizations would have truly took in this ex-con and cleaned him up? How many today?

So if you think that you’re commemorating his life by making a rap song with excerpts of his speeches, writing a poem, wearing a medallion, rocking a t-shirt, busting shots in the air or even coordinating an intellectual panel discussion full of people who don’t do anything for the masses, you have his life confused.

If we want to celebrate the legacy of Malcolm X how about we:

· Go into the streets to teach our young people to stop killing one another.

· Go into the prisons with our knowledge to help reform someone and help them when they get out to stay out the system. Another "Malcolm" is waiting.

· Help a sister stop selling her body in the streets. Show her an alternative instead of turning your nose up at her.

· Launch a business to employ people and teach others how to do for self.

· Speak out against injustice through works and not just show up for the cameras.

· Use our influence to address a cause bigger than our rims or houses.

· Read more and teach young people the power of being a reader like Malcolm

· Back the strong freedom fighters in our midst today like the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.

· Make self-improvement your daily routine and unity a necessity. Help rid our community of drugs and violence.

· And by all means stop quoting “by any means necessary” if you don’t really mean it. By any means necessary didn't mean picking up a gun. Arm your mind.

Lastly I pose this question:

If Malcolm X was made so powerful that he is still loved by so many, then how much more powerful is the teacher that polished him before the world?

Food for thought...much love

---Bro. Jesse