I remember being 15 years old. When I think of high school, sure I think of my friends, prom, all that good stuff. But I clearly remember this feeling of anger, resentment, and confusion, that as I came of age, my people, and those who look like me, were the newest targets of racial bigotry and discrimination.
Enter Malcolm X. Our shining black prince. My 10th grade AP English teacher, Mr. Tovar, had us read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. The book was thick, with an outdated cover. But for that next week, I could not put it down. It felt like the final coming of Christ to me.
This is how serious his legacy was in my head. I had a completely revitalized and new understanding of the world. Everything shifted. What I couldn’t find through Gandhi or MLK, I found in Malcolm. His unapologetic rhetoric, his words that would bury you into the ground, his observations that screamed what so many of us are thinking. I was enamored. I never loved being an Afghan more. I never loved being a Muslim more.
Watching Denzel Washington tell his story on the big screen added to this fervor. I had a newfound love for not only political activism, but Islam.
Because Malcolm did not live a clean cut life. He grew up on the streets, sold drugs, appropriated himself, and finally landed in jail. Upon release, he held a militaristic view of the world, and a deep resentment and hate for the white man, calling for black nationalism and violence against whites as he represented the militant Nation of Islam. But after his pilgrimage to Mecca, he came back with a new message for the world: THE UMMAH IS ONE.
It was in this raw, honest story-telling, in his desire and open-nature in sharing his experiences, that I fell in love. Malcolm is just like any of us. Malcolm today, would have understood what Afghans go through, what Palestinians go through, and most importantly, the genocide his community is currently facing, as they scream, pleading with the white apparatus: BLACK LIVES MATTER.
Inna Lilahi wa Inna Ilayhi Rajiun. Although he is gone, I thank Allah SWT we have a Muslim, Black, AMERICAN leader to look up to in times of calamity. Whose words still resonate so loudly today. Who always greeted his brother with “As-Salaam-Alaykum“. Who told us that no one can be at this peace unless he has his freedom. Who was unafraid to own his history, and call out the hypocrisy of the nation his ancestors toiled and died in.
Brother Malcolm is not celebrated in our history books. Brother Malcolm was hated by the U.S. government. He doesn’t have an “I have a dream” speech, or a federal holiday, or even a reference by any major American politician. Because he was not afraid to point his finger and say: “Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it.“
Below is his eulogy, and some of my favorite quotes of his. For my friends who have never read his works, I urge you to. I hope it awakens the same revolutionary fervor in your hearts, as it has mine.
“A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.”
“Don’t be in a hurry to condemn because he doesn’t do what you do or think as you think or as fast. There was a time when you didn’t know what you know today.”
“We are nonviolent with people who are nonviolent with us.”
“Stumbling is not falling.”
“There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance next time.”
“We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock landed on us.”
“I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those that do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation.”
“I feel like a man who has been asleep somewhat and under someone else’s control. I feel that what I’m thinking and saying is now for myself. Before it was for and by the guidance of Elijah Muhammad. Now I think with my own mind, sir!”
“It is a time for martyrs now, and if I am to be one, it will be for the cause of brotherhood. That’s the only thing that can save this country.” — February 19, 1965 (2 days before he was murdered by Nation of Islam followers)
“You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.”