"I believe in the brotherhood of man, all men, but I don't believe in brotherhood with anybody who doesn't want brotherhood with me. I believe in treating people right, but I'm not going to waste my time trying to treat somebody right who doesn't know how to return the treatment."--Malcolm X
As I put this post together, I had the hardest time trying to find a Malcolm X quote that I love best but it's impossible because there are so many.
I don't know how best to describe my admiration for Malcolm because it runs so deep and has run for so long, ever since I was a girl in middle school and devoured The Autobiography of Malcolm X (and then to go on and rewatch Spike's Lee's masterpiece based on the book multiple times) in nearly one day. Those words were written over 50 years ago and yet they hold so much truth today, which never ceases to blow my mind. I am awed by his brilliance, by his transformation. To be able to go from a troubled kid, to a hustler, to a former convict to one of the most brilliant minds ever to grace this earth is beyond powerful. Hell, powerful is too small a word to describe such a metamorphosis.
A few years ago, I also read Manning Marable's controversial biography Malcolm X, which sparked outrage over, among other things, questions about Malcolm's sexual orientation and the suggestion that his marriage to Betty Shabazz was less than idyllic. I didn't choose to read the book for those reasons but rather because I was intrigued by Marable's meticulous research and how much his accounts humanized Malcolm. Throughout his life, no matter what stage of growth he was currently undergoing, I sensed this loneliness about him that is common to when one is in search of their own personal truth. It only seemed to deepen with time as the foundations that fueled his activism (Elijah Muhammand, The Nation of Islam) continued to become undone.
In spite of the fact that Marable's book touches on Malcolm's personal flaws and contradictions, it heavily emphasizes how Malcolm bravely soldiered on in pursuit of his own personal truth and evolving philosophy, even when his life increasingly came under threat. Reading this made me even admire him even more all the while wishing he could've found that solace, that someone could've put their arm around him and tell him, "It's going to be all right" and for him to know that and really believe it. Even when he seemed to know that things would not, he still kept on, even when he was offered asylum from the Ethiopia, he choose to remain.
I admit to having this fantasy of being able to travel back in time and rescuing Malcolm from that fateful day in February when we lost him forever and allowing him safe passage on his continuing journey so that he could continue to teach and lead us. It's an absurd wish and there is a danger in elevating someone to a central figurehead such that you fail to do the work yourself. I realize this, but it is a dream that I can't help to revisit every now and then. Would things would have been different? Would he still be seem as divisive or would we have had the good sense to really listen to him as we do today, now that he is no longer with us?
In making this Inkscape, I of course wanted to encapsulate Malcolm's fiery, pull-no-punches truth-telling, so I used an Inkscape that resembled fire. I wanted his truth to be his seared in like a never ending fire.
I never knew Malcolm but yet I feel so comfortable referring to him as Brother Malcolm because that what he is to me: a brother, a comrade willing to get down in the trenches to fight alongside us, guiding us down a righteous path of indignation and an unquenchable thirst for justice.