A funny thing happened while on the way to a press conference officially condemning the release of an assassin of Malcolm X from the NY state prison system, Zayid Muhammad, the press officer for the Malcolm X Commemoration Committee, got one of the most polite phone calls he had ever received.
The call came from of all places the NY State Parole Board.
“We had already made our condemnation known to the governor. We sounded the drum for the community to do the same. I guess somebody picked up the phone,” he assessed.
The phone call was an apology and an explanation of sorts. The official placing the call, Lester Edwards, the Secretary to the Parole Board, insisted that they did not know who to contact in Malcolm’s family and explained that the Victims Impact Statement is an important part of one’s parole consideration and that it wasn’t too late for survivors of Malcolm’ s family to become ‘registered victims.’
“We just didn’t know who to call,” Edwards said.
“It was a timely, but creepy call,” Muhammad went on to explain.
First, Malcolm had a large family and has survivors on both sides of his family. Two of his six daughters, Ilyasah and Malaak, are on the Board of Directors of the Shabazz Center, (established by the late Dr. Betty Shabazz). The Shabazz Center, the former Audubon Ballroom where Malcolm was ultimately assassinated, is now an important link to Columbia University. Ilyasah, as author of her own coming of age memoir, Growing Up X, is an accomplished writer in her own right and is an official for the city of Mt Vernon.
“Which is still in the state of New York,” quipped Muhammad angrily.
Attallah Shabazz, his oldest daughter, is doing serious diplomatic work, and Ronnell Collins, his nephew by his big sister Ella Little-Collins, did an excellent book, The Seventh Child, on his famous uncle’s family history.
“They all have established, sound public lives. To say that they did not know of anybody is absolutely unacceptable,” Muhammad finished.
On March 3rd, that Parole Board granted Talmadge Hayer, also known as Thomas Hagen, parole and scheduled April 28th to be his release date.
Hayer was convicted of taking part in Malcolm’s assassination in 1966. At his trial, he tried to exonerate his two codefendents Norman Butler and Thomas Johnson who would also be convicted. In 1978, Hayer detailed his role in the assassination and named his accomplices, seeking to further come to terms with what he had done and to again exonerate his codefendants.
The state did nothing to follow up on where that confession would lead them. They did grant Butler and Johnson parole some years later. Hayer had been granted work release shortly thereafter and was in such good standing that he had been able to visit his family several days a week for years.
Although he had come up for parole more than a dozen times, this time the Parole Board said yes, but did so without the proper notification of the family so they can be rightly heard on the issue, and with no regard to the “magnitude of the crime,” he explained angrily.
“How dare they cheapen his life like that and disrespect our people like that!”
Reggie Mabry of the Sons of Afrika said that “releasing an assassin of Malcolm X quietly without collecting the Victim Impact Statements from the famous family of Malcolm X because they say they can't find the family shows again that the system is and was complicit in the assassination of Brother Malcolm.
“It also shows that process and use of Victim Impact Statements is fraudulent,” he finished angrily.
Elder Sid Wilson of the Int’l Friends and Family of Dr. Mutulu Shakur, a wrongly held political prisoner from New York for the last 24 years, pointed out the hypocrisy of the process.
“The Parole Board leaves us to conclude that it routinely punishes political prisoners and rewards assassin of freedom fighters, even as revered as Malcolm X.”
“It ain’t going down like that,” said James Small, an advisor to both sides of the family, bottomlining the issue.
Small, a surviving member of the Malcolm’s Organization of Afro American Unity, also said that the family has since been informed and will be calling to be heard.
”Do we realize that if it had not been for the late Reuben Francis, one of Malcolm’s soldiers, (the only one armed on that fateful February 21st day in 1965) who wounded Hayer on the scene, all five of Malcolm’s hitters would have gotten away scot-free, and we would know nothing else about it,” Muhammad insisted.
The family has to become ‘registered victims’ before April 28th in order to keep Hayer from “walking” away from one of the greatest crimes against the AfricanAmerican community.
Submitted by Zayid Muhammad - firstname.lastname@example.org