Malcolm X’s legacy was commemorated Saturday in acknowledgment of the 93rd anniversary of his birth. Self-determining grassroots activists celebrated his life in their own individual ways with several local events that complemented each other.
African drummers set the tone at the foot of Harlem’s Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building (163 W. 125th St.) in Saturday morning’s drizzling rain as a congregation of modern-day Malcolmites boarded their buses and cars, before trekking up to Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, N.Y., for the 54th annual pilgrimage to Malcolm X’s burial site. The pilgrimage is sponsored by Malcolm’s Organization of Afro-American Unity and the Sons of Africa, and each year many supporters come in from throughout the country to pay their respects to “our Black shining prince.”
Upon arrival, participants met up with others from across the country, and then the ahdan (Muslim call to prayer) set the ceremony in motion after eight brothers, dressed in all-white, symbolizing the Sudanese Islamic brotherhood, took their positions around the red, black and green flag draped over the spot where the mortal remains of Malcolm X and his wife Betty Shabazz are interred.
“We are present today because we are not fair-weather revolutionaries,” noted Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood’s Imam Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid. “Struggling for change doesn’t just occur when the sun is shining and the weather is good.”
Moderator and OAAU President Professor James Small stated, “This is not a religious ceremony,” before introducing individuals from various African traditions Malcolm X had grown to understand.
“We have many traditions, don’t get carried away with [titles]. We’re just Black folks with pretty labels, and it doesn’t mean anything unless you’re willing to do what he did,” Small stated. “Malcolm said, ‘The price of freedom is death,’ and he proved it. If you’re not willing to do that, your religion don’t mean nothing. If you wanna make this day mean anything, dedicate yourself to continue to change the world for freedom’s sake. Otherwise you’ve wasted your time.”
He then introduced Brother Kalfani, an Agun priest, who said, “Regardless to what your faith is, we have a commitment to uplift ourselves. One of the things Malcolm helped us understand is that it’s not enough to uplift yourself because you’ll miss the point of us as an African people. When you understand that it’s about ‘the we,’ then you’ll know that you have a responsibility to do something different.”
Small also introduced Malcolm’s niece and grand-nephew, who came down from Boston.
“The light didn’t die with Uncle Malcolm,” noted, school teacher Ajim. “Everyone here brought that light, and it’s important that we all know that. We need to disconnect from the darkness.”
Malcolm X Commemoration Committee President Sister Dequi Kioni-Sadiki spoke about the plight of political prisoners-of-war before saying, “Malcolm sacrificed his life. The prayer is that you’re not only honoring Malcolm on the anniversary of his birth, but on every day with the work that you do, in the name of El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, independence, freedom, Black liberation and our children. We have an obligation to honor our people who sacrificed their lives and freedom.”
Small said Dr. Leonard Jeffries was out in Las Vegas celebrating their first “Malcolm X Day” before introducing Reggie Mabry, commenting, “When you see this Brother, you see the representative for the Malcolm X Pilgrimage Project. I’m the mouthpiece, the elder, I’m walking out of the door. The OAAU may seem invisible to some, but that’s because we want to be. There are other brothers, you may not know their names, and they don’t wear uniforms, but they’re all around you every day.”
Small concluded, “If you [Malcolm] can die for us, we can come and pay our respects for you having done that. This revolution is not going to end in our lifetime, so let’s spend our entire life fighting for freedom, because that’s what this is about. If you’re not about freedom, then you’re the enemy of our people. Fight for the next generation, not just for yourself, and you’ll be victorious!”
Upon returning to Harlem, participants joined the December 12th Movement’s 29th annual economic boycott of all businesses along 125th Street, which was in full stride. Just about all the stores and banks adhered to the annual request to close their doors from 1-4 p.m. to honor the birthday of Malcolm X, who walked that very block many decades ago.