Tuesday, Feb. 21, the 52nd anniversary of Malcolm X’s martyrdom, a capacity, multi-ethnic crowd packed into the building where it actually occurred—the former Audubon Ballroom, renamed the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center (3940 Broadway) when it reopened in 2005—to reflect on his iconic legacy.
Malcolm X’s message to the grassroots was missing as a number of intellectuals conducted a panel discussion about Malcolm X’s immeasurable legacy and how it continues to affect Black America politically, educationally and socially, since his Feb. 21, 1965, execution. Many of the panelist pushed their own personal agendas rather than reflect on “our Black shining prince” and his everlasting influence.
However, a private conversation with one of Malcolm X’s comrades, Brother Karim Mohammed, who trekked all the way from the City of Brotherly Love for the historic occasion, was much more revealing than anything said onstage.
“Philadelphia was devastated, nobody could believe it,” Brother Karim recalled upon hearing the news of Malcolm X’s assassination. “I was with Malcolm at the United Nations weeks before that as he planned to address the United States on human rights violations [of Blacks] in Americans.”
Some scholars speculate that may have been the motivating factor behind Malcolm’s assassination, being that the Black nationalist leader was planning to go in front of the U.N. again the following week.
“I really don’t know,” Mohammed replied when asked that question.
He then explained how he joined Malcolm X’s Organization of Afro-American Unity, and relocated to New York City in 1964, living at Convent Avenue and 145th Street, but he was not present that tragic afternoon because he had car problems and was stuck in Philly.
At the panel’s conclusion, he approached Malcolm X’s and Dr. Betty’s daughter, Malaak.
“I haven’t seen her since she was a little girl,” he explained. “I introduced myself and told her who I was.”
After a brief conversation they posed together for some photos.
Professor James Small, recalled meeting Malcolm X once, as a 16-year-old, in the streets of Harlem.
“He told me to get an education,” Small recalled. “Malcolm really gave our people an analysis of what was wrong in the Black community and what was wrong with the Black mind around economics, politics and cultural. He did a criticism of racism and white supremacy that no one had done before. He learned that, of course, from Elijah Muhammad and the religious analysis, but he took that to another level through the concept that we were colonized by the white male elite in America.”