Democracy Now! was there on February 21, the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center hosted an event to mark the 58th anniversary of Malcolm X’s assassination. Malcolm, who was born on May 19, 1925, was shot dead on February 21, 1965, in the Audubon Ballroom. He was just 39 years old.
Ilyasah Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X
Angela Davis, professor and author
Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner
Benjamin Crump, civil rights attorney
Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! host
Marc Lamont Hill, TV broadcaster and activist
Tamara Payne, co-author of The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X
Joy Reid, MSNBC host
More from this Interview
- Part 1: Malcolm X at 98: Angela Davis on His Enduring Legacy & the “Long Struggle for Liberation”
- Part 2: Ben Crump, Attorney for Malcolm X’s Family: “We Refuse to Let Anybody Exterminate Black History”
- Part 3: “By Any Means Necessary”: Watch Malcolm X’s Speech on Racism & Self-Defense at Audubon Ballroom
- Part 4: Remembering Malcolm X: Angela Davis, Ilyasah Shabazz, Ben Crump & Others Speak at the Shabazz Center
REV. DR. MOTHER KHOSHHALI: We do libation in honor of the ancestors, those who came before us, who paved the way so that we can enjoy our freedom. But, first and foremost, I must ask the elders, anyone 70 and above, I need your permission so that I can do libation. All you have to do is say “yes.” Yes. Do I have your permission, elders? Elders? OK.
First libation goes to the most high, one force, one source, the generous, the compassionate, the one who oversees us. Our first libation goes to the most high, called by many names, but in the end, when we shed our skin, there’s one force, one source, most high. Ase, ase, ase.
Second libation goes to the guardians of the four corners and the five elements of earth, water, fire, air, ether, that the most high has for us to sustain us on our journey until the end. Ase, ase, ase.
Next libation goes to the atrocity, the holocaust, the African holocaust across the Atlantic, 13 million. Some decided to take their lives. Some were killed, raped, mutilated. We owe them our honor and our allegiance. They have crossed the ocean by skeletons. Some ended up in New York. Some ended up in South America. Some ended up all over the world. But they are the reason why we are here, our ancestors. We pay ase and libations to them. Ase, ase, ase.
Next libation goes to the civil rights leaders, martyrs and participants, who paved the way for us, for us, so that we have freedom to do, to be, our education system, how we look, so we can regain our culture and our language. We pay allegiance to the civil rights leaders and martyrs. Ase, ase, ase.
There are many who use their gifts of art and music to express their culture. We honor them. Ase, ase, ase.
Before the enslavement trade, there was architects, astronomers, surgeons. We were great people. And we need to honor our past so that we can come forward and regurgitate that in our consciousness. And if you need help, call on the ancestors who are in your field. We honor them. Ase, ase, ase.
We honor Malcolm X, his family, his grandfather, his grandmother, his father, his mother, his siblings. We honor them. Ase, ase, ase. We honor his grandchildren, those who are on the other side and those who have paved the way eons and eons before. Ase, ase, ase.
We honor the leaders, the leaders, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Dr. Ben, the inspirers, the educators, who keep our history in the forefront so we don’t forget who we are. We honor the historians. Ase.
And I want to have a special, special libation for Dr. Betty Shabazz, his wife and his support. Ase, ase, ase.
Malcolm, I am so honored to be here. We are so honored to be here. Your courage, your passion, your diligence. He even read and wrote the entire dictionary of words, so that he can be eloquent in his speaking and his presentations and in his communication. I honor — today we honor his legacy, his education, his passion for freedom and truth and to spread it. Malcolm, today is your honorarium. We thank you. We thank you. We thank you. Ase, ase, ase.
Close your eyes very quickly. Breathe in and out. Remember those who came before you who helped you, the educators, your mother, the teachers, your siblings. Say their names out loud as we honor them. Honor them. Say their names. Call their names out. Ase, ase, ase, ase, ase, ase, ase. Call them out. Call them out. Ase, ase, ase.
And to the babies born and yet to be born to carry on our legacy. Ase.
And one more for Malcolm X, who — the reason why we are here. And if we can learn from ourselves, his — one of the things I read about him was, he said we were stripped of our culture, our language and our family. We need to get that back. Thank you, Malcolm. He was about culture, family and education. Ase, ase, ase.
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: Yes, both of you. Good evening.
AUDIENCE: Good evening!
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: Malaak, LeAsah, Gamilah, if you’d like to join me, Nadia, Aryah. Greetings. Thank you so much for coming here this evening. Welcome to the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center. This is the house that Betty built.
Gamilah, you guys, come over.
MALAAK SHABAZZ: This is the house that Betty built.
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: Oh goodness.
MALAAK SHABAZZ: Let’s get real on that, everybody.
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: OK. Thank you for joining —
MALAAK SHABAZZ: I just want to — I just want to say that, as the youngest daughter. My mama built this house. Can I say that? I’m just saying.
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: So, you know what it’s like when you have six daughters. Well, you know, let me just say that on February 21st, 1965, my mother came here with her daughters. She was pregnant with the twins. Malaak is one of the twins. And, you know, we always give homage to our mother, because we knew who Daddy was. We knew who the real Malcolm was. My mother made sure of that. And if you ask us about our father, we can tell you all kinds of stories about his morals, his character, his values, and so forth. Malaak can tell you stories, and Malaak never even laid eyes on him. But that’s a testament to what my mother did for her daughters.
MALAAK SHABAZZ: Excuse me.
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: No, Malaak. Not right now.
MALAAK SHABAZZ: No, no, no, no, no. Let me say —
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: Thank you for joining — Malaak, you want to go ahead?
MALAAK SHABAZZ: Let me — let me just say this.
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: OK. That’s the youngest.
MALAAK SHABAZZ: When people say I didn’t know my father, they’re disrespecting my mother as an educator. I know him better than you. I know from the educator, the person who did know Malcolm, who raised us, who taught you. So, I know more than you. So, when I’m — when you say I am the youngest and I was a baby and I wasn’t born, I know more than you do.
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: Oh!
MALAAK SHABAZZ: Don’t disrespect — because if you say that, then you disrespect Dr. Betty Shabazz, when you can’t.
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: That’s right.
MALAAK SHABAZZ: If you were a student at Medgar Evers.
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: And one of the things that we really love on this mural here, and it speaks volumes to our mother, is when — you know, first of all, this mural art, this mural is — was commissioned by Daniel Galvez. He’s the artist. And my mother selected specific parts of my father’s life that she felt was important and worthy of sharing. And one of the things that always touches us is that there’s the image of my mother pointing at the continent, telling Attallah, Qubilah and me where daddy was. She said, “You have to put a bassinet,” because she didn’t want her fourth baby, Gamilah, who’s right here, to feel left out. So, my mother was just amazing woman. So, thank you for joining me and my family. LeAsah, who’s named after me, my father’s sister’s daughter.
LEASAH LITTLE-BROWN: Granddaughter.
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: Granddaughter. And we’re always like, “Why didn’t you just name her Ilyasah? Why did it have to be LeAsah?” But we’re so grateful that you could join us, the Shabazz family, this evening, and our beautiful community, as we commemorate the life and times of El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. My name is Dr. Ilyasah Shabazz. I am one of six daughters. And we are all honored to carry forth the legacy of our beloved parents. As the chairperson of the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Education Center, we thank you. I’d like to first thank the African Healing Circle and Reverend Dr. Mother Khoshhali for so beautifully invoking the spirit of our ancestors and for setting the tone and intention of this evening. I’d also like to thank my five beautiful sisters — Attallah, Qubilah, Gamilah, Malikah and Malaak — and the entire Shabazz family for continuing what our parents started.
On February 21st, 1965, my mother, sisters and I witnessed the assassination of her husband, our father, right here in this space. He was 39 years old. My pregnant mother placed her entire body over my three sisters and me to protect us from gunfire and to make sure we would not see the terror before our eyes. Despite having to witness her husband’s assassination, Sister Betty never gave in to bitterness or despair, even though as a young wife and mother she had every right. But, rather, this inspiring widow kept her husband’s essence, his love, values and humanity integral in our household. She did not want her six daughters to suffer from the sudden loss of our father’s physical presence and love. And though he was physically absent, my mother made sure her husband remained present in our household conversations for as long as I can remember. She safeguarded her husband’s true legacy for the benefit of a functionally thriving generation to roll up their sleeves collectively and do the necessary work with love, sincerity, excellence and reconciliation.
And so, today marks the 58th anniversary of our father’s assassination in this very room. He was preparing to give an important speech outlining the objectives of his newly formed multiethnic political coalition, the Organization of Afro-American Unity. His wife, Sister Betty, was also a profound visionary and educator. And it is why the legacy of her husband continues right here at the Shabazz Center. This is the home that Betty built. And each year since my father’s martyrdom, we’ve come together to honor his life, and we are so grateful. I say with pride that this space, which was once a site of tragedy, is now a site of action and community building.
The Shabazz Center is a cultural and educational institution that harnesses and memorializes the legacies of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz to incubate social, racial and global justice movements. Thank you to our wonderful board of trustees. Can those that are here, can you take a stand? It looks like Jodie Patterson, Ken Norton and Akemi Kochiyama. That’s Yuri Kochiyama’s granddaughter.
GAMILAH LUMUMBA SHABAZZ: Where?
