As the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X and his 65th birthday approached in 1990, Martin was ascendant and celebrated, and justifiably so, as a seminal leader. “But, Malcolm was not seen on par with Martin in the popular consciousness. His legacy languished on the margins of memory of a young generation of Africans in America, progressive youth/young people and much of Black America.
It was against this backdrop that a formation called the African American Progressive Action Network (AAPAN) resolved that 1990 should be declared “The Year of Malcolm X.” AAPAN created a National Malcolm X Commemoration Commission, with Dr. James Turner as Co-Chairman, to coordinate the campaign. The goal was not to denigrate Martin Luther King but to seize upon the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm and his 65th birthday to wage a campaign to elevate his profile beyond the true believers to a new generation of young activists and to remind folks of all socio-economic strata in Black America of the unique contribution of Malcolm X to the liberation of Black people in this country and the world!
Yes, to remind Black people and the world of Malcolm who was uncompromising in this criticism of and opposition to White supremacy as an ingrained aspect of the very fabric of the American nation; Malcolm who stressed Black/African history, culture and identity and linked the Black liberation movement in the U.S. to the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggles in Africa and people of color in the developing world; Malcolm, an unabashed Black Nationalist, demanding that Black people “control the politics, economics and social life” of the domestic colonies in this nation; Malcolm, the Pan-Africanist, exhorting African people the world over to unite to exercise global Black Power; Malcolm, the Muslim, who came to understand and respect the universal brotherhood of humankind without abandoning his fundamental commitment to the liberation of Black people; Malcolm, our “Black Shining Prince,” who rose up from a life of petty crime and destructive behavior to evolve into a master-teacher, brilliant organizer and one of the most feared, respected and admired African leaders of all time – a model of possibilities for every Black man or woman imprisoned in America’s “dark ghettos.”
1990 the Year of Malcolm X was not about diminishing Martin but enhancing the understanding of the life and legacy of Malcolm among the masses of Black folks, as an indispensible dimension of the prescription for the liberation of a people! The campaign was highly successful. For years, the symbol X signified young people’s identification with Malcolm. Indeed, in 2005, on the occasion of the 40th memorial of Malcolm’s assassination, another massive commemoration was held at Abyssinian Baptist Church.
The current lack of major national recognition of the 50th memorial suggests the need for yet another campaign to prevent Malcolm’s memory from being relegated to relative obscurity. It is not that programs are not being planned. As is the case every year, there will be commemorations in New York and cities across the country. In fact, I’m told that young activists/leaders are conducting an “X Speaks” online. My concern is that the various commemorations are largely among the true believers and taken together they lack the public/visible scope and scale commensurate to the occasion of the 50th memorial of the assassination of Malcolm and the year of his 90th birthday. I simply believe that Malcolm deserves better!
In that regard, the words of Dr. James Turner on the momentous evening 25 years ago must forever be the mantra of every African person devoted to the liberation of Black people – We must never forget Malcolm! Hence the utter necessity to utilize the balance of this year, particularly May 19th, his 90th birthday to once again elevate Malcolm to his rightful place in the pantheon of esteemed ancestors – one of the greatest African leaders of all time! To do otherwise would be to succumb to the machinations of a White supremacist power elite that would have the masses of our people believe that Malcolm was just a bit player in the historic, heroic, courageous struggle of Africans in America for freedom and self-determination. We cannot, must not allow this happen!
Dr. Ron Daniels is President of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century and Distinguished Lecturer at York College City University of New York. His articles and essays also appear on the IBW website www.ibw21.org and www.northstarnews.com . To send a message, arrange media interviews or speaking engagements, Dr. Daniels can be reached via email at email@example.com