Malcolm X’s grandson decries biography on 86th birthday observation
3rd June 2011 · 0 Comments
By Nayaba Arinde
(Special to New York Amsterdam News to New America Media) — Throwing a book at the book, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, Malcolm Shabazz, grandson of Malcolm X, is unimpressed with Manning Marable’s hefty tome written about his world-famous ancestor.
Marable’s book stirred up a virtual hornet’s nest when he noted that although there was no evidence, there was a rumor Malcolm X was involved in homosexual acts during the years he hustled on the streets before gaining knowledge of self. Marable went further and mentioned talk of infidelity by both Malcolm and his wife, Betty.
“The rapper M1 stated that we are all human beings, and as human beings, we do have flaws and contradictions, but we can’t apply homosexuality to my grandfather,” Shabazz told the AmNews. “Homosexuality is against human nature. This is an assassination of his character. Slander. There is no evidence, no facts. They put these claims out there to sell books and to discredit him.”
On May 19, the world observed what would have been the 86th birthday of El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, Malcolm X. The annual motorcade of cars and buses leave at 9 p.m. from in front of the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building and travel to the Fern Cliff Cemetery to the gravesite shared by Malcolm X and Betty.
In town for “Malcolm X Week,” Malcolm Shabazz spoke at City College on Saturday, May 21, at the Guillermo Morales-Assata Shakur Center.
“I haven’t read the entire book; I have read excerpts,” Shabazz said of Marable’s controversial biography, which was released last month, mere days before Marable’s passing.
“This book is about making money,” Shabazz charged, “but I had known the man personally since I was about 16 years old. The three main things that stick out in the book to me is how he emphasized the homosexual acts that [he implied] my grandfather was engaged in with a rich white man during his hustling days; how my grandparents had a loveless relationship and were unfaithful to each other; and how my grandfather may have embellished his criminal lifestyle.
“They can’t apply homosexuality to my grandfather at all. To try to do so does not humanize him, it dehumanizes him.. You know, J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI and the CIA were monitoring my grandfather to put out dirt about him. If they couldn’t find anything, what makes anyone think Manning Marable has? Manning Marable is a better researcher and investigator than the FBI and the CIA? The FBI and the CIA put out tapes on Dr. Martin Luther King’s indiscretions and other leaders. They couldn’t find anything on my grandfather, so we don’t try to create something that wasn’t there.”
Shabazz’s point No. 2: “My grandparents had a very unique relationship. It was a model for us as a people. “They had six children together, so they were obviously intimate and they were mating. I have one daughter, and she is a blessing. Unfortunately, her mother and I don’t have the best relationship. I wish I would have more children with one woman, but to have six children to one woman—that shows the love right there.”
The young man further said, “As for my grandmother, after my grandfather passed, she didn’t get remarried a year or two years later or somewhere down the line. You could raise the question, but how could he even know that? My grandmother never got remarried. No one could ever fill that void, fill those shoes. No one out there can ever claim that they had a relationship with my grandmother other than my grandfather. No one can make the claim.”
And for his third point, Shabazz determined, “To say that he embellished his criminal lifestyle…if anything, he downplayed his criminal lifestyle. If anybody is writing about themselves, they are not going to tell all the dirt they did.
“My grandfather spoke out against the social ills that led to situations that produced criminal lifestyles. One thing is though, people from all walks of life, from pimps to a drug addict, drug dealer, convicts, they all can all look at him and think, ‘He’s been in my shoes and look where he is now.’ What did he represent to our people? He is an inspiration. He’s a perfect example of the epitome of change.”
While the 27-year-old father of one said he has not spoken to anyone from Marable’s group, “This is the first time I’m speaking about it. There are way more important things to talk about than the Manning Marable book, which is about making money at the end of the day.”
He questioned why the author “hasn’t relied on any information from the Shabazz family, the Little family, personal family friends, supporters or associates—people who are alive today like Earl Grant, [who is] living in California. He was a member of the OAAU. He was right by my grandfather’s second in command. Or A. Peter Bailey, who was also in the OAAU with my grandfather. Where did this information come from? A third or fourth party?”
Citing the Bible and how it has been revised so many times, Shabazz said sometimes with powerful books, “The truth is there to attract you. And there are falsehoods there to entrap you—and that’s not scholarly.”
“I’ve spoken to Manning Marable several times since I was 16,” Shabazz noted, adding that he never thought Marable would write such a book about his grandfather. In a world where there is sometimes a state of “education versus certification,” Shabazz said “it’s unfortunate” that there are certain “intellectual leaders” who are able to position themselves to be authorities on issues that they have little or no personal knowledge. “Sometimes we have these people who are raised with a silver spoon in their mouths their whole life, but take the position of being a spokesperson for the people or talk about shared experiences that they just haven’t been through,” said Shabazz.
He quoted the eulogy that actor Ossie Davis delivered at his grandfather’s funeral, in which he called Malcolm X “our Black shining prince, our Black shining manhood.” “They took that and put homosexual on top of that,” said Shabazz. “They want to promote homosexuality at the end of the day. When I was at school, people were not openly gay; today, people are saying they are gay in the first grade. It’s really acceptable today. They want to promote that today to our people with one of our greatest leaders. But there is no proof, there’s no basis, no facts.”
Asked if this is the consensus with the Shabazz family, he replied, “My aunts and my mother are probably more emotional about it than I am. I just want to protect them. That’s their father. They watched him get murdered. They remember that. Everything their father represents is real personal.”
As he finishes his own book, a coming-of-age memoir packed with socio-political commentary, the man who was twelve years old when he was charged with setting the fire that killed his grandmother in 1996, said his book will touch on many issues, including previously undisclosed facts.
Shabazz, the father of Ilyasah, his 4-year-old daughter, is about to return to John Jay College to study international criminal justice and government.
Citing what happened with Denmark Vesey, Shabazz said that when the leader of a would-be revolt among enslaved Africans was killed by white enslavers, “nobody could mourn. Nobody could wear black, nobody could cry, nobody could know where he was buried, because they didn’t want that place to become a place of homage. So it is important that we visit the gravesites of people like my grandfather,” he said regarding the May 19 annual pilgrimage to the cemetery, which is located half an hour outside of New York City.
“It’s important that we visit the gravesites and honor and keep [our leaders’] legacies alive. It honors their spirits, their sacrifices and their contributions. It helps us to honor their memory, but always we keep God first.”
“Malcolm X fought for the freedom of African people worldwide,” said Viola Plummer, co-founder of the December 13th Movement. “He taught us to take our struggle to the international arena and strengthen Pan-African unity.”
This story originally published in the May 30, 2011 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.