by The People’s Minister of Information JR
Mark Williams was a close friend and comrade to young Malcolm Latif Shabazz, the grandson and first male heir of our beloved freedom fighter Malcolm X, aka El Hajj Malik El Shabazz. On the second anniversary of his murder – assassination – I wanted to bring the voices of real people who knew Malcolm and spent time with him.
Malcolm Shabazz was killed two years ago in Mexico City in a case where all the facts still have not become clear. Within the last few months, Mexican authorities convicted a man, who they claim was responsible for Malcolm’s murder, but a lot of questions remain about what happened to Malcolm after he crossed the California border into Mexico.
Here is Mark Williams of Lemark Films talking about life wit’ his homeboy and comrade Malcolm Latif Shabazz.
M.O.I. JR: When did you read “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” and what kind of effect did it have on you?
Mark Williams: I read “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” when I was 11 years old. I saw the descriptions given in the book as similar to characters in my family. After reading the book, I knew one day I would become Muslim after doing some careful research, study and investigation of theology, history and comparative religion.
At the age of 16, I took my shahaddah and become Sunni; at the age of 20, I became Shia. After acquiring financial literacy knowledge, I decided I would and will pursue buying the rights to “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” and redistribute all of the income back to his family.
M.O.I. JR: When and how did you become friends with Malcolm Latif Shabazz?
Mark Williams: I became friends with Malcolm Latif Shabazz in 2011. I reached out to him to do an interview for a Tupac documentary I was working on with Leila Steinberg, the person who discovered and mentored Tupac. From that conversation, I interviewed him for another documentary I was working on called “Hijab and Sneakers.”
From there we began talking about doing a documentary on himself. I went back to New York and visited the gravesides of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and Malcolm X. I told Malcolm X that I was working on a documentary with his grandson and what my intentions were.
We traded coasts, and Malcolm happened to be in Los Angeles when I was in New York. I told him the next time we would be in New York together, I would take him upstate to visit Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. I am originally from Elmira, New York, and grew up in Syracuse, New York, so Harriet Tubman was literally about 15-20 minutes away from where I grew up at.
M.O.I. JR: What was the most memorable aspect of his personality, and why?
Mark Williams: The most memorable aspect of Malcolm’s personality was his quietness. Very similar to myself. You would only see him get hyped about something when he was really passionate about it or if he was able to help people. From my time around him, I saw him handle hardships very patiently and humbly. Being humble in the midst of hardship is an admirable quality.
M.O.I. JR: When he would stay for long stints at your house, what would you two talk about?
Mark Williams: When Malcolm stayed with me, we would talk about politics, his two books, information and the dissemination of it, comparative theology, financial literacy, goals, those who helped him and didn’t help him, the documentary we were planning and, of course, his grandfather, Malcolm X.
M.O.I. JR: How important was Islam to Malcolm?
Mark Williams: Islam was very important to Malcolm. A very beneficial component for a Muslim is to give dawah (missionary activity). I helped him distribute his DVD on taking hajj to Mecca, got one of my graphic designers to do the design and packaging for it.
From there we went to mosque and gave lectures on his biography, on Islam, his journey back to Islam, his conversations in prison with fellow Muslims, Sunni and Shia, and then him becoming Shia – and the struggles that came along with that.
M.O.I. JR: How important was the Black community to Malcolm?
Mark Williams: All communities were important to Malcolm. The Black community was very important to him as well. He maintained relationships with Black Panthers, Moors, former gang members, troubled youth, and all peoples fighting oppressors and colonialists.
He maintained relationships with people who had striking differences in perspective for the greater goal of the community. He was very much into outreach and helping minorities – from those in Watts to those in Berkley.
M.O.I. JR: What was one of the funniest times that you had with Young Malcolm?
Mark Williams: I have two funny moments with Malcolm that I remember. In New York, if someone messes up your haircut, we call it getting zeeked; someone zeeked Malcolm’s edge up. I was joking with him about someone pushing his wig back. I said, “Yo, someone pushed your wig back, son.” It was mad funny.
He also got a kick out of how I would wear suits and sneakers. He said, “Sneakers and suits look tacky,” but I had mad style. I went to school for fashion design, am a director, was a former A&R, a former DJ, I am Muslim, I am vegan, and I am straight edge – so we would have jokes about all of those components mixing together.
M.O.I. JR: What is important for people to remember about Malcolm Shabazz?
Mark Williams: I feel the most important thing for people to remember about Malcolm was his potential, his growth, his problems and the lack of outside help from the community at large. Malcolm could have been a dope lawyer changing all kinds of crazy laws and helping the people.
Whenever I think of Malcolm I think of a Les Brown quote that I read every day. I was trying to introduce them but I was unable to. The quote is as follows:
“Imagine, if you will, being on your death bed. And standing around your bed the ghosts of the ideas, the dreams, the abilities, given to you by life. And for whatever reason you never acted on those ideas, you never pursued that dream, you never used those talents, we never saw your leadership, you never used your voice, you never wrote that book, and there they are standing around your bed looking at you with large angry eyes saying we came to you and only you could have given us light. And now we must die with you forever. The question is if you died today, what ideas, what dreams, what abilities, what talents, what gifts would die with you?” – Les Brown
M.O.I. JR: According to reports, Mexican authorities convicted some man for the murder of Young Malcolm. What do you think of this and the so-called investigation as a whole?
Mark Williams: Regarding the reports around Malcolm’s death, I can really only say Allahu alam (only Allah knows). With the exception of a small few, the truth of what really happened to Malcolm only GOD knows.
I would say however there is a lot of suspicious information, faulty reports and interesting prophecies around his death. Regarding the few who do know what happened and witnessed his death, there need to be full reports from those people and a full investigation like it would be with anyone else.
The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and “Unfinished Business: Block Reportin’ 2” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe” and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.