February 22, 2003
Malcolm X, 5/19/25 - 2/21/65
When I was a young kid, in the 70s, my mother was good friends with Malcolm X's widow, Betty Shabazz. She was helping Betty write up her doctoral thesis, typing it up for her, so I spent a lot of time at Betty's house in Mount Vernon when I was little, sometimes being babysat by Malcolm's daughters(!). One of my earliest childhood memories is of sitting with them in their living room and watching Charlie's Angels. I can also remember looking up at a picture of Malcolm on the wall there, as my mom explained to me who he was, why Malcolm is a hero to her.
So Malcolm has always been a big part of my life, for as far back as I can remember, and I've always felt a very personal connection with him. He more than anyone provided the blueprint for my concepts of leadership, activism, and perhaps manhood..I admire him for so many things.. his courage, his intellectual ferocity, his power to be so concise and compelling with his words, carving his ideas into a dagger aimed straight at your head. But most of all it is Malcolm's willingness and ability to evolve that has been a constant source of inspiration.
His life was a neverending process of transforming/reinventing himself, from country boy Malcolm Little to big city hustler Detroit Red...then reborn as within the Nation of Islam as Malcolm X, and finally outgrowing the limitations of the NOI to become El Hajj Malik El Shabazz.. newly reborn once again, even in what became his final days.
Thus, Malcolm showed me that no matter where you are in life, its never too late to turn youself around, if you find the courage look inside yourself and see what needs to be changed, and the strength and determination to make it happen. And he showed me that a life well lived is a neverending journey down that path, there is never a finish line..
I had mixed feelings about Malcolm's resurgence into popular consciousness in the late 80s (thanks primarily to Public Enemy and the other rappers who followed their lead, though it culminated in Spike's film). But no doubt it was tremendously positive for him to be rediscovered that way, even if the process of rediscovery involved some homogenization and commodification.
Anyway just some random thoughts, wanted to take note of yesterday's anniversary.