Malcolm X March and Rally in Harlem Credit: Bill Moore photo

On Friday, May 19th, 2023, in honor of what would have been Malcolm X’s  98th birthday, the December 12th Movement organizations were joined by community and activist groups such as Lifecamp and Man Up Inc. as they marched along 125th Street. They asked stores along that stretch of Harlem’s busiest thoroughfare to adhere to the 34 year annual tradition to close from 1 to 4 p.m. 

The action—with pro-Black self-determination chants aloud, and a sea of red, black, and green flags hoisted high—celebrated the words and works of the great icon. Just about every store and bank closed, as usually has been the case for the last 34 years, with only a few defiant holdouts. 

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One was the seafood stand on the corner of Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard and 125th Street. The owner argued with protesters for most of the three-hour event, saying she had to make money, it was her business, and closing for 3 hours would be financially harmful. Rally attendees said every other store had closed, and at 4 p.m., most of the seafood-eating demonstrators probably would have patronized her stand. They also pointed out that Malcolm X had spoken often on that very corner, demanding Black liberation and freedoms, and his sacrifice ultimately afforded her the ability to even have a business and defy this community request. 

Several events occurred that day. Folk returning from visiting Malcolm X’s gravesite with the annual caravan to Ferncliff Cemetery joined the 125th Street rally and attended various other evening events, such as one at the Schomburg Center

Speakers at the Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center—formerly the Audubon Ballroom, where Malcolm was gunned down on February 21, 1965, included Dr. Ilyasah and Malaak Shabazz, two of the six daughters, honored their parents. Spike Lee was the keynote, followed by author Nikole Hannah Jones, activist Gwen Carr, and attorney Benjamin Crump.

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