Hard Knock Radio is a must-listen show broadcast weekdays on KPFA 94.1 FM at 4-5 p.m. On Oct. 26, the show kicked off with this historic conversation between host Davey D, Minister of Information JR and Malcolm Shabazz, grandson of Malcolm X.
Minister of Information JR: Special guest in the building is the grandson of the beloved El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, otherwise known as Malcolm X, who was with me on this tour and the last tour when we went to about seven cities about a month and a half ago, but this tour here we went to about five.
Davey D: Yeah, seems like you been all over. But part of your tour you went to and talked to Mumia Abu-Jamal.
MOI JR: We actually went to talk to Mumia face to face and we talked a lot about culture. We talked about Tupac, we talked about his relationship and the Black Panthers’ relationship to culture, and he felt more should have been done back then with culture and he feels that even in his own personal campaign that more should be done with culture now.
Davey D: Let me ask you this and then I’m going to talk to Brother Malcolm here. You’ve been involved with the movement a very long time and you’ve seen it come and go in different phases. (What are) your thoughts on the role that culture should play today? And what I’m asking is, knowing that a lot of times outside forces will take parts of culture and highlight that and give it a deeper meaning, so in other words we will celebrate Jay Z saying don’t go to the war versus maybe the war organizer. What’s your take on it and what was Mumia’s take on that?
MOI JR: Mumia’s take on it from what I can understand was that we can be using it more effectively than what we are doing, that yes Fox News and all of these people have power but the people have power also. And he talked a lot about when the Black Panthers did it with Ike and Tina Turner and a number of artists from that time – Santana, Jimi Hendrix – and talked about how these were huge artists – superstars – and yet they still found a way to work with the movement and the movement found a way to work with them.
But in today’s times, we have big artists that are with the movement but we’re not utilizing them as effectively as we can. But he also felt that the Black Panthers could have been even more effective, and he was saying that they were more effective than we are right now but they could have been even more effective.
He was just telling us that even in his personal campaign he wants to take it in more of a cultural direction. One of the last questions that I asked him was what is it that we can do to help you materially right now to do that would make a dent as far as how you’re looking at it. And he said, well, the biggest thing that you could do is to push cultural artists that are really talking about it because we’re not getting people into the Mumia campaign, we’re not getting people into the movement in general fast enough and the system is using our culture against us and they’re organizing at war speed against us.
Davey D: That’s real talk. That’s Minister of Information JR talking about the meeting they had with Mumia, talking about the importance of culture. And just as you were talking, I was remembering there were all those albums in the mid-’90s that talked about Mumia’s case. There were those big posse albums where everybody came together and split a verse, and those are almost forgotten.
A lot of people forget that those things were there and it just goes to show that I think when we talk about culture, in my mind at least, I’m not sure if Mumia said this, that we have to start controlling how it gets presented. That’s something that you’ve done pretty well over your years of doing this as a journalist and somebody who is into the business of delivering information.
MOI JR: I appreciate it. Well, you know I’m just trying to be more effective and I learn from people like Mumia who has PrisonRadio.org, where he puts out weekly commentaries from Death Row and he’s actually more politically astute than most people that I know that’s on the outs. So I learn from people like that. We have BlockReportRadio.com but also I’ve learned from people like yourself with DaveyD.com. And I remember when you first told us about the internet in the ‘90s and I was like, “Yeah, OK, whatever,” and you was one of the pioneering hip hop voices on the internet, so I mean I’ve had good teachers.
Davey D: Yeah, man, now you’re leading the chart; now you’re teaching the class. So let’s turn to our special guest in the building, the grandson of Malcolm X. First of all, welcome to the show and welcome back to the Bay.
You know, when people say that to you, how do you feel about that? You know a lot of people, somebody like myself, you know, I grew up playing your grandfather’s speeches and still do on the radio, in mixes, read books. And I’m sure that with him no longer being around, people see you and be like, that’s the grandson and have a certain type of expectation. What’s your take on it and how do you feel?
