Last Friday morning, a caravan of vehicles trekked from the corner of 126th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard in Harlem up to Ferncliff Cemetery in Westchester County to commemorate the 92nd anniversary of Malcolm X’s May 19 birthday. The annual ceremony, begun 52 years ago by Malcolm’s sister, Ella Collins, is one of the oldest tributes in the Western Hemisphere acknowledging an African ancestor.
On arrival, supporters from across the country joined in, keenly observing as the African drummers rhythmically set the tone for the ceremony to begin. Then a brother called the adhan (Islamic call to prayer), prompting several more brothers garbed in all white (symbolizing the Sudanese Islamic brotherhood Malcolm X was a part of) to take their positions around the red, black and green Pan-African flag draped on the grass where the mortal remains of Brother Malcolm X and Sister Betty Shabazz are interred. Libations were poured in honor of the ancestors, and readings were shared from the Akon and Yoruba ways of life as well.
Brother Ajan Collins, Ella’s nephew, who made the journey from Boston with a van load of his students, spoke first.
“After uncle Malcolm died, there were a lot of people here who were still part of the movement,” he noted. “Some of those people are gone, many are still here. Regardless, many of the people you see here today are the embodiment of them in the youngest. My students came all the way here just to be infused by the power.”
Next, sister Dequi Kioni-Sadiki (chairperson of the Malcolm X Commemoration Committee) thanked all the children who were present, and then said, “We are nothing without brother Malcolm, the Sojourner Truths, Harriet Tubmans, Ella Bakers and all those people that he stood on the shoulders of, and we stand on the shoulders of. We must teach our children that we stand on the shoulders of greatness, and they should not believe the lies and the distortions they are learning in those schools!”
She acknowledged Malcolm’s comrade, Baba Herman Ferguson, and how he had always been present at this annual pilgrimage since its 1965 inception, until a few years ago. “We know that he is now in the land of the ancestors, but we know that his spirit is here,” she said.
African scholar warrior Dr. Leonard Jeffries followed. “We pay homage, not just to an individual, but to a special spirit that moves through the world with power,” he said. “We need to tap into that power so that we can make our personal contributions as we Africanize our lives. We are glad to see you here, particularly the young people, because they need this understanding of this special warrior spirit who was among us.”
He also acknowledged Malcolm’s wife, as well as Dr. John Henrik Clarke and Dr. Yosef ben-Jochannan, who referred much literature to Malcolm X regarding Africa.
Dr. Rosalind Jeffries added, “Malcolm X
represents to us the need for a warriorship. Which means to do right against the negative of your own mind and the mean spirit of other people so that the positive can push forward as long as you get understanding. Malcolm X represents the militancy that says, ‘You dare think about striking me on one cheek, I’ll push forward with my fist!”
The moderator, Professor James Small, noted that one of Malcolm X’s comrades, Brother Sekou Odinga, was present before explaining how many people who attempted to carry out Malcolm X’s self-determining message of Black nationalism wound up being political prisoners of war throughout the past five-plus decades since his February 21, 1965, assassination.
“Many of our comrades are going to die in there, unless we get them out,” he stated. “We’ve already buried some who were in there, and they were young men in their twenties fighting for your freedom when they were kidnapped and incarcerated by our enemies. This is about intergenerational struggle for freedom. It won’t be done until it’s done. It didn’t start 500, 1000 years ago. It started when the first European set foot on the continent of Africa. You have to make [some serious changes], like Malcolm did, otherwise you’re responsible for the oppression of your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren!”
On arriving back in Harlem, participants joined the December 12th Movement in their 28th annual “Black Power Shut’em Down” economic boycott of all businesses along 125th Street, as they chanted “Malcolm X!” “No disrespect for Malcolm X,” “Black Power for Black people in Harlem!” among other phrases, while marching between Fifth Avenue and St. Nicholas Avenue, forcing each and every business to lower its gates between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., in a mighty display self-determination.
A forum regarding the African Union and how it’s continuing the vision of Malcolm’s O.A.A.U. will be conducted Thursday, May 25, at 2 p.m., at Harlem’s National Black Theater (2033 Fifth Ave.).