February 21, 2017 marks the 52nd anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X by the State. This day is also institutionalized by the African People’s Socialist Party as African Martyrs’ Day, in honor of brother Malcolm X and all our brothers and sisters who have been killed by the State during the struggle for African Liberation.
Freedom Fighter. Leader. Revolutionary. There are many words used to describe our dear and departed brother El Hajj Malik El Shabazz who was known to the world as Malcolm X.
Malcolm began his life’s journey as Malcolm Little, the son of Earl Little, a Baptist minister and a Garveyite and his wife Louise in Omaha, NE.
Malcolm’s father preached a message of African liberation and was killed by white vigilantes when Malcolm was a young boy. His mother suffered from a mental breakdown after the father’s murder leading young Malcolm and his siblings to be taken by the State.
Malcolm would grow up to become a drug addict living off of colonial working class jobs as well as activities deemed illegal by the government. He was sentenced to ten years in a Massachusetts prison camp for burglary in 1946.
Malcolm transformed his life while incarcerated by way of religious conversion to Islam and joining the Nation of Islam. He was paroled in 1952 and began working as a minister and spokesperson for the Nation of Islam.
The Nation of Islam (NOI) was a group of about 500 Africans in 1952. Its only concern then was the religious aspect of black life in the U.S.
The makings of a revolutionary
Malcolm injected a political narrative that spoke to the material condition of Africans. His dynamic speeches and message of self-defense against white oppression attracted tens of thousands of members and established the NOI’s presence as a group with a political agenda.
He rejected the idea of integrating with whites as a way to end oppression and was critical of the Civil Rights Movement for promoting non-violence in the face of abuse.
Malcolm is quoted as saying “Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts a hand on you, send him to the cemetery.”
He was a master at using the press to help spread his message. Malcolm’s many television and radio appearances made him an internationally known figure and attracted the attention of the U.S. government as well.
The FBI, under the direction of J. Edgar Hoover followed Malcolm wherever he went and had undercover agents and informants within the Nation Of Islam. Malcolm eventually left the NOI on March 8, 1964 after scandals with its leader, Elijah Muhammad as well as instigation and rumor spreading by FBI’s counter-intelligence.
Malcolm went to Africa shortly after, where he met leaders like Kwame Nkrumah and Gamal Abdul Nasser. His political theory had developed to see the struggle for African liberation as an international struggle against imperialism, colonialism and capitalism.
It was during this time that he stated, “We are living in an era of revolution, and the revolt of the American Negro is part of the rebellion against the oppression and colonialism which has characterized this era.” He also said. “It is incorrect to classify the revolt of the Negro as simply a racial conflict of black against white, or as purely an American problem. Rather, we are today seeing a global rebellion of the oppressed against the oppressor, the exploited against the exploiters.”
Freedom on the agenda
Malcolm returned to New York City to form the Organization for Afro-American Unity (OAAU). Malcolm had a new perspective when it came to politics and the struggle for freedom.
He no longer mixed religious and moral teachings with his political message to Africans, instead focusing on self-determination. Malcolm was still a Muslim and led the Muslim Mosque Inc. separately from the OAAU.
Malcolm explained this by saying, “We don’t mix our religion with our politics and our economics and our social and civil activities—not any more. We become involved with anybody, anywhere, anytime and in any manner that’s designed to eliminate the evils, the political, economic and social evils that are afflicting the people in our community.”
This enabled Malcolm to engage with comrades from different religious and cultural backgrounds in the struggle to be free.
It was at this time that Malcolm began embracing the idea of socialism as a means of creating a free society for Africans.
Malcolm dealt with death threats throughout 1960s. His home was actually firebombed on February 14, 1965 while his pregnant wife and children slept. Fortunately, everyone made it out of the home safely.
It would be days later, however, that the enemies of the revolution succeeded in taking one of Africa’s most dynamic sons.
Malcolm X was assassinated in Harlem, NY’s Audubon Ballroom on February 21, 1965. He left behind his wife Betty Shabazz, who later gave birth to twins that same year and four daughters––all of whom witnessed his death.
Picking up the pieces
Malcolm X is a very significant figure in the Black Power Movement. One could almost describe him as the father of the Black Power Movement. This is because he came out with the narrative of African people being separate and free from our oppressors when we were being faced with a movement that was surrounded on integration.
Being concentrated in northern cities where there were no Jim Crow laws, Malcolm was able to see that simple integration was not the answer.
Malcolm inspired generations of Africans to declare our right to free, independent and self-determined.
It was after his death that we saw the rise of the Black Panther Party and the notion of Black Power. It was Malcolm who first told us to fight for power. It was Malcolm who told us to stand against our oppressors and not seek inclusion.
Malcolm didn’t limit revolution to the ballot box. Malcolm said it was “ballot or the bullet.” We now live in the aftermath of the defeat of the Black Power Movement. We live in the aftermath of decades of political impotence marked by charlatan leaders and opportunism.
We must look to the past for inspiration and to learn from our mistakes. However, we must be able to do like Malcolm did. We must be open to revolutionary theory and not be complacent with reactionism.
Malcolm’s politics had evolved to recognize African liberation as an international struggle. We in the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) practice African Internationalism.
The theory of African Internationalism recognizes European wealth as a result of the attack, enslavement and dispersal of Africans and our resources.
This takes our struggle far beyond discrimination and racism and focuses it on overturning the material conditions of colonialism and parasitic capitalism. Malcolm was able to see this. We are the continuation of his work along with Marcus Garvey and other African leaders who sought to unify Africans globally.
Join the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) as we continue to honor Malcolm’s legacy along our many African martyrs and heroes on African Martyrs Day this February 21, 2017.
Long live Brother Malcolm!
Long live our African Martyrs!