Malcolm was “my man,” as we say in African-American street parlance when referring to a brother he ld in high esteem. He encouraged me to get a college education.
Malcolm knew allof us teenage musicians that rehearsed upstairs in the Paramount Ballroom on the floor above the large space he rented where the signage read: “The Nation of Islam, Mosque No. 7.”
This was way before Malcolm’s national organizing resulted in the Nation of Islam’s (NOI) purchase of that building on the corner of Lenox Avenue and 116th Street in Harlem. The Nation transformed the edifice into a huge mosque and primary school with a street-level restaurant.
I used to bust Malcolm in the back of Lewis Michaux’s voluminous bookstore near the corner of 125th Street and Seventh Avenue and sometimes in the Frederick Douglass Book Center around the corner on 125th Street. The brother was a student, a voracious book man and an especially attentive listener to the old, well-read black nationalists and pan-Africanists for whom Harlem’s book stores, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, on 135th Street, were home away from home.
Like the great musician John Coltrane would turn a motif every which way but loose, exploring major, minor and intervals, so the learned professor Manning Marable, in a book published shortly after Marable’s death, focused in on how Malcolm X constantly reinvented Malcolm. This voluminous must-read book titled Malcolm X – A Life Of Reinvention details for us the nuances that transformed Malcolm, like a caterpillar, into the metamorphoses wherein he became a moth and again into that beautiful short-lived butterfly.
Intellectually and spiritually, Malcolm knew he was going to be assassinated through a confluence of interests carried out by Negro sacrificial lambs. Marable, painstakingly, utilizing more than a decade of researching all manner of documentation, pinpoints and names of all major and minor players involved in Malcolm’s assassination.
Professor Marable names the Negro undercover New York policemen and FBI informers inside the NOI, all in key top-level positions. When Malcolm broke from the NOI, he formed the Muslim Mosque Inc. (MMI) and the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) at Harlem’s Theresa Hotel on 125th Street and Seventh Avenue.
Marable held a Ph.D from the University of Maryland and, from 1993, served as professor of public affairs, political science, history and African-American studies at Columbia University in New York City. About the undercover work, including wiretapping, Marable writes that law enforcement and national security institutions “placed informants inside the OAAU, MMI and the NOI, making all three organizations virtual rats’ nests of conflicting loyalties.”
In addition to ensuring that those conspirators still alive will definitely run and try to hide after being called out in the book, Marable has given us the first detailed account of Malcolm X’s extensive travels abroad, in Africa, the Middle East and Europe. In the Middle East, Malcolm X became an Orthodox Muslim and, throughout his final trip of more than five months abroad, he met frequently with heads of state and lectured to overflowing crowds, often at official settings and prestigious universities.
According to the book, problems persisted between Malcolm and his wife Betty from the beginning of their marriage, sanctioned by Elijah Muhammad who transferred the woman with whom
Malcolm had had a relationship to Chicago. Later, Malcolm was to learn, at first through rumors, that not only had Elijah Muhammad impregnated that young lady but others as well.
Marable also details how the poor were used as cash cows for the NOI “Royal Family” who lived in fine houses surrounding Elijah Muhammad’s “mansion” in Chicago and drove luxury vehicles and wore fine clothes, including fur coats for the women. Astonishing!
The mostly poor, uneducated followers were instructed, by tight discipline, to tithe and contribute to the “Royal Family.” In addition, the men were instructed to sell at least 150 copies of Muhammad Speaks newspaper each week – controlled by the “Royal Family.”
Elijah Muhammad also lived in a plush “mansion” in Arizona. Now Louis Farrakhan and his brood control both properties and the organization. Elijah Muhammad died 10 years and six days after Malcolm’s assassination due to a long illness.
Manning Marable died on Friday, April 1, 2011, just before his book was published on Monday April 4, 2011. he was 60 years old. He was a great scholar.
Al Calloway may be contacted at Al_Calloway@Verizon.net