Black Legacies. Black Futures.: Some Lessons

by Sapelo Square

On May 19th, 2020, we commemorated the legacy of Malcolm X and celebrated five years of Sapelo Square during the final days of Ramadan in quarantine. At the time of this publication, we find ourselves still trying to cope with COVID-19 and it’s disproportionate impact on our communities and an older threat to Black life,state violence in the form of police brutality. With that in mind, we take a look back at Black Legacies. Black Futures — In Honor of Malcolm X for lessons from the brilliant minds gathered online that day.

Lesson 1: Our faith and our activism are what makes us whole.

“We must center Malcom as a Black Muslim and an Activist” — Zaheer Ali

Zaheer Ali implored us to remember that Malcolm’s identity as Muslim and his work for Black people’s human rights were not separate, but rather part of what made a whole human being, the Malcolm we love to claim. LIkewise, we too must be Black Muslims and activists, in any of the many forms activism can take. We must, as elder Br. Jihad Abdulmumit, directed “have a renewed commitment to our freedom and self-determination in a place called the United States,” which is of course connected to global struggles.

Lesson 2: Criminalization is used to kill movements.

“We must know who our political prisoners are to free them.” — Jihad Abdulmumit

Br. Jihad Abdulmumit explained that the “strongest connection we can have with any movement past or forward are political prisoners.” Individuals like Imam Jamil Al-Amin and Sundiata Acoli have spent years incarcerated, convicted as “criminals” as a means of stamping out resistance to white supremacy. A similar criminalization happening right now in media coverage and government language that is calling out “peaceful” versus “violent” protests, “looting” and so on – as if the very nature of the United States is not violent, as if it was not founded on the theft of Indigenous land (sovereignty) and the theft of African people. We must remember what Malcolm told us: “The press is so powerful in its image-making role, it can make the criminal look like he’s a victim and make the victim look like he’s the criminal.” This tactic is designed to suppress our movements. 

Lesson 3: We need each other.

“We have everything that we need but what we need is each other” — Margari Hill 

The havoc of white supremacy is not new to Black people and the devastation of COVID-19 is not different. We have lost people to COVID-19; we have lost people to white supremacy; and we must care for their legacy and those that are left behind. In the spirit of Malcolm X, Margari Hill called on us to set aside our “petty differences” to save lives, to draw on our traditions of mutual aid to support and work with each other so that we not only survive but thrive. 

Lesson 4: We must stay the course.

“Our legacy, our people and culture live on thru stories” – Maimouna Youseff

Maimouna Youssef opened the night with a hymn from the American Indian Wars that echos God’s promise that our martyrs live on, Tariq Touré dropped jewels that are “the product of Malcolm calling out to Allah in prison” and Tammy McCann ended the night with the refrain, “I’m falling and rising but I’m on my way.” Each performance speaks to the long duree of our struggles in North America, in this hemisphere, in this dunya to remind us to keep pushing and that liberation is a journey whose ultimate destination is with our Lord.

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