I apologize for this belated, but no less heartfelt, annual tribute to Minister Malcolm X. His life exemplifies service as well as the need for us to constantly struggle for justice and equality. Clearly, Malcolm’s birthday is both celebratory and a reminder that the unity he called for, though yet to be achieved, is the cornerstone for attaining freedom and justice.
“Here, at this final hour, we come to bid farewell to one of our brightest hopes. This gallant young champion lies before us, unconquered still. Did you talk to Brother Malcolm? Did you ever have him smile at you? Did he ever actually do mean things? For if you knew him, you would know why we must honor him. We consign his mortal remains to earth, secure in the knowledge that he is a man no more, a seed which, after the winter of our discontent, will come forth again, for what he was, and is, our Black shining prince who didn’t hesitate to die because he loved us so.” —-From Ossie Davis’s eulogy of Malcolm X, Harlem, February 27, 1965
Malcolm X’s life and teachings were dedicated to improving the lives of African Americans who should continuously celebrate his unfailing conviction and commitment to them. Generally, Blacks (now, older Blacks, in particular) acknowledge Malcolm’s teachings, but too few actually internalize them or even act as though they were a significant factor in their daily lives. Given the enormous challenges Blacks face in the 21st century, we would all do well to revisit Malcolm’s teachings and incorporate them in contemporary strategies for sustainable solutions. Obviously, this is an extremely difficult task, but moral and ethical, group-oriented alternatives to current political, economic and social values require no less.
Malcolm’s perennial admonition was that, as a people, we are still significantly defined by an inability to forge sustained internal alliances, i.e., unity, and to settle for non-permanent civil rights gains and ineffective Black leadership. His credo: Forge unified Black agendas that convey clear, collective purpose and resolve.
Drastically different from today’s pervasive individualistic and materialistic values, group-oriented leadership and broad-based community involvement and commitment for change are indispensable, not only for continued progress in the near term, but for Blacks’ very survival as the protagonists for their own survival and the future of this country and beyond.
The Statement of Basic Aims and Objectives of the Organization of Afro American Unity (OAAU) June 28, 1964 sets forth Malcolm’s ideological and programmatic positions at the time of his assassination, challenging systemic barriers that continue to confront Black people. The Statement is an empowering anthem that, thus far, to our collective detriment, remains unfamiliar and unsettling to many, if not most of us.
“We, the members of the Organization of Afro American Unity, convinced that it is the inalienable right of all people to control their own destiny and conscious of the fact that freedom, equality, justice and dignity are essential objectives for the achievement of legitimate aspirations of people of African descent here in the Western Hemisphere, will endeavor to build a bridge of understanding and create the basis for Afro American unity.
Conscious of our responsibility to harness the natural and human resources of our people for their total advancement in all spheres of human endeavor, and inspired for a common determination to promote understanding among our people and cooperation in all matters pertaining to their survival and advancement, we will support their aspirations for brotherhood and solidarity in a larger unity transcending all organizational differences.
Convinced that in order to translate this determination into a dynamic force in the cause of human progress, conditions of peace and security must be established and maintained. And, determined to unify Americans of African descent in their fight for human rights and dignity, and being fully aware that this is not possible in the present atmosphere and condition of oppression, we dedicate ourselves to the building of a political, economic and social justice system for justice and peace.
We are dedicated to the unification of all people of African descent in the Western Hemisphere and to the utilization of that unity to bring into being the organizational structure that will protect Black people’s contributions to the world. And, are persuaded that the Charter of the United Nations, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Constitution of the United States and Bill of Rights are principles in which we believe, and these documents, if put into practice, represent the essence of mankind’s hopes and good intentions.
Resolved: To reinforce the common bond of purpose of our people by submerging all of our differences and establishing a non-religious and non-sectarian program for human rights.
Establishment: The Organization of African American Unity shall include all people of African descent in the Western Hemisphere, as well as our brothers and sisters on the African continent (and in the diaspora).
Education: Education is the means to increase self-respect and a passport to the future. Our children are criminally shortchanged in America’s public schools.
Politics and Economics: Afro-Americans must be able to control and affect decisions that determine their own destiny-economic, political and social.”
The most daunting challenge of all, however, is for African Americans to heed Brother Malcolm’s fervent call for unity, indispensable for sustaining progress and ultimately achieving long denied justice and equality we so richly deserve.
Larry Aubry can be contacted at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org