Preserving the legacy of Malcolm X, but he still living through US who love him so!

By Noble Johns

To this day, some white people in this country still hate Malcolm X for his personal courage against a system of racism that controlled Black Americans with race terror and continuous discrimination, but he fought on until he was murdered by the very people he was fighting to free.

Four decades after his death, Malcolm X has inspired another movement -- one aimed at re-examining and preserving his legacy.

He was one of the most charismatic figures in the civil rights movement and also one of its most feared, a former convict who abandoned his "slavemaster name," energized the Nation of Islam and met a violent end at 39.

Leading the way are Malcolm X's daughters, who want to convince people he was a champion of human rights and are converting the Audubon Ballroom in upper Manhattan -- the scene of his assassination on February 21, 1965 -- into a history center that would catalogue his life and work.

"It's our responsibility to make sure that we do preserve and document our history to empower future generations," said Ilyasah Shabazz, the third of six daughters born to Malcolm X and wife Betty Shabazz.

On Monday, the Audubon will be the site of a commemorative event on the anniversary of Malcolm X's death. The official opening of the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Education Center at the Audubon is slated for May 19, on what would have been his 80th birthday.

His life has defied easy definition.

The son of a preacher who was killed after being threatened by the Ku Klux Klan, Malcolm Little was arrested for robbery in 1946 and spent six years in prison. He emerged as a fiery Nation of Islam minister with a new name and a message that blacks should cast off white oppression "by any means necessary."

He propelled the Nation of Islam from a 500-member sect into a political and religious organization with 30,000 members by 1963. His messages of black empowerment and self-sufficiency made him an icon to blacks and others around the world.

In 1964, he split from the Nation of Islam, and after an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca where he worshipped alongside Muslims of all colors, he renounced racial separatism.

His new direction angered some Black Muslims -- and led to his murder during a speech at the Audubon Ballroom.

The ballroom's new center will house a multimedia environment containing documents about Malcolm X's life, including memoirs, notes, speeches and other personal items rescued by his family and now held by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

"There has been a lot of paraphrasing. Now there will be a lot of clarity," said another daughter, Malaak Shabazz, who hadn't been born yet when Malcolm X was slain. "This collection really is going to enlighten a lot of people."

In his autobiography, Malcolm X said the media, the government, and even other black leaders characterized him as a demagogue. But his family said the presentations will dispel that portrayal.

At the time, said Malaak Shabazz, "there weren't that many people of color at the forefront, speaking not just for black and white issues but human rights issues. But before he was assassinated he was going to speak at the United Nations to speak on the human rights issues that faced indigenous people and people of color."

The collection will also reveal a different side of Malcolm X, his family said.

"Looking at these letters, the vulnerabilities, the determination, the commitment and the humanity was really touching," said Ilyasah. "You get to see that he was a young man, he was a father, a husband, he was someone's child."

Setting the record straight

Other projects also are aimed at setting the record straight on Malcolm X.

Manning Marable, a professor of history and political science at Columbia University, is working on a biography he says will dispel errors in other literature.

"Many of the books that document Malcolm have major inaccuracies," said Marable. "Many are poorly edited and don't encompass the entirety of his speeches."

Next year, Percy Sutton, Malcolm X's personal lawyer who later served as Manhattan borough president, is launching his own project, the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Living History Foundation. Its purpose, Sutton said, will be "for people to learn about Minister Malcolm and Dr. Shabazz and what their contributions were."

The family welcomes renewed interest in Malcolm X.

"They say that our father changed, that there was this transformation," said Ilyasah Shabazz. "I don't think it was a transformation -- he evolved."

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