Today, February 21st, is the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X. He had an impact on my life in a way that is inexplicable but very real. When I was in university and Spike Lee created the film with Denzel Washington as Malcolm X, I had a wall of my res room covered with pictures. The hype around the film made it easier to collect everything Malcolm X. I was able to acquire books with all of his speeches, even the script for the film. I had medallions, t-shirts and even a duffel bag. Last year, I was asked by a magazine to write about a book that changed my life and what I wrote is below. Thought I’d post it as my little tribute to a great man: El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz
“Brought up by an academic, I grew up in a house full of books and was always drawn to them. This exposed me to a range of books and has influenced my diverse reading since. As a child, I was inexplicably drawn to the inner workings of both the fight for civil liberties for blacks in America and in South Africa. It probably stemmed from being brought up with the pan-african ideology – particularly in terms of Kwame Nkrumah’s vision for Africa – and, in high school, I wrote a mini-thesis on Writers in Times of Oppression, drawing from both South African and American writers.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X In collaboration with Alex Haley – I first read The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which went on to become a film by Spike Lee, at about 11 years old and have since read it countless times. The story of one man, battling his demons, falling to the bottom of the trough and then pulling himself back from the brink of evil decadence to become one of the most recognised black American leaders somehow resonated with my young mind.
The lessons of his life and the wisdom he so willingly shared served as a model for my perspective, thinking and how I try to live my life. He made mistakes, but was always willing to acknowledge these and make up for them. There are ideas that he shared that I may not agree with, but he also gave the tools to digest and discern. His life serves as a model for any human being who seeks to contribute meaningfully to our evolution as a species, and truly changed my life.”