To celebrate what would have been the 93rd birthday of black nationalist and leader ElHajj Malik El-Shabazz – better known as Malcolm X – activists, comrades and relatives are coming together to salute the Civil Rights leader’s contributions to the Black community on a global level. Malcolm X’s birthday still isn’t recognized as a national holiday in the U.S., but that hasn’t stopped New York City grassroots activists from recognizing May 19 as Malcolm X Day for the past 53 years.
This morning, a caravan of vehicles gathered at the corner of 126thStreet and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, and then made their way to Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York, where Malcolm X and his beloved wife, Betty Shabazz, are buried. Malcolm X’s sister and Organization of Afro-American Unity President Ella Collins started the 53-year-old tradition.
Later in the evening, Malcolm X’s daughters Ilyasah and Malaak Shabazz are expected to take the stage and reflect on the legacy of their parents at the Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Educational and Memorial Center on Broadway, according to the Amsterdam News. Malcolm X was assassinated at age 39 on February 21, 1965, having been struck 16 times by a hail of bullets.
The King Center, the official living memorial dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr., commemorated Malcolm X’s birthday in a heartfelt tweet imploring revelers to celebrate the real icon, who, it says, was so much more than the villain the media and government tried to portray.
Today would have been #MalcolmX’s 93rd birthday. Media and government painted the picture they wanted you to see of this brilliant man. Read ‘The Autobiography of Malcolm X’ to know his true story. pic.twitter.com/W5Wbi1VRM3
During a time in our country where the political climate has been heated and racial tensions were seemingly at an all-time high, the daughters of the late civil rights leader Malcolm X were using fashion as an avenue for social activism, Black Enterprise reported.
Ilyasah Shabazz, Qubilah Shabazz, Attallah Shabazz, Gamilah Lumumba Shabazz and Malaak Shabazz have all teamed up with the tech company Hingeto to create a clothing line that pays homage to their father’s legacy. The line, dubbed Malcolm X Legacy, features items that are inspired by the activist’s twelve principles which stressed the importance of human rights, education, economic independence, cultural pride, and justice. The collection features hats, t-shirts, sweatshirts, and will soon include artwork.
Leandrew Robinson, the CEO of Hingeto, told Black Enterprise that a clothing line like this is more fitting now than ever with all of the turmoil that has been happening within our country. “It was clear Malcolm’s principles are as relevant today as ever. We all thought it was imperative to represent his message and today’s human rights movement as a brand that people can outfit themselves in daily,” said Robinson. He also added that Colin Kaepernick has cosigned the new brand and has taken to Twitter to share info about the line.
Malcolm X Legacy’s site delves into his contributions to the Civil Rights movement. “Malcolm X will be remembered for his contribution to society of underscoring the value of a truly free populace by demonstrating the great lengths to which human beings will go to secure their freedom,” read the site.
Almost 50 years ago, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, more popularly known as Malcolm X, who had risen to prominence as one of the most outspoken and public faces of the Nation of Islam, was gunned down inside the Audubon Ballroom in New York. And ever since his death Feb. 21, 1965, there has been speculation as to who had the civil rights leader murdered.
Some have argued that the government was complicit in his death; others have argued his public feud with NOI leader Elijah Muhammad may have led to his assassination. On Tuesday at 9 p.m., CNN premieres Witnessed: The Assassination of Malcolm X, a special report which asks some of those who were there when the shooting occurred—Earl Grant, former radio reporter Gene Simpson, Malcolm X’s daughter Ilyasah Shabazz and Peter Bailey, an associate of Malcolm’s—to share their memories.
“We failed him, I tried to help him,” photographer and friend Grant cries, when describing the horrifying day inside the Audubon Ballroom, and “describes the chaotic moments after the shooting.” Grant takes viewers inside his private photo collection, sharing never-before-seen images of the civil rights icon.
Zaheer Ali, who served as project manager of the Malcolm X Project at Columbia University, leads an online experience at cnn.com that delves into the unanswered questions surrounding the assassination. Bailey describes Malcolm’s plan to expose injustices against black Americans before he was gunned down, and Simpson, who was in the front row of the Audubon Ballroom when Malcolm took the stage, discusses the first time he interviewed the civil rights leader.
Ilyasah Shabazz, Malcolm X’s daughter, has written Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, $17.99, ages 6-10), a sentimental book about his early life (sensitively illustrated by A.G. Ford).
Also available for elementary school readers is Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker (Chronicle Books, $17.99, ages 7-10), Patricia Hruby Powell’s scrupulously researched, high-spirited celebration of the color-line-crossing dancer, illustrated by Christian Robinson.
Writing in jazzy, syncopated free verse, Powell, a former dancer, finds the seeds of Baker’s passion in her hardscrabble St. Louis childhood. “I didn’t have any stockings … I danced to keep warm,” Baker explains. The author detects heat too in the frustration and fury fueled by racism, which she compares to hot lava, burning deep in the dancer’s soul and released like steam “in little poofs” when she performs.
Powell’s poetic voice details not only Baker’s rise to stardom, onstage triumphs and offstage heroism but also her disappointments, excesses and her descent into homelessness before a glorious return to the stage and funeral fit for a queen.
Robinson’s richly vibrant, sensually expressive illustrations also capture the dancer’s lithe power and passion. Robinson credits the work of Paul Colin, who created the La Revue Negre posters that propelled Baker to fame in France and beyond, as his primary inspiration. But his palette also evokes Jacob Lawrence’s “Migration Series,” adding emotional weight.