Malcolm X (Malik el-Shabazz) was assassinated on February 21, 1965.
The Malcolm X Commemoration Committee joins with everyone who calls for reopening the case of Malcolm X. However, we are not and will not be among those looking to forgive and have any compassion for the late Ray Wood.
We call Wood’s confession his “non-confession” because of two lies he tells: one, that he was coerced into doing what he did; and two, that he didn’t know Malcolm was the target.
His “confession” suggests that he was a novice and wrongly pressured into doing what he did that ultimately had a hand in Malcolm’s death.
In fact, it is well known that before he infiltrated Malcolm’s Organization of AfroAmerican Unity (OAAU), Wood was an operative who infiltrated the Bronx branch of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). It is also known that he was not simply an informant in that capacity—he was, in fact, a provocateur seeking to provoke illegal activity to set up their leadership for prosecution, in particular their leader, Herb Callender.
There is also evidence that the Statue of Liberty plot—the plan that compromised key men in Malcolm’s security—was first floated to the CORE chapter Wood had penetrated, and that it was Wood who promoted that idea among them.
Beyond being outraged about his role in facilitating the assassination with the NYPD’s Bureau of Special Services (BOSS), we are outraged that this confession asserts that he was “not aware that Malcolm X was the target.”
It is an absolute insult to all of our intelligence…
Herman Ferguson and Yuri Kochiyama, both founding members of Malcolm’s OAAU and our organization, have always said that they saw Wood at the Audubon at the assassination and also saw him being aided away from the scene by the police as if he might have been wounded from the shootout that ensued with Malcolm’s soldier Rueben X Frances, who heroically hit one of the assassins, Talmadge Hayer, in the melee that ensued after Malcolm was felled by the assassin team.
Of course, we must remind everyone how heroically important Brother Reuben was in all of this. Had not he been armed and ready on that fateful afternoon, all of Malcolm’s killers would have gotten away scot free!
There is nothing innocent about Wood’s deeds here. Historian Garrett Felber reminds us that he received a promotion to detective second grade for his work in the Statue of Liberty 4 case—not something you would associate with someone facing coercion.
Wood continued to function as an undercover operative for at least six more years, infiltrating the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM) and the NY Chapter of the Black Panther Party.
He was no one’s innocent operative. He had, in fact, become an expert operative who produced desired results at critical times for his overseers. Deadly results at times, and we are still reeling from the gravity of Malcolm’s murder.
To be sure, Wood’s “work” in aiding Malcolm’s assassination draws parallels to another New York operative, one whose provocations also got him decorated and on through law school: Edward Howlette. Howlette played a similar role in jamming Herman Ferguson and his co-defendant Arthur Harris. They would be charged with conspiring to kill moderate civil rights leaders Roy Wilkins and Ralph Bunche. Both opted for exile.
Ferguson exiled himself in Guyana for 20 years. He faced prison at 69 when he returned to New York in an effort to clear his name. Harris exiled himself to Scandinavia never to return.
We do want young organizers to pay attention to what they must learn as Hollywood now seeks to soften the deadly work of another operative who aided in the assassination of Fred Hampton. Your operational group discipline matters. Be wary of those who, in the name of being the most militant, seek to have folks engage in actions outside of your discipline…
The tough guys, the sexually loose, or drug-reckless among you—watch them, or better yet, use your discipline to purge them from your ranks. They may not be who they say they are.
Exonerate Walter Bowe, Bob Collier, and Khaleel Sayyid now. Pay their families damages for what they went through. Pay the Shabazz family damages for the NYPD’s participation in the horrific trauma of setting up the slaughter of their father and our leader.
Making it most plain in conclusion, the Malcolm X Commemoration Committee does not wish to see anyone have any sympathy or prayers of compassion for this man, the dastardly deeds he has performed, and the lies he has told, including those in this confession. We do feel for his family, who must be embarrassed and ashamed for disgraceful deeds that they had nothing to do with. However, as far as we are concerned, Ray Wood—or Ray Woodall, one of his other aliases—can continue on his journey to hell for all we care.
Let justice for his victims and victims’ survivors be served, and may the chickens continue to come home to roost.
Zayid Muhamad is the lead organizer and founding press officer of the Malcolm X Commemoration Committee NYC, a “proud cub of the NY Chapter of the Black Panther Party,” and the Newark strategist for Equal Justice USA.