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: Right there. Akemi, could you stand back up again? I’d also like to thank our staff. Najha Zigbi-Johnson, where are you, darling? Oh, there she is. Thank you for all of your great work. My beautiful sister Sharisse Stancil-Ashford, Julian Caldwell. Are you here, Julian? Oh, there you are, in the back. OK. Doctor — oh, and, of course, our new executive director, Dr. Ann-Marie Weathers. Where are you? OK. Beautiful, beautiful, absolutely gorgeous. I should tell you to come down here and let everyone see your beautiful dress. The Shabazz Center is grateful to have each and every one of you.
Now, without further ado, I am excited to turn the program over to our wonderful emcee, who will guide us through this evening’s program, my beautiful brother and friend — I know you all are here to see Sister Angela Davis. But before we do that, all — we’re so happy for her to be here — we’re going to show you our beautiful friend, my brother and friend, Marc Lamont Hill. He is an academic, author and activist, an award-winning journalist. He is the Steve Charles professor of media, cities and solutions at Temple University. And we’re so grateful that he found time to come here, because we know how busy he is. He is the host of UpFront on Al Jazeera English. Previously, he hosted the syndicated television show Our World with Black Enterprise. He served as BET News correspondent and is now — and is a former political commentator for CNN and Fox News. Please join me in welcoming to the stage Mr. Marc Lamont Hill.
MARC LAMONT HILL: Peace, everybody.
MARC LAMONT HILL: It is — I can’t even tell y’all how much of an honor it is to be in this room at this special — for this special occasion and to see so many beautiful Black people in this place to honor the life and the legacy of one of the most extraordinary human beings this world has ever produced.
I will be your emcee. I know you’re all here to see Angela. I am, too. So, I ain’t gonna stay long. But I am honored to serve as your emcee through this powerful evening of wisdom teachings, of remembrances, of music and of poetry. And right now I’m going to bring up our first performer. It’s my dear sister. She embodies so many forms of art in one. She’s the author of several poetry collections, published under her own Moore Black Press. Now, I’m going to tell you she’s born and raised in Detroit, because you can’t be around anybody from Detroit for more than 30 seconds before they tell you they’re from Detroit. “I’m from Detroit!” That’s usually how it comes up. And she spits fire into every microphone, every place she goes, every live event, every recording, every TV show, including Showtime at the Apollo, where she won five times in a row. You know it’s hard up here to win at the Apollo. Y’all saw her on Def Poetry Jam. She’s the founder of Black Women Rock! And she is the winner of multiple awards. Her work has been featured in many publications and at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. And I’m going to say just one more thing about my sister. Every time you see jessica Care moore, she’s loving us. She’s supporting us. She’s raising us up. Whether it’s a big stage or a back space, she’s working. She’s struggling for us. If you give her the invitation, she’s showing up, and she’s showing out. So show some love to my dear sister.
jessica Care moore: Thank you, Marc! I love you. Where are you going? Good to see you.
Greetings from Detroit. What up, though? It’s an honor. I love you, Dr. Davis. We’ve shared some spaces in the last six months. Thank you so much for having me, to the Shabazz Center, to the Shabazz family. Thank you to the daughters. It is an honor to be here. If not for Malcolm’s voice and message, I wouldn’t be the poet that I am. I don’t think any poet that is a poet that says they’re a Black poet would ever be a Black poet if they didn’t love and study Malcolm X’s teachings. I’m from Detroit, so you know we love Malcolm in Detroit. My first band was Detroit Red. I’m just saying.
But I’m going to read one poem. And I thought so hard about what I should read in this space. And I know this is the poem that I need to read for Tyre Nichols and for Trayvon Martin and for Sandra Bland and for our brother Malcolm, and for all of us who are assassinated one way or another in this place called America. And yeah, I thought “We Want Our Bodies Back.” This is what I need to say.
If black women could
be cut down. No.
from American terrorism
Who would break our fall?
Which direction would we travel
to feel safe?
wild is the wind
If we could turn in this skin, these
sharpened bones. this brain full of
power & history. who would we
invisible doesn’t come
how many nervous breakdowns
how many funeral black dresses
how many fibroids
how many nooses
how many of our bodies must be raped?
cut into pieces. burned inside garbage
how many of us
blossom a beautiful tree of life
& pray our pride isn’t
cut down the middle/reduced to trunks
or a close friend doesn’t die climbing their limbs
attempting to simply grow outside the gritty soil
they were planted.
i put a spell on you
Holly Hobbie ovens
girl scout cookies & barbie dolls
don’t prepare our revolutionary daughters
capes & wings
to have a pig’s knee pushed into their backs
girls raised by wolves
taught to disappear to be quiet
to not talk about it
how much black breath is allowed space
in the state of TEXAS?
a place that has sucked the life out of countless
miscounted. uncounted brown. poor. women.
I got life
Sandra Bland got the death penalty
for a traffic stop. Her body was 28
How to make sense of our bodies?
bodies burnt by cigarettes
bodies smoked out their own neighborhoods
bodies with abandoned lungs and hearts
bodies mistaken for women
when they are still girls
How do we construct a survival guide, a poem
for our daughters’ bodies
without throwing up our breakfast?
How do our mothers’ bodies not implode after
telling our sons to comply, to not speak up, to keep their
heads down, to allow their bodies to be dragged
by racist police
Jim Crow ain’t never flown with this much wingspan
Eagles running for safety now.
For the reach is deep & southern & midwest
shadows the east
lands in the west
Texas—you will always be Mexico
Poet Ron Allen asked for his body back in 1996
and we are still waiting.
We want our bodies back
We want our bodies back
We want our bodies back
We want them returned to mothers
without blood without brains exposed
without humiliation without bruises
without glass without fire
we want our bodies back
we want our cities back
we want our culture back
we want our land back
our streets back
we want our bodies back we want our bodies back
we want them wrapped in white silk
we want them paraded around the
white house. we want those flags
you stand up for at baseball games
at half mast
we want national holidays to honor
our bodies, our knees, our prayers,
our ears, our genitals, our eyes, our
fingers, our feet.
we want 21-gun salutes when we
enter a damn room
we want our bodies back
we want them anointed in oils
we want them worn around your neck
we want them remembered we want them worshipped on sunday.
we want our magic you try to bottle
we want our essence you attempt to steal
we want our elegance our sex our walk
our cool our recipes
our intelligence our science our stars our history
I want my Moroccan nose
I want my holy water breasts
I want my Maasai legs/I want my alien arms
I want my ivory coast mouth/I want our breath back
I want our time back/I want your foot off our girls’ backs
I want all your badges back
I want you to evaporate into dust like swatted moths
don’t cut me down from the noose
let my legs dangle for the devil
what a spectacular magic show
Why you turn the cameras off?
Why you turn the cameras off?
this is a simple ballet. you got front row.
this is your venue.
this cell. this hole. is no one’s home.
is no place for a woman to die.
you probably never heard of Judith Jamison
Oh, we know how to get
our legs in the air. we know how to elevate
use our bodies to tell a story
of middle passage.
you have always loved our bodies
under your control.
don’t you touch me.
don’t take me down
don’t you touch my body.
don’t touch my music. don’t touch my patience
don’t come near my car door. don’t come near my window
don’t talk to me in that tone
this body of work got work to do
I’m resurrecting my body
in new forms daily
watch for me
in your deepest sleep
black is the color of my true loves’ hair
listen for my songs
watch for my walk
listen for my voice
my black girl attitude
watch my body resist
your death traps
watch me rise
watch my rebirth
watch us rise up
from this new jim crow
from these new unspoken
we want our bodies back
we want our bodies back
we will take them.
We will never forget your brown body
your mind your pride your spirit your love
your vow to do God’s work
we want your drive from
Illinois to Waller County back.
We want all our daughters and sons back
& we want them
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Harlem. I love you. I love you, Shabazz Center. Honor to be here. Thank you.
REV. OTIS MOSS III: Greetings on behalf of the family, the village of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Illinois. To you, Dr. Shabazz, and your entire family, we say thank you. Thank you for holding, in a sacred way, the legacy of your mother and of your father. We at Trinity United Church of Christ, where we are unashamedly Black, we lift up the incredible work and witness of your family. So we offer this prayer for this celebration and for this commemoration, and may we go at this moment to God in prayer.
Gracious and most merciful God, in whom we live, move and have our being, we are grateful for our ancestor. We are grateful for the legacy. We are grateful for the liberation teaching of our beloved brother, Malcolm X, and our beloved sister, Betty Shabazz. We ask at this moment that your spirit will rest heavy, that the spirit of liberation will move forth from our hearts, that we’ll be able to teach generations that are yet to be born not only to stand together at the intersection, but also recognize that each and every one of us have the imprint of the sacred upon us, and that we may gather together to transform not only this community that we occupy, but the entire diaspora. We are grateful, and may you bless the work of the Shabazz Center, and may we gather hand in hand to do the work of liberation, as you have placed in our hearts. We thank you. We honor you this day, and we gather in celebration. May we get into some holy mischief together, so that we may see change and transformation in this world. We offer this prayer this day. And the people of God who love God may say, “Amen.” Thank you, and God bless you.
MARC LAMONT HILL: Now, that was a prayer right there. I always love when people of faith want to use their faith to help us get free. That was the Reverend Otis Moss III, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago and a dynamic young voice for community empowerment and social justice activism.
