BROTHER MALCOLM: On February 21, 1965, 52 years ago today, our brother, Malcolm X lost his life. This is one of my two favorite photos of him. In this one he's pictured with the two eldest of his six daughters, Qubilah Shabazz and Attallah Shabazz (Ilyasah was one of my longtime crushes, but my heart was equally crushed when I learned that the way my faith (and I guess, my age) is setup we could never be, but that's an aside...) and the other during his trip to Mecca. I've called him "Brother Malcolm" ever since I finished reading Alex Haley's autobiography, before Spike brought it to life and before I ever understood the references and quotes in those iconic posters we all see. At a surface level glance, for many Malcolm is this "controversial" figure, who's reduced to soundbites of "By Any Means Necessary," a muse (or nightmare to many) of black militancy, or more a divisive force, than an unapologetic agent of change. After reading the autobiography, in my curiousity, I read just about everything ever written about Brother Malcolm and watched perhaps every documentary made and scoured just about every interview I could watch. I often left each piece unsettled, with sadness, motivation and more often than not, a righteous (and sometimes, not so righteous) anger. Still, no matter the work, I left with a deeper respect for Brother Malcolm's journey, mind, heart and love for his people.
If there is anything I've learned from counseling is the importance of validation in an intimate relationship. This is not to say that I'm an expert in implementing this wisdom, but it is to recognize that it's nearly impossible for someone receive you if you are unable to acknowledge and validate their experiences. Brother Malcolm acknowledged and validated the pain and suffering of black men and women in a way that made his love clear. He was a masterful verbal illustrator, who was as much accessible as he was academic, as much unapologetic as he was magnetic. Still, he was fully human and flawed which is why this picture is one of my favorites because it's him as a dedicated father.
While I do not share his faith, I will always affirm, applaud and admire his focus, his fellowship (in the Harlem community and beyond) and his fire. When many (not all) of our brothers and sisters unintentionally restricted the gospel to Sunday morning piety, preaching “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving those "poorly clothed and lacking in daily food" the things needed for the body, he represented the embodiment of "the works" (James 2:14-17) speaking to the Monday to Saturday practical realities of the people. As Baldwin so eloquently stated, he "corroborated their pain."
He couldn't speak the truth, if he didn't establish the love (Eph 4:15) and as such, he was able to deliver hard truths about morality, accountability and responsibility, without it being dismissed as fruitless respectability. He was a man in every sense of the word and his fearless life gave so many men and women inspiration. I'm that much more grateful to be a #Harlem resident because of him and that much more motivated to do my part in our collective struggle towards justice. Along our arc of freedom Malcolm symbolized a free man who was completely disinterested in mediating freedom through the (dis)comfort of the free. For that reason and so much more, he's loved. My hope is that if you do have a surface level understanding of him based on miseducation or bites, that you go and learn about our Brother Malcolm #byanymeansnecessary