From Ebony Magazine, September 1964
Today, on the fifty-third anniversary of El Hajj Malik Shabazz’s (Malcolm X’s) martyrdom, we re-present Hans Massaquoi’s article in Ebony covering the short period between his departure from the Nation of Islam in March 1964 and his assassination in 1965. Massaquoi followed Malcolm X across Harlem as he built the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), “a non-religious and non-sectarian group organized to unite Afro-Americans for a constructive program toward attainment of human rights.” The founding of this organization marked Malcolm’s official foray into “the Negro revolt” that is now called the Civil Rights Movement. Elijah Muhammad had restrained Malcolm X from commenting directly on the movement and ostensibly excommunicated him for his now-famous characterization of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination as “chickens coming home to roost.” Malcolm added a fresh, militant voice to the wider movement — calling, for example, to send “armed guerrillas into Mississippi to protect civil rights workers” from attacks by the Ku Klux Klan. This message quickly gained an audience in Harlem where “the pacific voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is but a whisper” and “white rookie cops… casually saunter by, their billy clubs twirling with suggestive ease.”
Massaquoi writes with a cautious optimism that ought to remind us that we barely knew Malcolm X because we were robbed of witnessing who he could have become. The message of upright, restrained militancy that has solidified his image was, in the summer of 1964, more of a vision than an actualized reality. The Malcolm X we know, as Massaquoi points out, is the one who built up the Nation of Islam. What would El Hajj Malik Shabazz make of the OAAU and Muslim Mosque, Inc.? How would a prominent militant voice have shaped the Civil Rights Movement? Would we today be speaking instead of a “Human Rights” movement (as Malcolm framed the struggle)? As the author notes, “[a]lmost everybody ventures to guess, but nobody really knows.” The “Mystery of Malcolm X” remains with us.
By Nsenga Knight and X Collaborators
Throughout February 2015, artist Nsenga Knight invited members of the Black Muslim community to collectively perform or present Malcolm X’s final eight speeches on the exact dates they were delivered 50 years prior and reflect on his continuing pertinence.
The February 11th X Speaks performance took place at Texas Prairieview A&M University and was led by my collaborators Dr. Cristal Chanelle Truscott, Assistant Professor and Interim Department Head of Music & Theatre at Prairie View A&M University and Amir Tariq McMillan, student at Prairie View A&M University.
Students raised “SPEAKS” signs when Malcolm X’s speech resonated with them strongly. Additional X Speaks collaborators joined me in a Google Hangout where we could discuss and respond to the performance in real-time along with our Texas collaborators and audience. The general public was invited to watch the live performances and participate in the following discussions via Google Plus, YouTube and via Twitter using #XSpeaks.
Participants in this online exhibit were given two simple requests: to submit a photo of themselves with the image of Malcolm X and a brief audio commentary that described what Malcolm X means to them. But what you will see and hear are not simple reflections, but refractions on his legacy. In physics, when light passes through two planes it is refracted, the light bends and changes direction and speed. These submissions work similarly. The legacy of Malcolm X/Al Hajj Malik El Shabazz, which is itself a kind of light, passes from him and them to you. These refractions of his legacy come from different perspectives and offer multiple ways to consider the profound and transformative impact of Malcolm X/Al Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, may Allah be pleased with him.
Click on images to listen to reflections.
Dr. Amina Wadud, Islamic Scholar and Activist
Big Samir, Performing Artist
Faatimah Knight, Student
Rabiah Muhammad, English Professor
Um Ali Ridha, Mother and Son
Ustadh Ubaydullah Evans, ALIM Scholar-in-Residence
Kamilah Mahasin Shuaibe, Cultural Social Artist
Maryam Y. Muhammad, Student
Ustadha Zaynab Ansari, Tayseer Foundation Scholar-in-Residence
Imam Nadim Ali, Community Masjid of Atlanta
Hakeem Muhammad, Student
Tom La Porte, Humanities Instructor
Imam Sultan R. Muhammad, National Imam of the Nation of Islam