One of the oldest tributes commemorating the legacy of an African American ancestor occurred Thursday, May 19, in acknowledgement of the 97th physicalday anniversary of Malcolm X, a.k.a. El Hajj Malik El Shabazz.
Sponsored by Malcolm X’s Organization of Afro-American Unity [OAAU] and the Sons of Africa, the 57th annual pilgrimage to his and his wife’s, Dr. Betty Shabazz’s, gravesites at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale N.Y., left from Harlem’s 125th St. and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. that morning. Several other events at uptown’s Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Center, Schomburg Center, and Brooklyn’s Sister’s Place also recognized the occasion.
Sons of Africa President Dr. Reggie Mabry, opened by explaining how Malcolm’s sister, Ella Collins, established the tribute in 1965 before OAAU President Baba James Small, stated: “Malcolm was a man that showed you when you transform yourself through the appropriate teaching, ethical moral development, you can do extraordinary things in teaching your people to stand up against the enemy.”
He relayed Malcolm’s relationship with Harlem street legends, Bumpy Johnson and Sonny Malik, prior to assessing: “He allowed himself to be transformed into a better person so that he could do better with his life, and that’s what it’s really about. He gave himself a purpose to imitate the instructions of the divine in transforming himself into a better human being. He was the best example. Let us be better examples.”
Small explained how Malcolm X, as a devout Muslim, also incorporated aspects of Pan-Africanism: “He said put your religion in the closet, he didn’t say throw it away. It’s the struggle to transform you into a better African being that’s going to be the successful revolution, and that’s what he showed us. He has grown after he left, physically.”
African scholar warrior, Dr. Leonard Jeffries, also spoke about Malcolm X’s “transformation,” before urging: “Step into your African shoes, and move. You’re going to have to transform and continue transforming.”
Sister Lenora, who has been attending this event since she was a youth and is now a proud mother of two young children, acknowledged her grandmother, Mama Laurie’s presence prior to saying: “Malcolm X was one of my father’s while growing up. I read his autobiography and was also around a lot of people who met him, and he helped develop me into the woman I am today. If we’re not helping our elders in passing the baton to younger people, then we’re failing them.”
During Mama Rosalind Jeffries’ invigorating dissertation, she stated: “Thank God for Malcolm X who taught the women to dress in dignity and pride, and to cover up the wrong essence of the flesh so that right spirit does not have to be strangled.”
Imam Talib Abdur Rashid, representing the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood, which succeed Malcolm X’s Muslim Mosque Inc., revealed that Malcolm’s youngest surviving daughter, Malaak, survived a recent fire. “By the grace of God, her family was spared yet another tragedy for that blessed family. She’s now healing.” He added: “We need to always lift up the women in the life of El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, because if you study his life, you will see the critical importance of women in the development of who he was, and who he became to be.” He mentioned Malcolm’s mother, Louise, sister, Ella, who “joined the NOI before the rest of her family and left and embraced Sunni Islam before them. And you need to know the importance of Sister Betty Bahia Shabazz in that man’s life.”
Back in Harlem, later that afternoon, the December 12th Movement orchestrated their Black Power Shut’em Down economic boycott of all businesses along 125th Street from 1-4 p.m.