Malcolm X Birthday Black Power March and Rally in Harlem. (204040)

Special to the AmNews

On May 19, the 27th annual Malcolm X Birthday Black Power March and Rally moved along Harlem’s 125th Street corridor behind a huge banner depicting Malcolm X. As the throng waved red, black and green flags while chanting loudly, “Shut ‘em down! Black Power!” businesses began to shut down, lowering their gates or locking their doors in honor of the life and legacy of El Hajj Malik El Shabazz—Malcolm X.

“Every year we contact business owners weeks in advance to join us in honoring Malcolm X by closing their doors from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.,” explained Omowale Clay, spokesperson for the December 12th Movement organizers. “The march has developed through the years into a Harlem tradition recognizing Malcolm X’s political birth home. We are the political children of Malcolm, our Black nationalist freedom fighter.”

As stores closed, the excitement and energy rose, and the marchers’ numbers swelled. For three hours, students, workers and families, including seniors and children were in the street. Busloads of people from New York, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Philadelphia and Baltimore, returning from the annual trip to the Malcolm X gravesite, joined in. Vehicle traffic was intermittently shut down by marchers at key intersections.

New York State Assemblyman Charles Barron spoke along the route. “This is a tremendous day of self-determination and political action in Harlem,” he said. “Every elected official in Harlem should be here with the community. We must demand accountability and bold action from those who are supposed to represent us. Over 95 percent of the stores have shut down because they know Black people are still the ones who keep them in business, despite creeping gentrification.”

Clay stated, “There were three businesses that refused to close. The McDonald’s directly across from the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building, hypocritically, is in a big publicity campaign called ‘365 Black Deeply Rooted in the Community’ to secure its place in our community. At some point in the midst of the demonstration, they ordered the door closed but continued to sneak people in once the line of march had moved on.

“A Wing Stop franchise owned by rapper Rick Ross and another neighboring Black-owned chicken restaurant, Buffalo Boss, were the defiant holdouts. They showed community disdain and total disrespect for the political legacy and sacrifices Malcolm X made for all of us.

“Wing Stop manager Daniella Amodeo told us that they were not closing at all and in fact called the police on us. Jamal White, the owner of Buffalo Boss, actually tried to scam the community by posting a huge banner in ‘support of Malcolm X’ while blatantly remaining open for business. The actions of all three business reflect disrespect, and they should not be patronized by our community.”

An evening Malcolm X Forum, “The Ballot or the Bullet?” focused on the 2016 presidential election. The choice: plebiscite, reparations and self-determination. More than 100 people gathered at the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Building to discuss the launching of a Black voter registration campaign for an independent vote on Black Solidarity Day, Nov. 7, 2016.

The Black vote will focus on writing in “Reparations Now” for president. The campaign is geared toward the November 8 national election and Black people using the ballot as a weapon in our own interest. The voter registration drive will launch Saturday, May 28, 2016, at 1 p.m. at Sistas’ Place, 456 Nostrand Ave., Brooklyn N.Y. For more information, call the Black Vote Coalition at 718-398-1766 or visit