“We declare our right on this earth to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary”.- MALCOLM X
“I’m not going to sit at your table and watch you eat, with nothing on my plate, and call myself a diner. Sitting at the table doesn’t make you a diner, unless you eat some of what’s on that plate.”- MALCOLM X
It’s been forty nine years since the Black activist and human rights leader- Malcolm X was killed as he stepped out on the podium to give a talk in the gathering of the Organization of Afro-American unity (O.A.A.U) at the Audubon ballroom in Harlem, New York City.
Born Malcolm Little on 19th of May, 1925, the life of Malcolm X followed a similar pattern of a typical black Negro- one lived in despair, fear, hustle, frustration and servitude to the white man. Going through several transformations in his life from the ghetto Malcolm Little to the racist Malcolm X and finally, to El-Hajj Malik Shabbazz.
A skilled orator, Malcolm passionately advocated for freedom, justice and equality ‘By any means necessary’. Unlike the mainstream civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and James Farmer, Malcolm stressed the need for black Americans to arm themselves in self defense Speaking the night his house was bombed, Malcolm explained his misconstrued violent philosophy:
“I have never advocated any violence; I’ve only said that black people who are the victims of organized violence perpetrated on us by the Klan, the citizen’s council, and many other forms, we should defend ourselves. And when I say that we should defend ourselves against the violence of others, they use their press skillfully to make the world think that I’m calling on violence, period. I wouldn’t call on anybody to be violent without a cause”- (Words from the frontline, February 14, 1965).
Each time I read about the atrocities perpetrated by the Boko-Haram sect, the crusaders, the United States, NATO and the great injustices and degradation of human life under the guise of race, tribe, religion, faith and imperialism, although I am left with nothing but sadness inside of me, what gives me a ray of hope is the way and manner the 20th century Negro Clerics used their pulpit to denounce racism and embraced black pride. Our 21st century black pastors and imams hypocritically claim to be pro-masses while they rank top on the table of world richest clerics; the fight for civil rights, human rights, economic rights and voting rights were neither fought by the Negro teachers nor were they spearheaded by the doctors; on the contrary, the United States has become a home for all race today because the reverends, the pastors, the shepherds, the evangelists and the Muslim ministers sacrificed their lives leading protests, fighting battles, defying court orders and even faced water hoses and police dogs. As Malcolm puts it rightly in his April 1964 speech:
“And when we realize that Adam Clayton Powell is a Christian minister, he’s the- he heads Abyssinian Baptist church, but at the same time, he’s more famous for his political struggling. And Dr. King is a Christian minister, in Atlanta, Georgia, but he’s become more famous for being involved in a civil rights struggle. There’s another in New York, Reverend Galamison- I don’t know if you’ve heard of him out here- he’s a Christian minister from Brooklyn, but has become famous for his fight against a segregated school system in Brooklyn. Reverend Clee, right here, is a Christian minister, here in Detroit. He’s the head of ‘Freedom Now Party’. All of these are Christian ministers, but they don’t come to us as Christian ministers. They come to us as fighters in some other category. I’m a Muslim minister- the same as they are Christian ministers- I’m a Muslim minister. And I don’t believe in fighting today in any one front, but on all fronts. In fact, I’m a black nationalist freedom fighter.”- ‘The Ballot or the Bullet (Ranked 7th in the top 100 American speeches of the 20th century)’
According to Wikipedia, Malcolm X beliefs centered on the following: that the black people are the original people of the world, that the white people are devils and that the demise of the white race is imminent; but after his trip to Mecca in 1964, Malcolm X denounced the racial beliefs he upheld while in the Nation of Islam.
He wrote: “I am not a racist… In the past I permitted myself to make sweeping indictments of all white people, the entire white race, and these generalizations have caused injuries to some whites and perhaps did not deserve to hurt. Because of my spiritual enlightenment… as a result of my pilgrimage to Mecca, Arabia…I no longer subscribe to make sweeping indictments of any one race”.
Speaking at the militant labour forum, Malcolm acknowledged the immense benefit an individual can derive from travelling when he said that “travelling broadens ones scope”. His pilgrimage to Mecca and other Middle East nations and Africa exposed him to the dangers of having a limited and narrow outlook on issues. As a result of the interactions he had with African leaders such as Gamal Abdel Nasser, Jomo Kenyatta, Julius Nyere, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Kwame Nkrumah and Sekou Touré he publicly apologised for his earlier remarks stating that he was ready to work with anyone who was genuinely interested in the cause of the black Negro no matter the colour of his skin.