We talked about Tupac, we talked about his (Mumia Abu-Jamal’s) relationship and the Black Panthers’ relationship to culture, and he felt more should have been done back then with culture and he feels that even in his own personal campaign that more should be done with culture now.
Malcolm Shabazz: All praises due to Allah. I can say for me growing up it’s been somewhat of a blessing and I wouldn’t say a curse, but at other times it could have seemed to be more of a disadvantage. Like growing up, I always had somewhat of a magnifying glass over me and I wasn’t afforded the opportunity to make some of the same mistakes as my peers. So let’s say you invite somebody over to your house and you give them a meal to eat, they might eat that meal and maybe get sick and throw up all over your brand new carpet, so you clean it up and you’re hospitable toward them. You try to make sure they’re OK.
But me growing up I could have been walking up the street and spit on the sidewalk and everybody would be like well, what the hell is wrong with him. And it was also difficult growing up when everybody has different expectations of you because of who my grandfather is or the family that I come from, so many times I rebelled against that because everybody didn’t always have my best interests at heart. Some people always had their own agenda, a different opinion of what it was they thought I should be doing.
Davey D: As a young man now, how have you been coming into your own? Do you have a certain politic that you are starting really to embrace? Is it similar to your grandfather’s, different?
Malcolm: Well, it’s just to realize that nobody should be encouraged to try to replace or fill somebody else’s shoes. People should be encouraged to grow within their own shoes.
Davey D: That’s real talk right there. You’ve been on tour with MOI JR the past couple of months. What have you all been doing, what have you been doing on the tour and what have you been speaking to audiences about?
Malcolm: We’ve been doing a lot of community-based work. We’ve been speaking at a lot of alternative high schools. We spoke at Tennessee State University, we spoke at University of Penn, we spoke at Temple.
We have a presentation which is a small documentary [“Operations Small Axe”] that highlights the Oscar Grant situation and how he was assassinated in Oakland by Mesherle, the police officer, and also just highlights police brutality in general. And then sometimes I’ll come in I’ll speak about the mainstream media and so forth and why it’s important for us to utilize our own media outlets and institutions within the community to support various community-based publications.
Davey D: So taking it back to the grass roots?
Malcolm: Yes, sir.
Davey D: You have, because of who you are, people looking for an answer, everybody is always looking, and with that comes a certain amount of power and the potential to influence. How do you handle that? Do you feel a certain amount of responsibility?
Malcolm: Well, I don’t have the answer and a lot of people today, most of all the people are looking for the next Malcolm Xs, the Martin Luther Kings, the Medgar Everses and George Jacksons and Jonathan Jacksons, but we shouldn’t be looking for them. What we need to realize is that whatever it is that attracts us to these great men is a mirror reflection – it’s something that we possess in ourselves – so look within yourself. Each person is like a grain of salt, so was the building block of civilization. Focus not on what the next man is or isn’t willing to do but focus on what you’re going to do.
Davey D: You know, when I look out – and MOI JR you can get into this as well – we live in a point in time where we have access to information and history and all this sort of stuff at our fingertips literally. Yet and still, when we look at our conditions, many people would argue that in many places they’re worse than they have ever been and some of our brightest haven’t really looked back to pull up others that are less fortunate.
So there seems to be a disconnect in terms of that fact that we still are in struggle. So with that being said, you know, how do we make that connection to go back to that basic premise? Where do we start to go back like what you all are doing, going back to the grassroots, and why do you think people are disconnected like that? I’ll start with you, Malcolm.
Malcolm: Basically, I believe that this is the land of smoke and mirrors. You know this is one big magic show. And it would appear to be as if our people have made progress since the Malcolm Xs, the Martin Luther Kings and so forth, but it’s really an illusion, that we actually have taken a large leap backwards in terms of the consciousness of the people.
