May 19, 2014

Happy Birthday, Malcolm X

One of the points of transformation in my life occurred when I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. I imagine that most Blackmen from my era recall reading this very thick book. Every Blackman could empathize with a brother that evolved from Malcolm Little to Detroit Red to Malcolm X to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. Each of us hoped that we would be transformed as well in our lives.

My three children (ages 21, 17, 14) don't know very much about Malcolm X. There will come a time when I share this book with them as well. The messages that Malcolm taught us back in the day still need to be shared today in the 21st century.

As such, the Electronic Village is honored to recognize this heroic figure on the weekend of what would have been his 89th birthday. The legacy of Malcolm X has moved through generations as the subject of numerous documentaries, books and movies. I imagine that there was a surge of interest in 1992 when director Spike Lee released the acclaimed Malcolm X movie. The film received Oscar nominations for Best Actor (Denzel Washington) and Best Costume Design. Most people recall the hospital scene in that movie.

However, it is often best to hear directly from Malcolm. Here are some YouTube clips of Malcolm that I thought you would enjoy:
  • Who Are You? - A few simple questions that we are still asking today.
  • An Early Interview with Malcolm X by Mike Wallace, where Malcolm explains the position of the Nation of Islam.
  • You're Ready to do Something, Aren't You?" - "...many of you thought that we should go right on out then and make war on the white man. You wanted to do it yourself, didn't you? Cause you don't like the idea of white people shooting Black people down, do you? And you're ready to do something about it, aren't you?"
  • The White Man Brings Drugs into Harlem - "Stealing runs rampant in Harlem. Gambling runs rampant in Harlem. All types of evils and vices that tear apart our community run rampant in Harlem. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad doesn't condemn the victim, he goes to work on the victim."
  • The Problem is Still Here - is speech where Malcolm rejects the non-violent approach of Martin Luther King,
  • Who Taught You to Hate Yourself? - "Who taught you to hate the color of your skin? Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair? Who taught you to hate the shape of your nose and the shape of your lips? Who taught you to hate yourself from the top of your head to the soles of your feet?"
  • We are Africans, Not Americans - "Our forefathers weren't the Pilgrims. We didn't land on Plymouth Rock; the rock was landed on us."
  • The Black Man's History - Malcolm X explains how the true history of Black people was erased during slavery and because Black people do not know their own past, thye have no confidence in themselves.
  • House Negroes vs. Field Negroes - "Back during slavery, when Black people like me talked to the slaves, they didn't kill 'em, they sent some old house Negro along behind him to undo what he said."
  • Our History was Destroyed by Slavery - Malcolm X appears on television in Chicago on March 17, 1963.
  • You Will Never Get Protection from the Government - "You never will get protection from the federal government. That's like, King is asking Kennedy to go to Alabama to stand in the doorway, put his body in the doorway. That's like asking the fox to protect you from the wolf. "
  • Roundtable Discussion - In a clip from a roundtable discussion, Malcolm X explains why the bourgeois, hand-picked Uncle Tom negro leaders will never solve the problem for the masses of black people.
  • Malcolm X Explains Black Nationalism - "If you're interested in freedom, you need some judo, you need some karate--you need all the things that will help you fight for freedom...They can give us the back pay. Let's join in. If this is what the negro wants, let's join him. Let's show him how to struggle, let's show him how to fight. Let's show him how to bring about a real revolution. You don't need a debate. You don't need a filibuster. You need some action."
  • Oxford University Debate - "I read once, passingly, about a man named Shakespeare. I only read about him passingly, but I remember one thing he wrote that kind of moved me. He put it in the mouth of Hamlet, I think, it was, who said, "To be or not to be." He was in doubt about something. Whether it was nobler in the mind of man to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, moderation, or to take up arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them. And I go for that. If you take up arms, you'll end it, but if you sit around and wait for the one who's in power to make up his mind that he should end it, you'll be waiting a long time. And in my opinion, the young generation of whites, blacks, browns, whatever else there is, you're living at a time of extremism, a time of revolution, a time when there's got to be a change. People in power have misused it and now there has to be a change and a better world has to be built and the only way it's going to be built is with extreme methods. And I, for one, will join in with anyone, I don't care what color you are, as long as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this earth."
  • Ballot or the Bullet was a speech by Malcolm X mostly about black nationalism delivered April 12, 1964 in Detroit, Michigan.
  • By Any Means Necessary - "...our African brothers have gained their independence faster than you and I here in America have. They've also gained recognition and respect as human beings much faster than you and I."
  • Return from Mecca (1 of 2) - "When I was on the pilgrimage, I had close contact with Muslims whose skin would in America be classified as white and with Muslims who would themselves be classified as white in America, but these particular Muslims didn't call themselves white. They looked upon themselves as human beings, as part of the human family and therefore they looked upon all other segments of the human family as part of that same family."
  • Return from Mecca (2 of 2) - "African nations and Asian nations and Latin American nations look very hypocritical when they stand up in the United Nations, condemning the racist practices of South Africa and that which is practiced by Portugal and Angola, and saying nothing in the U.N. about the racist practices that are manifest every day against Negroes in this society."
  • American Can't Solve Our Problem" - Malcolm X explains that it is necessary to take the problem of African-Americans to the world court in order to get them solved.
  • 'I am probably a dead man already' - In an interview shortly before he was killed, Malcolm X declared, "I probably am a dead man already." He was aware of the fact that the NOI wanted him dead and understood that he was in serious danger.
  • My Death Has Been Ordered - Malcolm X puts the blame for the firebombing of his home directly on the Nation of Islam and explains other ways in which his life is in danger.
  • The assassination of Malcolm X - Silent clip of the Audobon Ballroom immediately after the assassination of Malcolm X on February 21, 1965.
  • Mos Def Reads Malcolm X - Hip hop, rap and spoken word artist Mos Def reads Malcolm X's "Message to the Grass Roots" on November 9, 2006.
Happy Birthday Malcolm! Today El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz would be 89 years old. I thought many villagers would enjoy to share some of his speeches and thoughts over the course of his life.

