Greetings <<First Name>>,
In 1941, Ella Little-Collins purchased a house at 72 Dale Street in Roxbury (Boston) for her family. Later that year her brother, Malcolm Little joined her. In 1952, after becoming a Muslim he used the name Malcolm X. The house would become a designated city landmark in 1998. Many cities have claimed Brother Malcolm as their own—Omaha, NE, at his birthplace, Lansing, MI, at his boyhood home, Roxbury, MA was where Malcolm spent his turbulent teen years and of course Harlem, NYC–a beacon of Black history and Black power. Whether by historical landmarks or nomenclature, the people take pride in their association with Brother Malcolm X because he loved us, and we feel it.
“You will never catch me with a free fifteen minutes in which I'm not studying something I feel might be able to help the black man.”
- Malcolm X
Reflecting on Malcolm X’s speech at the founding rally of the Organization of Afro-American Unity in Harlem in 1964, we are reminded of the type of organizing Minister Malcolm would have us do today. “So it was our intention to try and find out what it was our African brothers were doing to get results, so that you and I could study what they had done and perhaps gain from that study or benefit from their experiences. And my traveling over there was designed to help to find out how.” Even with his disciplined nature and unapologetic passion, he's always so human, so relatable. In this particular speech, Minister Malcolm shares an analysis on the value proposition of the Organization of African American Unity (OAAU) from the historical context of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). “So we have formed an organization known as the Organization of Afro American Unity which has the same aim and objective – to fight whoever gets in our way, to bring about the complete independence of people of African descent here in the Western Hemisphere, and first here in the United States, and bring about the freedom of these people by any means necessary” (1964, Speech at the founding rally of the Organization of Afro-American Unity). He wanted us to know where the idea came from and why from it, we can be successful. This speech came shortly after his departure from the Nation of Islam, tour of West Africa, and pilgrimage to Mecca.
Black people were fighting for freedom, equality, justice and dignity. Our beloved thinker and revolutionary, Malcolm advocated for self-defense by whatever means necessary, as Black people were being brutalized and can be brutilized, facing mass murderers, bombers, lynchers, floggers, theives, brutalizers, and exploiters by white people and police. After the Civil War, reconstruction seemed promising. But in came Jim Crow leaving many to wonder when haven’t Black people caught hell in the United States. In Message to The Grassroots (Detroit MI), Brother Malcolm acknowledged the diverse ways in which Black people are associated and the common denominator: “We catch hell because we are Black and in America that means we are already in prison”. True to form, Minister Malcolm kept his principles in command, and centered one knowing thyself and Black unity.
“What you and I need to do is learn to forget our differences. When we come together, we don’t come together as Baptists or Methodists. You don’t catch hell ’cause you’re a Baptist, and you don’t catch hell ’cause you’re a Methodist. You don’t catch hell ’cause you’re a Methodist or Baptist. You don’t catch hell because you’re a Democrat or a Republican. You don’t catch hell because you’re a Mason or an Elk. And you sure don’t catch hell ’cause you’re an American; ’cause if you was an American, you wouldn’t catch no hell. You catch hell ’cause you’re a black man. You catch hell, all of us catch hell, for the same reason.”
- Malcolm X, (Message to The Grassroots)
Minister Malcolm was undaunted and consistent, he “made it plain”. He offered historical context to the class analysis of our material conditions. Malcolm uses specific examples in the Message to The Grassroots speech, when he points out how JFK and colonial capitalists use and pay the Big 6 (Martin Luther King Jr., James Farmer, John Lewis, A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins and Whitney Young) to control the March on Washington narrative and in turn the outcome. “The greatest weapon that the colonial powers have used in the past against our people has always been divide-and-conquer. America is a colonial power. She has colonized 22 million Afro-Americans by depriving us of first-class citizenship, by depriving us of civil rights, actually by depriving us of human rights. She has not only deprived us of the right to be a citizen, she has deprived us of the right to be a human being, the right to be recognized and respected as men and women. In this country the black can be fifty years old and he is still a ‘boy’” (1964, “The Black Revolution”). With hate crimes against Black Americans on the rise and Black Americans consistently being reduced to subhuman status, as seen through the carceral system, the divide-and-conquer mindset is still very present. Brother Malcolm’s honesty didn't stop with imperialism. Malcolm spoke eloquently about the puppeteers and the Black mis-leadership class they controlled. “[America] plays one Negro leader against the other. She plays one Negro organization against the other. She makes us think we have different objectives, different goals. As soon as one Negro says something, she runs to this Negro and asks him, ‘What do you think about what he said?’ Why, anybody can see through that today--except some of the Negro leaders” (1964, “The Black Revolution”). We too can say, we have seen this first hand within our own organizational structure, as evidenced in the fissure between the Black Lives Matter Global Network and the BLM10+. There can be no revolution without accountability. It is profound.
