I was on stage, or at least, in front of an audience, for the first time in a while, last week.
At least, I performed my poetry in front of an audience - not on an actual, raised stage, but with a microphone, and since it was a hipster venue, a table with swings for seats behind me, which doubled as a poet’s high chair.
Running errands in most government buildings is a nightmare. Not only is the service poor, but most of these state-owned buildings are badly maintained, dark, and dirty. It is no wonder many of the people working in such a negative climate are uncommitted, rude, or uncaring.
Ask women what their greatest fear is today. Most women who are critical thinkers will tell you their greatest fear is being a woman in a male-dominated society. Whether at work on in social, legal, cultural or family situations, being a woman makes us vulnerable.
I am less concerned with arrests of suspects and more concerned convictions of criminals. It always fascinates me how many people are satisfied with statistics on arrests as if that is the Holy Grail for ending crime. It isn’t. Namibia has a system that claims people are innocent until proven guilty. Therefore, a crime is not ‘solved’ by an arrest, but only by a conviction.
El-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, Malcolm X, was assassinated 55 years ago on February 21, 1965. Last week, I watched a documentary series on Netflix called: Who killed Malcolm X? I was riveted by the re-telling of the story and the new information presented. But, I was also angered by how little has been done over five decades to find all of his killers.
Malcolm X was speaking at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem on February 21, 1965. Two men faked an altercation at the back of the room to draw attention. Then, three men with guns stood up and shot the Black Nationalist leader 15 times at close range.
He was murdered in front of an audience of over 400 people including his wife and his four young children (his wife, Betty Shabazz, was pregnant for twins at the time). Three men went to jail for the crime, but the documentary offers believable proof that only one of those convicted actually did the deed.
This information is not new. It was an open secret in the FBI, New York City Police, the Harlem community and in the New Jersey Mosque that dispatched the assassins, that two of the men convicted were not guilty. The cover-up and mishandling of the investigation was a purposeful slap in the face of justice, black America and the family of Malcolm X.
This riveting and influential leader was a lightning rod of truth about the unjust and inhumane treatment of black people. His name and face and words were known worldwide. He was both adamantly praised and scathingly reviled. He did not agree that black people should be non-violent and sing church songs when they are being beaten by police, attacked by dogs and battered by water cannons. He believed that blacks must defend themselves by any means necessary. Malcolm X scared the hell out of white folks.
The documentary details how five black Muslims from a mosque in Newark, New Jersey who hated Malcolm, assassinated him. There is credible evidence that the police and FBI knew of the threat and did nothing. They were cheering the in-fighting and weakening of Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam (NOI). After the assassination, they allowed four of the murderers to escape justice.
The informative film demands the re-opening of Malcolm’s case and the exoneration of the two men who were wrongly convicted of murder.
The high number of black FBI informants and undercover police and agents deployed against Malcolm and the NOI saddens and embarrasses me. The FBI and police could never have damaged Malcolm X or the NOI without the help of black people willing to sell each other for 30 pieces of silver. I could say that such informants were the result of black self-hatred engendered by centuries of slavery, segregation and racist oppression. But, that would take the black community of that time, completely off the hook. Brothas’ and sistas' need to own that betrayal and use it as a lesson for the future.
One Malcolm X murder suspect that was identified, died before he could be interviewed for the film. Evidence presented in this documentary points a cold, solid finger, directly at him as the man who fired a shot gun blast that claimed Malcolm’s life.
I noted with interest that no current members of either the Nation of Islam or the American Muslim Movement (ironically, the two groups split the NOI after the death of The Honourable Elijah Muhammad, long time NOI leader, in 1976), were interviewed. There is no mention of The Honourable Minister Louis Farrakhan (86 years old now), the current leader of the NOI. In a photo from the mid-1960s used in the documentary, a young Farrakhan is on a stage as a part of the inner circle of Elijah Muhammad that condemned Malcolm X.
As a world-famous black man in the racially-charged 1960’s, Malcom X used his platform to expose and condemn apartheid and colonialism. He made high profile visits to newly independent nations in Africa. He gave constant media interviews condemning injustice against blacks. The late Theo-Ben Gurirab and the late Hidipo Hamutenya representing Swapo at the time, both met Malcolm X in Philadelphia at a rally in late 1964. They had plans to meet up again in Harlem in ’65, but Malcolm was killed before the meeting could happen. He met with many liberation movement leaders of that time. His words inspired the soon-to-be leaders of African countries. He sought African and world support for United Nations condemnation of racism in America.
The great actor, Ossie Davis, Jr. delivered Malcolm’s eulogy. He said, “This Afro-American who lies before us is unconquered. Malcolm was our living black manhood! And, in honouring him, we honour the best in ourselves.” (www.malcolmx.com/eulogy)
Forgetting history is the way things tend to go. Priorities change; people grow old and die. Stories are lost. Things that should stand as life lessons for all people float away on the winds of change. This documentary, therefore, is timely.
For more information, read The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965) written by Malcolm X with Alex Haley. And read Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention (2011) by Manning Marable. Also, see Malcolm X (1992) and listen to his speech: The Ballot or the Bullet (April 1964).