May 19 marks the 91st anniversary of the birth of Malcolm X, the great 20th Century leader of the African American struggle for freedom, justice and equality; for self-determination and liberation. His assassination in 1965, at the hands of those working in the interest of white supremacy, capitalism and imperialism, marked a horrible chapter in our history of struggle and the beginning of the modern Black Power Movement.
Brother Malcolm, as he was affectionately called by the people, left a deep and broad legacy that revolved around the ideas of self-determination and self-defense, building Black institutions, waging a human rights struggle, fighting against colonialism in Africa and America, international solidarity and understanding the vulgar and parasitic nature of capitalism. We are forever mindful that he supported hospital workers in New York City and their union, 1199.
More than anything, he called on the African American people to stand up. This stance was embodied in this statement:
“We declare our right on this earth…to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.” Malcolm X, June 1964
This demand for respect fueled the Black Power movement that emerged in 1966. And in many ways has fueled the resistance of the Movement for Black Lives. And it should fuel our participation in the fights against the New Confederacy that has come to dominate Southern politics and beyond.
In Malcolm’s classic speech“ The Ballot or the Bullet” he makes it clear that we have been played by the Democrats but that African American votes can determine who is elected. In today’s political environment we should be working hard to build power by creating independent political instruments that unapologetically fight for Black people, other people of color, the LGBTQ community, and workers.
“The masses of our people still have bad housing, bad schooling, and inferior jobs; jobs that don’t compensate them with sufficient salary for them to carry on their lives.” The Last Speech, Feb. 1965
In spite having more Black elected officials, including a President, the condition of the Black masses remains virtually the same. Clearly, there have been some gains for a few but even those are being rolled back.
So it is in the spirit of Malcolm X that we take on the struggle for livable wages, the right to organize, and workers political power. We continue to commit to the fight against all forms of discrimination, police murders, mass incarceration, Islamophobia and attacks on public education. These resistance fights and the fight for power is how we uphold his legacy.
We offer this tribute to Malcolm by tenor saxophonist Kamasi Washington and his ensemble: