17th February 2014 · 0 Comments
By Edmund W. Lewis
Friday, February 21, will mark the 49th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X, one of the world’s most committed and visionary freedom fighters.
Even more than four decades after his death, Malcolm continues to provide a sterling example to young brothers trying to find their way out of the maddening darkness that too often defines the lives of African men in America.
Malcolm had every reason in the world to give up but never did. He endured domestic terrorist attacks on his family by white supremacists in Omaha, Nebraska and Lansing, Michigan; the brutal murder of his father, Earl Little, a Garveyite follower; an emotional breakdown by his mother, Louise Norton Little, and the dissolution of his family by social workers.
In spite of it all, young Malcolm Little managed to continue to excel academically, graduating at the top of his junior high school class. He might have gone on to become a lawyer if one of his favorite teachers hadn’t killed that dream by telling him that such a vocation was “no realistic goal for a n*gger.”
Soon thereafter, his decline began, as often happens today in the lives of many children of color. After dropping out of high school, Malcolm worked a series of dead-end jobs before turning to a life of petty crime.
Later in life, he made no secret of his involvement with drugs, illegal gambling, prostitution and burglary.
One of his burglary jobs landed him behind bars in 1946 where he began to turn his life around, thanks to the many books he read and the ennobling teachings of Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad. By the time he was paroled in 1952, Brother Malcolm had rejected the slave name “Little” and replaced it with an “X” to represent the African heritage stolen from him and other Africans in America by their European oppressors.
He evolved from being a bonafide menace to society to becoming one of African America’s most respected and committed freedom fighters. Although he only had an eighth-grade education, his time behind bars gave him an opportunity to slow down and feed his mind.
Those seeking to uplift communities of color today can learn from that aspect of his story today. Malcolm’s ability to read and his hunger for knowledge and truth enabled him to do battle with white supremacists and accommodating Blacks alike. He never backed down from an intellectual challenge and always held his own in debates because he had truth and conviction on his side.
When he was wrong or mistaken about some aspect of the plight of Africans in America, he was the first to admit it. While his assassins may have taken his life, they could never kill his revolutionary spirit. That spirit lives on today in the men, women and children who carry on in the liberation struggle.
Listed below are some of the things he said about race relations in the U.S. and the struggle for liberation and justice:
• “I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those that do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those that want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation.”
• “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”
• “If you’re not ready to die for it, put the word ‘freedom’ out of your vocabulary.”
• “I for one believe that if you give people a thorough understanding of what confronts them and the basic causes that produce it, they’ll create their own program, and when the people create a program, you get action.”
• “I believe in the brotherhood of man, all men, but I don’t believe in brotherhood with anybody who doesn’t want brotherhood with me. I believe in treating people right, but I’m not going to waste my time trying to treat somebody right who doesn’t know how to return the treatment.”
• “If violence is wrong in America, violence is wrong abroad. If it is wrong to be violent defending Black women and Black children and Black babies and Black men, then it is wrong for America to draft us, and make us violent in defense of her. And if it is right for America to draft us, and teach us how to be violent in defense of her, then it is right for you and me to do whatever is necessary to defend our own people right here in this country.”
Malcolm’s contributions have never been as widely celebrated as the annual Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday. But they are every bit as important and should be remembered and celebrated in some meaningful way each year.
The thing is, we don’t need the government to give us permission to celebrate and honor the memory and legacy of Malcolm X.
Every time we get disillusioned about conditions in the city’s public schools and corruption in the school system, we should remember Malcolm’s mantra about achieving our goals and objectives “by any means necessary.”
Every time we get frustrated about fighting for a livable wage, affordable health care, decent education and things that others take for granted, we should remember Malcolm and all the others who never stopped fighting for us.
Every time we grow weary from policing the police and holding elected officials’ feet to the fire, we should remember Malcolm, Marcus, Martin, Medgar and all the freedom fighters who didn’t know what it meant to quit.
Every time we get tired or discouraged about fighting an uphill battle for our children’s future, we should remember Malcolm and all he sacrificed because he loved us so.
This article originally published in the February 17, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.