On this day COINTELPRO carried out is threat and efforts to kill one of my heroes. He was my hero because he was the greatest story of transformation I could latch onto when I was trying to transform myself. From anger to activism, from criminal to soldier, from ignorant to intelligent, from blind follower to global leader, from collective embarrassment to role model for the ages. I can’t describe how many people here and around the world have had some access to some version of his autobiography and what it meant to them beyond being a story of someone famous who died. In fact I have often said when it is Malcolm’s legacy that is being discussed it may very well be the autobiography that he and Alex crafted that was his greatest gift. Alex’ brilliant capacity to capture Malcolm’s vision of himself is not unlike the role of a photographer or artists who does not create the visage of the self-portrait, but who plays a vital role in crafting his background and hues. Like so many others of us, Malcolm had a sense that everyone who struggled for Afrikan people, particularly those that pushed an ideology that involved them having a right to defend themselves from wanton death and attack, was living on borrowed time. A kind of “walking dead.” But whereas many sought refuse in hiding, I think this situation just made him more conscious of the need to leave something that would transcend him. He knew his legacy in the Nation would be preserved but would not capture the fullness of him beyond his discipleship to Elijah Muhammad. He knew the American Muslim Mission while influential would take time to evolve. So beyond his life what would he give? He decided it would be this book and in many ways the controversy over Marable’s rendering and the recent misuse of his image by Nikki the Minaj are testaments to how deeply his life and loss are felt by not just the generation of his time but so many after. Besides Garvey, there may be no more honored Afrikan from this piece of the diaspora at home. I believe while he would not pleased at the condition of his beloved people, he would be at the fact that he constructed the one thing his enemies and the enemies of the people could not take and that was his spirit, captured in but a few pages for an eternity.
And the plot to take Malcolm from the consciousness of his people continues. Yesterday I had a TV interview and they sent out a proposed list of questions. Of course Malcolm was born here in Omaha in a state which refuses to honor him when nations do around the world. One of the draft questions was “of course Malcolm X was born here, how long did he stay?” I wrote back, because I was invited to debate what the questions should be that the purpose of such a question was to disrespect his legacy. All over the US we have markers and special places for important people and we mark where they were born, sometimes even where they visited, and certainly where they died. It would seem ridiculous to take any of these other historical figures and debate the length of their stay. Notice the question does not ask about his work, his importance, his legacy. I see through deception and wickedness and do not play into it. In coming to Omaha for the first time, I saw a sign for Gerald Ford’s birthplace. He was born here as well, but did not stay nor achieve his presumed Eurocentric greatness (not sure what that WAS beyond being president for a minute and pardoning Nixon) but Omaha wanted to identify itself with this native son. It has another one and some of us choose to identify with him the same way, focusing not on how long his spirit was here, but that it was.
I used to listen to Malcolm’s tapes, a majority of them from his time in the Nation and a few afterwards on cassette. While I did not agree with everything he said or did, I did agree with the notion that it was noble to stand up for the people, it was right to defend yourself, and it was okay to change and evolve. I will forever be thankful to this man, I never met and understand some of the influence he must have had on others in his life time who may not have understood black nationalism or the ideology of the Nation or any of that and may not and many were not committed to that, but many of these men were committed to Malcolm and prepared to follow him because they knew this was a man of history who would survive, not the lure of the grave (none of can evade that), but the test of the time and the obligation of struggle and the elevation of moral and ethical principle. These he would endure and transcend. We don’t have many men today that I would consider “princely” material, but such a crown were in the social context, Malcolm and his words would today certainly make his a nominee. Paris, the revolutionary rapper, coined a term “hard truth soldier.” Whenever I think of Malcolm I think of that term and I try in a different time and context to be the same. I thank God for him, for his life, for his strengths, for his weaknesses, for his successes, for his failures, for his lessons, and even for his death in the context in which it occurred for all of these add up to something that cannot fail ever to inspire and uplift the people for which he spent his life working.