The masses of African people everywhere, and all of peace loving humanity, are very familiar with the tactics of imperialism. We listened to Malcolm when he told us that the friends of U.S. imperialism are our enemies and the enemies of U.S. imperialism are our friends. Consequently, plenty of our people have never been fooled by imperialism's hatchet job against Malcolm or any of our independent leaders and fighters for justice. The mass response to imperialism's efforts to destroy Malcolm have been a resurgence in his ideas and presence since the mid to late 1980s. When the power structure's movie studios refused to give us the real Malcolm X, our youth responded - worldwide - by mixing records with Malcolm's own words woven into their music. Malcolm's image was painted on walls from San Francisco to Sierra Leone. For the last 30 years, Malcolm's image on shirts, hoodies, etc., are still commonly found everywhere on Earth. There are very few faces that are more recognizable in more places on Earth today.
In balancing Malcolm's important legacy, one of the critical questions in 2019 and beyond is how much of the criticism against Malcolm was valid and how much of it was fictitious? How much of the credit Malcolm received was valid and how much of it was fictitious?
Without question, Malcolm was a guiding light in building the Nation of Islam. Despite what anyone says, there is no questioning the fact that the membership within the Nation grow substantially after his arrival in the early 50s and that growth was consistent with the cities e.g. Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit, New York, etc., where Malcolm did much of his initial work establishing himself as a leader within the NOI. There is also little doubt that Malcolm played a significant role in establishing the NOI's propaganda arm - the newspaper "Muhammad Speaks" which you can argue still exists today through Minister Louis Farrakhan's "Final Call" which is still widely read in African communities all over the planet. In fact, versions of "Muhammad Speaks" still exist today also through various versions of the NOI still operational in the Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. area, etc.
Malcolm played a strong role, especially during the last eleven months of his life, in centering Pan-Africanism as an objective and movement among Africans within the U.S. His work to establish the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) and his crystal clear analysis of the concrete connections between Africans born in any part of the world are still very reliable today in defeating all the white and black faced imperialist arguments designed to keep Africans born in different countries separated. Also, Malcolm's unique ability to take some of the most complex concepts and break them down into language any of us could easily manage is crucial in helping millions understand the primary contradictions we face today. Malcolm actually took Karl Marx, Kwame Nkrumah, Sekou Ture, and many other theorists and converted their wonderful works into words someone without any formal education could easily digest. His classic breaking down of class contradictions with his "house slave, field slave" analysis is just as biting and relevant in 2019 as it was in 1964. Finally, Malcolm's raw courage and willingness to confront the forces oppressing us provided a model for younger activists in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, Black Panther Party, Revolutionary Action Movement, Republic of New Afrika, Democratic Party of Guinea, Convention People's Party, Kenyan African National Union, Zimbabwan African National Union, African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau, and others, that influenced the essential work of those organizations that has done much to shape the current world we live in and what our world will look like moving forward.
Dialectics, the study of the struggle of opposites, tells us that we cannot have one side without other sides operating in contradiction. As a result, its not possible to give essential credit to Malcolm for helping build the NOI without also acknowledging his role in helping build up some of the less than positive elements that evolved within the organization. Yes, he did do much to start the "Muhammad Speaks" newspaper. The first issue was reportedly laid out in the basement of his house, but he wasn't the only person who put that first edition together. There were others who played a role such as the man then known as Abdul Allah Muhammad who was Elijah Muhammad's minister in the Washington D.C. Mosque for years and who served under Minister Louis Farrakhan's revised NOI for many years as well. There is the belief that Malcolm's perceived lack of acknowledgment of the role of others in helping launch "Muhammad Speaks" caused some resentment when he received the Lyon's share of the credit for the newspaper and there are other examples of this type of contradiction surrounding Malcolm. Many people have wondered how people who started as close associates to Malcolm eventually became bitter and open enemies of Malcolm during the period - primarily throughout 1964 - when Malcolm became public enemy number one within the Nation of Islam. People like John Ali, the NOI's National Secretary, who at the time of Malcolm's assassination was one of the primary consultants to Elijah Muhammad - the NOI's patriarch from 1934 until his death in 1975. Today, there is overwhelming evidence that Ali was a paid Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) informant who was used by imperialism to widen the antagonistic gap between Malcolm and Elijah Muhammad during that turbulent period, but another much more interesting case is that of Imam Yusef Shah, formally Joseph