Friday, May 19, 2006

Remembering and Honoring Malcolm X

Remembering and Honoring Malcolm X

“We’re not teaching hatred. We’re anti-evil, anti-oppression, anti-lynching. You can’t be anti those things unless you are also anti the oppressor and the lyncher. You can’t be anti-slavery and pro-slave master; you can’t be anti-crime and pro-criminal. In fact Mr. Muhammad teaches that if the present generation of whites would study their own race in the light of their true history, they would be anti-white themselves.” - Malcolm X

Today we honor the natal day of a great hero Malcolm Little, Reds, Satan, Malcolm X also known as El-Hajj Malik El Shabazz. Malcolm X was the archetype of transformation, self-determination and self-actualization. He was born on May 19, 1925 in Omaha Nebraska into a home of fierce and outspoken Garveyites who taught him to love African people and seek racial redemption. His father Earl Little was a proselytizer for Marcus Garvey’s UNIA-ACL and he had his family were targets of vicious white terrorism and violence. Due to constant racial tension and threats the Little family was forced to move on several occasions. Finally in 1931 Earl Little’s mutilated body was found dead across the trolley tracks of East Lansing Michigan. Earl Little’s murder sent the family into an emotional and financial tizzy which resulted in Malcolm’s mother sinking into a deep depression and suffering an emotional breakdown. She was subsequently committed to a mental hospital. The eight children were dispersed to foster homes and orphanages. Malcolm was naturally bright and an ambitious student but the virulent racism of his day thwarted his development and discouraged him. He was sent to live in Boston and eventually got hooked into the negative hustle culture and street crimes. Malcolm made his way to Harlem and continued to ply his slickster game full time. He subsequnetly returned to Boston and brought his criminal lifestyle with him. He and a buddy were later caught and sentenced to ten years in prison.
Initially Malcolm was so hostile, rebellious and recalcitrant to prison authority; he earned the nickname “Satan.” While in prison Malcolm took advantage of the time to expand his mind, read and learned to debate. Eventually his brother Reginald contacted him and told about his and several other siblings conversion to the Nation of Islam and encouraged Malcolm to look into it. The teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad rekindled a dormant flame deep within Malcolm and he sought membership in the Nation of Islam. Malcolm’s innate genius, charisma and people skills made him a natural leader. Malcolm studied under Elijah Muhammad himself in Chicago and Mr. Muhammad soon recognized Malcolm’s talents. With the backing of Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm rose steadily within the organization. He took on the challenging task of starting and organizing Temples up and down the Eastern seaboard. Under Malcolm’s guidance and tutelage they grew and the NOI gradually became a force to be reckoned with in the black community. Malcolm spread the word of Elijah Muhammad and helped found the weekly newspaper Muhammad Speaks. Between Elijah Muhammad’s growing presence on numerous black oriented radio stations, the newspaper’s growing popularity, the developing unrest generated by the Civil Rights movement and the negative and often violent reaction to it by whites, the Nation Of Islam began to expand exponentially. While Malcolm was a good soldier for Mr. Muhammad, his view of the world tended to not be as parochial as his mentor’s. This independent streak and the jealousy of some of his peers within the NOI would eventually lead to Malcolm’s fall from power within the NOI.
Examining Malcolm’s speeches you can see a slight digression from the teachings of Mr. Muhammad especially around the time racist LA police shot up the Mosque and killed several brothers. Mr. Muhammad urged caution, admonishing his followers their god Allah would punish the devils who did it. Malcolm on the other hand, openly advocated “an eye for a eye”. When four small girls were brutally murdered by psychopaths who bombed a Birmingham Alabama church, Malcolm was incredulous there was no retaliation for such a vile act. When Malcolm spoke out following the assassination of John F Kennedy implying it was retribution for the evil AmeriKKKa was doing around the world, Mr. Muhammad suspended Malcolm. Malcolm’s detractors within the Nation used the opportunity to further marginalize him and plot his ouster. The internal bickering and allegations eventually lead to an irreparable split between Mr. Muhammad and Malcolm which the US government exploited to eliminate Malcolm altogether several months later.
Once he left the NOI, Malcolm was no longer fettered by Mr. Muhammad’s isolationist doctrine. Immediately he attempted to link up with other civil and human rights leaders and organizations. Seeing the struggle from a global perspective Malcolm actively sought African and Asian leaders’ support in his efforts to bring the US before the United Nations World Court on charges of human rights violations and genocide. Like Paul Robeson and W.E.B. Dubois before him Malcolm’s bold move unnerved the ruling elites in AmeriKKKa. His move threatened to expose their wolf in sheepskin con game at a time when the United States global imperialism was expanding.
Despite knowing the US government had targeted him for elimination and knowing the NOI leadership had made him persona non grata, Malcolm pressed on. Undaunted, he continued to speak, organize and build linkages with other groups and organizations. Malcolm was extremely popular with young people. They liked what he said. Malcolm unabashedly urged defiance and courage in the face of virulent racism and brutality. As a result he was one of the early high profile hits on the US government’s COINTELPRO list.
Whether or not members of the NOI actually murdered Malcolm is not the issue. It is known the NY Police Department’s Bureau of Special Services (BOSS) had infiltrated his organization, kept him under surveillance and the CIA and FBI were all part of the logistics of Malcolm’s murder on February 21, 1965. His death did not stop the new militancy in the inner cities of AmeriKKKa. In fact is, Malcolm X did not preach violence for violence sake nor did he advocate racial hatred. He challenged us to judge white folks by their actions not their rhetoric. He urged black self-love, self-defense, organization and unity. Malcolm even in death was a prime mover in the rise of a whole generation of freedom fighters, human rights activists and revolutionaries.
As a result, the US government stepped up their repressive police state tactics via COINTELPRO and Operations Chaos which were designed to undermine all challenges to the status quo. To minimize his influence, the ruling elites have attempted to co-opt Malcolm’s legacy by placing him on a US postage stamp! The children of white leftists Malcolm exposed as total and utter hypocrites now quote him, totally out of context of course. What will our remembrance of Malcolm X entail? What will we do to honor his memory, his work and legacy? Will we do like we do for Martin Luther King Jr, say a few words, sing a few songs and acquiesce to business as usual? Or will we do as Malcolm urged, take up the study of history, decolonize our minds, love ourselves and our people enough to galvanize, unify and demand our right to exist on this Earth, in this time and space to secure our freedom from oppression and exploitation by any means necessary?!

-30-

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