Now, a great deal of Dr. Ilyasah’s work developing intergenerational leadership involves speaking to, really, scores of educational institutions around the country. In fact, several of them are turned — are tuned in right now watching this program. The Hotchkiss School, Choate Rosemary Hall and the Omaha, Nebraska, Hall of Fame are tuned in right now. Show them some love, please.
Now, we also have a — I mean, there’s a bunch of amazing people in the audience, but among them are folks from Historic Hampton House. Y’all saw the movie One Night in Miami? Y’all know what I’m talking about? Yes, and we also have a delegation from the Taft School. Show them some love, too. Ah, I see where y’all at. OK. So, right now, to share her own reflections, because it’s so important we hear from this voice, we have a Taft senior leader. Her name is Ana Coyanda-Parkzes. Please bring her up and give her a round of applause. Ah, she right there.
ANA COYANDA-PARKZES: Thank you. Thank you so much for that introduction. And before I get started, I just want to say thank you on behalf of all of my classmates sitting in the back right there. We are all so excited to be here tonight and so grateful.
So, as just stated, my name is Ana, and I want to start off with a question for you all. How many of you — just raise your hands — have heard of the name David George? Oh, OK, let’s try again. How about Thomas Peters? Just go ahead, raise your hands. Ever heard of him? OK, how about Paul Revere? OK, OK. Just checking if everyone’s awake. OK, we’re here. Everyone knows who Paul Revere is. All right. But how about Harry Washington? Harry Washington? Oh, OK, some know who Harry Washington is. OK, good. Good. So, don’t forget these names. Don’t forget these names I’m telling you right now. I’m going to quiz you on them later. All right? All right.
So, I want to be here tonight to talk about the African diaspora. “Diaspora,” that’s an interesting word. So, let’s break it down. The word “diaspora” is derived from the Greek term diaspeiro, which means scattered or spread about. So, when we think of the African diaspora, what does that look like? Well, let’s take a look around this room. How many of you in here were born in an African country? Raise your hand. OK, OK, I see a couple of hands up raised. OK, awesome. Now you can put your hands down. Now, how many of you are second-generation African Americans, so your parents were born in Africa, but you were born in the States? So, that’s me. I’m going to raise my hand. All right. How many of you have ancestry in the Caribbean? Oh, a lot of them. OK, a lot of the Caribbean representation. And how many of you have parents or uncles or brothers or sisters who were all born in the U.S., and you’re African American and were also born in the U.S.? Go ahead, raise your hands. A lot of hands. All right. All right.
So, what am I looking for here when I’m asking you to raise your hands? I’m looking for representation, because as you raise those hands, you represent a different product of the African diaspora. And I ask various questions, because the African diaspora is a collection of people from various backgrounds who all share African ancestry. They are African people scattered. And that truly is who we are, is it not?
Learning our African history under an American system is important, because it teaches us everything we were told to forget. It washes away every cultural insecurity and makes way for new and unfamiliar, but deserved, sense of pride and confidence. Learning our history leads us to the legacies of our ancestors. And because history repeats itself, what better way to arm ourselves for the future than with the knowledge of those who did it first?
Tonight, we’re here because we are honoring the legacy of Malcolm X, a man who spoke of Africa as if it were gold rolling off of his tongue. He spoke of us as the land that birthed humanity. He spoke of us, the African diaspora, as the beginning, the center, the heart.
Right now I want every single person here to put their hand on their heart. Go ahead, right here. There we go. Right now I want everyone to do this, because in this moment you are all claiming the African diaspora as the tribe you belong to. You are claiming the history that brings us all here together.
History is written by the victors. And what follows that skewed recollection of events is lies or half-truths, half-truths that were designed to separate us from success and achievement. We are taught that our history begins with oppression to hold us hostage to those racist institutions in a world of modern resources. And when our ancestors do succeed, their victories are banned from our textbooks. It is why we fail to recognize the name Harry Washington but can draft an entire essay on George Washington. So, to combat those years of commitment to keeping us silent, we, as a new generation, as a variety of generations all in here tonight, must share the stories of how we got here, so that we can uncover the victories that history wants us to forget. We must uncover the stories that could suffocate the residue of colonization lingering in our textbooks that start the Africa chapter with the transatlantic slave trade, because those stories, they’re ours. And by sharing those stories, we transform ourselves from a national minority into a global majority.
So, now I want to ask again. How many people remember when I talked about David George and Thomas Peters? Yeah? OK, good. I’m proud. So, in the late 1700s, a British man named John Murray, who was the earl of Dunmore and governor of Virginia, issued a proclamation to all enslaved African people in American colonies. We recognize that as Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation, which promised that any enslaved person who chose to fight for the British side would be gifted freedom. It is in our history textbooks, because it is one of the most impactful statements in American history — and because John Murray is a white person, so, naturally, anything that comes out of his mouth will be documented. It is how my great-great-great-grandmother Iris Jones could travel to Nova Scotia, and eventually back to Sierra Leone, where she could get married and continue her family line, so that I have the blessing of knowing my African heritage.
It is also how David George, an enslaved African American born in Virginia, could also escape to Nova Scotia, and eventually Sierra Leone, where he founded the First Baptist Church in the colony, how he could found the first Black congregation in the United States, or how Thomas Peters, a man who was born in West Africa and captured to be brought to the U.S., could become a founder of this new colony that would become the nation of Sierra Leone, how he could escape from New York to join the Black Pioneers, migrate to Nova Scotia, and then eventually to West Africa. Here, they were given land and opportunity. Here, they named that land Freetown, the modern capital of Sierra Leone and the town where my father was born. Here, Thomas Peters became the founding — one of the founding fathers of an entire country. Here, our ancestors won. They escaped for their freedom and built a country in retaliation to the life they were nearly forced to live.
We have stories to tell because our ancestors could not. We have cousins across oceans that we may never know about, because what we believe, what is in our textbooks, about our divisions as Black people. We are an African diaspora across continents. And our story is connected in every downfall and epiphany and side quest, whether we are quizzed on it in class or not. We need to stop wasting our time by pretending that only if our kitchen smells of jollof rice have to love rice, or if our last names are hard to pronounce, or if we know which country we belong to, that we can consider ourselves African. We are an African diaspora. We are Africa scattered.
So, now you all know me as Ana, but what I’ll share with you tonight is my middle name. It is Olufunmilayo. It means “God has blessed us.” But I learned this meaning in elementary school after I told my mother that I had been bullied for it. I come from a small, predominantly white town in Connecticut, where our African diaspora is scarcely represented. And as a child, I grew up hating the parts of me that I am telling you all to love here tonight. So I share this with you now to show you what growth looks like.
What is important now is that we acknowledge each other as kinfolk, as members of the same tribe. What is important now is that we claim who we are. So, as we go forward from tonight, asking ourselves, “How do we improve our connectivity as a society?” remember what you’ve heard from me tonight, because while this is not new information, it still needs to be repeated.
So, now I’m going to ask you again: How many people in here know of a man named David George? All right, everyone was listening! Awesome. You see, I told you I’d quiz you. How many know of Thomas Peters? There we go. Good.
Now everyone put your hand on your heart again, because I’m leaving you all with a challenge. I challenge you to claim your role as a member of the African diaspora. And with those hands, I challenge you to pledge that you will liberate yourself from the colonized perception of our African identity, so that we can be independent and united in our African ancestry. Thank you so much for allowing me to be here tonight.
MARC LAMONT HILL: All right, family, it is now time for the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Vanguard Awards. These are important awards. The Shabazz family initiated the awards about 15 years ago. They wanted to recognize individuals in their line of work who embodied the qualities of excellence and who were trying and working and doing the work of uplifting humanity.
And so, the first person we want to give an award to, I’m very excited about this person, because this is my friend. They’re all my friends, but I — and comrades and sisters and brothers, but this is one of the most amazing people. Our first awardee is the host of the weeknight show The ReidOut on MSNBC, holding people accountable. They be trying to talk their way out the debate. She’s like, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no.” Once she pull out this paper and start looking at her notes, it’s a wrap. You might as well just…
Born in Brooklyn of Congolese and Guyanese parents, she graduated from Harvard University. You heard that, Tucker Carlson? She graduated from Harvard University — he’s still mad about that — paying her own bills and tuition to get through. She was a talk radio co-host on Radio One in Florida. She was managing editor of The Griot, a political columnist for the Miami Herald and the editor of her political blog, The Reid Report. After several host positions at MSNBC, she was selected to her current weeknight 7 p.m. time slot. If y’all didn’t know that, y’all better know that. Every day 7 p.m., watch it, DVR it. Do what you got to do, because we got to keep people like her on the air, making her cable’s first Black woman primetime anchor. It is with tremendous pleasure that we bestow the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Vanguard Award to Joy-Ann Reid!
JOY-ANN REID: Thank you.
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: Let’s come over here.
JOY REID: Thank you. Thank you. Wow, this is such an honor. Hello, everyone. Good evening. Well, this is a tremendous honor. I want to thank the Shabazz Center. It’s just — it’s a complete honor, particularly on this day in this space. It’s such an honor to be here. It’s an honor to at any time be in the same space as Ms. Angela Davis. It’s just a bit overwhelming to be in the same space with you. And I also want to thank Marc, my friend. Thank you for the wonderful introduction. Thank you, Dr. Ilyasah Shabazz and all of the sisters, the wonderful family, the Shabazz family. You are all wonderful, and I’m just honored to be in your presence. Thank you for allowing me to be here. My friends are here. Adrienne is here. This is my brother. Ben Crump and I go back, way, way back, to Florida. We have fought many a battle. He fights the battles; I just talk about them on TV or on the radio. I’ll say this very quickly. I don’t want to be long.
