Most students of history know about Malcolm's transformation from street hoodlum into dedicated soldier within the Nation of Islam. Malcolm's efforts to strengthen the Nation are also known and his impact on that organization remains significant enough so that the Nation still struggles around addressing their relationship to him. His travels to the Middle East have been repeatedly referenced in documentaries, Spike Lee's 1992 motion picture, and even Malcolm's own autobiography as depicted by Alex Haley, but very little, almost nothing, has been said about Malcolm's work in Africa and throughout the African world. And, even less has been said about Malcolm's clear push to become a force within the Pan-African world.
One only needs to start with Malcolm's own words in his autobiography when he says that "the highest honor of my life was an audience with Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana." Malcolm went to Ghana in 1964 in response to Nkrumah's call for Africans everywhere to go there and help build Ghana as a method of strengthening the entire African continent. He was not alone in answering Nkrumah's call. Louie Armstrong, the Trinidadian Pan-African George Padmore, W.E.B. DuBois and Shirley Graham DuBois, Muhammad Ali, and Maya Angelou, are just a few of the people who wanted to support Nkrumah's call. And Malcolm arrived there essentially a private citizen. And what's never discussed is how this private citizen, from the U.S., who was a former convict, was able to gain an audience with the president of Ghana. What did they discuss in their multiple meetings? Neither Malcolm or Nkrumah divulged any details, but some things we can ascertain. Nkrumah, having experienced the debacle of attempting to defend his student Patrice Lumumba and the National Congolese Movement in the Congo, as well as fending of the eventual overthrow of his own government, was learning how sophisticated imperialism is. He knew he had to organize an organic, revolutionary, Pan-African force to have any chance of challenging imperialism's hold on Africa. And, he wanted Malcolm to play a direct role in this work. There are several substantiated reports that Nkrumah told Malcolm that Ghanaian intelligence forces had advised him that they had uncovered communications that led them to believe U.S. intelligence forces were plotting to assassinate Malcolm. There is also collaboration that Nkrumah relayed this information to Malcolm. Nkrumah himself suggests in his personal letters (Kwame Nkrumah - "The Conakry Years") that he told Malcolm of his fate as a way of attempting to entice him to stay on in Ghana. Malcolm's response to Nkrumah is not clear, but what we do know is that Malcolm was indeed assassinated and Nkrumah's prophetic vision of it confirms that clearly, that assassination was not directed by the Nation of Islam as imperialism would have us believe. Or, as a wise elder once said "they may have fired the guns, but they didn't buy the bullets!"
Malcolm was primed to serve as a key organizer and activist for a developing worldwide Pan-African movement. And his position as a chief and credible critic of U.S. imperialism made him an essential character in this growing work. There is even evidence that Malcolm's 1960 meeting with Fidel Castro in Harlem established a relationship that was maintained between Malcolm and all of the anti-imperialist world. Malcolm also visited with Guinea President Sekou Ture and although Malcolm wrote about how impressed he was with Ture, and how Ture told him that our people's fight for dignity was the central focus that our fight should entail, there are key questions that logic should dictate that we ask. Malcolm never spoke in public about what he discussed with Nkrumah. He never spoke about what the relationship was between his meetings with Nkrumah and his meetings with Ture. He never spoke of any follow up from his 1960 meeting with Castro, but one thing is clear. Malcolm named the organization he started after leaving the Nation of Islam the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU). This was a clear tribute to Nkrumah who one year before had started the Organization of African Unity (OAU - now the African Union). Malcolm spoke in general terms about the OAAU being the U.S. branch to the OAU. And, there has always been chatter about Malcolm receiving funding from Nkrumah, Ture, etc., to travel and blast imperialism since they, as heads of state over tenuous governments, didn't have the same leverage to carry that out. Since none of this was ever confirmed by Malcolm, we are left with speculation. The other challenge is Malcolm and Nkrumah, etc., were still in a stage of development with each of their political understanding of the forces at work. Consequently, we know that imperialism destroyed any potential of the OAU (the AU) and the OAAU for that matter, but the efforts Malcolm was making, in clear cooperation and encouragement from Nkrumah in our estimation, were sincere and represent the work we continue to carry out today.
What we can say confidently is that Nkrumah and Ture were without question political comrades of the closest nature. As a result, it is difficult for me to see any political scenario where Malcolm, who had a relationship with Nkrumah, could develop a similar relationship wtih Ture without it being a coordinated effort. In other words, those relationships were coordinated and they were done in an effort to build this Pan-African network. Of course, Malcolm was assassinated and was therefore never able to fulfill his potential to this work. The young Stokely Carmichael - later to become Kwame Ture - did arrive in Guinea-Conakry four years after Malcolm arrived in Africa. And, we believe Kwame Ture fulfilled the work Nkrumah initially wanted Malcolm to fulfill and Nkrumah himself essentially verifies this in his personal letters. The work Kwame did, that Malcolm was starting to do, is the same Pan-African work we continue to do throughout the African world today.
What's odd is all of these revitalized efforts to commemorate Malcolm go to great lengths to avoid any mention of this work. There is no mention of Nkrumah, Ture, Castro, or anything even remotely connected to this work in Spike Lee's movie, any of the documentaries about Malcolm, and virtually nothing in any of the books. Manning Marable's 2011 study on Malcolm, which was filled with contradictions, barely scratches the surface of these relationships because Marable was more interested in pursuing gossip and accusations about Malcom's personal sex life, preferences, and alleged affairs with a White woman in Egypt. Not to mention alleged affairs Dr.Mrs. Shabazz was supposed to be having. Sex sells, but revolutionary struggle educates.
So, we know that the best way to honor anyone is to continue their work. As a result, in order to live by their values, we encourage you to use this 52nd commemoration of Malcolm's assassination to focus in on Malcolm's legacy as a revolutionary organizer. A developing Pan-African organizer and the importance of continuing that essential work. And also, since Malcolm was much of what he was because of his decision to discipline and focus his life, I encourage everyone to engage how you can become better organized? Better able to confront problems withiin yourself and/or with others and to develop the skills to help you learn how to resolve those issues. If you are serious and just need help, check out my button on Personal Advising if you are interested in trying to strengthen your abilities in order to reach your full potential as an oranizer and as a person.