The Legacy of Malcolm X
During his lifetime, Malcolm X was a son, brother, street hustler, drug addict, Muslim, husband, father and one of the most well known, talked about, beloved as well as hated, controversial leaders of the 20th Century.
Assessing the impact of his activism and his influence, within the United States and around the world, is not without controversy. A summation of his life’s work, condensing all he came to accomplish and all the lives and societal circumstances he helped to shape, will not be reconciled in a way that would satisfy all whose lives have been transformed by his actions and his words.
In his earliest speeches as the fiery orator and minister for the Nation of Islam, which first propelled him into national and international recognition, he condemned the actions of America and its treatment of the so called Negro (Black people).
After his forced break with the Nation of Islam, he denounced the articulated belief system espoused by his former mentor Elijah Muhammad, denouncing the organization’s exclusionary vision of Islam, he expanded his worldview, understanding that racial oppression is a symptom of societal decay, with even greater implications when applied as a political and economic tool of oppression around the world.
The last speeches Malcolm X delivered before his assassination 45 years ago on February 21, 1965 exhibited his travel onto an evolutionary, revolutionary path of understanding, with his organization, the Organization of Afro American Unity (OAAU) being formed to take specific action and address the struggle and oppression of Americans of African descent, linking the struggle of the descendants of the kidnapped and enslaved Africans, brought to the New World, to the struggles and oppression of the peoples of the world, beginning by developing ties with those residing in the ancestral homeland on the continent of Africa.
An excerpt from a speech by Malcolm X at the founding meeting of the Organization of Afro American Unity (OAAU), delivered in June 1964 at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, New York, 8 months before his assassination:
The Organization of Afro American Unity, organized and structured by a cross section of the Afro American people living in the United States of America, has been patterned after the letter and spirit of the Organization of African Unity which was established at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in May of 1963 …
The Organization of Afro American Unity shall include all people of African descent in the Western Hemisphere, as well as our brothers and sisters on the African continent." Which means anyone of African descent, with African blood, can become a member of the Organization of Afro American Unity, and also any one of our brothers and sisters from the African continent. Because not only it is an organization of Afro American unity meaning that we are trying to unite our people in the West, but it's an organization of Afro American unity in the sense that we want to unite all of our people who are in North America, South America, and Central America with our people on the African continent. We must unite together in order to go forward together. Africa will not go forward any faster than we will and we will not go forward any faster than Africa will. We have one destiny and we've had one past.
Ultimately, the continuing process of marking the passage of time will dictate the full magnitude of the impact of the life and message of El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, more commonly known as Malcolm X.
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Arlington, Virginia, United States