Despite not having much ‘formal training’, Malcolm was an autodidact and advocate for education. He stated, “Our children are being criminally shortchanged in the public school system of America” (1964, Speech at the founding rally of the Organization of Afro-American Unity). This is relatable in many ways, in 2020, MA ranked among the worst states in the US for racial equality in education (Mass Live, 2020). In 1964, Malcolm said, “When we send our children to school in this country they learn nothing about us other than that we used to be cotton pickers.” (1964, Speech at the founding rally of the Organization of Afro-American Unity). Today, educators in many states, including MA, are still encouraged to “not teach anything about race after 1968” (Education Week, 2022), which sustains students' ignorance of the ways in which systemic racism affects Black people in health care, hiring, criminal justice, drug enforcement, and more. “But the textbooks tell our children nothing about the great contributions of Afro Americans to the growth and development of this country.” (1964, Speech at the founding rally of the Organization of Afro-American Unity). As organizers we study how the world around us is impacted by propaganda, oppression, colonial capital and imperialism. We are able to make the connections between the influences such as the Daughters of the Confederacy and the lazy Moynihan Report, and the codification of white supremacy which permeates all facets of the American experience. This sentiment is carried out in institutions like healthcare, education, and it determines who has access to employment, housing, fair wages, and whose lives are valued or worthy of protection. Black people don’t have agency over our futures, an Afropessimist framework Brother Malcolm gave rise to before the term existed.
“In order for the Afro-Americans to control their destiny, they must be able to control and affect the decisions which control their destiny: economic, political, and social.”
- Malcolm X (1964, Speech at the founding rally of the Organization of Afro-American Unity)
When Brother Malcolm speaks on Gloria Richardson or expresses “The most disrespected woman in America, is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.'' We hear him mirroring Black Feminist ideology. Though we don’t know where Malcolm’s political ideology would have evolved to on the topic of feminism, he was attuned to many Black women's’ socio-political realities.
“The more cops we have, the more crime we have.”
- Malcolm X (1964, Speech at the founding rally of the Organization of Afro-American Unity)
Malcolm X pointed out the motivation of the over policing of Black neighborhoods, noting that police do not prevent crime or drug addiction. Continually variations of Stop and Frisk and the No Knock Laws, both weaponized against the Black community, had just been passed. Recently, in a political ploy to appear in alignment with law enforcement amidst midterm elections, President Biden encouraged states to spend Covid-19 stimulus funds on law enforcement. Even with the acknowledgement that the 94’ crime bill was a ‘mistake’ and an apology, Biden maintained that states should “do it quickly before the summer, when crime rates typically surge.” (NYT, 2022). Malcolm knew this pro-more police stance was antithetical to safer Black communities then, which continues to be ahistorical now.
“History shows that crime data was never objective in any meaningful sense,” wrote Harvard Kennedy School Professor Khalil Gibran Muhammad. Crime statistics have historically been weaponized to justify racial profiling, brutality, and policing trgeting of Black people. Today, legislation is warped to exploit and oppress the Black community, while recent updates to the laws claim to protect Black people in interactions with the police like chokehold bans are more performative than effective (NPR, 2020). The Minister knew we have all the tools we need within our communities. And by working together we tap into them and can remedy any pitfalls we encounter.
“Afro Americans must unite and work together. We must take pride in the Afro American community, for it is our home and it is our power.”
- Malcolm X
Brother Malcolm teaches that our “greatest responsibilities are to [youth], to their families and to their communities” (1964, Speech at the founding rally of the Organization of Afro-American Unity). This is the root of our work; it's one of the many reasons we love him. Malcolm called for a cultural revolution. What does that mean today?
May 19th would have been Malcolm X’s 97th birthday.
He shared his birthday with fellow activist, Yuri Kochiyama, a Japanese-American woman who loved brother Malcolm immensely. They met in 1963, and she joined the Organization of Afro-American Unity. She was also active in the Young Lords and the Harlem Community for Self Defense. She was founder of Asian Americans for Action and sought to link the Asian American movement with the struggle for Black liberation. Her mission was to bridge and cultivate relationships, fighting for racial justice and human rights.
We would love to hear from you.
What does it mean to be a revolutionary? Malcolm advocated for Black Liberation. What does that mean today? What do we think we need to do in order to actually achieve Malcolm’s work?
Happy Malcolm X Day