Last Thursday, Ilyasah Shabazz, daughter of human rights icon Malcolm X, spoke truth to power during a Juneteenth commemoration at the African Burial Ground in lower-Manhattan.
“We’re in denial of the African holocaust … most times people don’t want to talk about it,” she explained. “One is often restless or termed a racist just for having compassion for the African experience, for speaking truth to the transatlantic and Arab slave trades, for speaking truth to the significant omission of our history. We don’t want to sit down and listen to these things, or to discuss them, but we have to.”
The truth teller’s speech achieved similar results as those of her father’s when his revelations moved crowds. Similarly, her message elicited applause and cheers as they exhorted the 51-year-old Shabazz.
Her challenge to the romanticized history that is usually told about what enslaved Africans endured throughout the transatlantic holocaust, as well as their exploitation in the Western Hemisphere centuries ago, reminded some of the fiery red Muslim minister who once utilized Harlem street corners as his political platform to preach from. She affirmed that while progress has been made, much work still needs to be done.
“As we share in a discussion of civil rights, we must reflect on their sacrifices and contributions of their lives,” Shabazz stated. “The struggle is not over … the struggle continues.”
The third of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz’s six daughters spoke strongly, informing the 150 people in attendance about what happened prior to the colonizers arriving on the shores of Alkebulan (Africa).
“Malcolm taught … the truth that our history did not begin in slavery, but that our ancestors, refined and industrious African men and women, were the architects of great civilizations,” she echoed.
At her conclusion, the audience stood for a moment of silence as Shabazz read off several names of courageous Africans who opposed colonialism, including her father, the Queen of Sheba, Nelson Mandela and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The accomplished author penned a 2002 personal memoir about her childhood titled “Growing Up X” and co-authored the yet-to-be-released “The Diary of Malcolm X: 1964” with the AmNews’ Herb Boyd.
Juneteenth, aka African Emancipation Day, is a celebration that occurs every June 19 to commemorate the alleged abolition of slavery in the United States in 1865. It is recognized in most states, and in 1997, Congress officially recognized the date as Juneteenth Independence Day.
The African Burial Ground National Monument preserves a late 17th century cemetery where more than 400 men, women and children of African descent—some free, most enslaved—are interred. The burial site had been forgotten for nearly two centuries until it was uncovered in the early 1990s during excavation.
The late poet Dr. Maya Angelou spoke at a dedication ceremony opening the burial site to the public in 2007.
“You may bury me in the bottom of Manhattan,” she said. “I will rise. My people will get me. I will rise out of the huts of history’s shame.”