Click here to go to the Home Page On Dr. Manning Marable and Malcolm X A Life of Reinvention By Al-Hajii Abdur-Rahim Muhammad, BC Guest Commentator

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Since the publishing of Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Dr. Manning Marable there has been spirited discussion on the matter and condemnation from some. Unfortunately, Dr. Marable is not here to answer his critics personally which he was more than capable of doing.

In 2006 Dr. Marable came to Washington, DC at our invitation to interview Dick Gregory on stage at the historic Lincoln Theatre when Mr. Gregory received our Paul Robeson �Here I Stand� award. Prior to introducing Mr. Gregory, Dr. Marable spoke passionately about what he termed the �unholy trinity� of mass incarceration, mass unemployment and mass disenfranchisement that was the new slavery of Black American men. Dr. Marable in my opinion was a dedicated scholar deeply concerned with the plight of Blacks not just in America but throughout the Diaspora.

For anyone to label this man an uncle Tom, house Negro, and even worse covering his work Malcolm X a Life of Reinvention as a lie is very disturbing and tarnishes not Dr. Marable or his work but discredits the individuals making these unwarranted personal attacks. Dr. Marable was not only genuine and sincere, but correct in his attempt to offer up Malcolm the man instead of Malcolm the saint, which he was not, and is a good starting point for serious discussion on the trajectory of his politics.

Dr. Marable provided his work with the best possible title. A life of Reinvention. Most of us who became politicized during the 60�s went through some sort of personal reinvention and awareness. Many of us because we were awakened by Malcolm. Amari Baraka reinvented himself from Leroi Jones. As Leroi Jones he went to Cuba in 1959 and met intellectuals from all over Latin America who assailed him on his pronouncements of not being political and just being an artist. They told him that was unacceptable when so many people in the world were suffering including his own people in America. He said they screamed at him that he was just practicing �bourgeois individualism.�  Can you ever imagine a time when Amiri Baraka was called out for being a bourgeois individual?  As they say the rest is history. Cassius Clay a charismatic boxer reinvented himself to Muhammad Ali the most famous and beloved person in history. Frantz Fanon�s masterpiece Black Skin White Masks demonstrated that nearly all of us under oppression have had to rip the White mask off our face and in doing so reclaim our true self a process of reinvention. I think it is in this context that Dr. Marable uses the term reinvention.

The question of Malcolm being a saint or no saint, realistically portrayed, humanized all in my opinion important issues when attempting to deal with Malcolm�s powerful influence on Black people. Malcolm was a devoted follower of Elijah Muhammad. The followers of Mr. Muhammad believed him (Elijah) to be, not a Messiah but the Messiah. He was referred to as Dear Holy Apostle, Lamb of Allah and Last Messenger of Allah. Ministers throughout the Nation compared him in works and life to prophets in the Bible and Holy Quran. Many even were surprised when he passed because they thought he was going to live a few hundred years minimum. Some followers also thought that the War of Armageddon was right around the corner and in this climatic battle between good and evil the White people in American were going to roll over and Nation of Islam Muslims were going to walk into positions of authority. Now, how different is this from thousands of our people who have come up projecting messianic powers on their pastors or other leaders in their faith and because they do this they fail to get moving and do what they should be doing for themselves. Malcolm�s most difficult job was to get our highly religious faith loving people to stop waiting on the Savior to come and rely on themselves individually and collectively. When you broaden the discussion of our leaders to include all aspects of their being, then you lessen the messianic hold they have on the people, empowering them and placing them in control over their own lives and destiny.

The slave masters of old and recent times, including their overseers to include J. Edgar Hoover knew how steeped we were as a people in our faith and belief systems. They were always looking for the one individual that we would pour our hopes and dreams in to lead us to the promised land. In modern times they gave their efforts a name �Cointelpro� but it�s the same old wickedness.

When the NOI began moving forward under Elijah Muhammad many of the first followers believed absolutely in his divinity. It should be of no surprise. Look how the followers of Father Divine, Daddy Grace and Reverend Ike poured everything they had emotionally and physically into their trust. Malcolm did the same. It was only when his belief was rocked by rumors of Mr. Muhammad�s infidelity that Malcolm began considering Elijah as a man and not Messiah or Last Messenger of Allah. He fought with himself to submit to this new reality. So even with Malcolm you have to consider faith and degree of belief in another to understand him in total.

Once you do that Malcolm becomes a more powerful figure because he�s no longer the anointed Malcolm but the determined, enlightened, courageous and admirable man we all love. But now we can see all the other Malcolm�s that reside among us. Faith, humanizing, real or unreal saint or no saint, its all important to the discussion and understanding of the life of Malcolm X. You cannot frame the discussion to only a few aspects of Malcolm�s life that only you feel are important. There is hardly anything more important in the discussion of our leaders and movements in this country than how our faith, religion, beliefs, and spirituality has comforted, sustained, shaped, strengthened our will and moved us forward in the face of overwhelming odds. Dr. Marable understood this and that�s why I came away from his book with a greater understanding and appreciation of how determined, courageous and brilliant Malcolm was in pushing away all the interfering influences throughout his remarkable life that attempted to blur his vision and keep him from finding his way and true self while fulfilling his mission in his own unique way.

The importance of our spirituality and its relevance to any discussion of Black leadership and an understanding of Black people in America is found in the reading of Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois�s brilliant work �The Souls of Black Folks.� Dr. Du Bois begins every chapter with a verse for the �Sorrow Songs� which he calls �the singular spiritual heritage of the nation and the greatest gift of the Negro people.� The opening chapter titled �Of Our Spiritual Strivings.�

Dr. John Henrik Clarke spoke about how his major disappointment with the 60�s movements was that few Black Institutions remain from, or were even began in that time period. I would like our Black scholars at some point to take on that aspect of what remains in place, of good and benefit to our people, that was began during the 60�s and remains a force today.

BC Guest Commentator Al-Hajii Abdur-Rahim Muhammad is Founder & President of the Hung Tao Choy Mei Leadership Institute in Washington, DC. Mr. Muhammad is a graduate of Hampton Institute and the University of the District of Columbia. He was a member of the Nation of Islam beginning in the early 1970�s and stayed with the new Muslim community under Warith Deen Muhammad after the passing of his father Elijah Muhammad. Mr. Muhammad made Hajj in 1978. Click here to contact Mr. Muhammad.

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May 24, 2012 - Issue 473
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