“One of the first things that the independent African nations did was to form an organization called the Organization of African Unity. This organization consists of all independent African states who have reached the agreement to submerge all differences and combine their efforts toward eliminating from the continent of Africa colonialism and all vestiges of oppression and exploitation being suffered by African people,” revealed Malcolm X at the Audubon Ballroom during his Organization of Afro-American Unity’s (OAAU) founding forum, June 28, 1964.

The legacy of the Black Nationalist was recognized on May 19, in commemoration of his 88th birthday. Forty-eight years after his physical death, his advocacy for Black self-determination still lives, as was displayed in Harlem, his political platform.

Upon arriving at Ferncliff Cemetery on Sunday morning, several hundred supporters emptied out from the caravan of vehicles, led by six school buses, which trekked to Hartsdale, N.Y., from Harlem’s State Office Building for the 48th annual pilgrimage to Malcolm X’s gravesite.

Drummers entranced participants in the drizzling rain, as three of Malcolm’s comrades, Abdullah Abdur-Razzaq, Willie Starks and Peter Bailey, took their seats before the adhan (Muslim call to prayer). Nine brothers adorned all in white posted up around the red, black and green flag draped over Malcolm X’s burial site. His beloved soulmate, Dr. Betty Shabazz, is also interred there after having passed on June 23, 1997.

“We gathered this morning for a day that, for us, is a sacred day,” opened Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid, imam at Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood, which succeeded Malcolm’s Muslim Mosque Incorporated. “We gather at the earthly grave of two of our noble ancestors: El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, Malcolm X, Omowale; and his wife, Dr. Betty Bahia Shabazz; who have now been joined in the ancestral realm by their grandson, Malcolm.”

Due respect was paid to young Malcolm Lateef Shabazz, who was murdered in Mexico 10 days earlier and was buried at Ferncliff on Tuesday.

Dequi Kioni-Sadiki, co-chair of the Malcolm X Commemoration Committee, first explained the absence of Malcolm X Commemoration Committee’s president, Baba Herman Ferguson, and wife Iyaluua; the couple was absent due to the 92-year-old committee president’s health concerns.

Kioni-Sadiki went on to address the issue of political prisoners-of-war: “We have people who are captured and held unjustly behind the prison walls for carrying on the legacy of Brother Malcolm–doing the work, believing in and practicing self-defense as Malcolm talked about. What Malcolm said, they put into practice!”

OAAU President James Small shared, “Betty was one hell of a revolutionary sister. She was by his side every step of the way. She was always there with her husband.”

Activist Atiim Ferguson acknowledged Abubadika Sonny Carson’s physical day (May 20) before wondering aloud, “I always think … What would’ve happened if Malcolm and Martin had lived longer? Where would we be today as a people? … but that legacy falls on us … this is what we have to do!”

High school junior Leonora Sharpe implored: “Malcolm X is like a father to me. I want to tell the young people … please stay in these organizations, stay in your community; they will build you up. These people have built me up to be who I am today, and to be what I am going to be tomorrow.”

Dr. Leonard Jeffries concluded: “We are in the period of the African renaissance. The African Union is continuing the OAAU’s work … linking our struggles in America, the West Indies and South America with the struggles in the African continent. That process is actually taking place as we speak. So we have to find a way to unify!”

Upon returning to Harlem, the December 12th Movement led its 25th annual Black Power “Shut’em Down” economic boycott of businesses along 125th Street from 1-4 p.m.

They chanted, “Black power for Black people in Harlem!” and “No disrespect for Malcolm X!” and “Shut ’em down!” while forcing businesses that hadn’t already done so to roll down their steel gates.

The self-empowering act concluded on the very same corner at African Square where Malcolm X used to address the Harlem community with his critical analysis of society’s ills.

Omowale Clay closed by saying, “This May 19 is not an event; there are no guarantees other than what we meant: self-determination and self-defense! Black power!”