At the very same location where he became an ancestor 49 years earlier, admirers of the fearless Black Nationalist Malcolm X paid homage to his legacy last Friday at the former Audubon Ballroom, now renamed the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Cultural Center, located at 3940 Broadway. Commemorations continued through Monday.
Informative Malcolm X documentaries, African drummers and poetical prodigy Autum Ashante’s recital of Ossie Davis’ eulogy of “our Black shining prince” began Friday’s program. Historian Dr. Leonard Jeffries and Ilyasah Shabazz, Malcolm and Betty’s daughter, presided over Sunday’s event at the Dr. John Henrik Clarke House in Harlem. Meanwhile, Brother Abdullah Abdur-Razzaq, formerly James 67X, Malcolm X’s chief aide, shared some personal experiences with Malcolm.
A common question during the events was, “Who is responsible for Malcolm X’s murder?” On Feb. 21, 1965, shortly after Malcolm was introduced by assistant minister Brother Benjamin 2X, assassins ambushed the Audubon Ballroom and mortally wounded him. Despite his Elmhurst, Queens, home being firebombed seven days earlier, no uniformed cops were present inside.
Thomas Hagan, aka Talmadge Hayer, was shot by Malcolm’s bodyguard, Ruben Francis, and arrested. Initially, he denied involvement, but eventually, he admitted participation. Along with Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson, he was arrested the following week. They were convicted and sentenced to 20 years to life. Hagan was a member from the Nation of Islam’s (NOI) Newark, N.J., Temple No. 25, while Butler and Johnson were out of Harlem’s Temple No. 7.
“I thought it was very bad for anyone to go against the teachings of the honorable Elijah Muhammad, then known as the last messenger of God,” Hagan confessed years later. “I was told that Muslims should more or less be willing to fight against hypocrites, and I agreed with that. There was no money paid to me for my part in this. I thought I was fighting for truth and righteousness.”
At first, Hagan refused to comply with law enforcement, but, in an effort to exonerate his innocent co-defendants, in 1977, he named Benjamin Thomas, Leon Davis, William Bradley and Wilbur McKinnley as his accomplices. None were ever formally charged with murdering Malcolm.
“I do not believe that jealous idiots within the NOI had the intellectual capacity to understand the depth of a Malcolm X, the direction of a Malcolm X,” assessed master teacher Dr. John Henrik Clarke. “So therefore, their hands may have killed him, but the direction of their hands, the intent, came from outside.”
In July 1964, Malcolm addressed the Organization of African Unity in Cairo, Egypt, saying: “The only way our people can really get some meaningful results, it has to be taken out of Uncle Sam’s hands and taken into a world court that has been set up to listen to the complaints about human rights violations in the U.N. Human rights are international, and civil rights come under the jurisdiction of the country where these rights are violated.”
Clarke continued: “He had gotten the pledge of eight African nations to take the case of Black Americans before the U.N. as a human rights case [as opposed to] a civil rights case, and I do not think this nation wanted to suffer the embarrassment of having that done. He was exposing colonialism.”
TV journalist Gil Noble once assessed: “I think there were a number of reasons Malcolm was killed … he was a threat to America’s global ambitions. He had done a lot in Africa to awaken their countries and let them understand they should not be the victims of the courtship American businesses were engaged in. Many of them began to quote Malcolm on the U.N. floor, ironically.”
After the firebombing, Malcolm headed to Detroit, where he lectured about the global changes occurring. “There’s a worldwide revolution going on! It goes beyond Mississippi, it goes beyond Alabama, it goes beyond Harlem!” said Malcolm. “What is it revolting against? The power structure! The American power structure? No! The French power structure? No! The English power structure? No! Then what power structure? An international, Western power structure!”
Clarke assessed Malcolm’s assassination, saying, “When he internationalized the problem by raising it from the level of civil rights to that of human rights, and by linking up with Africa, Malcolm X threw himself into the cross fire of that invisible, international cartel of power and finance which deposes presidents and prime ministers [and] dissolves parliaments if they refuse to do their bidding. It was this force, I believe, that killed Malcolm X, that killed [Patrice] Lumumba, that killed [Dag] Hammarskjold.”
In a documentary, Brother Minister Benjamin (2X) Karriem concluded: “He used to tell us that everything happens on time, because look where he’s at now. Because had he lived, who knows what may have happened—mistakes that he may have made, something he may have done to destroy all the good he has done. Look where he’s at now.
“I mean, he’s a martyr; he’ll live forever. They created what they were trying to destroy, those people that killed him. And look at them, look at all the people that were involved in that. Where’s John Ali? Where’s all those other corrupt people that killed him? What did they gain from it? So who won? We all will die.”