The Malcolm X documentary that you have to see.
“Usually when people get sad, they don’t do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about change.” — Malcolm X
If You Don’t Know Who You Are, Someone Will Tell You
The United States of America has a race problem. #RaceMatters. And the problem is not just skin-deep. It is engrained in our memories and retelling of American history, that is to include our coveted heritage. It is plagued with erasure, false romanticism and hero-worship of what happened and continues to reproduce itself. It is in our violent dismissal of indigenous history, largely relegated as folklore – a sort of history that is outside of the mainstream and therefore cast aside from our historical retellings that are categorically more true and epistemological. The effects of this relegation have dire consequences. The problem results in our hopeless refusal to acknowledge the contributions of African and mixed race freedom fighters like America’s first liberator, Gaspar Yanga, or North America’s first Black president, Vicente Ramón Guerrero.
Malcolm X Resurrected in San Antonio
Last year, I attended the Kwanzaa Market Festival SA’s stage performance Message to the People: A Story of Malcolm X at the Carver Branch Library, the hub of African American literary and cultural literacy in San Antonio, Texas. Baba Aundar Martin led the performance as he resurrected the man and legacy that is Malcolm X in both physicality and philosophy. The stage performance was facilitated just days before Malcolm X’s born day in commemoration of his transformation and journey to repatriate the minds of bodies supposedly freed from bondage centuries ago. Malcolm X, also known as El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, was an internationally acclaimed revolutionary cultural icon who dedicated his life to the truth as told by the melanated peoples of the world, especially those of the African Diaspora. Howard Zinn once said that the most revolutionary act that one can engage in is to tell the truth. The history that we are taught tends to exclude the life and times of Malcolm X because the truth that he espoused was unapologetic and unconcerned with white fragility and privileged perspective therein. With the establishment of the Organization of Afro-American Unity, founders Malcolm X, Dr. John Henrik Clarke and other black nationalists effectively launched a cultural revolution for the repatriation of truths, self-knowledge and sovereignty amongst displaced peoples of African descent. The truth then and even now is that the progress of African Americans, that is specifically all people of African descent on the Western Hemisphere, is intimately tied to that of the African continent itself. To engage in truth telling in the context of Africa is jointly transformative and revolutionary; history as told by Africans is revisionist and powerful because it reverses agentism in the favor of truth telling for its own sake rather than for selfish gain or exploitation. Malcolm X spoke a great deal on the importance of education; the ills that he spoke of then remains today because education, that is the process of acquiring knowledge, is not equitable in its truth telling and therefore serves as an institution that perpetuates a pedagogy of the oppressed rather than liberation, self-empowerment, or self-determination. Ergo, indoctrination is what we receive a third of lives, some of us more than two-thirds, not education.
The Film and the Soundtrack
The production of “A Story of Malcolm X” was financed, edited and recorded in house by KuumbaNia in conjunction with 9Logic Films. This historical dramatization about the life and times of Malcolm X was written and produced by Baba Aundar, co-produced and directed by Born Logic. The film is a dialogue-driven historical narrative that is digestible in eight chapters:
Chapter 1 Black History and Slavery: Who are you?
Chapter 2 God Bless the Children: Malcolm Little
Chapter 3 Locked Up and Locked Down: Detroit Red
Chapter 4 Wake Up: Minister Malcolm X
Chapter 5 A Black Nationalist Freedom Fighter
Chapter 6 Back to Africa: Omowale
Chapter 7 Back to America: El Hajj Malik El Shabazz
Chapter 8 By Any Means Necessary: Malcolm X
With each chapter, the story of Malcolm X’s life and legacy grows more and more compelling and resolute. Also, the film is accompanied by a galvanizing soundtrack that ignites critical thought and heady introspection. Together, Baba Aundar Martin and Born Logic crowdfunded the film that is now available via DVD and has had two back-to-back sold out screenings at the Alamo Drafthouse Park North. “A Story of Malcolm X” was recently selected as an official feature film for the Houston Black Film Festival and has since reached thousands via social marketing and online advertisements.
Viewing the documentary at the Alamo Drafthouse Park North was a treat. There was a piquant musical performance of the soundtrack that followed the documentary. Performed by the ‘Griots’, the film’s soundtrack was spiritually harmonized by the likes of Mondrea Harmon, Tahjee and Brittini Ward in the following arrangement, as according to the film’s soundtrack, and with the messages hereto:
- Black History. Ask, why does it matter? George Orwell said it best: because “the most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of history.” Your history is your destiny; repatriation is a must so that history is written by its maker rather than its victors.