Although, Malcolm X had been under surveillance by what The Afro beat legend- Fela Anikulapo Kuti would later call “government chicken boys”- the FBI and CIA, he had not grown into a full-fledged thorn in the flesh of the racist America until his travels. Unlike Dr. King, every part of the earth Malcolm visited; he exposed the hypocrisy of the United States as a nation that pretends to solve the race problem all over the world but still denies the 22 million black Negroes basic rights. He wrote this from Ghana:
“I arrived in Accra yesterday from Lagos, Nigeria. The natural beauty and wealth of Nigeria and its people are indescribable. It is full of Americans and other whites who are well aware of its untapped natural resources. The same whites, who spits on the faces of blacks in America and put their police dogs upon us to keep us from ‘integrating’ with them, are seen throughout Africa, bowing, grinning and smiling in an effort to ‘integrate’ with the Africans- they want to ‘integrate into Africa’s wealth and beauty. This is ironical”.
Stressing the importance of education and the need for Negroes to control the economy of the black community, he founded the Organization of Afro-American unity aimed at bringing restoration, reorientation, education and providing economic security. He said:
“You and I build churches and let the white man build schools. You and I build churches and let the white man build up everything for himself. Then after you build the church you have to go and beg the white man for a job, and beg the white man for some education”.
Although criticized by some of his contemporaries, the passage of time had presented the whole world a great opportunity to come to realize and accept Malcolm X as an individual that stands tall among activists and martyrs. Fela, after reading the autobiography of Malcolm X said: “This book, I couldn’t put it down: The Autobiography of Malcolm X. This man was talking about the history of Africa, talking about the white man. I never read a book like that before in my life. .I said, this man is a man!’ I wanted to be like Malcolm X. I was so unhappy that this man was killed. Everything about Africa started coming back to me.”
Lee Sustar wrote that while it’s impossible to briefly summarize Malcolm X’s legacy, three elements stand out: “an uncompromising opposition to racism and imperialism, a determination to expose the façade of U.S. democracy, and a commitment to the revolutionary transformation of society”.
Malcolm X never denied his gloomy and criminal past; he neither boasted on his pimping and drugging nor castigated perpetrators after his reformation. Instead, he highlighted the dangers inherent in them by establishing facts, showing empathy and sighting himself as an example of how an individual from the lowest of the low, could turn out to be a totally reformed person.
As I join millions of people all over the world to celebrate the 49th anniversary of the transition of Malcolm X, it is imperative to point out that Malcolm’s greatness was neither his natural eloquence nor his powerfully built physique; it was neither his doggedness nor brilliance. It couldn’t have been the fact that he learnt the over 18 000 words in the dictionary; No! His rise to immortality and heroism was borne out of the fact that he never thought of himself as a Mr. ‘know it all’, he quickly adjusted and separated himself from his error and folly once identified; he apologized to everyone he felt he had offended either through his previously held racist beliefs or faulty black nationalistic philosophy. This is what I termed “The X phenomenon”: The ability and willingness of an individual or group who had previously held on to a certain doctrine or belief system to jettison them after it had been discovered that the beliefs are faulty or harmful to humanity”
If Dr. Jonathan had been conscious of the X phenomenon, he would have apologized to the 160 million Nigerians over the pardon he granted to the ex-convict- Diepreye Alamieyeseigha; had president George Bush understood the X phenomenon, he would have hid his head in shame over his inability to produce the alleged weapon of mass destruction that was stated as a basis for the invasion of Iraq.
Had Governor Babatunde Fashola reflected on the X phenomenon, he would certainly have realized the criminality and wickedness over the illegal increase in the fees of the Lagos state university.
If ASUU knew a dime about the X phenomenon, it would have occurred to them that they owe Nigerian students an apology over the fact that her members resumed after the strike to become demi-gods over the students they claimed they were fighting for.
If Chief Obasanjo had been educated on the beauty of the X phenomenon, he would have brought himself before Nigerians explaining why he left us in darkness after ruthlessly ruling us for eight democratic years; had his bloated advisers read the X phenomenon to him, he would have retired to his farm far away from us because he has failed to explain why he increased the price of petrol eight times in eight years.
Had the tribal jingoist occupying the Nigerian space knew of the humanity inherent in the X phenomenon, every single one of them would have embraced people of all tribe, culture and religion as a one big family. The X phenomenon would have taught us all that being a tribalist makes one no less a criminal than the slave masters and white supremacist of the previous centuries. It would have removed all tribal tendencies and religious bigotry in us all.
Modiu Olaguro finds “X” at the University Of Lagos.