Perhaps in response to the recent murder of Malcolm Latif Shabazz, the grandson of Malcolm X (El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz), there were massive turnouts at three commemorations of the great leader’s 88th birthday on Sunday, May 19.
In fact, the celebrations began on Saturday at the Maysles Cinema with the venue’s typical film series on Malcolm, including his speeches and Marvin Worth’s very rewarding documentary.
It was a fitting prelude to the huge assembly the following day at the Schomburg Center and the Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center. Author-activist Rosemari Mealy was featured at the Schomburg with a republication of her very insightful “Fidel & Malcolm X: Memories of a Meeting,” which captured a historic moment in the revolutionary annals. Prior to Mealy’s exchange with attorney Joan Gibbs and being introduced by Sam Anderson, her husband and member of the Malcolm X Museum, which hosted the event, there was a short film clip with Shinique interviewing Mealy about the importance of the meeting between the two legendary leaders and why she wrote the book.
“I thought it was important to document that meeting,” Mealy began, “and that meeting is just as important today as it was 57 years ago.”
It was during a conference of scholars and activists in Cuba in 1990 that Mealy forged the idea for the book, she explained to Gibbs. This was followed by Mealy expounding on the issue of racism in Cuba, which she said exists but mainly on a personal level; the longstanding embargo that, in her opinion, has not stifled the Cuban resolve to provide free health services and education for its people; and the status of Assata Shakur and the increased bounty for her arrest.
“You can go to the website of the National Conference of Black Lawyers for my position on Assata,” she told the audience. And that’s something you readers will have to do, too.
As there would be later at the Memorial and Educational Center in Washington Heights, there were poets, singers, rappers and several notable speakers at the Schomburg, but none more captivating than Autum Ashante with her popular rendition of “I Had a Dream” that was, in reality, a nightmare. She would also perform later at the Center.
This dream metaphor occurred again at the Center when the energetic Impact Theater took the floor after an ensemble of powerful drummers (El-Shabazz Djembe Orchestra), with their lead vocalist citing, “I had Martin and Malcolm, but you shot them down.”
The various performers, including poetess Najmah and Rainmaker, were tastefully interlaced between the expressive words delivered by A. Peter Bailey, the Center’s interim director Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid, Mark Harding, the Center’s chair Zead Ramadan, and vice chair of the Center’s board Mary Redd, who introduced Malcolm’s daughters, Malaak and Ilyasah Shabazz.
“We must raise the bar of what we expect of ourselves,” Ilyasah Shabazz charged, emphasizing the standards set by her immortal parents. “My father had the power and courage to stand up for all of us.”
Malaak addressed the significance of the Center’s contributions to educating the dispossessed and the ongoing success of their scholarship program. Both took turns stressing the importance of their parents’ dedication to the struggle for human rights and social justice–points that were underscored by Aisha Al-Adawiya during her commentary and by panelists Jamal Joseph, Abiodun Oyewole and filmmaker Nicholle La Vann, who previewed her trailer on “Living Legendz.”
The speakers and performers did much to remove the sorrow and absence of Malcolm Shabazz, but it was difficult not to think of his growing potential, the promise he represented in striving to replicate his grandfather’s accomplishments.
“People are not aware of the challenges he endured,” Ilyasah Shabazz recounted. “I am proud of him, and he stepped up like a proud young man,” just like his grandfather.