Happy Birthday Brother Malcolm

May 19th marks the birth of El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz b.k.a. Malcolm X. Since I first read the Alex Haley autobiography at 15, I’ve felt compelled towards, challenged by, and connected to Malcolm X. I know that each of us has adapted Malcolm in our own ways, I think Robin Kelly captured it when he said,

“Malcolm X has been called many things: Pan-Africanist, father of Black Power, religious fanatic, closet conservative, incipient socialist, and a menace to society. The meaning of his public life — his politics and ideology — is contested in part because his entire body of work consists of a few dozen speeches and a collaborative autobiography whose veracity is challenged. Malcolm has become a sort of tabula rasa, or blank slate, on which people of different positions can write their own interpretations of his politics and legacy. Chuck D of the rap group Public Enemy and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas can both declare Malcolm X their hero.”

On this day, the date of his birth, I imagine our ancestor would love more than simple memorial. Instead, he would demand reflection upon what his teachings meant for not only the individual but our collectivity. I’ll begin: Beneath the video is on Malcolm’s calls for unity in the African Diaspora. For many years, I have personally struggled with loving “the roots” of the tree. Having encountered great resistance to being African-American and desiring to be considered “African” by my continental brothers and sisters, I became embittered with our Continental brothers and sisters. However, in interrogating my prejudices and perceptions, I found that my prejudgements were largely based on limited sight and an incomplete view of the ways in which colonial history continues to permeate the thinking of Africans throughout the Diaspora. Over the past year and continuing this year, I will continue to draw greater connection with the continental Africans of present, not just conceptions of our ancestors from the Continent. Thank you Brother Malcolm for taking the time to share your words, works, and worship. Rest in Peace.

Filed under: Ancestors

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