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Malcolm X’s daughter, Dr. Ilyasah Shabazz spoke at MLK JR. Commemoration



Raena Doty / THE GATEPOST

By: Dante Curry

Staff Writer 


Dr. Shabazz spoke about her passions for human rights and activism at the Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration on Jan. 25.


She said, “Continuing the legacy of my father, Malcolm X, and my mother, Dr. Betty Shabazz, is why I too still have a dream. Their focus on human rights and education inspires me to help others dream of a better world and to put in the work to make it a reality.”


She advocated for concepts such as social justice, the representation of her father, her passion for meaningful change and how all people can be a participatory member in making education more accessible for all.


Her speech, “Is the dream still alive,” reflected a dream her father once had years before her.  


Mia Ihegie, president of Justice Unity Inclusion Community Equity, introduced Shabazz, stating her many accomplishments.


This included Shabazz’s award-winning publications - five of which are historical novels. Her latest publication is the best seller “Growing Up X.” She has also served as a project advisor on PBS for award-winning films.


Shabazz has also dedicated herself to institutional building and integration of leadership development. Shabazz has a community impact with the city of the University of New York's Office of Academic Affairs, which created a curriculum to encourage higher education for underserved, inner-city markets.


Shabazz has worked with the Mayor's Office in MT Vernon as director of public affairs and special events while simultaneously being president and founder of Shabazz Enterprise. She has also founded and produced a young adult development program to help provide the historical context of social justice. 


She is also a member of the Advisory Council for Equal Rights in the Medical Coalition. As well as a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporation and she serves as a trustee for the Harlem Snipers.


Shabazz first gave a moment of silence to honor Dexter Scott King, son of Martin Luther King Jr., who died on Jan. 22.


She opened her speech by saying, “In such a spirit, I’d like to begin by giving praise to our ancestors. ... Those who have not been honored in history. Those whose stories have not been properly documented.”


Shabazz said when she was a child, she watched her father be assassinated while her pregnant mother used her body to shield her children from the gunfire and trauma of seeing their father’s death.


Shabazz added, despite this, “Sister Betty never gave into bitterness or despair,” and always continued to spread the word of her father.


“Had my mother become a victim after having endured such a loss in the manner that she did, I would not be standing here this evening appearing to be healthy,” she said.


Shabazz said her father is often misrepresented in the media. “The Malcolm you learned about is not the Malcolm we've come to know in truth,” she added.


She said her mother “safeguarded the accurate legacy” of Malcolm X so history would remain accurate and memories would remain unsullied.


“I remember his beautiful smile, his love of jazz music, literature, poetry, and that he was, a student of history, religion, nature, and the arts,” she said.


“I know him to be a wise, young man with impeccable integrity,” she said. 


Shabazz added she only heard inaccurate portrayals of her father when she started college, and they made her understand why her mother fought so hard to defend Malcolm X’s legacy.


“The climate in America was antithetical to the humanity of Black Americans, who lived in constant terror, traumatized and destitute without protection or hope in their own country. And it’s a familiar story to many of us,” she said.


She said the narrative around Malcolm X - that he walked illiterate into jail at 20 years old and walked out a human rights activist - is false. Shabazz added he read the dictionary because of a fascination with etymology and joined the prison’s debate team, which debated schools such as Harvard, Boston University, and MIT.


“Ours is the challenge of reclaiming both our legacy and our narrative. You see, I believe that most people are fair-minded and that when presented with the truth of our narrative - including that about faith - we will respond positively,” she said.


She said faith is underpinned by hope, so it is always necessary to keep hope.


Shabazz added, “If we truly believe, then we will be challenged. To keep the dream alive you will have to face trials and tribulations…


“We also require courage - particularly moral courage. We need courage to speak truth to power. To remain steadfast in our principles. To never give up and to keep on going,” she said.


Shabazz said optimism and courage on their own will not be enough, though - the world also needs “a mindset of futuristic thinking.


“The answer not only lies in learning from history but also in acting and planning in the present,” she said.


Shabazz challenged the idea that Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. should be presented as though they were in opposition to one another.


“My father's point of view was human rights, and King's point of view was civil rights. However, both are needed to accomplish our ultimate and common goals. Malcolm X and King made the ultimate sacrifice for the advancement of humanity. We must stand on their shoulders and countless other humanitarians and take up the baton,” she said, adding it is Framingham State’s responsibility to keep the dream alive.


“In times of conflicts, we can choose to either fight each other or fight for each other - because when we fight for each other, our possibilities are limitless,” she said.


Shabazz said King’s words remain true today, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Adding, Malcolm’s addendum “it won’t bend on its own,” is necessary to include.


“My father said if you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there's no progress - the knife is still in my back. If you pull it all the way out, that's not progress - there's still an open wound. Progress is healing the wound,” she said.


“Together we can begin the process of healing," she said. “Once we learn that the only way we can truly heal is together, we will stop focusing on what divides us in the midst of tragedies and triumphs,” she said.


Shabazz said, “We have to ask ourselves what does humanity's future look like. The answer not only lies in learning from history but also in acting and planning in the present.”

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