Honoring Malcolm in the 21st Century
By Grace Lee Boggs
Special to the Michigan Citizen
Over the May 18-19 weekend, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History will celebrate the 88th birthday of Malcolm X, who was born May 19, 1925, and killed Feb. 21, 1965.
On Saturday, the film “Make it Plain” will be shown and my old friend Bill Strickland, University of Massachusetts professor, will be speaking.
Sunday afternoon, I will speak briefly about why honoring Malcolm in the 21st century has become so important.
Most people associate Malcolm with violence. But Malcolm’s unique power came not from physical weapons but from his courage and skill in speaking the truths that empower us to go beyond viewing ourselves as victims. He was always challenging us to look in the mirror and accept responsibility for our pain and suffering instead of looking for others to blame.
Thus, after the assassination of President Kennedy in November 1963, Malcolm said, “The chickens have come home to roost.”
Malcolm’s comment involved only seven words, but those seven words were dangerous because they called upon us, the American people, to recognize and take responsibility for the terrorism that people all over the world have been experiencing as a result of our government’s foreign policies.
In fact, Malcolm’s few words were so dangerous that Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad suspended him for uttering them, fearful that they would bring the wrath of the authorities down on the organization.
In the 21st century, since 9/11, we have been living in fear of terrorists, without acknowledging that (as Noam Chomsky put it recently) the United Staes is the world’s top terrorist state.
Honoring Malcolm in the 21st century is also important because it is in this century that the American Dream has died, challenging us to create a new dream. This challenge was one of Malcolm‘s most important contributions. I can still see people at his meetings squirming with discomfort as he chided us for our continuing dependence on status quo institutions instead of creating our own.
If Malcolm were alive today, I am confident he would be warning us against trying to discover Muslim connections for the Boston Marathon bombing suspects.
He would urge us instead to acknowledge that we are enjoying our comforts and conveniences at the expense of people all over the world and that the chickens have come home to roost.
If we do not listen to Malcolm and we continue to look for “others” to blame, we will be creating a nightmare for ourselves, giving up our inalienable right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness in defense of a terrorist state.
In Detroit especially, I believe Malcolm would challenge us to go beyond protesting emergency management of our local units of government and would suggest that we encourage grassroots neighborhood organizations to form a council to govern the city.
We/they are already beginning to create a new post-industrial society:
- Creating community safety by looking out for each other;
- Growing our own food;
- Using new methods of local, small-scale production (such as 3-D printing) to produce our own clothing, housing and transportation;
- Creating community-based schools to educate our children;
- Practicing restorative justice with neighborhood offenders.
Forming a council to govern ourselves is the next step!