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Arts & Culture

Malcolm X's daughter to speak at Trinity University

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Ilyasah Shabazz, daughter of slain civil rights leader Malcolm X, delivers Trinity University's Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Lecture on January 17. It's somewhat ironic, given that the two were estranged for most of their lives. X distanced himself from King by saying “violence in self-defense isn’t violence — it’s intelligence.” Shabazz seemed surprised about the title of her lecture when contacted by the Current.
“Oh, really? Am I speaking about Dr. King? I thought I was going to talk about 'Growing Up X,'” Shabazz said, referring to her title for the talk.

Shabazz earned a master of science in education and human resource development and a bachelor of science in biology from Fordham University. She was there with President Bill Clinton as part of the U.S. delegation that attended Nelson Mandela’s inauguration in South Africa in 1994.

Your father was murdered in front of your eyes, but in your book you say you don’t remember any of it. How do you remember him?
Most of my memories of my father are flickering. I wasn’t quite three years old when he was killed. I remember a beautiful voice, a beautiful smile with big pearly white teeth. He was loving, compassionate, and that’s how most people remember the personal side of him — very personal, very warm, with a great sense of humor, which both of my parents had. I also remember a rocking chair he had given me, and he once gave my two sisters and me these three beautiful brown dolls. It’s those kinds of memories that I have.

Given the early differences your father had with Dr. King, I found it very significant that your visit was announced as a “Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Lecture” and not one about your father. Though their differences became smaller later on, it is still hard to talk about Dr. King without talking about your father, and vice versa.
I think that when most people talk about Dr. King they do talk about Malcolm X and vice versa. Talking about freedom fighters, martyrs who gave up their life for the betterment of humanity, especially during the Civil Rights movement, it was very hard to talk about one without talking about the other. When we think of revolutionaries, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, usually we don’t choose one over the other; they’re all held in high esteem for giving their life for the freedom of their country. Among people of color the same consideration should be given: Both Malcolm and Martin contributed in a very significant way. We should never choose one over the other. But in the case of W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington, [African Americans have] almost been conditioned to choose one over the other instead of embracing both of their contributions. The same with Dr. King. Growing up, we were very close to [Dr. King’s] family.

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