“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 birthday is May 19th and for those who understand and appreciate his incomparable gift of strength, courage, and commitment to Black people, especially, the entire month of May, (indeed, all year) is a time for reflecting on his contribution to his people.
Malcolm X’s life and teachings were dedicated to improving the lives of African Americans and we should continuously celebrate his unfailing conviction and commitment to his people. Generally, Blacks, (older Blacks, in particular), acknowledge Malcolm’s teachings but too few, of any age, have internalized his principles or act as though they are a significant part of their daily lives. However, given the enormous challenges Blacks face in the 21st century, we would all do well to revisit Malcolm’s teachings. And we must consciously incorporate them into contemporary strategies for sustainable solutions to systemic racism that continues to poison Black lives. Clearly, this is an immensely difficult challenge, but sound, group-oriented, (not individualistic and/or materialistic ), alternatives to the political and economic status quo 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 (unity) and tend 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, i.e., fundamental unity with diversity.
Drastically different group-centered leadership and broad-based community involvement and commitment for change are needed, not only for continued progress in the near term, but for Blacks’ very survival as the key players in their own future and the future of this nation.
The Statement of Basic Aims and Objectives of the Organization of Afro American Unity, June 28, 1964, (excerpts follow) 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, to our collective detriment, remains largely unfamiliar and/or unsettling to most Black people.
“We, the members of the 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 by 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 difference
We are 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 the 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 system for justice and peace.
We are dedicated to the unification of all people of African American 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 (actually) 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 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.
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 destiny—economic, political and social.”
Arguably, Malcolm’s hardest challenge is for people of African descent in the Western Hemisphere to truly understand and heed his constant call for internal unity that is foundational for their sustainable strength, determination and forward progress.