Detroit was important to Malcolm X’s past
Malcolm’s message important to Detroit today
By Steve Furay
Special to the Michigan Citizen
A deeper look at the life of one of the 20th century’s most celebrated Black leaders will be available to metro Detroiters May 18. The Black Scroll Network History and Tours presents Beyond Detroit Red: The Detroit History of Malcolm X Bus Tour. The ride around the city will be a unique opportunity for participants to relate their own history in Detroit with the life of a man who broke ground for liberation throughout the world.
“Malcolm X, the significance for African American people, particularly African American people in Detroit, is tremendous,” says Jamon Jordan, a historian and founder of the Black Scroll Network History and Tours. “I found that a lot of people, when they discuss Malcolm X, they tend to leave out, some of his most significant actions and speeches took place right here in Detroit. Detroit has a powerful imprint on the legacy of Malcolm X that a lot of people don’t know about.”
Among the stops on the tour will be King Solomon Baptist Church, where Malcolm X delivered two of his most famous speeches, “Message to the Grassroots” and “Ballot or the Bullet.” As tour guide, Jordan will provide insight into the significance of the human rights activist’s appearances to the history of Detroit.
“What’s the Detroit connection of why he gave those speeches (there)?” he says. “And that part of the history is what I really want to make sure I bring out in my tour.”
Detroit is well known as the city where the Nation of Islam was founded, and Malcolm X served as the organization’s most visible minister for several years before leaving.
The Motor City is also where his wife, Betty Shabazz, was born as Betty Dean Sanders in 1934. She attended Northern High School and the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and her family was deeply rooted in the Black Bottom and Paradise Valley areas of the city.
Jordan notes how deeply connected the issues that concerned Malcolm X in his day are still relevant today, including the process of gentrification.
“Malcolm asked in his Message to the Grassroots, ‘is Hastings Street still here?’” says Jordan. “He was talking about the fact Black people in the neighborhood had begun to stand up against racism, and he gave them a street that would be familiar to most Black people.
“Well by the time he gives that speech, the demolishing of Hastings Street and the removal of that main artery to Black Bottom and Paradise Valley had already begun to build what is now the Chrysler Freeway and Lafayette Park. So even at that time this idea of taking over spaces that were vital to the lives and livelihood of Black people had already begun.”
Guiding people through the history to educate and help empower them is the main goal of the Detroit History of Malcolm X Bus Tour, Jordan says.
“Maybe a trip connecting the history of these places with Malcolm X and connecting the teaching of Malcolm X to our present day condition may help people to understand how all of what we’re going through is connected to our history,” he says.
Tickets for the Detroit History of Malcolm X Bus Tour are $45, and are available by calling Jamon Jordan at 313.983.9216 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.