“In 1965 my mother witnessed the political assassination of her husband,” said Ilyasah Shabazz. “My mother placed her entire body over my sister and me to protect us from the gunfire and to make sure we did not see.”
These were the poignant words of the third eldest daughter of Malcolm X who was the featured guest speaker for Black History Month at Rhode Island College. This lecture, held on Feb. 12, was sponsored by Harambee, the RIC black student organization, and the Rhode Island College Division for Student Success.
The auditorium was filled to capacity as Shabazz shared the legacy of her late parents and encouraged the young leaders of tomorrow to continue the struggle for human rights.
“People often ask me, ‘What did he [Malcolm X] do?’” Shabazz said, to which she replies, “My father redefined the American civil rights movement to include a human rights agenda.” He “circled the globe tirelessly,” she said, in search of solutions to the problem of racism in which a brother can oppress a brother “simply because of the melanin in his skin and the mineral resources in his land.”
In the end, Malcolm X was an activist who called for human rights for all people.
When he was gunned down in a lecture hall in 1965, his wife, Betty Shabazz, was pregnant with twins and had four other small children in tow. Ilyasah Shabazz noted that people wonder how her mother could survive such adversity or how the wives of other fallen leaders like Coretta Scott King, Myrlie Evers-Williams and Jacqueline Kennedy were able to overcome.
“It is because my mother didn’t look upon herself as a victim,” Shabazz explained.
This is the legacy of my forebears, she said, but “each and every one of us has a legacy.” Construct a modern legacy of your own based on history and values, Shabazz said. In her own household, black history was a strong foundation.
When it comes to black history, “we are a miseducated nation,” she stated. “We have been intentionally miseducated about the historical truth of black life.”
More than 340 people gathered to hear Ilyasah Shabazz.