Yesterday was the birthday of the late El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, also known as Malcolm X. He would have been 84 years old. I often wonder what Malcolm would say about race relations today. Would he think we have come far? Would he feel satisfied that we have a black president? Was Malcolm’s sole motivation the symbolic shifting of race relations in this country or was it the actual change in the material conditions of the black community?
As an up and coming activist there were few books that influenced me as much as the Autobiography of Malcolm X. Not only was his life inspiring and continues to inspire myself and others committed to the movement for social change world-wide, his voice of dissent to mediocrity masked as social welfare to benefit the black community, as opposed to full self-determination and self-actualization, has yet to be replaced. His voice maintains in the background always motivating us for true equality, for basic human rights, and to demand a better world, “by any means necessary” for those that have survived a brutal history of colonization, racism and slavery.
So happy birthday Malcolm X. Your spirit continues to inspire those of us that see injustice and continue to work for a better world. I can’t imagine where we would be without you.
Check out this great video of one of his most influential speeches.
Also, check out Grace Lee Boggs on knowing Malcolm X, Adrienne Maree Brown on the application of Malcolm’s teaching to building power in communities around violence and Melissa Harris-Lacewell on the legacy of Malcolm X.