Gravitt who was better known in the 60s as Captain Joseph. Known as somewhat of a pugnacious personality within Mosque Number 7 as the captain of the Fruit of Islam (the NOI's well trained membership who's responsibility it is to protect their membership), the late Shah was considered second in command in Mosque Number 7 to Malcolm. He often delivered the sermons in that Mosque, one of the NOI's fastest growing, during the times of Malcolm's absence (Malcolm traveled often in his work to build up several NOI Mosques). According to Shah's own words, Malcolm "saved me from the gutter" when the former Joseph Gravitt was struggling with alcoholism and drug abuse before Malcolm preached to him about the "life saving teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad." By the time of Malcolm's break with the NOI in March of 1964, he and Shah were bitter enemies with Shah having provided NOI headquarters with multiple accounts of Malcolm's "violations" of the now famous suspension Malcolm received from Elijah Muhammad for his wildly accurate and classic critique of John F. Kennedy and the U.S.'s role in Patrice Lumumba's assassination and destabilization of the Congo, Central Africa, in 1961. What caused the bitter split between these two men? Multiple reports from a wide range of people from Charles 37X Kenyatta, a close Malcolm associate after Malcolm left the NOI, Benjamin 2X Karim, another associate like Kenyatta, as well as enemies of Malcolm within the NOI, stated that during his time as a leading minister within the NOI, Malcolm was a strict disciplinarian. Almost a brutal one at times. There are widespread reports that Malcolm required women in the mosques he led to weigh themselves and that if they exceeded certain weights, they were expelled from the Mosque. Also, when Malcolm received his suspension for his "chickens coming home to roost" comment about Kennedy, he responded by stating that "if I carried out discipline than I have to be willing to accept and receive discipline." His remarks here are attributed to his administration of harsh treatment to those who violated NOI rules and Shah, formally Captain Joseph, was said, by himself and others, to be the victim of Malcolm's discipline. Resentment of Malcolm's sometimes tyranny has been echoed by numerous people in the Mosques he headed, including comments often stated by Muhammad Abdul Aziz, formally Norman 3X Butler, one of the three persons accused and convicted of assassinating Malcolm X. There is no doubt from anyone who has even studied the assassination of Malcolm X on a cursory level that Aziz had absolutely nothing to do with Malcolm's murder, yet Aziz, while steadfast denying his involvement in the assassination (Thomas Hayer or Hagan, who certainly was a participant in Malcolm's assassination cited from the beginning that Aziz and the other person falsely convicted had nothing to do with the assassination), has made it clear he was no fan of Malcolm due to Malcolm's practices while leading Mosque Number 7. Finally, some of Malcolm's own practices while in the NOI revealed his lack of good judgement in several instances. Without question, it was a breach of integrity for Malcolm to agree, along with then Atlanta Minister Jeremiah X Shabazz (Pugh) to meet with Ku Klux Klan "officials" in Georgia in 1961 to establish a treaty with the violently racist organization in order for the NOI to operate safely in that state. Along with that, Malcolm permitted himself to be used that next year to serve as somewhat of a host to American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell when the latter was shamefully invited to speak at the Nation of Islam's annual Savior's Day event. These types of actions, along with some of the patriarchal actions already mentioned and the brutality aimed at members, are the behaviors that come when people follow orders instead of thinking logically for themselves. That's why instead of advocating the central all mighty leader concept we prefer the model of mass political education and mass cadre leadership. Its that latter model that we believe Malcolm was attempting to pursue in his development of the OAAU in the latter months of his life in late 1964 and early 1965, but unfortunately, he never got the opportunity to fully correct his earlier NOI errors and move forward.
We do believe that Malcolm's errors take nothing away from his effectiveness as a leader as illustrated in the early part of this article. There is absolutely no way that I would be here today, believing and doing the work I do, without the guidance of Malcolm and his vision for our people and humanity. That's why I think its important to analyze his efforts, critique his errors, and build on them so that the venom of our enemy's efforts to discredit his work are defused. Malcolm, like all of us, made errors, but the beauty of Minister Malcolm X is his errors can never diminish his outstanding contributions to our struggle for Pan-Africanism and justice for humanity. If we are to truly benefit from those contributions, its essential that we learn to see Malcolm, and everyone, as the complex and multi-faceted people that we are and not as perfect icons who made no errors. If we see people are perfect, than we will never be able to see ourselves as being able to match or even exceed their contributions. We believe the next Malcolm X's are here among us. We believe that these new people have potential to exceed Malcolm's contributions, but only if we permit ourselves to critically learn from our errors, engage in constant political education, and continue to move forward to advance our struggle in every way that we can. As the Honorable Marcus Garvey said "they may have sabotaged me, but the cubs of Garveyism are growing up all around us!"