DAR Legends: Malcolm X

By @TrueGodImmortal 

There are two things that stick out to me when I think about Malcolm X: his powerful message and his legacy. Never one to shy away from the spotlight or lose his honesty, the man born Malcolm Little would become revered for his no-nonsense attitude, his knack for public speaking, and his true coming of age story that made him a legend. My first introduction to Malcolm was the same as many of those in my generation, as I was taught little pieces of information about him in my household right around the time the Africa medallions, hats, shirts and Malcolm merchandise began taking off.

As a kid, I saw photos of Martin Luther King, Malcolm, and a number of the Black Panthers, and became captivated by the fact that these were monumental people within our culture. Once I got into school, I would learn more bits and pieces about Malcolm, and I would finally see his biopic about a year or so after it was released (thank you Blockbuster video). When I watched his biopic, I was too young to grasp the power behind leading a sea of black people to a police station in a single line or having the power to make law enforcement nervous just off mere presence. These were all things that Young True wasn't fully aware of at the time, but as I progressed, Malcolm became more important in my eyes and his legacy became that much more vital to our history as a people. His story is one that's of humble beginnings, like many of us, but what made him an extraordinary person was his will. Who would have ever thought that a young guy born in  Nebraska would become one of the most infamous people in history?

Born on May 19, 1925 in Ohama, Malcolm Little would not have a traditional childhood. The fourth of seven children to his parents Louise and Earl, his family would end up relocating multiple times over the years due to white violence, racism, and the issues they faced in various areas. Add that to the fact that Malcolm's father was a huge follower of Marcus Garvey, and a black nationalist himself, and you have a slight recipe for problems wherever you are surrounded by bigotry. Unfortunately, during that time, bigotry and racism followed you every place you went. At the age of six, Malcolm would lose his father, who was seen as the backbone of the family, and while many have attempted to call his father's death an accident, many believe the racist white group Black Legion was responsible for his death. It is not far fetched to assume this, considering the assumptions that the Black Legion had burned down the Little family home years prior. All of these things would have a large effect on Malcolm and his family, but perhaps nothing was tougher than seeing his mother begin to fall apart.

Years after his father's death, Malcolm's mother began seeing a man and eventually got pregnant. Shortly after she got pregnant, that man left her. After this, Malcolm's mother was committed into a hospital following a nervous breakdown. She would remain there for some years. The circumstances for Malcolm got worse as time went on, as he ended up in foster homes and separated from his brothers and sisters. While many people come from foster homes or are separated from their families, the reality of what Malcolm would have to deal with is much more grim, as not only was his father murdered, but his mother was taken away from him, and his family. He would flourish somewhat under the care of his half sister Ella, living in a mostly black neighborhood out in Boston. Before that however, Malcolm would have a dream of studying law, and expressed this to one of his teachers, who just so happened to be white. The teacher expressed that Malcolm try other career choices because that particular career wasn't fit for people of his type (the teacher said it in different terms). That statement from the teacher would fuel Malcolm going forward, sometimes in the worst way.

Jumping from state to state, Malcolm began dabbling in some things that he probably shouldn't. For those of us familiar with Malcolm, the Detroit Red phase of his life always seems a bit hazy in the way it's recalled, especially when it's hinted at the things he did to earn money. There's no definite answer or way to know everything he did for money, but the list was long and got longer once he made it to the mecca, Harlem. Harlem was bristling with black nightlife, black business, and the underworld as always. Malcolm would try his hand at gambling, racketeering, drug dealing and a number of other illegal activities throughout the states before it finally caught up to him in the worst way in 1946. At the age of 21, Malcolm was arrested and sentenced to serve eight to ten years in federal prison. While for many, prison is a dead end and a life stopper, for Malcolm, it would become a lifesaver for him in some ways.

Prison is where Malcolm converted to Islam and became a follower of Elijah Muhammad. Now, I can't speak too much on my personal opinion of the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, but I will say Malcolm was the perfect spokesman to really bring people in for this mission once he got out of prison. While in prison, Malcolm began making waves by becoming a voice inside the prison and even making the FBI watch list based on a letter he sent that labeled himself a communist and expressed being against the Korean War. As risky as the moves are that Malcolm would make, he would be unwavering in his position, preferring to go right at systematic racism, a lost group of our people, and converting more people to follow the world of Elijah Muhammad.

After his parole in 1952, he went full throttle for Islam, establishing mosques and temples through the East Coast and Midwest. He would be seen as a supreme speaker and one of the most vital pieces to the Nation of Islam, and soon he began taking more outside speaking engagements. This would leaf to even more attention placed on Malcolm from the FBI, as they were hellbent on keeping an eye on anyone they felt posed a "threat". God forbid black people began unifying under a set of disciplines and plans and have a voice for that, right? Regardless, Malcolm began making waves and would be monitored closely. The only shock within that is that those monitoring him weren't limited to just the FBI or the government. His own Islam brothers were watching his moves and feeling envy towards his ascension to power within the movement and religion. Malcolm had spent years consistently devoted to the religion and very little was directed to himself or a concern for his own life. That would soon change in a major way and possibly affected his relationship with the movement in a way.

