This is the second of two part commemorating the 87th anniversary of the birth of Malcolm X on May 19.
When 39-year-old Malcolm X fell dead from three Negro assassins’ bullets Sunday afternoon, Feb. 21, 1965, shock, shame and sadness dominated black America and the Diaspora.
I had almost arrived on the scene, being half a block from the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan, N.Y., when, suddenly, crowds burst through the building’s doors, desperately running in all directions, screeching, hollering, screaming and crying, “Malcolm’s been shot!” “Malcolm’s been killed!” “Oh, my God, Malcolm is dead!”
Minutes later, among other numb and stunned silent onlookers, I closely watched a lifeless Malcolm X on a gurney, shirt open and bullet holes everywhere, being whisked across the street to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. The numbness wouldn’t go away. It stayed for days. Talking was burdensome.
In their illuminating book Black Rage, published in 1968, black psychiatrists William H. Grier and Price M. Cobbs had this to say about Malcolm X: “ . . . no figure has appeared thus far who captures the spirit of our times as does Malcolm. Malcolm is an authentic hero, indeed the only universal black hero. In his unrelenting opposition to the viciousness in America, he fired the imagination of black men all over the world.”
If Malcolm X were still with us in the flesh, the up-tempo white nationalist activities of recent years would never have played out. Barely audible murmurs of today’s so-called black leaders, with their incessant marches and capitulation, could never have become the response of black America.
Malcolm would have created an international furor over white America’s denial of democracy for black people here while exporting so-called democracy throughout the world, especially among people of color. He would have clearly flushed out the contradictions so that all black men, women and children could articulate the appropriate response to evil.
In fact, from late spring of 1964 to early February 1965, just days before his assassination, Malcolm X had addressed leaders in Africa, the so-called “Middle East” and expatriate black Americans in Paris, France;
London, United Kingdom; and Accra, Ghana. While addressing the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in August 1964, Malcolm initiated the process of taking the plight of African Americans to the international community.
At that OAU meeting of multifaceted historical significance, being held in Cairo, Egypt, Malcolm X said, “Our freedom struggle for human dignity is no longer confined to the domestic jurisdiction of the United States government. We beseech the independent African states to help us bring our problem before the United Nations . . .”
Then the American mis-educated black politicians, civil rights leaders, preachers and so-called educators attempted to justify shunning Malcolm by insisting that integration was making progress and that “extremism” would thwart the process. Unfortunately, that is exactly why, to this very day, there has been no follow-up to the transformatiive, international work begun by Malcolm X.
Aided by the dogged propensity of white nationalists to control black leadership through what I call the politics of containment, the fact that black leaders tend to succumb to fear and the psychology of dependency is the only reaction that makes that process possible.
Malcolm X bravely doted on liberation and mostly eschewed concepts such as integration and freedom. Liberation is not something that you ask for, because it is an inalienable right. Therefore, when taken away, said inalienable right has to be taken back for no other reason stronger than people’s very survival.
Conversely, both integration and freedom are concepts fraught with
control by others. They are asked for and have to be voluntarily given. In order to be liberated, a people must be free from the very concept “freedom.”
So, sadly, miseducated blacks still shun the very memory of Malcolm Little, who became Malcolm X and, during his pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in the spring of 1964, was transformed as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.
They shun Malcolm because to deal with his truth is to deal with reality. And, favored inertia serves the purpose of acquiescing to the immediate comforts of the status quo.
Al Calloway is a longtime journalist who began his career with the Atlanta Inquirer during the early 1960s civil rights struggle. He may be reached at Al_Calloway@verizon.net
Photo: Al Calloway