I have spent the bulk of today, reading Malcolm X quotes, and listening to his speeches. His smooth, precise, passionate speech personifies the poetic prose of black power personified. He is “our shining prince” as they say, in both life and death. He shines because his internal freedom bleeds outward. Yet, this year, perhaps more so that previous years, illustrates the necessity for this light to dim.
I received in my inbox a number of invites and notifications for events to take place on what would have been Malcolm X’s 93rd birthday. These events however, were not anchored in Malcolm X. No, El Hajj Malik Shabazz was a co-star on his own day. Though our “shining prince” he is juxtaposed to those who contributions pale to his own. To this I draw the comparison on the pig and chicken to a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. The pig made a sacrifice, the chicken made a contribution—this sandwich is an American staple, because this alignment is central to American deflection.
This is deliberate. Most evident in the “competing” showcase of today, which I refuse to mention. Malcolm X engenders “self” and belief in a collective self. His legacy inspires the black mind to see the best in him or herself, to question as he did “who told you to hate yourself? From the bottom of your feet to the top of your head?” Questions, antithetical to the submissiveness demanded by the lethally pervasive white supremacist culture. Burying Malcom X’s legacy, or shooting it with holes, ensures that the black collective remains distracted. That we continue to believe in everything but ourselves, and continue to relish in knowledge that also buries the totality of contributions and global oppression.
Malcolm X is a black success story, because he did not rise to conventional standards of success. He was not wealthy. He didn’t have fancy degrees from institutions built on the backs of his ancestors. What he had was an education given to him by a black man, a black organization that while flawed had an ideology functional in freeing the black mind from colonization.
What Malcolm X had was esteem. He culminated a pilgrimage to self, a journey so many of us never take, because we are conditioned to, as Malcolm once said, “suffer peacefully.”
I thought of this pilgrimage as I made my way to Ferncliff Cemetery, the earthly resting place of Malcom X and Betty Shabazz. The journey is one I took with full acknowledgement that it was symbolic, but necessary.
I appreciated the ceremony. I reveled in the ability to see what the media would never cover or admit, that there is beauty and unity within blackness. However, though beautiful, this pilgrimage is not what makes or breaks blackness. The journeys that we take are not physical.
We see this with our kinfolk who were not physically abducted, but subject to the mental torture in their own homeland. They too were culturally raped by the white man, their culture stolen from them as they slept in the land of our ancestors.
The journeys that we take, like all that was taken from us, must be mental. That is the lesson that I have extracted from Malcolm X’s legacy.
Malcolm X epitomizes mental freedom. He embodied the state of “free African”, he or she who is willing to die as they lived—in power.
Malcolm X, not validated by the limitations of American society or global white supremacy, imbued a freedom that enabled him to live without fear.
They took his last name, and his language. He divorced himself from that last name and used the language of his colonizers as a weapon. Then then took what they thought was his home, but his home was in his heart and and in his blood. So they strove to take what they thought they could, his life.
The ceremony today, however, attended by hundreds of people in the violent rain and unseasonable cold, fifty-three years after his assasination—proves that his oppressors could not even take his life.
Despite everything that’s happened to us, we—the African people are still the bearers of life. We have made it so that the candle of Malcolm X still burns, a flame significant because as the late Ossie Davis said at Malcolm X’s funeral:
Malcolm was our manhood, our living, black manhood! This was his meaning to his people. And, in honoring him, we honor the best in ourselves.
Malcolm X, was and is our blackness.
Father. Teacher. King.
“Rest” seems alien next to the pillar that is Malcolm X. But I will say King Malcolm, that I hope you rest in me.
Black Power ❤