Cornel West: Why Malcolm X Still Speaks Truth to Power

From Smithsonian online
by Cornel West

Fifty years after his death, Malcolm X remains a towering figure whose passionate writings have enduring resonance.


Malcolm X was music in motion. He was jazz in motion, and, of course, jazz is improvisation, swing and the blues. Malcolm had all three of those things. He could be lyrical and funny and, in the next moment, he’d shift and be serious and push you against the wall. The way he spoke had a swing to it, had a rhythm to it. It was a call and response with the audience that you get with jazz musicians. And he was the blues. Blues is associated with catastrophe. From the very beginning, from slavery to Jim Crow, that sense of catastrophe, of urgency, of needing to get it out, to cry out, to shout, somehow allowed that fire inside of his bones to be pressed with power and with vision. He never lost that.

 The button bearing an image of Malcolm X—created after his death as an act of commemoration—is in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, a talisman of his loss. 

Let me talk about that loss. Just before he was shot in New York on February 21, 1965, Malcolm was setting up his own mosque. He was a Sunni Muslim leader. When we think what it means to be a revolutionary Muslim in this day, when people are looking for ways Islam can be compatible with democracy, his assassination robbed us of that. He could have been a model of what it means to be a revolutionary Muslim, in the way in which Martin Luther King Jr. became a revolutionary Christian.

It’s a fascinating development that could have taken place, and both perspectives could have begun to overlap.  In fact, Malcolm was a Muslim but he invoked Hebrew prophets, Isaiah, Amos. He invoked Jesus, emphasizing that perspective of looking at the world from below, echoing the 25th chapter of Matthew: What you do for the least of these—the prisoner, the poor, the stranger, the widow, the fatherless, the motherless, the weak, the vulnerable—has lasting value. 
Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/why-malcolm-x-still-speaks-truth-power-180953976/#LQe4ChZEixhpgsqR.99
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image: http://thumbs.media.smithsonianmag.com//embedly/index.jpg.300x0_q85_upscale.jpg

Preview thumbnail for video 'Black Prophetic Fire

Black Prophetic Fire

In an accessible, conversational format, Cornel West, with distinguished scholar Christa Buschendorf, provides a fresh perspective on six revolutionary African American leaders: Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr., Ella Baker, Malcolm X, and Ida B. Wells.

h/t Reg Clark


 

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