Many in the current generation only know of the man through the phrase, 'By Any Means Necessary'. He was much more complex and interesting than that simple phrase.

Anyhow, I would love to hear village voices on Malcolm X. What did you think of the man? Did you read his autobiography? What say u?
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claudia said...

Beautiful post! Yes, I have read his autobiography and then I passed it on to my brother, who has passed it on to my other brother...well, the book is that good! Malcolm was a revolutionary man and through out all his transformation in life he always remain honest about what he lived and the work he did. He is an inspiration to people of the world everywhere just for that mere fact alone...speak with the truth and the truth shall set you free.

Unknown said...

Claudia - Asante sana! Yes, unlike many people, Malcolm was willing to speak truth to power. His words and his mind became his weapon. I fear that we don't have (m)any leaders such as him in our world today.

peace, Villager

Francis Holland said...

Yes, beautiful post!

When Malcolm X realized that the slave-name "Little" was defining his reality and as a badge of inferiority and slavery, he had the courage to change his name. The effect was revolutionary! All over America, Blacks began redefining and redeciding our reality.

But the struggle is not over, because we still have the slave name of "the Black race" to contend with. We are "Black people" but the belief that we are a from a separate race or subspecies is nothing less than a white supremacist rationalization for our slavery and subjugation. The term Black "race" is an anachronistic legacy of slavery and bondage, a white supremacist rationalization for continued discrimination in the present and the future.

The "who are you" question brings us back to the argument against the fallacious concept of "race," a word and concept than many of us have recently decided to discard in favor of more accurate words like "skin-color" and the "skin-color-aroused antagonism of individuals, groups, organizations and society."

To honor Malcolm X who knew the power of words and who had the courage to change his name in order to redefine his reality, and insist on his humanity, lets retire the fallacious words "race" and "racism" and "racist" and "racial" from our vocabulary, preferring instead the objectively-based words "skin-color," "color-aroused," Extreme Color Arousal (ECA) pronounced "EE-ah or "Eh-cah," and, for the scientists among us who really want to specify the problem, "Extreme Color-Aroused Emotion, Ideation and Behavior Disorder."