You know, one of the things that I have learned in my very long career — I won’t say how long — career in media, is that literally the most powerful and dangerous thing in the world is love. It’s the most powerful thing in the world. And I can prove it to you. I’m going to prove it to you. The proof that love is the most powerful thing is that people are expending tremendous energy right now trying to force people who look like me, people in the diaspora, to despise ourselves and love our enslavers, to love the people who created slavery and to despise ourselves. And this is literally their top political priority, more than healthcare or making sure that people can eat and afford their rent. Their number one priority is making sure that communities who have been disparately impacted negatively by economics, etc., despise ourselves and love those who created oppression against us.
And the thing that I’ve always loved, that my mom loved, my mom loved Malcolm X, because she said, “That’s a man.” That’s one thing she loved. “But that’s a man who loved us.” And the thing that he did that made him so dangerous is that he would not stop, no matter what the threat was, no matter who demanded. He would never stop loving us and insisting that we were lovable, that our history was more than enslavement, that we were something to love, that Africa was not something to be ashamed of, but something to love. And the fierceness — my favorite photos are the photos of him with his daughters. His love for his children, for his wife, for Dr. Betty, was so transcendent that when he was taken from his children and from his wife at not even 40 years of age, that love was so strong that Dr. Betty took it forward to build this, and built this out of love, love for her family, for her husband’s legacy, and for us.
So, what I just want to charge all of you with is, never let anyone cause you to despise your history. The history of enslavement was people who, despite being told to despise themselves and love their so-called masters, continued to love themselves, their children, to love their dance that they brought from Africa, to love the food that they brought from where they were taken and snatched from, to love the style that they continued to have. The most dressed-up, fabulous, wonderful people that you see in the early 20th century are Black people. That is Black people carrying formality and style and fierceness and poetry and music into the future that they weren’t supposed to have. So, never let go of the one thing that they cannot take from you, even if they kill you. And that is love. God bless you all. Thank you very much.
MARC LAMONT HILL: Every night at seven, I’m trying to tell you, the doors at a church are open.
Our next awardee, now, this is a another brilliant, brilliant, brilliant sister. Her name is Tamara Payne. Give her a round of applause. She served as the principal researcher and the co-author on The Dead Are Rising: The Life of Malcolm X. If you haven’t picked that book up, you absolutely need to pick the book up. A lot of us call ourselves Malcolm X scholars. You can’t be a Malcolm X scholar without reading this text. Her father, the noted investigative journalist Les Payne, worked on the book for 28 years. Twenty-eight years, that’s careful work. And she had the honor of completing this work, their work, after his passing in 2018. In the book, the Paynes explore deeper truths about Brother Malcolm’s assassination, which helped to cause the reopening of an investigation into the case by the Manhattan district attorney. The book won the Pulitzer Prize in biography, the National Book Award for Nonfiction and, most importantly, an NAACP — celebrate the Black stuff — Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work. We are honored to present the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Vanguard Award to Tamara Payne.
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: Come on over here and get your award first.
TAMARA PAYNE: Thank you. My goodness, this is an honor to be here tonight in the presence of the family of Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz. My friend and Dr. Ilyasah Shabazz, Gamilah, Malaak, my father loved — had so much love and respect for you guys. He really did. I’ll try to make this short. I also want to say I’m honored here to be here in front of Dr. Angela Davis, who my father had a wonderful interview with you at Abyssinian, and I have a gift for you. So, thank you for that interview.
And thank you, family, for honoring me, this work with my father. It was a labor of love of my dad. And I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense; I mean this in a passionate love in family. I am here also with my family, my mother and my brother, Jamal, my mother Violet. I have to say that when we do any of this work, none of this is done alone. Even when my dad was doing this, he had me and us. And after he was gone, it was me and my family. So, we were able to get this published, because it was so important. We worked so hard on this. And I also want to make a quick introduction to my uncle Ray, who is my father’s baby brother, who is also here in the audience and could be with us today. So, thank you.
It is an honor tonight to be in the presence of everybody here in this room. My father used to come, too, and he used to bring me also to this ship, to the Shabazz Center, often while we were working on this work. He used to get the energy. He used to love to commune with the community. But also it was a way of showing support to the family. He really, really had love and respect for you guys. And he always wanted to make sure that he, in his work, could do right by you guys and supporting you.
He did not want to write a book about Malcolm, because he felt we had everything we needed to know. He wanted — as a journalist, he wanted to find something new, and he found that after he had discussions with Malcolm’s brothers Wilfred and Filbert Little. And what he learned was that there is a story of Malcolm in his family as a child, of one of several children of Earl and Louise Little. And what we learn is, you know, what it was like to be in the family, who was — Earl and Louise were organizers for the Marcus Garvey and the United Negro Improvement Association. And this organization, as we found in our work, was also — influenced and impacted the Nation of Islam, the Moorish Science Temple and so many other organizations, and that that was one of the wonderful things of finding out this, just how this work that Marcus Garvey was doing, how he’s so important to all of us, and continues to be, and also how it’s a community.
My father was — just he wanted something new, and that’s where he started. He wanted to put Malcolm in the context of his family and the world he navigated. So that meant looking at Marcus Garvey and the UNIA. It also meant looking at the history of lynching, the history of slavery, the impact of the Jim Crow South and Reconstruction, and how we come out — how we came out of that. And then what — also uncovering other stories along the way.
And I hope, if you haven’t read our book, that you will — we will be selling it in the downstairs after the program — and read more about some of the other events that we have uncovered that were important in Malcolm’s life, and also to our understanding of ourselves. Malcolm wanted us to love ourselves and know who we were and where we came from in our history, but he also was very strategic about us knowing where we were going and how we were going to be — how we were going to get there. And he wanted us to be able to — for example, when he talked about self-defense, he also gave us the language to make sure that we did not accept the language that people like to throw on us, that violence, that we were using violence to defend ourselves. But he said, “We have every right as human beings in demanding that we recognize our human rights, and that everybody else recognize our human rights.” And starting with that, that’s where our work continues to be. We are in that point right now, and we’re just now catching up with Malcolm on that.
And so, where he would be right now, I don’t know. But I do know, as journalists, we wanted to find out what happened and what we could uncover. And I feel that this information that we found was very important in helping us understand what happened to Malcolm and what happened to us.
So, I am very honored to receive this on behalf of my father and myself and the work that we did. He was very passionate in telling the story. There’s very beautiful writing in this, and I really fought hard to make sure that his voice was preserved in this. And it is an honor to have been able to work with my father, practice his craft of journalism and handed down to me over these 30 years. And the work continues. I am honored to receive this award and honoring the legacy of Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz. Thank you.
MARC LAMONT HILL: The death of her son, Eric Garner, in 2014 at the hands of the NYPD, it launched Gwen Carr into action. His final words, “I can’t breathe,” became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement, the Movement for Black Lives, and police reform — and further — across the country. After retiring from a career with the MTA in 2015, Ms. Carr has devoted her life to activism. She is a member of Mothers of the Movement and has testified before the House Judiciary Committee of the U.S. Congress. She was a consoling voice to the family of George Floyd, whose last words were also “I can’t breathe.” Tonight, we present the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Vanguard Award to Gwen Carr.
ANN-MARIE WEATHERS: Unfortunately, Mrs. Gwen Carr was not able to be here tonight. As you know, her work is tireless and endless. So, we accept this on her behalf.
MARC LAMONT HILL: For 27 years, the progressive news broadcast Democracy Now! has produced fearless — and I really do mean fearless — independent, grassroots political journalism on a global scale. It brings us the stories and voices that are regularly excluded from mainstream media. The show’s host and executive producer, Amy Goodman, has won numerous journalism awards. She’s the author of six New York Times best-sellers. She also has a weekly syndicated column, which is also now a podcast. From the ordinary people standing up to establishment power, to the movements of leaders reshaping our world, we know about them because of her brilliance. And I got to just say this. There is a lot of spaces that say that they cover our issues, but very few really cover our issues in the way and on the terms they need to be covered. And some of us, when we’re catching hell, her program is the only platform that has given us voice. So, please, please — we are thrilled to present the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Vanguard Award to Amy Goodman!
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: I love this woman.
MALAAK SHABAZZ: Wait a minute. So do I. I watch the show. Democracy Now! I watch Democracy Now! every day. You kidding me? She does Democracy Now! Watch the show.
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: Congratulations.
MALAAK SHABAZZ: Excuse me. Wow! I watch your show every day.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, wow right back at you. What an honor it is to be here today, as I sat here looking at the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center, MEC, the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Mecca. That’s what we come to here in Harlem, this sanctuary of dissent.
It is both astounding, both horrific to think about what happened here 58 years ago, to be with the daughters and family of Malcolm X, who were here at that time. And yet what has been built from that moment. You talked about Yuri Kochiyama’s granddaughter being here. We flew to the Oakland area to sit with Yuri in her room as she showed us postcards from Malcolm, as she talked about what it meant for her to be right here 58 years ago, to be able to have a sanctuary of dissent, which is what all the media should be. That’s what will save this country. That’s what will save the world.
