By’little Red’ ~
It may have fell off of the radar because it took place in Newark, and not in New York.
It deserves more attention than it has gotten for sure.
Zayid Muhammad of the New Black Panther Party and the Malcolm X Commemoration Committee gave a passionate, well-documented lecture on “his favorite subject,” Malcolm X at the Newark Public Library.
Before he did his talk, he shared his platform with local organizers on the ground in Newark right now. He introduced a young labor organizer Sharonne Wiggins, who detailed a current struggle going on at Newark Airport for the right to collective bargaining, better wages and working conditions. Muhammad rallied with those workers only several prior.
He then introduced Ingrid Hill of the People’s Organization for Progress, who told the full assembly of the Daily Peoples Protest Campaign for Jobs, Peace, Equality and Justice, a daily protest campaign protesting 26 million people out of work in this country and fiscal policies making things worse by the day for the average citizen, and how they have been rallying for over 300 days straight and will rally for 381 consecutive days in honor of the Montgomery Bus Boycott!
He did a poetic ‘call and response’ with a passionate, well-spoken teenaged poet Ayanna Fowler, who wrote a moving prose poem affirming her personal commitment to her people upon her own reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
Muhammad responded with his jaw-dropping rendition of the late Louis Reyes Rivera’s poem A Place I Never Been.
He then went into dense development of his subject.
He called the first part of his talk, Malcolm, by the books. He first placed Malcolm’s Autobiography in the literary continuum of the revolutionary slave narrative. While everyone expected the talk to center around Manning Marable’s controversial Reinvention, Muhammad said plainly that “you can not talk about that book without talking about these books.”
He then cited the importance and underappreciation of books like John Henrik Clarke’s Malcolm X: The Man And His Times, which includes the text of Malcolm taping the FBI’s approaching him to become an informant in 1964,Memories of a Meeting: Malcolm and Fidel, by Black Panther Rosemari Mealy, which captures how Malcolm’s historic meeting with Fidel Castro presented his first real challenge to Nation Of Islam doctrine and how Cuba was so grateful to Malcolm that they studied his legacy thoroughly and use it often to anchor their analyses of race in America to this day. He cited the value of other important books such as Zak Kondo’s Conspiracies:Unravelling the Assassination of Malcolm X, Karl Evanzz’ book The Judas Factor and William Sales’ book From Civil Rights To Black Liberation.
He offered a keen appreciation of the late Gil Noble and listed Noble’s documentaries on Malcolm, with a special fondness for “The Loss Of Our Warrior,” which not only captures Malcolm’s devotion and single-mindedness of purpose, it “captures Malcolm, the organizer, like no other film has to date.”
He then laced into Marable’s book.
“Manning Marable is Bruce Perry in blackface,” he charged angrily.
He then reminded the audience of how Perry, a white writer who penned the book Malcolm: A Man Who Changed Black America, to attack the cornerstones of Malcolm’s legacy, his father and his mother and his heroic manhood. It was Perry who basically sided with the state’s versions of what happened to Earl Little and Louise Little, and it was Perry who tried to turn the hustling of a gay man by Malcolm and some of his street partners into actual homosexuality.
Marable, Muhammad blasted, turns and attacks Malcolm’s sister, Ella Little, and paints a picture of her as a young petty criminal and giving his readers nothing of the ferociously independent Black woman who tried to put her family back together as much as one Black woman could after the state tore it apart, nothing of the woman who financed Malcolm’s key sojourns abroad with her own money, nothing of the woman who succeeded Malcolm as leader of the OAAU for five years, and nothing of the woman who became a real force in Black Boston in her own right.
He attacks Betty and Malcolm both, and dares asserts that they may have each stepped out of their marriage bonds. He also attacks Malcolm as a “liar” because he uncovered a story or two that Malcolm didn’t tell in The Autobiography, one about some drug induced theft of family members and the other on a failed attempt to make it on stage as a dancer, and asserts that Malcolm may have been no where near the criminal he made himself out to be. He also retreads Perry’s assertion that Malcolm may have been a closet homosexual.
Muhammad answered these charges very pointedly.
“Let us not forget that Malcolm and anybody close to him were under extensive government surveillance,” he said, “and that COINTELPRO would do anything to discredit Malcolm or anyone like him or close to him. “
“If Betty had stepped out on Malcolm, or vice versa, the government would have planted it all over the media,” he continued.
“And on that other issue, there is one sure fire place where a man’s homosexuality would surface if in no other place,” he said forcefully.
“And yall know what place that is, brothers who’ve been inside talk back to me, that place is in prison,” he said working his audience.
Malcolm’s FBI file begins with his declared unfit for the draft before he went to prison and his prison behavior, especially his writings, are well documented by government surveillance. Muhammad then asserted that if Malcolm had any gay tendencies, they would have certainly surfaced there, and that the same government who leaked out the stories of Elijah Muhammad’s affairs would absolutely have exposed that and Malcolm would have never even been given the chance to do any of the many organizing feats he accomplished.
“If any of that had any substance, do you realize we wouldn’t even be talking about Malcolm now, and history would’ve been very different,” he said to this reporter after his talk.
As for Malcolm’s street creds, Muhammad pulled out another narrative, From The Dead Level, by the late Hakim Jamal. He then read a narrative tract to the audience where Jamal recounts his first encounter with ‘the Red cat,’ how ‘Red was sharply dressed, well-armed , in possession of a “roll” and how he was in cahoots, not just with Black Boston’s underworld, but with organized crime! In that narrative, Jamal’s first hand account of meeting ‘the Red cat’ smashed Marable’s thesis that Malcolm was nowhere near the thug he portrayed himself to be, Jamal’s narrativeactually makes the case that he may have been even more “gangster” than what he actually laid out in The Autobiography.
What Marable was supposed to do was to offer a historiographical bio treatment of Malcolm’s journals, articles, essays, correspondence, speeches and interviews when he was abroad, especially his last two trips abroad, to complement The Autobiography.
“That’s what the Marable’s gig was originally supposed to be,” he said revealing his own frustration in what was ultimately produced.
Marable’s publishers gave him a “seven digit reason,” referring to the hefty payment Marable received to change gears completely and do what he ultimately did instead unfortunately.
Muhammad ended his charged talk the way often does these days.
“Brothers and Sisters, make no mistake about it. You and I are here today talking about this incorruptible, bold, brave Black man, facing some of the same problems in our time that he faced in his, and I don’t care what Manning Marable and his white masters say, because you know what, ’x’ is still the answer!”
SUBMITTED BY Zayid Muhammad