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Friday, February 21, 2014

Malcolm X: Remembering the Change

(TC taking in Malcolm X Vinyl by Lobyn Hamilton)

E&S Gallery had a piece of art work of Malcolm X that sparked my attention to write this blogpost. The artist, Lobyn Hamilton, used recycled vinyl records from what I assume to be a snippet from one of Malcolm's speeches to create the  image.

As I examined the broken pieces of vinyl records that made up the image of the human rights activist, I wondered what would our nation, our culture and our views of the Muslim religion be like if Malcolm was still with us today. And as I started to do the math, I realized that nearly 50 years had passed since his assassination. 

As a matter of fact, it was 49 years ago, Feb. 21, 1965, that Malcolm X was shot to death right before he was about to address the Organization of Afro-American Unity at the Audubon Ballroom, which was located in the Washington Heights section of New York City.

Now I don't plan on getting into the specifics of who, what, when and why of Malcolm's death but I do want to take a moment to appreciate the beauty of change.

For those of you who are familiar with Malcolm's story, you know that he went through a series of changes throughout his short lifetime. He went from a zoot suit wearing hustler, recreational drug user, womanizer, free spirited, jazz loving, club hopping dancing man to a letter campaign writing man while serving the Nation of Islam. He then morphed into a well rounded humble Muslim who looked at all people from all races as humans and not as the blue eyed devil.

We all have gone through some level of change. The changes may have catapulted us onto a different journey, whether it is spiritual, educational or just personal growth. It doesn't matter what direction it may have been but we all go through change and Malcolm was definitely a perfect example of that.


(Nicki Minaj album cover)
I'm not sure if it's because Black History Month is in full swing or people realized that the 50 year anniversary of Malcolm's assassination is a year away, but Malcolm has been popping up in the news a lot lately. One story that sparked the gossip journalism world, Nicki Minaj and the way she used Malcolm's image on her album cover.

Minaj's record label, or whoever makes the decision for her album art covers, probably didn't think that the image of Malcolm holding an AK-47 was a big deal. Or maybe it was the caption that put people in an uproar – 'Lookin' Ass Ni_ _a'. Either way, Minaj and her entourage of entertainment moguls changed their mind, apologized, and changed the cover.

In my personal opinion, that decision to change was a good thing. Again, I won't go into the specifics of the who, what, when, where and why of the controversial album cover. I'll leave that up to you to research and form your own opinion. The point is, everyone has the ability to change just like Malcolm and just like Ms. Minaj.


For the past couple of weeks, I've been engrossed in Manning Marable's biography of Malcolm X – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention. I first started to read it on my Nook but decided to change over to the paperback version after having one too many incidences of a drained e-reader. I was reluctant to change from hard copies to an electronic device for my daily reads but I gave it a shot for a year or so and decided it was time to change back. I didn't even put up a fight.

The change was good because now I am able to jot down notes in the margins of the book and discuss Malcolm's transformation with my artsy friend who is also reading the book. "You know TC, I realized that I've gone through some change just like Malcolm," my friend said. How my friend changed was irrelevant to me. The fact that he realized it for himself is what intrigued me the most because not everyone embraces change positively.


WNYC Studio 360 had a great segment on Malcolm 10 days into Black History Month. American Icons: The Autobiography of Malcolm X featured Marable's biography of Malcolm X along side Alex Haley's version. I've only seen the movie that Spike Lee done, which was inspired by Haley's biography of Malcolm. I blended my memories of the movie, which I saw at least a dozen times, with Marable's rendition of Malcolm's story and I saw plenty of changes, right down to how Malcolm really wasn't such a hard ass as the movie portrayed him to be. In the end it really doesn't matter, or does it?

I will always remember Brother Malcolm as the man who changed…. How has Malcolm's story steered you to change?

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