It is our job in the media to go to where the silence is. And you know, so often it is not quiet. It is raucous. It is Malcolm X speaking on a corner. It is people organizing at every level, but it doesn’t quite hit the corporate media radar screen. But the fact of the matter is that those, like Malcolm X, who cared about global justice, about racial justice, those of us in the world who care about economic justice, environmental justice, gender justice, are not a fringe minority, not even a silent majority, but the silenced majority, silenced by the corporate media, which is why we have to take the media back
You know, the other day, after yet another young man was gunned down by police, we were going to talk to Ben Crump on television, on Democracy Now! But we saw he was on CNN, and we thought, “OK, this isn’t going to happen.” But not only didn’t it — did it happen, but he took the computer and set it right down so that we would talk to him as he shared the screen with Tyre’s parents, and his mom said, “Remember this beautiful soul.” She couldn’t believe she was saying the words, “Remember,” her young man, a young father. It is so important we provide a forum for people to speak for themselves, only telling their stories when they can no longer do it or if they’re in jeopardy if they do so.
What an honor it is to be here with all of you. You know, Democracy Now! comes out of Pacifica Radio, which was founded after World War II by a war resister who said, “There’s got to be a media outlet that’s not run by corporations that profit from war, but run by journalists and artists.” As George Gerbner, the late dean of the Annenberg School of Communication, said, “not run by corporations that have nothing to tell and everything to sell, that are raising our children today.” And so, Pacifica was born, the wonderful, beloved, precious WBAI here in New York; in the Bay Area, KPFA; KPFK in Los Angeles; WPFW in Washington; and KPFT in Houston.
1970, that station, in the Petro Metro, in Houston, KPFT, went on the air. Within a few weeks. It was blown to smithereens by the Ku Klux Klan. They strapped dynamite to the base of the transmitter. When they got back on their feet a few weeks later, rebuilt the transmitter, the Klan strapped 15 times the dynamite to the base of the transmitter and blew it up again, in the middle of Arlo Guthrie singing “Alice’s Restaurant,” which I actually think is a good song. But months later, they get back on their feet again, January 1971. Arlo comes back to finish his song. All the media is there. And it never went off the air again, mainly.
I can’t remember if it was the grand dragon or the exalted cyclops, because I often confuse their titles, but he said it was his proudest act. And I think that’s because he understood how dangerous Pacifica is, how dangerous independent media is, how dangerous a place like the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Media and Education Center is, dangerous because when you hear people speaking from their own experiences, whether it’s a teenage girl at standing rock, or whether it is a young man in the oil fields of Nigeria taking on the multinational corporations that are pulling power from his country and disempowering so many there, whether it is a child in Palestine or an aunt in Afghanistan, when they speak, you may say, “That sounds like my mother, my aunt, my baba.” You may say, “It sounds like my uncle, who I can’t stand.” But when you hear someone speaking from their own experience, it breaks down the bigotry and the caricatures that fuel the hate groups. It makes it much less likely that you’ll want to destroy them. I think the media can be the greatest force for peace on Earth. Instead, all too often it is wielded as a weapon of war. And that’s why we have to take the media back.
I just want to end by saying, when Bernard White and I did Wake-Up Call on WBAI in the morning, each memorial of Malcolm X on this day each year, or on his birthday, on May 19th, we would play the speeches of Malcolm, and we would call Dr. Betty Shabazz. And I remember one morning we said, “We’re so sorry. We hope we’re not waking you up.” And she said, “What are you talking about? Malcolm’s words are echoing throughout the house, because I’m blaring, I’m blasting WBAI right now.” Let’s keep multiplying that.
You know, I see the media as a huge kitchen table that stretches across the globe, where we all debate and discuss the most important issues of the day — war and peace, life and death. And anything less than that is a disservice to a democratic society. It is critical that we expand the media, that we break the sound barrier. Democracy now!
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: And now I’d like to introduce you to my business partner and friend. We’ve worked together to develop an education curriculum to provide transformational tools that will facilitate individual, communal and societal healing and liberation. It is our wish that each student would not only see their life as a continuation of Malcolm’s work and legacy, but that he and she will also commit to creating a more just and equitable society. Ladies and gentlemen, help me welcome Brother Assad Koshul to the stage.
ASSAD KOSHUL: Thank you. A’oodhu Billahi min al-Shaytan ir-rajeem. Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem. Rabbi Sharli Sadri wa yassirli amri wahlul uqdatan mil-lisaani yafqahu qawli. Inshallah, it’s an honor to be here. And we are going to start by a four-minute promotional video.
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: Malcolm X Visionary. Malcolm X. El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, Malcolm X Visionary. Reclaim Malcolm X’s legacy. Modern-day principled leader. Impact cross sections of society. Individual ownership, responsibility, action. Change agent: spiritual, intellectual, social, political. Power of diverse experience, thinking. Mobilize, effect group dynamics. Inquiry-based learning: overview, probing questions, group exercises. Intellectual infrastructure: belief, self, family and group dynamics, society and justice. Human rights, strategic alliances, civil disobedience, self-determination, marginalized groups, equality of humanity. Instructional design focuses on personal improvement, situational analysis, critical thinking, observation power, problem-solving skills. Malcolm X’s legacy: lessons for us. Books: The Autobiography of Malcolm X, as told to Alex Haley; The Awakening of Malcolm X, Growing Up X. Movies, documentaries: Malcolm X: Make It Plain, Malcolm X. Formation, evolution, alteration. Key questions: What makes Malcolm unique, according to your understanding? Why is Malcolm’s message timeless? What is your personal anchor? What was Sister Betty’s “power supply” after Malcolm’s assassination? Is it appropriate to force a choice between Malcolm and Martin? Why or why not?
MALCOLM X: Be educated, so our behavior pattern and attitude toward ourselves will change. And once a little educating is done on both sides, you’ll probably find that that in itself will do more to bring about the spirit of brotherhood than all of the legislation that’s designed to force the two together. You can’t legislate brotherhood. Brotherhood comes about through understanding, and understanding is created through education.
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: Facilitators: Assad Koshul, Dr. Ilyasah Shabazz. Target audience: full-time schools, youth groups, churches, mosques, community centers, incarcerated, chaplains, returning citizens, sororities, fraternities, women’s organizations, spiritual leaders, business managers, executives. Malcolm X Visionary, www.MalcolmXVisionary.com, MalcolmXVisionary@gmail.com. Available April 1st, 2023. Get it on Google Play, download on the Apple Store.
ASSAD KOSHUL: So, again, it’s an honor to be here, and it’s an overwhelmingly, humbling experience to be here. So we will just — we are timeboxed. We’re down to four minutes and 55 seconds. So we will do one lesson. This is lesson number four of a body of knowledge of more than 200 lessons.
This is the overview. Malcolm X was living with his foster parents, Gohannases. And Malcolm’s mother admonished him, “Do not eat pork.” Malcolm went fishing and hunting with the Gohannases, Mr. Gohannas. And Malcolm observes that when a rabbit escapes the hunting dog, the rabbit runs in a pattern. This is what Malcolm observes. This is page 20 and 21, a direct lift from The Autobiography. We do the overview.
Then we ask probing questions every single lesson. Who are the characters? And what are the themes? There’s a theme sheet with 31 themes, which I’ll display. Just due to time constraint, I didn’t put it up first. Then we ask these questions of the participant. What does Malcolm’s attachment to nature heighten — how does Malcolm’s attachment to nature heighten his observation power? How do rabbits escape a hunting dog, and what pattern do they follow? What strategy does Malcolm arrive at to be a better hunter of rabbits? Keep in mind, he’s a foster child. He’s not even in high school yet. He’s been ripped away from his parents. Well, his father’s been murdered, and he’s been ripped away from his mother and his family.
So, then we give some of the themes. Malcolm learned a lot being in nature, and he developed a strategy. And he says — this is a direct lift from the book. He learned that — improve on a strategy. Anytime you find someone more successful than you are, then you’re both engaged in the same business, you know they’re doing something you’re not. So here he is a foster child, away from his parents, in nature, observing hunting rabbits. And he is developing skills of pattern recognition. Now, that is greatness. He is developing skills. Where other people see disjointed events, he’s seeing patterns. He’s not seeing complexity.
So, the human right theme. Everyone is capable of learning if the learning environment is stimulated with identifiable strategies. So, then, what we do — and I’m moving through this very quickly — we bring up the theme sheet. We have the four main runways: belief, self, family and society. And underneath them, we have 31 different themes. And as part of the proper instructional design, we ask the learner: What themes do you see? In this, the two main themes are character evolution and leadership. Malcolm is developing his intellectual capacity and leadership skills beginning even at this age. So we want the learner not to just describe the event to us. We want the learner to peel back the layers and say, “What of these themes do I see?” For example, we have 20 lessons on husband-wife relations. You want to be a better husband? You can learn it from Malcolm. So, the curriculum is, alhamdulillah, very vast.
Then we bring up the theme sheet. And in this, the one human rights theme is the ideal linkage of an active citizenry. Then, we do situational analysis on all of the lessons. I’m down to 90 seconds. What happened? Malcolm went hunting with his foster father. He improved the hunting strategy of the group. He observed the hunting strategy being used and strategically positioned himself to do better. He saw that the rabbit will run in a circle. So he positioned himself at 80% of the circle. Whereas the foster father and his hunting buddies were positioning themselves at the rabbit’s hole. So he got the rabbit before he went back to the hole. That’s what he did. That’s how smart he was, as a young teen — he was not even a teenager yet.
