“Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today,” Malcolm X stated during the Organization of Afro-American Unity’s founding forum at Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom on June 28, 1964.
A caravan of grassroots activists trekked to the grave sites of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, N.Y., this past Monday morning to commemorate his 89th physical day anniversary. There they were met by other admirers, some of whom had traveled from all over the country.
“This is a sacred ceremony paying respect to a martyr that died in the revolution,” said moderator James Small at the beginning of the commemorative event, which was begun by Malcolm’s sister Ella Collins in 1965. “He gave his life on behalf of those of us who now live. One of the reasons for coming is to say thank you and show respect to that spirit.”
He also acknowledged the freedom fighter’s devoted wife: “Although it is Malcolm’s birthday, you can’t have a Malcolm X without a Betty Shabazz.” The participants agreed and responded, “Ashe!”
Pam Africa, the minister of confrontation for the MOVE Organization, then stepped up to speak: “Each year, the seeds of wisdom and freedom [are] in this place. It’s really good seeing the youth that’s here today, and you will take back these seeds. Today will make you grow into the men and women that you must be, uncompromising. That seed that brother Malcolm and sister Betty has planted, it continues to grow!”
Collins’ granddaughter, Lisa Collins, also addressed the youth in attendance: “My grandmother would always ask me, ‘Who are you and what are you going to do with your life?’ and that question I want to leave with all of you. When I was young, I didn’t understand then, but I understand now who I am and to whom I belong and where I am going. We are a people that need to be unified.
“To the young people, do not be seduced by radio, television and everything you see … because it’s all a facade. You have to know the truth … Know who you are. As adults, [it’s our obligation to] pass that information on to make sure that there can be revelation, so that there’s transformation, so that there’s demonstration, so that there’s tangible evidence in the life of each and every one of us!”
Imam Talib said, “To the youth, you have the responsibility to take the baton from us, because we’re not going to be here forever.”
At the conclusion of the event, homage was also paid to Malcolm and Shabazz’s grandson Malcolm Shabazz at his nearby burial spot.
Upon their return to Harlem, participants joined the December 12th Movement as they orchestrated their 22nd annual “Shut’em Down” Black Power economic boycott of businesses along 125th Street from 1-4 p.m. in observance of Malcolm X. All businesses complied except for FedEx/Kinko’s at 207 W. 125th St.
“Some think that they’re above the people because they never felt the wrath of the people!” declared the December 12th Movement’s Omowale Clay. “A negro manager at Kinko’s refused to honor the tradition, causing the crowd to erupt in repeated call-and-response chants of ‘Boycott FedEx!’”
“I’m glad they didn’t close … I want all the stores on 125th Street to understand what happens when you disrespect our heroes!” he warned. “All these stores didn’t close because they love Malcolm X … they closed because of the power of the people! United, there’s nothing we can’t do!”
The empowering act left an undeniable mark on a few impressionable youth, who commented, “I love Malcolm X too, but they’re wildin’ out!” When they learned the purpose of the boycott, they responded, “OK, I see!”
“Starting today, there’s going to be a boycott of FedEx until we drive them out of business for disrespecting Malcolm X!” Clay proclaimed. “Nowhere in the world is there such an outward demonstration of love for Malcolm than on the streets of Harlem! Black power!”