May 19, 1925, in Omaha, Nebraska, the man we would come to know as Malcolm X burst into the world.
As he evolved away from his past as Detroit Red, he transformed himself first, into a loyal protégé of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, then, into a world renowned human rights activist. He never hid behind his legend to avoid speaking of his time as a petty criminal, instead using his story to bolster the confidence of everyday men facing his same struggles. He let them know, in no uncertain terms, that they didn’t have to have a pristine past to make a difference in the present and the future.
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The seismic shift that occurred in our culture, politics and philosophy as Black Americans in the ’50′s and ’60′s will forever be linked to brother Malcolm and his strength in the face of adversity, his unwillingness to bow to the hypocrisy that he had grown to see within the Nation of Islam, and his refusal to dilute his power for a country that feared his influence.
When looking back at the often tumultuous days of Malcolm’s life, one can not help but wonder what was on his mind. As he began to separate from the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the man he credited with saving his life, as he broke ranks with the Nation of Islam, the brothers he had molded into the image of Black manhood that was deemed necessary for the separation of Black and White Americans to be successful, as his philosophy began to shift away from merging race and religion, to his belief that matters of human rights can not be confined by such a flimsy institution, as he begin to realize that he was living a lie and all White Americans were no more our enemies than all Black Americans were our friends, what was on his mind?
Many of us forget that he was only 39-years-old when he was gunned down in the Audubon Ballroom just north of Harlem, New York on February 21, 1965. In his short life he went through three pivotal transformations that culminated with the founding of Organization of Afro-America Unity and Muslim Mosque, Inc. Though the two convergent movements never gained the traction and power of the NOI, it spoke to Malcolm’s influence that he was able to step out on purpose and take people with him that were ready to die for him.