I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it’s for or against. – Malcolm X #quote
Today is the 92nd anniversary of the birth of Malcolm X, also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.
This week many around the world is honoring his legacy. He was born on May 19, 1925. 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 at Forest Brook High School here in Houston titled Malcolm X on Afro-American History. It is a collection of many of the speeches he 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. And being that the Texas Board of Education is only a few days away from making their final vote on textbook changes, they want to make sure that our children don’t learn about him and others who impacted America and the world. But that doesn’t mean parents should not teach their children about their heritage.
I was so blown away by that little book and I shared it with many of my classmates! They read it gladly.
Then the movie Malcolm 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. Some of us still do.
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 through Islam, 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 Ivy league schools, challenged 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 consistent work and not just show up for the cameras.
Use your influence to address a cause bigger than your rims, houses, and religious buildings.
Read more and teach young people the power of being a reader like Malcolm.
Make self-improvement your daily routine and unity a necessity.
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. An idea whose time has come is the most feared weapon, not a gun.
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.
Blogger’s note: This entry has been updated; 2017.