Malcolm X’s Daughter Ilyasah Shabazz Talks Black Power in South Bend

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SOUTH BEND — Ilyasah Shabazz, the daughter of slain civil rights activist Malcolm X, on Thursday urged an audience of human rights defenders and local community leaders to ensure young people learn their full and accurate story.

She spoke from experience. Shabazz was 2 years old when she and her family witnessed their father’s assassination in New York in 1965.

“Our pregnant mother placed her body on top of me and my sisters to protect us from gunfire,” she said at an awards dinner Thursday at the Century Center as part of the annual training conference. of the Indiana Consortium of State and Local Human Rights Agencies.

The conference, Nov. 1-4, saw about 100 people register from across Indiana under the theme “Understanding and Addressing Human Rights and Civil Unrest.”

Shabazz said her mother – Betty Shabazz – protected her six daughters from inaccurate portrayals of Malcolm X. Ilyasah Shabazz wouldn’t learn until he was in college the realities of his life and what made him, like her. said, an “icon”. She read his autobiography and began to study his life.

“My mother never gave in to bitterness and despair, Shabazz said. “She never accepted defeat for herself. … If my mother had a victim complex, I wouldn’t be in front of you today.

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Shabazz, now 60, said she used her mother’s lessons as a college teacher, administrator and advocate for young people to feel empowered. Shabazz is the author of books, such as “Growing Up X” and “Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X”. She was also a trustee of the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center and the Malcolm X Foundation.

At home with her mother, Shabazz recalls, “We learned to love each other. … My parents knew that if I could love myself, I could love you.

Without it, Shabazz said, there is “division and self-destruction.”

That love, she pointed out, comes from knowing your history, adding that it’s not really history unless “every voice is heard,” including black, LatinX and Native Americans. Young people need to learn, she said, how experts believe Africa is the cradle of humanity.

“It’s important for us to provide a foundation for our children,” she said.

Ilyasah Shabazz remembers his famous father’s youth and ideas

Shabazz spoke of his father’s youth, reading part of a poem he wrote when he was 20 as he watched a black musician play the horn. Malcolm X wrote that at the time it was “the only place where a black American is free to create. … He can propose a new philosophy.

First in his class, she said, he had told his teacher that he wanted to become a lawyer so he could help others, since his father had helped people. Shabazz said his teacher replied that it was impossible because of his race.

His life took several twisty turns. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for theft and burglary, but while in prison he joined the Nation of Islam and studied the dictionary, his daughter said, just to learn the origin of words.

Shabazz: Malcom X’s Parents Encouraged Black Independence and Empowerment

Malcolm X’s advocacy for black empowerment was guided by what he learned from his parents, Shabazz said.

Her parents had bought and farmed land, although they were told they could own land but could not live on it, she said. They raised their own food, giving their family self-reliance. Community leaders needed to teach such independence to younger generations, Shabazz urged.

Malcolm X’s parents were civic leaders during a time of anti-black violence. Their independence and influence, she said, angered white supremacist groups, who she said lynched Malcolm X’s father. (According to historical accounts, police had reported the 1931 death as a car accident.) His mother became a civil rights activist who, she said, “the authorities committed themselves to an institution against her wishes”, sending Malcolm and his siblings to foster homes . Their land was seized, their house demolished, she said.

“These are just facts,” she said. “It is important that we learn the facts.”

Malcolm X and another civil rights leader at the time, Martin Luther King Jr., “considered each other brothers,” she said. “They were portrayed as polar opposites, even enemies. … Both men challenged an immoral world. What if they had a difference of opinion? »

“We are not rivals,” Shabazz said. “We are brothers. When we fight for each other, our possibilities are endless.

Shabazz urged his audience to be mentors and join clubs and organizations to “challenge the systems” that promote child incarceration and poverty.

“We can only do this together,” she said. “Black power is not exclusive. … It simply recognizes crimes against humanity.

Tribune staff writer Joseph Dits can be reached at 574-235-6158 or jdits@sbtinfo.com.

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