- Do You Remember? The subjugation. The degradation. The damnation. The falsification. The incarceration. The discrimination. The mutilation. The castration. Arturo Alfonso Schomburg once said that “history must restore what slavery took away, for it is the social damage of slavery that the present generation must repair and offset.” Sankofa.
- God Bless the Children. When innocence collides with the reality of unconsciousness, predation in a plethora of forms spawns. The democratized digital economy that we live in has done much to shorten and erode childhood with the advent of smartphones, social media and prescription medication addiction. The children, like Tamir Rice, Laquan McDonald and Aiyana Jones, should not have lost their lives to the brutality of those who they were taught to defer to, respect and trust. May God bless the children.
- Locked Up Locked Down. The Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) has resulted in a 500% increase in the mass incarceration of Americans in the last 40 years, making the USA the world’s leader in incarceration. Today, more than 67% of the prison population are people of color with the largest group, per capita, being Native American and the fastest growing group being Black women. Excessive sentencing has resulted in the stabilization of the U.S. prison population. The PIC is the materialized artifice of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – that is, legal slavery through mass incarceration.
- Wake Up. Yosef ben Jochannan once spoke of education as deficient because, despite his many accolades, had never received an education of African people. He endeavoured to educate himself about those who taught the Greeks like Hippocrates and other Europeans the knowledge that they exploited for personal gain and notoriety. Dr. Jochannan held that he would no longer “stand still in the halls of indoctrination” because there is nothing but extinction, not education, being taught there.
- Black is the Power. Fortuitous, dignified and sophisticated. According to Ivan van Sertima and Cheikh Anta Diop, the Africans’ history in the Americas did not begin with slavery; the African people had been traveling by boat and exchanging materials and knowledge long before European interference. Several persons of African descent, like Yarrow Mamout, an emancipated Muslim banker from Guinea, owned land and were prolific thinkers and professionals. A gleeful portrait of Yarrow Mamout, dated in 1819 and painted by Charles Wilson Peale, is currently on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
- Africans Must Unite. Baba Marcus Garvey once said that “a people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” He held that the world is compelled by an organized people; while, ununified people are exploited, killed and stolen. Walter Rodney urged that “every African has a responsibility to understand the system and work towards its overthrow.” In order to set the world upright, Africans must unite.
- For many, Black History Month is the only time of year that is dedicated to engaging with the not so distant past of African-American contributions to American history. Busy emulating the colonizers, little attention is paid to the critical importance of self-awareness and exploration of pre-Scramble for Africa history. Yes, great civilizations reigned in Africa and produced the richest person in the world, Mansa Musa. No, slavery was not the universal condition of Africans. Indigence and depravity have long overshadowed the plight of African-Americans in the USA, but that is not representative of the fights for freedom, abolition, and suffrage that were led by the likes of Crispus Attucks, Harriet Tubman, Major Martin Delany, Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass. Frederick Douglass once quoted Major Delany as having said “I thank God for making me a man, but I thank him more for making me a black man.”
- Malcolm X. The collective action problem has long afflicted the Civil Rights Movement. There is a price to pay for freeriding; it tends to result in bad governance and 90 percent reelection rates, the paradox of child support and a targeted military strike against terrorism in Syria but inaction and neglect of biological terrorism in Flint, MI. Efficacious collective action could check and balance these atrocities. As Malcolm X simply stated, “if you’re not ready to die for it, put the word ‘freedom’ out of your vocabulary”.
- It’s Kwanzaa Time. Harambe! Booker T. Washington once said that “no race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as there is in writing a poem”. Self-determination and sovereignty are intimately tied to one’s capacity to own land and live off of its fruits. Kwanzaa, a celebration of the African harvest, reminds us that the basic principles of community building and sustainment are fixed in the Earth. Seeds scatter, like calabash, but the born fruits are products of nourishment and resilience. Roots may not remain planted forever but the memory of their journey is retained in the fortitude of the trunk of the tree, that which lives for as long as she is nourished.
Through Art, Stories Are Told and Truths Discovered
Malcolm X once forewarned against condemnation of ignorance and reminded that “there was a time when you didn’t know what you know today.” After viewing the film and listening to the soundtrack, my hope is that the consumption of these works enlightens hearts and minds and inspires the active inclusion of difference. I have written in my previous essays about the dangers of otherization. The consequence of our continued blissful ignorance of our forefathers and mothers, the struggles that gained us the bits of freedom that we attempt to enjoy in the here and now, and the revolutions that were not televised, is, indeed, genocide.
For more information about the documentary, please visit http://www.malcolmxmovie.com/. Both the DVD and the musical soundtrack are available for purchase now!