Why is it important? He improved upon an existing strategy. He understood how if someone is consistently better than you at something, you know they’re doing something you aren’t. And why is it unique? From a young age, Malcolm was encouraged by his mother to observe lessons in nature, to understand patterns and strategy that would benefit his life’s journey.
Then we go into character. You know, how is identity highlighted in this lesson? How is confidence highlighted in this lesson? This is all for all 200 lessons. Then we have these reflective questions. I’ll leave them here. The first two are not relevant to this lesson, but these are the seven standard reflective questions on all lessons.
So, this is the curriculum. It’s completely done. The only thing is the Google Android is — oops, OK, that’s the timer. OK, shallah. OK, I’m not going to disrespect the audience. It was an honor to be here. Inshallah, we’ll talk some other time. As-salamu alaykum.
MARC LAMONT HILL: Sorry, I’m working two jobs right now. But this is — this is 10-month-old Malcolm, my son. It’s his first commemoration. And he is going to help me give the next Vanguard Award to another wonderful brother. This award recipient specializes in civil rights and catastrophic personal injury cases, including wrongful death suits. He has represented the families of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tyre Nichols. For those outside of the spotlight, his firm also advocates for people affected by the Flint water crisis, plaintiffs in the Johnson & Johnson baby powder lawsuit, and the heirs of Henrietta Lacks, whose immortal cells continue to be used in medical research without her knowledge, permission or compensation.
A whole lot of people think to get a law degree means to get rich and to make a whole lot of money and to be all in the videos, but, no, not this brother. He understood that the more you have, the greater your duty is to your people. And he has used every — you can’t eat it, though, buddy. The more — and he has worked hard to fight for our liberation and to fight for freedom and to fight for justice and to make these names and these voices heard, not so that we can prosecute people who kill us, but so that we can get to a world where we are no longer victims of violence and subjected to premature death. Give it up for this year’s Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Vanguard Award winner to the trial lawyer for justice attorney Benjamin Crump. I love you, buddy.
BENJAMIN CRUMP: I love you, too, man.
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: I got so excited! Where’s my sisters? Come on, girls. Come on. You have to move a little faster.
MALAAK SHABAZZ: I have arthritis.
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: I know, sweetie. I know.
MALAAK SHABAZZ: I have arthritis.
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: Malaak [inaudible] had a little accident.
MALAAK SHABAZZ: Yeah, I’m having — I’m in recovery.
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: LeAsah, you should be up here, too. OK.
MALAAK SHABAZZ: I have arthritis.
BENJAMIN CRUMP: Thank you, Malaak.
I know we’ve heard a lot of keynote speeches tonight, and we only really want to hear from the queen, Angela Davis. And I’m humbled, Ms. Davis, because as a first-year law student, I read the trial of California v. Angela Davis. Yeah. And the best opening argument ever presented, better than any other attorney that I have ever had the pleasure to study, was the opening argument by you, Angela Davis, in defense of yourself. And I applaud you. We can never, ever thank you for being an example for this generation that followed you. And as I stand on this hallowed ground, I thank the Shabazz Center and the daughters and family of Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz.
I accept this award as greater motivation to wake up every day and go in courtrooms all across America and fight against the legalized genocide of colored people. And that’s why we have to continue to fight them every time. I mean, for every George Floyd, there is a hundred Black men and Black women, Amy Goodman, who nobody says their name, but we have to fight for them, just like they were Tyre Nichols, just like they were Breonna Taylor, just like they were Trayvon Martin, just like they were Eric Garner, just like they were Tamir Rice, just like they were Sandra Bland, just like they were Pamela Turner, and all those other names that we have come to know. But all of our people matter. Each and every one of them matter! Each and every one of them matter.
And I often think, Ilyasah and Malaak, Qubilah, I think, “What would have come of Malcolm, had they not, 58 years ago, on this day, assassinated one of the greatest thought leaders that was ever produced in the 21st century?” How much more Malcolm had to give the world? And I often think about that, Dr. Davis, when I think about Trayvon: What would have come of 17-year-old Trayvon, had he not been shot in the heart by some wannabe cop? What would have become, Marc, Breonna Taylor, this queen who was just two semesters from getting her college degree, being a nurse, but she was executed with nine bullets in her home while she was practically naked? What would have become of Botham Jean, young Black man who was in his own apartment, minding his own business, when this white policewoman came and shot him while he was eating ice cream and watching TV? And then she had the audacity to say, Gina, “Self-defense. It was self-defense.” But, Tamara, it wasn’t her house. It was Botham’s house. And so, we have to continue to stand up, speak up and fight for our children and our loved ones, because if we don’t fight for our children and our loved ones, we can’t expect nobody else to fight for our children and loved ones.
And finally, finally, I think about the Shabazz Center and the objectives of trying to make sure we educate the future generations with the history that has been contributed, Rob, by our ancestors. And I am ever reminded — ever reminded — that we have to fight racism and discrimination, Dominique, wherever it rears its ugly head. And so, you know, all of those high-profile police cases we fight, there are other battles that are just as important, whether it’s medical racism with Henrietta Lacks, whether it’s the $100 million lawsuit filed on behalf of Malcolm X’s daughters, because we can never let them think that we will forget about Malcolm X. We will continue to fight every day.
And we have to fight those who would try to rob our children and all children of learning about Black history, like our governor in Florida, Ron DeSantis, who is trying to prohibit the teaching of Advanced Placement African American studies. And so, I am on record, Attorney O’Neill, if he does not capitulate and allow the teaching of Black history, we’re going to sue him. We are going to sue him, because, as Dr. Carter G. Woodson said, also known as the “father of Black history,” if a race does not have a history, if it has no traditions that are respected and taught to the young people, then it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world and becomes in danger of being exterminated. And we refuse to let Governor DeSantis exterminate Black history in Florida. We refuse to let anybody exterminate Black history in any state in the United States of America, because Black history is American history. And not only do Black children need to know about Black history, but white children especially need to know about Black history. And so, we will fight, because our children need to know that our history made this country what it is today.
MARC LAMONT HILL: Woo! Woo! Wow! You see why these people got these awards. These are brilliant people. But it’s not just their words. It’s their minds and their spirits. They’re wonderful people. I want to remind us that not only is this space a tribute to the legacy of our dear brother Malcolm, it is also a testament to the commitment and hard work of his wife, Dr. Betty Shabazz. Here to pay tribute to Suster Betty is her friend and colleague from Medgar Evers College reading a selection from Apple Brown Betty. Here now is Dr. Safiya Bandele.
SAFIYA BANDELE: Thank you, and greetings, greetings. And, Attorney Crump, you have my everlasting love, because some years ago at the United Nations, some Black women had brought — had talked about the case of all the Black women at some state had been murdered. Nobody cared about them. You said you cared, that when you had a press conference, people came. But the press conference for those 10 murdered Black women, nobody came. So I thank you for lifting that up.
And I’m glad that we are in the house that Betty built, Malaak! This is the house that Betty built. And when we talk about, you know, erasure, we have to always make sure that she’s front and center. So, yeah, I’m going to stay to my four-and-a-half minutes, Ilyasah. And I want to — and I want to start by recognizing my colleagues. You know, for 21 years, Betty was at Medgar Evers, and so we had an up-front, close personal relationship. I know for a fact that she loved me. I know for a fact that I loved her. And my colleagues, you know, we walked the halls, sat in meetings with her. So I just want to share a few recollections, and I’ll ask them to stand when I’m done.
My friend, Thomas Oliver, says that “Dr. Betty Shabazz served with me in the president’s cabinet. We became great friends and colleagues and supported each other. Whenever she would be speaking at CBOs’ fundraisers, and she and I would attend them, she might be on the dais, and she would say, ’There’s one of my bosses at Medgar Evers College, Dean Thomas Oliver.’” Of course, he was a dean, but he was not her boss. I don’t think she had a boss at Medgar Evers, right?
And then, Cheryl Williams says, “Dr. Betty gave me practical money management advice, something my parents couldn’t provide. I was a younger Medgar Evers College colleague who wasn’t thinking about building a financial future. Her recommendations were numerous and invaluable. They provided me with a painless way to save. I credit Dr. Betty with my — in large part, with my having been in a position to buy a house, a Brooklyn brownstone at that.”
Doris Withers says that “During the time Betty and I were on the president’s cabinet, she consistently raised thousands of dollars every year for student scholarships and awards, which she then presented to them at the commencement ceremony.”
So, we have lots of memories, and Ilyasah is preparing to do something with all of the Medgar memories. But I want to just read from this book, Apple Brown Betty. You can buy a used copy. Just Google it. Apple Brown Betty, poetry and prose from Medgar Evers college. And this was one of our brilliant scholars. She was the first holder of the Dr. Betty Shabazz distinguished professorship here. Her name is Andree-Nicola McLaughlin. And so, I want to read something of what she wrote about Medgar. She said:
Why did the Creator choose for us, at Medgar and in central Brooklyn, to know this woman, Betty Shabazz, to be in her company on a regular and protracted basis, to interact with the wife, the trusted soul mate, the compañera of the great Malcolm, who Betty often referred to as “the brother”? Did the Creator want us to know the resolute candor, the creative intellect, the parental devotion, the nurturing wisdom, the compelling humor, the steel will, and even the honest vulnerability of Dr. Betty Shabazz — in other words, the human side of greatness?