Let's put the focus back where it belongs. Instead of talking spuriously about Black people's purported "race," let's put the focus squarely on white people's Extreme skin-color-aroused antagonism.

And let's not take white people's ECA illness too personally. After all, those who suffer from ECA (Extreme Color Arousal) don't really hate "us." They just hate our skin-color and everything associated with it. :)

maryt/theteach said...

You can't separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.
Malcolm X, Malcolm X Speaks, 1965

Unknown said...

Francis & The Teach - Asante sana! Malcolm's message and words were powerful.

peace, Villager

Lori said...

Yes, The Autobiography of Malcolm X is indeed a book bound to spark transformation in all who read it. My father gave me the book to read when I was 13. Even at that young age and being a female, the book forever changed my view of the world. I, too, plan to include it on my own son's reading list one day soon.

Eric Mar said...

Thanks for the honoring of Malcom with your blog. As an Asian American, I feel that Malcolm has inspired and helped transform many of us like Yuri Kochiyama and to understand our histories and to build unity and solidarity to fight oppression whereever it exists.

Unknown said...

Lori - You know ... as i think about it ... there isn't anything that is truly gender-relevant about the autobiography. There is no reason that I shouldn't plan to share it with my daughters as well. I guess it is because my brother and I talked about it in the past ... and as I think on it now, I simply don't know if either of my sisters read the book or the impact it may have had on them. In any case, thank you for sharing your reflections with us!

peace, Villager

Anonymous said...

Awesome read, I love the youtube inserts.

Malcolm X was an incredible man who fought for rights and had endeared a life of trouble for his beliefs. I appreciate his efforts extremely as we see the changes in society which he had helped fight for. Indeed he was a great renouncer of wrong. However, pertaining to the question of race and his efforts for a re-deciding of societal standard, I must say he was a Muslim. He was not a member of the (quite radical) Nation of Islam but a member of the mainstream Islam where race is has no matter. The Nation of Islam states that the black race is superior to other races. Malcolm X had converted to the actual nature of what Islam is.

I must say this just so that no one credits him for things he had acknowledged as wrong from his past self. Yes indeed he had been a pioneer for equal rights, however, after his dedication to actual Islamic teachings, he would today, if alive, reiterate his objectives of civil rights in Islamic belief; something far greater than what he believed to be true before his conversion. So, since he would renounce anything he had said before about races and black power, it becomes fallacious itself to fight for any beliefs he had held before, simply because he says he was wrong. And when a powerful, brilliant, and wise man says what he had past said to be wrong, we must follow the same logic.

My objective in writing this comment is simply to differentiate views between the Nation of Islam and mainstream Islam on the issue of race. Also, on a side note, i don't think Malcolm would want to celebrate his birthday himself because of the regulation of celebratory births in Islam. Thank You for reading, I hope I haven't bothered anyone. Thanks.

Professor Kim said...

Thank you for starting this conversation.

What does one say about this original mind, this audacious spirit? Yes, I read his autobiography when I was a middle-schooler, not long after reading Lerone Bennett's biography of Dr. King, What Manner of Man I have to say that even more than the autobiography, it was his speeches that spoke most vividly to me. I was riveted by his intellectual curiosity, clarity and courage. Amsterdam News reported on the commemoration. Peter King had this article in the Chicago Defender about a reunion of members of the Organization of African American Unity.

It is impossible to know what Malcolm would say about today's issues, but we do know that he would enjoin us to educate ourselves. Toward that end, I hope that folks will check out both your links as well as the Malcolm X research site and .

And to quote Molefi Asante, "Once we know, we must act to humanize."

Rethabile said...

Asante sana, ndugu. Nice post. It's great to listen to all these once more. I noticed that Professor Kim quotes Molefi Asante.

Molefi is a Sesotho name that means the payer. First time I see a Sesotho name on a non-Mosotho. Thrills all around.


Unknown said...

Abdul Muhaimin - First, please accept my appreciation for your visit to the Electronic Village today. I'm also glad that you emphasized the transition of Malcolm's thoughts on following the Islamic religion after his visit to Mecca.

I'm saddened each time I think about the inability of the Nation of Islam to evolve over time. The anger between NOI and their former head minister came to a violent end. Too often this is the case in Black organizations.

