Ilyasah Shabazz, the daughter of famed civil rights activist Malcolm X, visited Long Beach’s Martin Luther King Center last Friday, where she discussed her father’s legacy of fighting for equality and unity with children, teens and local residents.
The event, hosted by Long Beach City Councilwoman Anissa Moore — the first African-American elected to the City Council — and the Long Beach MLK Center, commemorated the end of Black History Month and the start of Women’s History Month.
Moore and MLK Center board Chairman James Hodge moderated the event, and about 50 people turned out to hear from Shabazz, including members of the city’s Civil Service Employees Association and students from Hempstead High School.
“We recognize women’s and black history is tied to American history,” Moore said.
“It’s great for the community to have this experience to connect to those that did so much not just for America but for the whole world,” Hodge told FiOS1 News.
Malcolm X was assassinated at the age of 39 by three gunmen on Feb. 21, 1965, at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City. He was about to deliver a speech that evening to an audience that included his wife, Betty Shabazz, and their young children when the shots rang out. His death took place at the height of the civil rights movement in America.
Ilyasah Shabazz, 56, talked about Malcolm X’s formative years and his transition into becoming one of the country’s most powerful civil rights leaders and activists. Shabazz has spent years traveling the country and the world speaking about her father’s legacy.
"It was a pleasure to meet Ilyasah Shabazz and listen to her speak about her father, Malcolm X and all that he stood for," Long Beach resident Marcus Tinker, a deacon at the Christian Light Missionary Baptist Church, said after the event. "It was great to hear things from her perspective, especially with her being so young at the time her father was murdered. She is doing a great work by speaking and telling the story about her father and carrying on the legacy with speaking up for what is right and calling out the things that are wrong in society."
In 2016, she wrote “X: A Novel,” which received a NAACP Image Award nomination. Shabazz said that her father did not advocate violence and spoke about the many of the misconceptions surrounding his views, at a time when many of the issues he fought for are still being fought today.
“The image that was created of my father was so inaccurate,” she said. “He was always a loving and passionate, caring person.”
“People say, ‘Your father was controversial,’” she added. “My father wasn’t controversial. He had impeccable integrity. He was righteous. He continually challenged and spoke truth to power. He never advocated violence. He never advocated anything negative. It was always about empowering ourselves and getting this boot off the back of our necks.”
Shabazz discussed the impact of slavery, racism and discrimination that her father rallied against.
“Look at the terror people endured for 400 years,” she said. “To make us think that Malcolm was the person who was inciting negativity and hostility when he was the one who was saying, ‘stop!’ I think it’s important for us to understand that.”
She also discussed the importance of honoring black mothers in the community, self-love, empowerment, unity and self-expression.
“My parents raised me to understand that we’re all brothers and sisters under the family of God, and to acknowledge the beauty of diversity,” she said. “There’s such beauty in our diversity, and how fortunate we are in America that we can have the world’s nationalities living together. It’s important that we invest in our children and teach them properly.”
Shabazz said that her father grew up with two loving parents — Baptist minister Earl Little and Louise Helen Little — “who were intellectual, humanitarian activists,” who instilled an upbringing of education and love. Shabazz said that Malcolm X wanted to be a lawyer, doctor and advocate.
“That story wasn’t told,” she said. “It was that Malcolm just was this deviant who … was bad and went to jail and promoted violence. That is so far from the truth.”
She noted the importance of adults in guiding, nurturing and protecting black youth, and creating a sense or empowerment. She added that it was “important not to be distracted by things that divide us.”
“When young people are told that their lives don’t matter, black lives don’t matter, you get crushed and you’re not sure how to express yourselves,” Shabazz said. “My father said, ‘Only a fool would sit back and allow his enemy to teach his children.’ It’s important not to alienate yourselves. Forget about the things you think matter, because I guarantee they don’t.”
She also noted the importance of creating a legacy.
“A legacy is not someone who is famous,” she said. “A legacy is born in each and every one of us … Your legacy is evolving right now and it is important that you get as much education as you possibly can ... so you can continue to build upon your legacy and really have a fulfilling, meaningful life.”