Well, on May 19, we’ll mark what would have been the 88th birthday of Malcolm X.
Unfortunately, this year’s celebration of his extraordinary life will be tempered by the recent murder of his 28 year-old grandson Malcolm Shabazz, who was killed last week in Mexico in an apparent beating.
Terrible. Will this family’s pain cease? When will the cycle of violence that claimed Malcolm X’s father, Malcolm himself, his widow Betty, and now his grandson, ever end?
You know it’s very easy to say things like Malcolm Shabazz was a ‘troubled young man’ or that his ‘problems consumed him’ for the better part of his life.
Yes, he had a criminal record and, tragically, first gained attention as a 12-year-old after setting the fire that killed his grandmother, Betty Shabazz.
He spent much of his teen years in detention and prison and struggled with living in the massive shadow of the grandfather he never knew.
But all of this is what made his subsequent activities even more compelling… In recent years, like his grandfather a half-century before him, Malcolm Shabazz had pushed to transform his life as he began to travel the world, speak out on social injustice, and network with a number of human rights groups.
At the time of his death, he was in Mexico meeting with a representative from a human rights group. And, just like his Grandfather, he was reportedly working on an autobiography of his tumultuous life.
And there are more similarities. When Malcolm X was assassinated, the media – just like now – summed it up as merely a case of a ‘messenger of hate and violence’ being done in by the very ‘violence he promoted.’
Yet those who knew Malcolm X— like Ossie Davis, who eulogized him—spoke of a conscientious man who loved to laugh and flash his brilliant smile.
Within the past week, a number of friends of Malcolm Shabazz have said the same. Malcolm Shabazz loved to smile as well, a warm smile that reminded you of just who his grandfather was.
So let’s not commit the same mistake this time. Let’s choose to remember Malcolm Shabazz for his emerging humanity, not his troubled past.
Despite his flaws and previous crimes, like his grandfather, he appeared to be headed toward a more humane place, driven by a desire to change the world.
The tragedy is that we will never know what would have come from this young man.
My heartfelt condolences, prayers and love go out to the Shabazz family in this time of pain and remembrance.
I’ll end with this quote from Ossie Davis’ eulogy of Malcolm X 48 years ago:
“However we may have differed with him, or with each other about him and his value as a man, let his going from us serve only to bring us together.”