Column: Key Is Choosing Growth Going Forward

February 21, 2016

[Opinion column written by Glenn Fubler]

Life is change…growth is optional… choose wisely… [Quote from Karen Kaiser Clark]

On February 21, 1965 Malcolm X [el Hajj Malik el Shabazz] was assassinated. He was one of four leaders killed in the United States within a five -year period, all of whom impacted global change.

Malcolm was a transformative figure whose autobiography appeared on Time’s top-ten list of the most influential non-fiction books of the 20th Century.  Malcolm’s legacy for current generations was his modeling; choosing wisely, the option of growth, throughout his life.

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Born May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska, Malcolm Little’s family was part of a challenged minority during the Depression. His father led the local Garvey Movement; nurturing his children’s pride. Their independence made them targets of the KKK; their home fire-bombed. Subsequently his father died in a ‘suspicious’ street-car accident. This, all by the time Malcolm was six.

When Malcolm was 13, his mother experienced a mental breakdown and was hospitalized for many years. The seven children were put into various foster-homes; marking a slide into criminality for the exceptional student. By the age of 20, Malcolm was imprisoned for 8 years for burglary.

That incarceration marked a shift. Malcolm’s teen-years were spent ‘paying back’ a hostile society. He chose a life of crime – drugs, numbers, pimping; ending up in prison, where an introduction to the teachings of the Nation of Islam offered a new-beginning.

Released in 1952 as Malcolm X, he was quickly promoted through the ranks, as the protégé of leader Hon. Elijah Muhammad. This organization mirrored some of the philosophy of Malcolm’s father; espousing separatism, pride and self-help; reacting to the terrorism supporting segregation by calling for racial separation.

Malcolm quickly became the ‘face’ of the NOI, trumpeting its programs reforming addicts; promoting its small businesses and knocking the Civil Rights movement for its goal of integration. His bitter experience had shaped his philosophy; focused on fighting the old, not yet able to Dream.

However, Malcolm eventually developed enough to spark healthy pride for people of African ancestry; encourage the marginalized to find their voices and foster a Global perspective – shifting conversations from ‘civil’ to ‘human’ rights.

Eventually, Malcolm’s continued Growth brought him to another crossroads. The authoritarian nature of the Nation of Islam disempowered members. By March 1964 Malcolm ‘chose wisely’ and left the group.

Subsequently, Malcolm began exploring the bigger picture. He carried out a Hajj to Mecca where he saw fellow Moslems of all races. He also travelled through Africa, France and the U.K.; having the opportunity to meet personally with a number of emerging leaders. From that growth, Malcolm began collaborating with civil rights groups and shifting from ‘fighting the old’, towards seeking future possibilities; ‘responding’ rather than ‘reacting’.

Two days before his death; Malcolm spoke with Ebony photographer, Gordon Parks – reflecting on his growth:

“Brother, remember the  time that white college girl came to the restaurant- the one who wanted to help the [Black] Muslims and the whites get together – and I told her there wasn’t a ghost of a chance and she went away crying? Well, I’ve lived to regret that incident. In many parts of Africa I saw white students helping black people… I did many things I’m sorry for now…the sickness and the madness of those days…..   I’m glad to be free …”.

It is worth noting that Malcolm didn’t need to go to Africa to see whites helping blacks. That previous summer, more than 1,000 white students travelled to Mississippi for ‘Freedom Summer’[1964] facing terrorism, worked in solidarity with black students to establish the Right to Vote.

Likes us all, Malcolm had his blind spots. However, when he was made aware of one – he choose growth.

Malcolm’s final reflections could help us here in Bermuda. We might encourage each other with addressing our blind spots. All of us will have some personal history that we regret. The key is choosing growth – going forward.

Like Malcolm, we’ll find that it’s never too late to choose growth. That choice – for us in Bermuda – will make us ‘glad to be free’ – benefiting future generations.

- Glenn Fubler

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Comments (4)

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  1. Sickofantz says:

    rEALLY GOOD COLUMN

  2. BDA says:

    One of my favorite Malcom X quotes which relates to the state of race relations:

    “If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there’s no progress. If you pull it all the way out, that’s not progress. Progress is healing the wound that made that blow.”

    • Very nice, even though America has it racist biggots you have to admire the brave whites (modern day abolitionist) that oppose the system of racism, even though they can keep quiet and have an “it dose’nt effect me attitude” but yet enjoy the undeserved privilege.
      I guess our white Bermudians can take a page out of their books.

  3. good onion says:

    This is a very good column. Very timely.

    Perhaps we all need to reflect on ourselves the way M.X. did. There will always be good and bad in this world but too often we dwell on the bad and I think we do that at our peril.