Most of all the people are looking for the next Malcolm Xs, the Martin Luther Kings, the Medgar Everses and George Jacksons and Jonathan Jacksons, but we shouldn’t be looking for them. What we need to realize is that whatever it is that attracts us to these great men is a mirror reflection – it’s something that we possess in ourselves – so look within yourself.
We came through an era, like the civil rights era, where people were coming into their own, they were proud to be who they were, they were rocking the Afros, they were throwing up the power fists. You had artists who were making songs like “I’m gonna say it loud: I’m Black and I’m proud.” You had people protesting the Vietnam war.
Now you fast forward to now and look we have our own people killing each other, brothers out there that would sell crack to your mother or your pregnant sister. What our people do now and a majority of our youth and the actions that they take constitute war on our own community. Many of our youth right now aren’t even aware of what was happening 20 years ago or 40 years ago and it’s not that long ago.
I mean my peers, my age group I can’t talk to the majority of people my age and they understand the political and social dynamics of this country and what happened, the United States federal Counter-Intelligence Program [COINTELPRO] and within a 10-year period how many assassinations took place, just within a 10-year period, from Malcolm X, to Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, George Jackson, Jonathan Jackson, Tupac. They even assassinated their own president, Kennedy, so that’s what happened.
Davey D: Do you feel that COINTELPRO played a role in your grandfather’s death and do you know specifically how?
Malcolm: Absolutely. I can’t say specifically like I know this is exactly what happened, but what I will say is that many people when they meet me say well wasn’t your grandfather killed by his own people? Didn’t the Nation of Islam assassinate your grandfather? And I have to tell them it’s unfortunate that so many people view it like that but no I do not hold the Nation of Islam accountable for my grandfather’s assassination.
I feel like they were pawns and what happens is that the United States, the same people that assassinated my grandfather are the same people who assassinated Martin Luther King, the same people that assassinated Medgar Evers and the majority of our leaders. It wasn’t different groups of people; it was all the same group of people, the United States government.
But you’re never going to see a person from the CIA with a suit and a tie and a bag that says CIA walk up to you and pull the trigger. What they’re going to do is get somebody that looks like you to infiltrate and carry out the dirty work so even the men that pulled the trigger, they were nothing more than pawns; they were puppets.
Davey D: Actual workers for the CIA.
Malcolm: Exactly, but it was the government that created the climate and set up the stage for assassination to take place.
Davey D: That’s real talk. That’s the grandson of Malcolm X. He’s here in the building with us. He will be speaking tonight at the Black Dot Café. Let me ask you this, MOI JR: Why do you think we haven’t reached some of those thresholds based upon the amount of resources we have in front? And then I want you to put on the hat of somebody who’s traveled. You’ve been to Haiti, you’ve been to places in South America, even Ireland and other spots. What do you think is the missing link for us?
MOI JR: I think all over the planet we have allowed the television and the media to disconnect us from the struggles and the education system to disconnect us from the struggles that we have fought already, and we haven’t been good at telling our own stories. I mean I know that the technology over the last 10 years has just gotten that much easier – you know we got Twitter, we got Facebook, we got video cameras, we got editing equipment you can even do on your iPhone, we have all of these different things and more people are starting to tell their own stories.
But I think the disconnect is where are people going to learn this history at? The system is not going to teach us; NBC is not going to teach us. Even if we look right here at this station, I mean other than Hard Knock or a few other shows, where else would we learn this on the whole dial, period?
So I think it’s very important that we control our own media, because that’s controlling what we’re educated on, what current events we’re up on, what we talk about, psychologically what we’re thinking about, what we feel about ourselves. I think all of that is wrapped up in the media that we digest and I think that that’s been a major disconnect.
I think in the Civil Rights era Malcolm a lot of times in his presentations talks about the influence of Martin Luther King and that being the beginning of the TV era and that’s when TV was just popular and so we have to realize that TV was brand new at one point during our movement. And I think that now they’re mastering how to use TV against us because at one point TV was free-er, you know, where the monks were burning themselves up to protest the Vietnam War, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale was walking in Sacramento with their straps, what Malcolm X was saying from the pulpit or on the street or from 125th.