Anyhow, thanx for sharing your insights!

peace, Villager

Unknown said...

Eric Mar - I am glad that this post on Malcolm X seems to resonate with you and so many others. I hope you find reason to visit us here in the Electronic Village more often.

Professor Kim - I appreciate the links that you have shared. I will visit each of them later this evening. Anyhow, I hope you have reasons to visit with us here in the Electronic Village more often!

Rethabile - I am grateful to you for visiting with us today. It is always good to give thrills!

peace, Villager

Foofa said...

Malcolm has always been such a hero to me. My mom actually read me his autobiography before bed when I was about 11 or 12. I have since read it fully at least twice and excerpts countless times. I also love his speeches reading them is wonderful but particularly listening to them. Few could speak like Malcolm.

Anonymous said...


I can't even begin to thank you enough for that post on Malcolm. Like you, reading his book had an incalulable effect on my life. It was in my parents' home library and I was on one of my reading binges as a kid when I was about 13. I couldn't put it down. Miust have read the book about 3 or 4 times by now.

Thanks again

Unknown said...

Natalie & Keith - I've been trying to remember when I read the book the first time. You both read it when you were about 13 years old. It seems that I must have been older ... in high school ... before it came into my consciousness. However, like you both, I've read it often since that time. I enjoyed reading his speeches in the MALCOLM SPEAKS book as well.

For whatever reason the movie wasn't anywhere near as fulfilling for me ... although there are individual scenes of the movie that I still enjoy today.

peace, Villager

Eddie G. Griffin said...

Great post. This is a classic.

plez... said...

i still get goosebumps when i recall reading the Autobiography while i was in high school (back in the late 70's)... it was like getting splashed with ice cold water: i had never heard ANYTHING like that from a Black person. i was a different person when i finished the book... and i am a different (and better) man, today for reading his book.

as a result of reading his book, i took it upon myself to do more research into the Nation of Islam... and came "this close" to changing my last name.

villager, thanks for such an excellent post with the great links to YouTube. i will definitely return and listen to them all.

Unknown said...

Eddie - Asante sana!

Plez - Thank you for your comments. I enjoyed pulling together those YouTube clips. They brought back memories for me as well. It is good to hear Malcolm's voice directly ... even more powerful than reading his words. Anyhow, I'm enjoying the whole AfroSpear blogging experience and I'm glad that you've found your way to our Electronic Village.

maryt/theteach said...

Take a look at my post for today May 30. A strong haunting portrait.

Michael Davis-Dallas Progress said...

What can I say that hasn't already been said.

After years of not caring about the world as a junior-high school student, reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X changed my life.

How much different would the world be if he and Dr. King had lived a little while longer?

Sylvia said...

Villager, this is a phenomenal round-up and a beautiful tribute. It's strange -- my mom doesn't know how a copy of his autobiography got into our house. But I found it when I was 8, and I read it, and I re-read it throughout my teenaged years. I loved it because it was like reading the evolution of a man's soul, and he learned so much and set his life before people so plainly. He had everything to gain, nothing to lose.

Thank you for saluting him in such a meaningful way for his birthday.

Unknown said...

Hi Villager! What an awesome post and thanks for reminding us of the power of a man (or woman) and their words! My mother gave me the book and INSISTED that I read it! Of course being the rebel that I was it took me a year to actually do what she said, but I was better and a little more enlightened when I did!

clnmike said...

I remember reading it as a teenager, it was like some one took some blinders off your eyes that you did not know you had on.

You began to see the world a lot differently.

How this book is not required reading in schools is beyond me.

Malik Akbar said...

My mother was a contemporary of Malcolm's, and she never looked too kindly on Alex Haley or the autobiography. I tend to be sympathetic to her views, and so I have always preferred his speeches. And the list you've provided on this post is a goldmine. Thank you for bringing Malcolm's words to our minds.

Marvalus said...

It may not be required reading in schools, but it is in my house...I am a woman of tradition and I have been waiting to pass on my copy to my son and will do so on his 13th birthday...he may not recognize the magnitude of the gift on that day, but he will eventually...

Beautiful post, Villager! Thank you so much!

