“Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear,” is the advice 25-year-old Malcolm Shabazz has for anyone who thinks they know him, his story or his family.
Shabazz is the grandson, namesake and first male heir of slain revolutionary leader Malcolm X. Currently in Miami working on a book of memoirs, Shabazz said he is all too familiar with character assassination.
“The things the media said are lies; its slander and its backbiting. People that have not met me think that they know me and they think they know everything about me. But when they meet me, they find differently. Unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to meet everybody that’s wrote about me or read about me, so they’re entitled to their opinion,” Shabazz told the South Florida Times.
And just what does everybody have an opinion about?
When Shabazz was 12 years old, he started a house fire in which, his grandmother, Betty Shabazz, sustained burns over 80 percent of her body. She eventually died from the injuries.
But Shabazz said his grandmother getting hurt was the last thing on his mind. He’d been separated from his mother for two years, after the FBI accused her of plotting to kill Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, and said he yearned to be reunited with her.
“I was taken away from her and I couldn’t understand why. I really wanted to be with her. Nothing was consistent. I was shuttled from place to place.
Everybody was too busy and there was no stability. I thought that if I acted out badly enough, they’d send me back to my mom,” Shabazz recalled.
Being so young, Shabazz said he didn’t think about the consequences of his actions.
“I was 12 years old so I wasn’t really thinking. My grandmother and I had the best relationship. At the time, I didn’t realize that she would think I was caught in the fire and try to come and get me,” Malcolm recalled.
After that, the general public and experts alike said Shabazz was psychotic and he was placed in a juvenile institution. Then when he was 17 years old, Shabazz said he was defending a young lady at a party, and the situation escalated.
“I was at a party and a dude tried to rape this girl. I defended the girl. This individual ended up in the hospital. The girl’s testimony was inadmissible because of her age, and her parents wouldn’t let her testify,” Shabazz shared.
After that, Shabazz was charged with kidnapping, burglary, assault, possession of a weapon and coercion, among other things. He said that because he was facing 56 years, he was advised to admit to a crime he said he did not commit. He accepted a plea and served six years in a super-maximum security prison.
Admitting that he has a tainted past, Shabazz insists that, like his grandfather, people have unjustly vilified him. His charge to those who are curious: “Investigate the matter for yourself.”
“God gave us an intellect, and there’s more than one side to a story. You have to be able to use your intellect and decipher that which is real from that which is fake. It’s better when you get to know the individual and take it directly from the horse’s mouth,” Shabazz said.
It is for this reason that Shabazz said he chose to come to Miami and write his coming-of-age memoir, which will include social and political commentary. The Shiite Muslim, who recently returned from studying religion and theology in Damascus, Syria, said he hopes that his book will correct, once and for all, the false perceptions about him.
“This book is about a lot of the things I’ve been through and my experiences. With it I’ll clear up a lot of misconceptions. I came to Miami because this is a good environment for me to write. It’s a different pace than what I’m used to. I need some time for my mind to be clear, and I figured this would be a nice environment with its nice weather, beautiful people and different nationalities,” Shabazz said.
Shabazz plans to have his book completed by May 19, 2011, which would have been his grandfather’s 86th birthday. By that time, he said that he will have made his pilgrimage to Mecca and retraced some of his grandfather’s steps.
While he’s in Miami on business, Shabazz has made it his business to give back during his stay.
“I want to do as much as I can in the community while I’m out here in Miami,” Shabazz said.
Thus far, he’s spoken to several youth groups; served as a panelist at a Teen Speak event promoting non-violence; sponsored a child by playing with them in a Father/Child Basketball Tournament; and helped with a basketball camp run by Isaiah Thomas and his coaching staff at Florida International University.
Next on the agenda, Shabazz will speak about his journey to Islam on Friday, July 2 at the Ershad Center as a part of Islam in America: Past, Present & Future in South Miami.
Shabazz said his last name is Persian, and it means royal falcon. It’s fitting, he said because, like a falcon, he has risen above his circumstances, and is now prepared to take flight.
“I don’t think a lot of people could have gone through what I’ve gone through without breaking,” Shabazz said.
Besides my grandmother’s death, I don’t have any real regrets in life,” he continued “I never cursed any particular situation or circumstance, because it’s these experiences which have made me stronger. Even in the [Holy] Qur’an it says that ‘man is built to toil the struggle.’ I always try to look for the blessing in what may seem to be the curse. I think I’m doing pretty good. All praise to Allah.”
Photo: Malcolm Shabazz
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Malcolm Shabazz Speaks about His Journey at Islam in America: Past, Present & Future
WHEN: Friday, July 2, at 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: Ershad Center, 6669 SW 59th Pl., South Miami
COST: Admission is free and open to the public