When he met Betty Sanders, no one would have known that they would eventually go on to have a sizable family, get married, and be in love. Though at times, Malcolm has been said to have neglected Betty and the family for the movement, he kept them all in mind and as the 60s began, we would see a shift in many things and that directly would affect his family. However, before the inevitable would happen, Malcolm would have moments of brilliance within the Nation of Islam movement. The Hinton Johnson incident is probably the biggest one of them all, as it was the moment we saw how powerful Malcolm could be. It was also probably the cause of his downfall within the Nation, for better or worse, because the power exhibited for one man is too much for the masses to handle. The nerve of a black man to be able to move people with just one hand or one gesture, who does he think he is? That would soon fuel the jealousy and the dissent within his circle in Islam, but his prominence continued to rise.

He was featured everywhere it seemed, gaining national traction for his speaking and being invited to very prominent meetings. He even met and became cordial with Fidel Castro at the United Nations General Assembly, something that you wouldn't expect to happen. However, he began to rub people the wrong way at one point, with his Islam beliefs and aggressive nature slowly rubbing Civil Rights and Black Leaders the wrong way. His criticism of Martin Luther King as a chump and soft, along with his disagreement on the March on Washington, and his denouncing of the civil rights movement in general seemed to create a black backlash. At the same time, Malcolm was building friendships with names like Sam Cooke, Muhammad Ali, and a number of other black names that were important to culture. It was telling and interesting. Malcolm was loved by so many black people who shared his beliefs or understood them, but hated by those who didn't seem to understand his message or those he attacked in the name of Islam.

Malcolm would be a mentor to many people, including Elijah Muhammad's son, who didn't necessarily agree with his father and his way of doing things, but looked up to Malcolm. Malcolm would also mentor Louis Farrakhan, a man who play a strange role in his demise in later years, something that still bothers me to this day. Around 1961-1962, Malcolm began feeling as if he was losing his way in the Nation due to egos, fighting, and a lot of hypocrisy within the movement. Elijah Muhammad would face a number of accusations and as a free thinker, Malcolm would begin to question all he heard and dig deeper for information himself. Malcolm would begin speaking on his own merit and earned a lot of negative press from the Nation and would soon be removed from the movement, causing a huge domino effect. A 90 day suspension from public speaking within the movement eventually led to his departure and by the time he left, Malcolm would change opinions about him for many. He was now a media favorite and seen as a threat to many in regards to the progress that Malcolm had helped the Nation gain.

After leaving the Nation, Malcolm would take meetings with men he criticized before like Martin Luther King, and he would end up on a spiritual trip to Mecca and seemingly come back refreshed and ready to make change in the world over as a Muslim, and a black man who had gained love for all in the world. No longer was he promoting what some perceived as "hate", he was now delivering his message and allowing himself to grow within it. One speech from Malcolm that has always seemed to stick out for me is the infamous "The Ballot Or The Bullet", in which he urged voting but also awareness on what that vote means and the illusion given to the American people over the process. He would then continue to travel aboard and earn more acclaim and appreciation from the world for his views and his growth.

However, when he came back from traveling the world, it seemed as if the threat of Malcolm was too much for the Nation to handle. He was a free thinker, spreading his message and that directly went against what the Nation wanted. They wanted him silent and to lose his power. Malcolm refused to do so. And rightfully so. Malcolm was his own man. He was a leader. He didn't need to defer or follow Elijah Muhammad in order to make a difference. Knowing this well, the Nation decided to execute a plan to take Malcolm out and as well all know, they were successful unfortunately. The Nation spent a year threatening him before execution their plan to assassinate him, and I won't get into the assassination, but I will speak clearly and honestly when I say that it showed how weak the Nation was without Malcolm and how they saw themselves being threatened by one powerful man. Malcolm was so powerful on his own accord that the Nation needed him to not be around in order to still be able to maintain power. What does that say when one man can make a group of thousands feel so threatened? It means Malcolm might have been the most powerful man in America at that time.

His funeral was full of admirers and people that appreciated what he gave to the culture and his brilliance. The fallout from his death saw many in the world recognize him as a powerful force and the release of his autobiography, a book I consider the greatest book ever written. There's so much to be said about Malcolm and because this will not be the last time we speak of Malcolm, I wanted to just keep it brief for Black History Month and show this legend some love. This year will mark 52 years since his assassination, and his memory still lives on for many of us. He is a legend, a leader, and one of the most infamous names in black history. His legacy is forever solidified. We miss you Malcolm.



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