I mean nowadays they don’t show that kind of stuff. You didn’t see that kind of stuff with the Gulf War. You didn’t see the protestors and the millions of people and the famous people who were doing desperate acts to end the war; you didn’t see that. So I think they mastered how to use the media, and our way out is we can create our own media and take the attention off of them and put it on our own media.
I think it’s very important that we control our own media, because that’s controlling what we’re educated on, what current events we’re up on, what we talk about, psychologically what we’re thinking about, what we feel about ourselves.
Davey D: And I think what you’re talking about, the ability to take media to move people politically and it talks about what was done in Italy just recently was idiocracy. And the Tea Party is a prime example of that taking place here in the states, where you have people sit around and saying if we keep showing information, moving it this way and that way, we will raise a group of people to behave a certain way. So I think you underscore that type of trickery and treachery which corporate media is using now against us.
MOI JR: Or even the old school movie “The Wiz” is like that, you know: The color is red. Remember when Richard Pryor said, “The color is red,” and it came from the big building with the big scary face and that was what the people were on. And then he changed it up and said it’s green and they did a different dance with different costumes with different characters and it was green.
Davey D: I forgot about that. That definitely underscores it. You know, Brother Malcolm, you also talk about the influential media. Anything you would add to what we’re talking about with respect to this?
Malcolm: Just specifically, like being here in the Bay, many people here are familiar with the Oscar Grant situation. But what I noticed from my travels in other parts of the nation, many people aren’t familiar with the Oscar Grant situation, like in New York or Philadelphia. There are many people over here might not be familiar with Abner Louima in New York or Askia Sabor in Philadelphia.
Davey D: Right, or even the recent situation with DJ Henry.
Malcolm: Yes, so the reason is because the mainstream media, they don’t have the best interests of the people at heart. The mainstream media has the best interests of the corporate businessmen, the government and the politicians and that’s why they’ll keep these injustices localized. They’re not going to report an injustice that’s going on in Oakland to the brothers and sisters in New York and they’re not going to report an injustice going on in New York to the brothers and sisters in Chicago and Florida and so forth, so it goes to show that they don’t have the best interests of the people.
And I remember when I was in prison, I was in a maximum security prison in New York, I was in the box upstate, and it was 23 1/2 hours lock down. And when you reach a certain level, they give you a pair of headphones and you could listen to CNN. And we were listening to CNN and later on we’d get a half hour rest and the back of our cage would open up and we could step out and talk to the brothers out there. We couldn’t see them but we could talk to them, and it’s been like that for years where you could be talking to a brother and never see his face.
And many people would be surprised because they think everybody behind this wall, which is what they want you to believe, is an animal, a gangster or thug, cold-hearted, cold-blooded, which just isn’t the case. Some of the most intelligent brothers I ever met in my life have been behind that wall and these concentration camps within the belly of the beast.
And the brothers would have a dialog with each other and they would debate and they would go about it in a respectful manner. And the most controversial topics were that of politics or religion and some of the things that the brothers would talk about not long after 9/11 had taken place. And the brothers would go back and forth and I would listen to them, and what I noticed was that if it was a different opinion, a different viewpoint, it was the exact same information that they got from CNN.
So that got me to thinking, well, what about the people that’s on CNN, what about these people that control the information that gets out to the people? That’s pretty dangerous because now the people are able, through their media outlets and institutions, they’re able to manipulate and mold their opinions and viewpoints on the masses on a large scale. And to the extent of the type of clothes that you like to wear, the type of cigarettes that you smoke, your taste in women, your taste in men, how you relate to people, they can manipulate and mold and program these things through the media. That’s how serious it is.
Davey D: Did you see Oliver Stone’s movie “South of the Border”?
Malcolm: No, sir.