Did the Creator put Dr. Shabazz here during the Medgar Evers years, during the time of flux and changes in leadership, for her to be a symbol of stability, staying the course and serving as the public manifestation of an enduring commitment to the education and possibilities of the Black working class, Malcolm’s people? Maybe the Creator brought Dr. Shabazz to us for 21 years because Medgar provided the safety, the security and the peace of mind that she was to find there and in central Brooklyn.
Was the Creator measuring the authenticity of our appetite for true understanding of ancient African civilization, the international power structure, African American history and culture, Black identity and spiritual development, about which Malcolm X taught and about which Dr. Betty Shabazz could elaborate his meaning? Or did the Creator intend for our predominantly female Black Medgar Evers College student body, many of whom are single mothers, to find inspiration in the example of Dr. Shabazz, who in the wake of tragedy found the strength to earn her bachelor’s, master’s — her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees while raising not one, not two, but six daughters?
And she was a frequent presence in the Center for Women’s Development when we did Sister Circles. And the women were talking about the struggles and how difficult it was, and then she would speak up about — yes, she was in the circle of sisters, they were sharing — about being that. She was that kind of down-to-earth person.
So, yeah, we think that she was at Medgar because the Creator had a master plan. And she never surrendered her mantle. She was prevailing in the eye of the storm. She was the Dinah Washington song, “Me and the One I Love.” She was Langston Hughes’ vision, “I Dream a World.” She was Alice Walker’s collected stories, You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down. And throughout, she was Gwendolyn Brooks’ poetic “Sermon on the Warpland,” which you know, which ends with “Conduct your blooming in the noise and whip of the whirlwind.” And that’s what she did. And that’s what we must do. Thank you.
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: That was beautiful. I wish I could call Sister Halima up here, but I know we don’t have time for that, because I’m known to let — bring everybody up. But, wow, that was beautiful. Thank you so much, Dr. Safiya Bandele.
Well, guess where we are on the program. We have finally arrived. First I’m going to acknowledge Dominique Sharpton, my sisters, and the other Sharpton sister over here, our godsister. I’m going to acknowledge Percy Sutton’s granddaughter, our other sister in the house, Keisha Sutton. You know, he owned the Apollo, WBLS, Inner City Broadcasting. He was also my father’s attorney. And, of course, we have here Ms. Gina Belafonte, Harry Belafonte’s daughter. There was someone else. Oh, guess who else is here. In the Malcolm X movie, there was a brother who started off the chant, “I am Malcolm X. I am Malcolm X,” and his name was Nelson Mandela. And we have his appointed grandson here, Ndaba Mandela. OK, and who am I forgetting? And did you know that my baby sister Malaak is here? Oh!
Well, here we are, you guys. Our keynote speaker is an American icon, a political activist, philosopher, academic and author. We love her so much. We were so honored when we knew she was coming. She is a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the author of 11 books on class, gender, race and the U.S. prison system. She’s spoken truth to power for decades, defying state-sponsored attempts to surveil her, silence her, prosecute her and imprison her. She continues to put her pen to paper and her body on the line in the feminist, antiwar, Occupy and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaigns. Thank you, young lady, for writing this script. In 2020 — because we love her, we wanted to tell you everything. She was listed as the 1971 Woman of the Year in Time magazine.
Thank you, Isisara Bey, for writing this script. In Time magazine’s 100 Women of the Year edition, which selected iconic women over the 100 years since women’s suffrage in the United States, in 2020, she was included on _Time_’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world. More than that, we know and honor her as a courageous truth teller and revolutionary who has devoted her life to the people in more ways than we can ever know.
It is fitting that she will stand in this space where my father lost his life. And we are so grateful. It is even more fitting that she will stand in this space that my mother created. We can never fully repay you for all that you have done and continue to do. So let us stand now and celebrate this dynamic woman with the utmost love and New York respect. It is my privilege to bring to Dr. Angela Davis!
MALAAK SHABAZZ: Really?
GAMILAH SHABAZZ: I have goosebumps. I have goosebumps.
MALAAK SHABAZZ: Yeah, but I want my own solo.
GAMILAH SHABAZZ: OK.
MALAAK SHABAZZ: I want my solo. OK.
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: Yes. OK, move down a little. OK.
GAMILAH SHABAZZ: This?
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: Thank you. Oh my goodness. Everybody’s so excited. We’re all so excited. We’re just happy.
MALAAK SHABAZZ: Wait a minute.
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: Oh my goodness.
MALAAK SHABAZZ: Got to get the —
ILYASAH SHABAZZ: OK.
MALAAK SHABAZZ: Because I want a copy. Gotta get the locks up in there. Oh no, no, no. Just me and you. OK. Thank you.
ANGELA DAVIS: You know, I don’t know about all of you, but I feel very full. I feel like we’ve already heard multiple keynotes this evening. But I do want to thank Dr. Ilyasah Shabazz and all of the sisters.
MALAAK SHABAZZ: Malaak.
ANGELA DAVIS: And I thank all of you for coming out this evening. This has been an amazing evening. I don’t think I will ever forget February 21st, 2023.
Now, I was so moved when I received the invitation to participate in this tribute to our Black shining prince, as Ossie Davis called him in that unforgettable eulogy. Malcolm X, El-Hajj Malik Shabazz, was assassinated on this day 58 years ago in this very place, now the house that Betty built, the Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz Memorial Education Center, and, as Amy said, Mecca.
Ossie said the following in Malcolm’s eulogy. “Last year, from Africa, he wrote these words” — Malcolm wrote these words — “to a friend. 'My journey,' he says, 'is almost ended, and I have a much broader scope than when I started out, which I believe will add new life and dimension to our struggle for freedom and honor and dignity in the States. I am writing these things so that you will know for a fact the tremendous sympathy and support we have among the African States for our Human Rights struggle. The main thing,'” he wrote, “'is that we keep a United Front wherein our most valuable time and energy will not be wasted fighting each other.'”
Malcolm’s words and his trajectory as a movement leader and a movement participant are as valuable today as they were six decades ago. They resonate in powerful ways, because the change Malcolm was calling for, the change we were calling for, has not yet happened. And therefore, Malcolm’s vision cannot be relegated to the past. His vision still helps us to imagine the future we want to see.
Now, official United States narratives of past history always attempt to assimilate demands for radical transformation into a neat story of progress and triumph. The very fact that Black freedom struggles came to be compressed and constricted by the rubric “civil rights movement” — and, of course, the civil rights movement was important, but that was not the entire story of the Black freedom movement. And that, in itself, is indicative of this assimilationist tendency, the fact that we ourselves often refer to the movement for Black freedom as only a civil rights movement.
During the 1960s, Malcolm emphasized the need to expand our vision. He told us that it was not only about civil rights, the rights that can be accorded to individuals by a single nation-state and its government. Our vision needed to be broader. It had to move, Malcolm said, across the borders of nation-states. It had to be transnational. It had to be international. The framework that Malcolm urged us to use was human rights.
Now, Malcolm’s trajectory, and his insistence on radical frameworks, has never been easily assimilable into a narrative of U.S. history as one in which increasing numbers of people get to participate in the circle of justice, equality and freedom. And I’m thinking about the way in which Dr. King’s image has been entirely assimilated into a capitalist narrative, which is not to say that Dr. King represented those ideas, but this is the official narrative, the official representation.
Now, Malcolm’s vision, from the very outset, or at least from the time he made the pilgrimage to Mecca, was an international vision, including not only people in the U.S. and not only Black people, but people all over the world. And I tell you that I treasure the story that was told to me by Yuri Kochiyama about hosting a meeting in her Harlem apartment, where Malcolm met with survivors of the bombing, the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima. And there’s also a photograph of Yuri leaning over Malcolm’s body in this place, shortly after he was assassinated. And I often wonder: Why is it that that photograph is not circulated more widely? You know, why didn’t we see Yuri represented in Spike’s film?
Well, you know, today is one of the final days of Black History Month, right? We get to use the 28 or 29 days of February to meditate on Black history, maybe a little bit longer since we start with Dr. King’s birthday. But there are those who say we should be engaged in those meditations 365 days of the year. But this is a time when we can reflect on what we should call the long struggle for freedom, the long struggle for freedom conducted by and on behalf of Black people in the Americas, the struggle against slavery, the struggle against segregation and secondhand citizenship, and, of course, the struggle of Africans against the slave trade and colonialism and neocolonialism. This is a time to reflect deeply on the long struggle for liberation that has already spanned multiple centuries. It is also a time to reflect on how we might accelerate that struggle in order to guarantee that those who have been denied entrance into the circle of freedom might not only be admitted, but by recognizing their struggles, their collective, multigenerational vision, it might be possible to imagine future worlds. And Malcolm asked us to keep our eyes on the future, future worlds, radical democratic futures for all beings who inhabit this planet.
And so, in the spirit of Malcolm’s contributions, I want us to ponder a couple of questions. How has it actually been possible for Black people and our allies, including in the first place Indigenous people — how has it been possible to remain committed over so many centuries, over so many generations, to the struggle for freedom? That is phenomenal, that each generation has passed on that impulse to fight for freedom to the next. And oftentimes, even when we thought the flames had been extinguished, we have a Black Lives Matter movement erupting.
And so, I think that we should acknowledge the phenomenal quality of Black culture, Black political culture, Black music, because where have we learned to cultivate that impulse for freedom? I mean, that is — that is the reason why we observe Black history. You know, Black history is not just because there are Black people in various parts of the world. It’s about what Black people have offered to people all over the world. And that is the desire, the cultivation of the desire to keep on struggling for freedom. It is in the art. It is the very heart of the music. And that is why Black music is known by people all over this planet.
