Not too much fashion in this blog - but hopefully interesting to you guys nonetheless! Those of you who live in London may have heard about the biggg Malcolm X event at SOAS University two weeks ago – it was insanely packed out, with hundreds of people lining up outside, not able to get in. The chair of the event was on the Board of Directors at the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial in New York, which is sited at the Audubon Ballroom where he was assassinated. I've previously been to the Malcolm X Masjid on another New York trip on 116th street in Harlem, but as I was heading to NYC anyway a few days after the talk, I had to stop by the Memorial.
And what an experience! Standing in the spot where Malcolm X gave many of his speeches and where he last stood was pretty surreal. Malcolm X is such a big figure in both black and Islamic history, and he often doesn't get the credit he really deserves. If - at all - his legacy is taught in history classes at schools, it's normally as a contrast and comparison to the non-violent teachings of Martin Luther King - an unfair mis-focus on his true and final beliefs. But to be standing in the building where he spoke his final words was both incredibly empowering and humbling at the same time.
When we walked in, we met Paul who was working at the front desk. Once he found out we were from London, he left his post and offered to show us around. He first took us outside and showed us the ballroom from the exterior – where historical photos show the famous sign that has since been torn down. The building itself was close to being completely destroyed after Columbia University brought it, but eventually agreed to preserve part of it. Paul also showed us the park across the road, where police would normally gather every time Malcolm had a speech in the venue. Significantly, on the day of his last ever speech, there were no police to be seen. Go figure.
Inside, in the moments before his death, he stood onto the stage and greeted the crowd, there was an altercation somewhere in the crowd. While everyone's attention was caught, others took their opportunity to shoot at Malcolm.
|Historical photo of the outside of the ballroom|
|Standing in the spot where Malcolm X would give his speeches from|
I had taken a friend who works with me, and who didn’t really know much about the Malcolm X story but Paul broke it down to her - everything from his association with the Nation of Islam and what they believed in, and the part of his life where he realized the Nation leader Elijah Muhammad had been sleeping with other women and had fathered many children, and then his conversion to sunni Islam and the El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz part of his life. For anyone who hasn't yet read Malcolm X's autobiography, I urge you to - his story is simply fascinating.
|From the 'Freedom Sisters' exhibition that is currently running|
|The Malcolm X mosque - this was originally a Nation of Islam mosque where Malcolm preached, but later became a Sunni mosque|
It was an awesome experience and something a little bit different from the typical tourist spots on a NY trip... anyone ever visiting the Big Apple.. I highly recommend it. They also have an exhibition called 'Freedom Sisters' running at the moment, all about the women who made an impact on the fight for freedom from slavery. You may know about Rosa Parks, but there are other women such as Harriet Tubman who escaped slavery but then made the trip back south to free her family and then others, and C. Delores Tucker who was the first female and first black secretary of state. Slavery may not exist in the same way as it once did, but civil and human rights are still an issue in many communities and societies, and we can learn from both these women and the incredible life of Malcolm X.
Betty’s a good Muslim woman and wife. You see, Islam is the only religion that gives both husband and wife a true understanding of what love is. The Western “love” concept, you take it apart, is really lust. But love transcends just the physical. Love is disposition, behavior, attitude, thoughts, likes, dislike – these things make a beautiful woman, a beautiful wife. This is the beauty that never fades.
- Malcolm X – The Autobiography of Malcolm X