Davey D: OK, I often talk to people about that. It’s not a main focal point in his movie, but he shows it. And you mentioned CNN, how they were using that station to undermine movements that were there, that they were given different camera angles, and saying MOI JR had a gun and he was standing on the roof. And you really weren’t on the roof and didn’t have a gun, but they were actually manipulating footage and broadcasting that to get opposition to the leftists’ movements that were coming up.
And this was on CNN. This wasn’t at some foreign place; this was right here. And you were saying that these things were going on and people were picking up on these things and like, ah man, he’s got a gun and they go get their gun and the next thing you know you have bloodshed and this is all manipulation.
Malcolm: And J. Edgar Hoover and various intelligence agencies are known for using the media.
Davey D: We often forget about that. As we get ready to wrap up, we have this thing that you all are doing tonight at the Black Dot, so we want to look forward to that. Where’s the Black Dot at?
MOI JR: The Black Dot is at 1195 Pine St. in West Oakland. The event starts at 6:30. The event is about Malcolm Shabazz’s hajj, his journey to Mecca.
Davey D: Tell us about that, going to Mecca. First of all, have you been there before?
Malcolm: No, sir, this is my first time in Mecca. I’ve been to the Middle East, actually spent a year in the Middle East studying in Syria. I lived in Damascus, I studied in San Husina and I’ve traveled to Dubai, Lebanon, Jordan and a few other places, but this is my first time in Mecca.
Davey D: How did you like Lebanon?
Malcolm: Lebanon they pride themselves as the being the Paris of the Middle East. I believe it’s pretty much westernized like Beirut and in the south there’s a large Shiite community.
Davey D: What is Shiite in relation to Muslim?
Malcolm: A lot of times many people focus too much on differences and I believe we need to focus more on our common ground. You know, like the United States government, they’ll go to a place like Iraq or other places within the Middle East and these are people who majored in Middle Eastern studies and they speak Arab and they’ll go and bomb a mosque and pretend to be Shiite and then they’ll do the same thing and they’ll go to bomb another mosque and pretend to be Sunni. And the Shiite and Sunni begin to fight each other not knowing that there are outside forces pulling the strings. And we’re going through the same thing, Bloods and Crips and all these sort of things so we need to focus more on the common ground.
Davey D: Point well taken. What do you plan to experience when you take this hajj?
A lot of times many people focus too much on differences and I believe we need to focus more on our common ground.
Malcolm: I don’t know, to be honest with you. I don’t know, but it means a lot to me. It weighs a lot on believers, like when a person first takes their shihata and all your sins are forgiven and since the time I can remember taking my shihata up until now I have a lot of sins that I need to be forgiven, so my intentions are real sincere with this hajj.
I know it had such a profound impact on my grandfather when he came back. I know a lot of people that have come back from hajj and I’ve seen different effects. Everyone speaks about this holy experience, but I’ve seen some people come back and within the next month or two they’re back to their old ways. But I’ve seen others come back and really change their life, so I just hope that it will do the same for me.
Davey D: Do you ever feel your grandfather’s presence, especially if you are praying or meditating, or just when you have down time, do you feel him?
Malcolm: Well in Islam we say that those who die in the way of Allah surely they’re not dead, so I believe that my grandfather is still here and at the same time the blood that courses through his veins courses through mine and I can speak to him.
Davey D: It will be interesting to see how it impacts you when you come back, especially now that we have so many attacks on people who are of Muslim background here in the states. Like if somebody’s attacking my religion it’s going to make me want to go deeper. I can only imagine someone like yourself that’s probably going to make you want to go deeper.
Malcolm: Well, what I can say to that is that if you put Muhammad, Jesus and Moses all in the same room, do you think they’d be debating and arguing with each other? No, not at all because they were all on this team, they were all prophets of God, they all had the same message. But it’s us; we get this message confused.
During the next two weeks, you can listen to the archived show online at KPFA.org, http://kpfa.org/archive/id/64932.