By ‘little Red
In spite of the rain and wind and New York City traffic, on Sunday, November 10th, the Malcolm X Commemoration Committee packed the house at CEMOTAP to observe the 50th anniversary of the classic speech ‘Message To The Grassroots’ by the immortal Malcolm X.
Zayid Muhammad, the event’s organizer and moderator, explained from the top that “when we say it was the most seminal revolutionary Black speech of the 20th century, we mean that it is more cited and more referenced and used as an anchor of consciousness and critical thinking unlike any other.”
He went to insist that when we stop and reflect and appreciate what we were given by Malcolm here we don’t have to backtrack and apologize and defend his legacy like we had to recently with Manning Marable’s disgraceful disaster, “here we go on the offense, or as Malcolm would say ‘return fire.’”
He had to contain his own emotions talking about Malcolm saying that his legacy is “lifeline” to Black men and has been for decades as it had been for him personally and described how he stole The Autobiography in a drug transaction many years ago.
“But when I heard Malcolm’s voice for the first time, coming off of a huge high, I might add, I knew who it was and what I then had to do, and guess what, it was not only Malcolm, it was his ‘Message To The Grassroots,” he finished pointedly.
He then went on to talk about how Malcolm’s speeches anchored what became ‘the Golden Age of Hip Hop’ and how the absence of Black Radio ownership has been key in the use of Hip Hop today to stifle consciousness and that it was absolutely a key prerequisite to the end of that ‘Golden Age’.
Dequi Kioni-Sadiki, the Committee’s chairperson then lit the place up for “the political children of Malcolm X,” referring to the “young men and women who went into the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army trying to uphold what Malcolm taught in speeches like ‘Message to the Grassroots.’”
“Just as Malcolm ultimately gave his life for our struggle, for our right to defend ourselves, for our right to land and independence and for our human rights, so too did many of them,” insisted the wife of longtime political prisoner Sekou Odinga.
“We cannot call ourselves honoring Malcolm and not address the fact so many of those freedom fighters are still locked down in U.S. prisons and have been for decades now,” she finished.
Dowoti Desir, former Exec Director of the Shabazz Center, founder of the Durban Declaration Programme of Action Watch Group, Vodun priestess and PanAfricanist, turned almost every head in the room when she introduced her remarks saying “I gotta call out our Beloved Shining Black Prince on something.”
With the audience quizzically in the palm of her hands, she asked how is it that Malcolm, in what many consider his greatest speech, could cite a litany of revolutions and their heroism and not cite the Haitian Revolution.
“I want to know why he named all the revolutions of the world — all of them but failed to call on the Haitian Revolution?
“Why did he extoll the virtues of field Negros separating from the so-called ‘masters’ and never praised the greatest gathering of “field Negroes,” she pressed pointedly.
Desir then detailed how Malcolm embodied so many virtues fundamental to Vodun and how they manifested themselves in Message in spite of the Haitian Revolution omission.
The clear scene-stealer of the evening, she concluded very tongue in cheek that the beloved warrior must have had his own “secret” relationship with Vodun and was just not ready to share it.
Elder scholar-activist LaFrancis Rodgers Rose was so taken by Desir’s presentation she said that “her analysis takes us to another level in understanding global revolutions.”
Elder Professor Bill Sales, who organized the much heralded Malcolm X Speaks in the 90s conference and author of the underappreciated book ‘From Civil Rights To Black Liberation: Malcolm X And The Organization of AfroAmerican Unity, concluded the evening by presenting a dense paper that appeared to have all of the markings of the beginning of a new book.
Sales pointed out, as did Desir before him, that ‘Message To The Grassroots’ was not just Malcolm’s most famous and referenced speech, but that it was a mark of demarcation from his transforming influence of the Nation Of Islam and his outgrowth and departure from the Nation to his rapid revolutionary transition that placed him and our struggle right in the heart of all of the revolutionary struggles of the period.\
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