One week before the 50th anniversary of Malcolm X’s execution, a few of his colleagues and others inspired by his legacy paid tribute at the very same location where five cold-blooded assassins extinguished the physical life of the fearless Black Nationalist advocate. Now renamed the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center, located at 3940 Broadway, the former Audubon Ballroom will also host festivities this Saturday at 2 p.m. commemorating the half-century since Malcolm was martyred that frigid Sunday afternoon of Feb. 21, 1965.
During last Saturday’s “Legacy of Love and Liberation” event, speakers commented on the effect Malcolm had on Black culture, including economically, educationally, politically and socially.
First up was writer Tariq Ali, who traveled from England. He recalled, “I remember I was 20-21 [years old] when Malcolm came to speak at [the] Oxford [Union Debate on Dec. 3, 1964].”
He continued: “Much has changed since Malcolm was brutally and cruelly assassinated … for me, it’s an incredibly fitting memorial that this place, where even after being mishandled, has been brought back and is now in the hands of people Malcolm loved.”
Next up was revolutionary poet and activist Sonia Sanchez, who shared some fond moments of her times spent with the fiery orator while in Harlem. “He was an intellectual … he had a Ph.D. in Blackness … he not only taught us to reinvent ourselves, he taught us how to re-imagine ourselves on this American landscape.”
She then began crying, “I loved Malcolm!” as she recounted hearing the news of his murder on the radio while standing in her kitchen.
Sanchez also joined a Q&A with Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza.
CUNY professor Leith Mullings made mention of her late husband, Manning Marable’s sincere effort to chronicle Malcolm’s life, then added: “Harlem … was the epicenter of Malcolm’s political activity and was itself forever transformed by Malcolm’s presence. For me, Harlem, like Malcolm, will always be a symbol of Black resistance. Harlem was Malcolm’s home base … his political development was significantly influenced by the history of Harlem.”
She added, ”Think about it, both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X are assassinated at the time when they begin to talk about structural racism, classism, organizing across the board, changing the structure of the society, the destruction of our political organizations, criminalization of descent.”
Revolutionary MC Boots Riley of the Coup closed with a poem and relayed Malcolm’s anti-imperialism agenda: “One of the arguments between Malcolm and the Civil Rights Movement was about the actual economic material basis for power. There should not be a contradiction between revolutionary organizing and working to pay your rent. Malcolm was organizing campaigns.”
Saturday’s event will cover Malcolm’s legacy and the suspicious circumstances surrounding his assassination. Despite Malcolm publicly revealing that his life was in danger, and his home in East Elmhurst, Queens, being firebombed the night of Feb. 14, 1965, no uniformed police were present inside the Audubon Ballroom the day he was executed in front of an audience of more than 400.
Also, Friday, Feb. 20, 7 p.m. at the Clarke House, 286 Convent Ave., professor James Small and Brother Zayd Muhammad will continue to defend Malcolm’s legacy. For more information, visit www.theshabazzcenter.net or call 212-568-1341 or 718-512-5008.