Now, there’s also the question, which we have to acknowledge: Why is it that racism has persisted for so long? And why has it become so naturalized that its proponents often believe that what we refer to as racism is the natural destiny of the world? Now, Malcolm understood the deeply ideological character of racism. And I use the term “ideology” to mean the way that we humans imagine ourselves in relation to the conditions of our existence. Malcolm understood that ideology, even when you define it as the source of illusory ideas about such conditions, that ideology’s role is precisely to make the conditions of our lives appear to be normal. And as a matter of fact, the more normal something appears to be, the more likely it is to be produced in and through ideology.
This is the point that abolitionists make about the seeming permanence of jails and prisons, about the permanence of police, about the so-called school resource officers, about the child protective — so-called Child Protective Services that Dorothy Roberts calls the family policing system. But thanks to the way in which Malcolm taught us to engage in the kind of radical reflection on that which is ideological, we know that we can envision life beyond prisons and police. We can envision life beyond capitalism.
Now, Malcolm used his remarkable oratory and his phenomenal sense of humor to trouble our sense of comfort in a world that was predicated, that is predicated, remains predicated, on white superiority. Malcolm helped us to understand how we internalize those ideological assumptions, and how their persistence depends on all of us doing the work of prisons, the work of the police, the work of capitalism, white supremacy.
Now, I had the opportunity to hear Malcolm in person. And as a matter of fact, one of the things I’m most proud about, connected to my time in college, was the fact that Malcolm came in April of 1963 to speak at Brandeis University, and because there was only a handful of Black students there, I got to meet him. I was — all of the Black students got to meet him and to spend time with him. But that’s another story.
You know, I wanted to point out that there are — there are signs, there is evidence, that we can challenge that which is ideologically imposed. And I’m thinking about one area that we’ve seen a lot of change in over a relatively short period of time. And that is the demystification of the gender binary. Yes. I mean, who would have ever thought 20 years ago that we would be acknowledging, again, the ideological character of gender, that we would be attentive to pronouns? No, who would have ever imagined that? And I think it’s important to recognize it not only in terms of the advances that the trans movement has made, but also is evidence that we can dismantle other institutions whose seeming permanence is also a product of ideology.
And even as we develop the capacity to think about the damage wrought by racism, we often take shortcuts, and we capitulate to heteropatriarchal assumptions that the targets of racism are primarily Black men, or ethnocentric assumptions that racism affects exclusively Black people. Ron DeSantis — and, Ben, thank you for asking us to reflect on what is going on with that — don’t let me characterize him, but —
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Go on. We’re family. [inaudible]
ANGELA DAVIS: But I just heard him — well, OK, I’ll tell you that I just heard him — I think it was yesterday, maybe it was the day before — making fun of the fact that queer theory was included under the rubric of the Black studies Advanced Placement course that you were talking about. And, you know, he’s pretty stupid. You know, one of the things you learn — one of the things you learn, when you really try to engage in a serious process of learning, you learn that the more you learn, the less you know. You know, you learn all — you learn that there’s always so much more to learn. And this governor, this — OK.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We’re family. Come on.
ANGELA DAVIS: Absolutely, absolutely. So, but, you know — and what does he say? I guess he also — they also removed Kimberlé Crenshaw, so you’re not allowed to talk about intersectionality. But I was just going to say that we have to think about the intersectionality of racism. You know, it’s not just about identities.
And because this is a historical moment, when we are called upon to comprehend the structural, the systemic, the institutional character of racism, and then — OK, I’m just going to call them counterrevolutionaries, right? Because it reminds me so much of the period of Radical Reconstruction and the responses to it, and following W. E. B. Du Bois, I’m just going to call them the counterrevolutionaries, because they are trying to prevent the progressive developments from transforming our lives. And all he can think about is wokeness. I mean, he doesn’t even know what wokeness means. But he thinks that Black studies will cause white children to feel bad about themselves. I think he must be talking about himself.
But in any event, the reason we are witnessing these uproars right now, from DeSantis’s strategies in Florida to the actions of the College Board, is that education is integrally related to social change. And this is something Malcolm taught us, both through his words and through his actions, you know, thanks to Malcolm’s decision to teach himself in prison. Vast numbers of incarcerated people do the hard work of learning, often learning how to read, as Malcolm did, but certainly learning how to use their intellects. And as a matter of fact, there’s probably more intellectual greatness behind bars now than in any other place.
We’re on the verge of substantial shifts in the way people think about race and racism. And those who want to prevent these shifts from happening are frantically trying to turn back the clock. At least 36 states have adopted or introduced laws that impede educational projects about race and racism. And here in New York, at the end of 2021, Republican lawmakers introduced bills that prevent public schools from providing instruction on structural racism. Even in the most progressive states — and, you know, I come from California, and most of the times I’m happy to say that I come from California, because, well, first of all, I live in Oakland, and Oakland celebrates May 19th, Oakland and Berkeley. Malcolm X’s birthday is an official holiday in both of those cities. But even in the most progressive states that we see efforts to restrict and confine instruction. California is also, I think, the only state with a statewide ethnic studies curriculum. But there have been major efforts, vociferous efforts, to prevent the inclusion of Palestine and Palestinians and Palestinian Americans in the curriculum.
Amidst all of the pain and suffering produced by the COVID pandemic — and we’re not that far removed from that era — this new collective awareness of the structural character of racism was generated. Not that it was a new way of thinking about racism. Scholars like W. E. B. Du Bois pointed this out scores of decades ago. Malcolm talked about institutional change. But the change, as many people have recognized over the decades, is one that involves not so much of a shift in subjective attitudes, although that’s definitely welcome, but it’s about structural transformation. It’s not about white people not liking Black people or Indigenous people or Latinx people. And that will change if there is structural change. But we can treat racism as a character defect or a character flaw and leave the entire systematic structure of racism intact. You know, they talk about racism without the racists.
But in the spirit of all of the freedom movements, that I tried to evoke at the beginning of my presentation, all of the freedom movements that have preceded us, let us vow never to forget the summer of 2020. It was only two-and-a-half years ago, and we’re already treating it like — yeah, like it’s a relic of history. It was two-and-a-half years ago when we were deep in the throes of the worst crisis most of us can remember, and we collectively experienced the police lynching, the police murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and all of the others that have been referred to. This occurred in the process of also recognizing that communities that were already subject to racism were the ones who were suffering most from the COVID pandemic — a new awareness of the structural racism within the healthcare system, within the privatized healthcare system, within the capitalist healthcare system. Actually, not so much a new awareness, but a collective attentiveness to an idea that activists, scholar-activists have been insisting on since the era of Radical Reconstruction in the aftermath of slavery.
And there have been those who have pointed out that racism is connected to capitalism, that capitalism is at its core racial capitalism, and not only here in the U.S. Capitalism was produced by colonialism and slavery. But, finally, it seemed, people seemed to get it. Racism does not emanate from the fact that white people don’t like Black people or Indigenous or Latinx or Asian people. It is produced and reproduced structurally, systemically, institutionally. And this was a kind of collective aha moment. And we should never forget that.
This is why more people poured out into the streets of this country than ever before in the history. This is why people joined the mobilizations. This is why more white people joined all of the mobilizations. And people were out in the streets, even though we did not yet know then how COVID was transmitted. Millions of people poured out into the streets at the risk of their own lives. Demonstrating this new awareness became more important than the lives of individuals — the most remarkable moment in our recent history, maybe even in the history of this country. And this is why DeSantis and others are excising examination of this movement from the school curriculum.
And so, the stage was set for us to attempt to accomplish what should have been done in the 19th century in the immediate aftermath of slavery. And it seemed that a good majority of people in this country, people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, seemed to realize this. To overlay the political context, all of this was happening during the presidency of the person whose name shall not be pronounced during our meeting this evening. Thus the counterrevolution. Thus the attack against critical race theory, which is a serious interdisciplinary field founded on the work of those who were attempting many years ago to understand the way structural racism expressed itself through the law.
So, those of you who are interested in history will be utterly struck by all of the parallels between the reaction to Radical Reconstruction, 1867 to 1877, and what we are currently witnessing. The police murder of Tyre Nichols in the very same city in which Dr. King was assassinated punctuates the message that racism is structural. Awareness of racism is not about making white children feel guilty. It is about recognizing the deep structures of racism in all of our institutions, regardless of who the individual perpetrators might be. It is a machine. It is a system. It is a culture that is produced and reproduced.
And now we know better how to initiate the process of ridding our world of racism. We know better than ever before. And I just have a few more words. I just — I want to say it involves standing up against heteropatriarchy. We know that it involves saying no to economic exploitation We know we cannot exclude any community that suffers from the effects of racism. And this includes Asian Americans. And this includes Arab Americans. This includes Palestinians. We know.
We know, finally, that we cannot struggle for human freedom without recognizing that we are all animals and that we must stand in support of our nonhuman coinhabitants of this planet. And thank you so much for the beautiful metaphor of the rabbit, the pattern of the rabbit escaping. But I think that we look at — we look at simple creatures like ants that are able to entirely transform a place and build these edifices, these architectural edifices, without at all harming the environment. I think we have much to learn from them, that it is possible to benefit from this Earth, even to transform it, without annihilating the very conditions of future life on this planet. Thank you very much.