Mural of Malcolm X and MLK Jr. “African Amalgamation of Ubiquity,” by Curtis Lewis, on the side wall of Operation Get Down, a drug rehabilitation center, 9980 Gratiot Avenue, Detroit, 2008. (Camilo José Vergara)
Everyone should have models. W.E.B. DuBois is my model intellectual. James Baldwin is my model writer. Malcolm X is my model MAN!
Brother Malcolm’s birthday is here again. Quick, do you know the date? Probably not. Unfortunately, many people don’t. The day often passes in most spaces without much fanfare. No parades, no holiday, no television specials, no proclamations from the mayor … nothing. Yet, the wonderful and beautiful Malcolm remains! He continues to occupy a simultaneously calming and disquieting place in our nation’s psyche and conscience (at least on what’s left of this country’s continuously failing moral compass). He comforts us with his disarming, warm smile. He pricks us with his masterful rhetoric. He motivates us with his unconditional love of the people. He shames us with his critiques of black self-loathing. He emboldens us with his courage in the face of white racism and hate. As Ossie Davis proclaimed in his eulogy of Malcolm, even in death he remains “our shining black prince.”
In a country that claims to believe in exceptionalism, but actually rewards mendacity and mediocrity, Malcolm was truly stellar. Though not formally educated, he masterfully contextualized black struggle and articulated it in a way that resonated with everyday people like no one else could. He was incredibly intelligent, analytical, strategic, selfless, brave and dedicated. To this day, these are rarely encountered combinations.
Among many other things, Malcolm taught black people that “revolution” is not a dirty word — it simply means change. He made it clear that it is often twisted so that many immediately have visions of insane, bloodthirsty black men and women running through the streets with guns when it is mentioned. But Malcolm reminded us that revolutionaries are not necessarily, or even predominantly, violent and they are essential for the oppressed. In fact, if you are among the downtrodden or an ally of good conscience and do not want change in this mad society largely constructed by the greedy and mean-spirited, then it is you, not the revolutionary, who is insane.
Malcolm wasn’t afraid of change. God knows he went through many. He was myriad people — dislocated child, psychologically abused student, street-hustler, pimp, dope-dealer, addict, numbers-runner, self-hater, thief, convict, Nation of Islam minister, husband, father, orthodox Muslim, Malcolm Little, Detroit Red, Satan, Malcolm X, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. He grew with every iteration. What a blessing he was.
Love him or hate him, people must respect Malcolm because he moved, lived and breathed in this world with courage, conviction and pride. He fearlessly spoke his mind. He unfailingly told the truth. He coolly confronted callous whites and complacent blacks — especially those in power. He never ran. He seemed to occasionally look over his shoulder at hesitant brothers and sisters cowering behind him, flash that mesmerizing smile and say, “See, you can stand up with dignity and win. Look at me, I’m still alive. You can do it, too.”
Malcolm is gone now. Like many of our best — gone and safe. Now everybody loves him. Many selfish, fearful, individualistic free-riders who have benefited from his struggle without any risk to themselves now speak of Malcolm in glowing terms. Some well-behaved black folk even have pictures of him in their offices and homes. To be sure, he would not have graced their walls back in the day. They quote him even though very few would have stood with him. “By any means necessary” they say … until trouble comes. Then they disappear or switch sides. As the “Last Poets” said, they “love to talk like Malcolm (when there is no threat), but they didn’t love Malcolm.” Thankfully, even in the Age of Trump, these are safer times.
So, yes — it’s all right to love Malcolm now. You’d better love him! He deserves it, because he loved and labored us for so long when we hated and condemned him. He loved us when we didn’t even know how to love ourselves. So, love our shining black prince now and forever. Never forget him. Never dishonor him. Never allow the undeserving to adopt him and abuse his words or memory.
Happy Birthday, Brother Malcolm! Like Marcus Garvey, we will look for you in the whirlwind.
By Ricky L. Jones/CourierJournal
Posted by The NON-Conformist