Saturday, February 21, 2009
A libation for Brother Malcolm
44 years ago to the day, Malcolm X also known as El Hajj Malik El Shabazz and Omowale, was ushered into the ancestors by assassins bullets. There are many ways to honor an ancestor but I thought it important that I honor the legacy of Brother Malcolm by calling on some of his most important lessons in the names of three recent ancestors lost: Oscar Grant, Adolph Grimes, and Robbie Tolan who were all recently assassinated.
Self-Determination: This is arguably the greatest thing that he left behind to us. While everyone will not be an electric speaker, a mighty intellect, or a compassionate parent, all should and can participate in self-determination. In the many changes that Malcolm underwent, from hustling to lecturing at Harvard there was one thing that remained common in him, a commitment to determining his position in society in a way that was beyond the views and wishes of others. For African people, and most oppressed people, our life chances, locations, and expectations have been set by communities that we do not belong to, but are subject of. Malcolm, lived and died by the idea that only we can set the pace of our struggle and the terms of our liberation. Through his own renaming, through his insistence on not asking buy demanding civil and human rights, and his empowerment of people globally, Malcolm set a tone and example for personal and social revolution.
Spiritual Exploration- Now this is the one that usually trips lefties out. How can we talk about religion or spirituality when Marx identified it as, "the opium of the people." Well, while I don't think Marx was wrong and in many ways Malcolm would agree, the quest for deeper understanding and higher power is not inherently blind-sighted. From his days as the child of a Baptist minister to his conversion to Sunni Islam, Malcolm was always humbly seeking something greater. For me, my quest for social justice is deeply informed by my spiritual ideals of justice, equality and fairness. The special way that Malcolm used his religion to inform his ideology and ammended both toward the end of his life demonstrate that a true seeker of deep knowledge, be it political, personal or spiritual, must be willing to "be wrong" and work to "be right." In the end, Brother Malcolm taught us that righteousness is a journey, not a destination.
Voice- There is nothing on earth like a liberated person speaking. The conviction and clarity that Malcolm spoke with came from being free of bondage. His historic split with the Nation is a key moment when you begin to see that Malcolm knew that his voice was his vehicle. Even the autobiography that we have from him was transmitted orally to Alex Haley. While many people today believe themselves to be free and critical, in reality we are often bound by the people we work for, want to work with, or the fear of our own voices. While Malcolm was far from perfect, he was always willing to speak up in spaces and give voice to the voiceless. This voice was not just one of vindicating African peoples, but one of correction for African people as well. As we think of what leadership, resistance, and oration mean in 2009 I wonder who among us is willing to speak, do, and think as freely as Omowale.
Thank you El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz for providing a legacy and a challenge to live by. Though he was taken from this planet, he will not be taken from our hearts and struggle. Ase