OAKLAND, Calif. — Hundreds gathered Friday to remember the grandson of slain civil rights leader Malcolm X as mourners said Malcolm Shabazz was well on his way to cementing his own legacy. More than 200 people attended a traditional Islamic service in Oakland for the 28-year-old Shabazz, who authorities say was beaten to death last week over a $1,200 bar bill in Mexico City.
The service, which lasted more than two hours, featured plenty of prayer, songs, spoken word and tears. Many among the procession of speakers said while they initially connected with Shabazz because of his famous grandfather, they learned to appreciate a man they called “Young Malcolm” as a leader in his own right.
“If I could put into one word how I feel about Malcolm, it would be ‘inspiration,’” Hussein Mekki, 32, of Houston, Texas, told fellow mourners. “Hopefully that will continue and he can inspire us for the rest of our lives.”
Despite troubles early in life, from setting a blaze in the apartment of his grandmother Betty Shabazz, Malcolm X’s widow, that resulted in her death, to stints in juvenile hall and prison, mourners said Shabazz was seeking redemption with plans to write a memoir and another book denouncing youth violence.
Abdel Malik Ali, 55, a community activist from Oakland, said “Young Malcolm” appeared ready to fuse the history of Malcolm X along with his own experiences he described as “Generation Next.”
Shabazz, who also was the father of a young girl, wanted to help build mosques and education centers across America, Ali said.
“He was looking for his own voice, his own place in this world,” Ali said. “He had his struggles just like everybody else but he eventually took on a huge responsibility in embracing his family’s legacy that’s harder than anybody could ever imagine.”
While Shabazz was originally from New York, he settled in the Bay Area more than three years ago after making a spiritual pilgrimage to Mecca on the advice of friends and local political activist Yuri Kochiyama, who knew his grandfather and wrote to Shabazz while he was incarcerated.
Close friend Hashim Ali Alauddeen, a doctoral student in Islamic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, said Friday that Shabazz had plans to attend community college in the area and eventually seek a bachelor’s degree in African-American studies at Berkeley.
“His heart was sincere. He strived to do what’s right,” Alauddeen said tearfully as he stood over Shabazz’s casket while delivering his friend’s eulogy. “He did his best to purify his soul. His intention and his sincerity were to serve God.”
Shabazz died May 9 after he was beaten outside a bar near Plaza Garibaldi, a downtown square that is home to Mexico City’s mariachis. Before his trip to Mexico, Shabazz had connected with a labor and construction group in California and he traveled to Mexico to meet with one of its organizers who had been deported in April.
Labor activist Miguel Suarez, who was traveling with Shabazz, told The Associated Press that he and Shabazz were lured to the bar by a young woman who spoke to Shabazz in English.
Authorities in Mexico City say Suarez told investigators that he and Shabazz drank about a dozen beers and then the waiters demanded they pay a tab of 15,000 pesos or about $1,200.
Mexico City’s top prosecutor said two waiters arrested in the case had served Shabazz earlier. An autopsy found Shabazz died of blows to the head, face and torso.
Alauddeen said Shabazz’s body would be buried in New York next to his grandparents.