Today’s Monday Musing is in honour of Malcolm X, who has been an important figure of history for me personally growing up. Feel free to comment below and share your thoughts too!
Saturday 21st february marked 50 years since the assassination of Malcolm X, or El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, as he was known later on in his life. The story of Malcolm is remarkable and raw. He wasn’t perfect, like any of us, but he showed change and growth, and more than anything, the importance of educating yourself. He left a mark in history, amongst all the other great civil rights leaders, and is fondly remembered across the world. The BBC recently reported that he was a lesser known individual that ‘lived in the shadow of the other great men of his time’-which for me reaffirmed the white washing of his legacy, which is seen time and time again in western media. He illustrated that Muslims were at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement, not in the shadow, and that they were important in shaping the fabric of American society. But then again, can we expect anything less from the BBC?
As a disillusioned young man in his early 20s, Malcolm joined the Nation of Islam, a black nationalist movement that was founded in 1930, becoming its most charismatic spokesperson. At the time race was a hot topic in America and flourishing socio-economic inequality allowed black nationalistic movements to become attractive to the disillusioned. After being dedicated to the movement and becoming one of its most vocal well-spoken members, Malcolm began to question its beliefs in the essentialisation of race- separating blacks from whites on the basis that the Black Man was superior. Certain events within the movement also led him to question the leadership of Elijah Muhammad.
In 1964, Malcolm broke away from the Nation, publicly renouncing his membership and travelled to Saudi Arabia, on the Hajj pilgrimage. On this trip, he saw for the first time the true essence of the real Islamic faith, which encourages diversity and equality for all.
In a letter recounting his experiences to his sister, he wrote:
Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practiced by people of all colors and races here in this Ancient Holy Land, the home of Abraham, Muhammad and all the other Prophets of the Holy Scriptures. For the past week, I have been utterly speechless and spellbound by the graciousness I see displayed all around me by people of all colors.
There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blonds to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white.
(For the full letter click here).
This turn of events attracted the distaste of the Nation of Islam, and on 21st February 1965, two members of the movement shot Malcolm X, whilst he was giving a speech at an event organised by the Organization of Afro-American Unity in Manhattan. Only a week before he was killed, Malcolm X was in the UK, addressing various audiences, including those in the Oxford and Birmingham. Who would have known that the next week he would be murdered? especially just as he was in the middle of the most interesting part of his personal journey. Although he was taken away from the world, his mark lives on and the lessons we can learn from his life are immeasurable.
In honour of his legacy, below is a collection of some of our favourite quotes. Feel free to share yours too.
Until next time! x