Unknown said...

Michael - You asked how the world would be different if Malcolm and Martin were still alive today. Care to share 2-3 things you think would be different?

Sylvia & Regina - I'm struck by how little his birthday appears to be recognized in either the MSM or on the blogs that I regularly read. I encourage you to remind your blog readers of this great man on this date of his birth...

Mike - I wonder how white people feel when they read his autobiography? Anyhow, I imagine that it is because white folks (who control educational system) don't have same appreciation of his life story that we do in the African American community...

Malik & Marvalus - 'Link-love' is always a nice way to say thanx (smile)...

blackgirl on mars said...

This is fascinating because yesterday night I tuned into Malcolm via youtube. I had no idea it was his birthday, but I felt a need to hear his voice, his reason, his presence. Then I came here and was met with this beautiful post.
the lab

Unknown said...

LAB - That's how we roll in our village. I hope you share a reminder with your blog readers about Malcolm X. I wonder how Europeans took him when he was alive and kickin'?

Urban Thought said...

Thank you for such a great post. Not that I expect anything less from you.

I remember reading Malcolm's autobiography and forever being changed by the experience.

You provide great content to the community.

DP said...

Happy Birthday Malcolm, and this is a very nice post Villager. I remember reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X when I was about 14 I guess. It is absolutely transformative.

The movie that came out in '92 opened the door to Malcolm for so many more people who didn't know who he was or his legacy. Many I know read the book after the movie.

Seeing Roots had a similar affect on me growing up, and later in life I read the book. Anyway, great post.

Unknown said...

DP - Asante sana for the kind words. Without doubt, he is a powerful brother with a powerful legacy. I hope to share his legacy a few times each year with my blog readers...

Unknown said...

Urban Scientist - Thank you for sharing your village voice with us. I hope you come back often...

Veronica said...

Excellent post, couldn't have said it any better so added a link over at my blog.

I'm glad to see (judging by all the comments) that he still means so much to so many.

Exquisitely Black

blackgirl on mars said...

Hey Villager: Yes, I have posted and linked back to "Happy Birthday Malcolm X"--how could I not?
As for how Europeans react--I think those in the know will always be impressed: He was that kind of human being. But how many are in the know? Most people over here really believe that we are a people with no culture, no history. They will not come out and say it, but it is the premise on which others' so-called greatness is built. Also, Europe is not a homogeneous group: In fact, "European" is a very fractured concept, full of distrust for the East, the English, the Germans--it goes on and on. Good insight into humankinds' limits. Anyway, please please please try to get your hands on Alex Haley's recording of how he became a writer, the writing of Roots and the Autobiography of Malcolm X. If it's not in print, we need to do something about that, cause is breathtaking. I'll look into it. Anyone else heard this?

Wolfhound said...

Villager, you wondered in one of your comments how a white person might react to Malcolm's message. I was profoundly moved by his autobiography and have read it many times over the years. His courageous outspokenness, dignity, sense of humor and courage has inspired me in too many ways to list. He is one of my heroes. I truly believe his legacy transcends the artificial divisions of skin color. We are all better because of his impact on our culture.

Lenoxave said...

Wonderful! I've been listening to and watching alot of Brother Malcolms speeches lately. He had an incredibly keen intellect and a knowledge and understanding of Black folk and America that can't be beat.

His speeches are as relevant today as they were in the early 60's. I read his autobiography as an undergrad and his transformation as a human being has never left my mind for long.

May he continue to rest in peace.

kennyx6 said...

My sincere respect to the Shabazz family.

Unknown said...

All - I plan to re-run this post on his birthday from now on. Let me know if u find any of the links that are broken so I can get them updated.

In meantime, continue to share the spirit and power of Malcolm X in your day-to-day relationships.

peace, Villager

Carolyn Moon said...

@Villager: This is a wonderful tribute to Malcolm and although I've celebrated his birthday with several posts; I've added a link to this one for 2014. We must continue to educate future generations about this revolutionary.

Unknown said...

Carolyn - Why have a blog if it can't be used to honor the heroes and sheroes in our community! There is enough negative news out there ... we need to shine the light on positive information for the Black community whenever possible...