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MLK, Malcolm X in conversation at June 7 ERASE Racism benefit


On March 26, 1964 Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X met briefly for the first and only time. The two had divergent views. One preached absolute non-violence, the other, at times, violent resistance. King wrote of the meeting: “He [Malcolm X] is very articulate, but I totally disagree with many of his political and philosophical views — at least insofar as I understand where he now stands.”

But much like Malcolm X’s views changed over the years, so has the African American experience since the two great civil rights figures were assassinated. If they were alive today, what would they talk about?

This is the question, Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts III and civil rights lawyer Frederick K. Brewington — both prominent civil rights activists in our time — will attempt to answer when they play the two, in conversation, at ERASE Racism’s June 7 annual benefit at the Garden City Hotel. The conversation will portray how Dr. King and Malcolm X might comment on the social and political climate of 2017.

ERASE Racism is a non-profit that challenges structural racism on Long Island as well as regionally and nationally. It does so through publishing research for use by media, public officials, academics, other non-profits and average community members. It also works to redress racial discrimination in housing, public school education and community development via community organizing, policy and legislative advocacy, litigation and educating the public.

Brewington, a Lakeview native and long time civil rights attorney, will play Malcolm X, a divisive figure in his time, but one that also showed an evolution of thinking. “The legacy of Malcolm is one that is emblematic of growth,” he explained. “It clearly showed a development in both his view and thinking about relationships, and led many people to understand that, simply because you find yourself in one point of view one day, it doesn’t mean you can’t broaden your horizons to consider the views of other people at some point, and not only consider them but also help them to evolve your own view.”

He added “Malcolm X played a pivotal role in forcing America to realize that there are important points that must be addressed in order for the concept of the equality and justice to actually control who we are.”

Rev. Dr. Butts, pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem and president of the State University of New York College at Old Westbury, will take on the role of Dr. King. “He was a prophet, not only for this country but for the world,” Butts said. “To me, he walks in the same light as Ghandi or even Moses or Frederick Douglas. He was a person who revealed the ugliness of our nation with the hope that we could work together to make it better. In fact under his prophetic vision we did make it better.

“Only now, we see it being unraveled by the ugliness we see today,” he continued. Speaking on Dr. King’s legacy: “He represented the love that all human beings should extend to each other. He represented the greatest ideals of America.”

The benefit is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. to purchase tickets or donate, visit www.eraseracismny.org or call (516) 921-4863.