by The People’s Minister of Information JR
On Oct. 8, 1984, Malcolm Shabazz was born in France to his mother, Qubilah Shabazz. He later was brought to the United States, where he attended school in a number of different cities and states, as his mother moved from place to place.
In early ‘95, his mother was charged with attempting to hire a hitman to kill Minister Louis Farrakhan because she believes that he was one of the people in on the orchestrated plot to assassinate her father, the great Malcolm X, aka El Hajj Malik Shabazz, in front of her, her mother, her siblings and a full room of people 30 years prior. After she was charged, her son, Malcolm Shabazz, was left to live with a number of family members, ending up at the home of his grandmother, Dr. Betty Shabazz.
In an attempt to force a reunification with his mother, 12-year-old Malcolm set a fire in his grandmother’s house, which she got caught in as she looked for him, and it killed her. He was incarcerated for this and later on other charges.
In 2006, while Malcolm was in prison, a friend of his grandfather, Yuri Kochiyama, asked if I would print a letter that he had written her in the SF Bay View newspaper. I did it. After that, Malcolm and I and Ra’Shida, another writer at the paper at the time, kept in close contact, writing letters back and forth regularly. We lost track of Malcolm between ’08 and ’09.
Around 2009, after being released from prison on unrelated issues, Malcolm decided to go to Damascus, Syria, to study Islamic jurisprudence. He returned to the U.S. after a year and, through mutual friends, he got a number on me and called me about hooking up a tour for him to speak on the West Coast.
He said he was interested in seeing Oakland, the home of the Black Panthers and the place where Tupac claimed he got his game from. He came to Oakland July 10, 2010. The first thing we did after he got off of the plane was go to Prison Radio in San Francisco so that he could have a recorded conversation with political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal.
After that, we would travel together to Los Angeles, Annapolis, Philly, San Diego, San Francisco, Chicago, Gary, Detroit, Brooklyn, Harlem, Tampa, Houston, Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Portland, Seattle, Tripoli, Frankfurt, Pittsburgh, D.C., New Rochelle and more. Along the way, he made a number of new friends and comrades.
Keita Olugbala from Philly is one of those people who worked closely with Young Malcolm Shabazz when he was organizing speaking engagements on the East Coast. Check her out as we remember Malcolm on his third birthday since his assassination. He would have been 31.
M.O.I. JR: Upon meeting Young Malcolm, what struck you most about him?
Keita: His smile. It was a brilliant relic of his grandfather that melted any hardness that his own struggles knocked and ruffled his edges or exterior as he grew into his own man regardless of his legacy or namesake.
M.O.I. JR: Why did you feel such a comraderie with Malcolm Shabazz?
Keita: It was instant, because his spirit was so strongly a-alike in the sense you could actually see his heart’s intentions were serious, respectful and on point about the people’s consciousness, wellbeing and conditions. He was nonjudgmental and firm on principles, recognizing that everybody knew something and was able to fulfill a position to succeed at the highest level for the benefit of the collective and collective mission.
Malcolm was cool, easy to vibe with, a life student listening, learning and honest; he shared his experiences, whatever knowledge he had, without any pretentiousness because of who his family is. He was very peaceful even with all the bouts of trying to maintain a sense of peace of mind vs. the residue of the terror he lived through personally, via family history inside.
M.O.I. JR: How were you and Malcolm able to connect across lifestyle lines, with him being Muslim and you being non-Muslim?
Keita: I believe we connected mainly because the movement work was an integral focus that initiated our first meeting and working together.
Since we were and are both students of his grandparents’ (RIP) teachings, akin to the Hon. Marcus Garvey’s philosophy, we lived by THAT wisdom and dealt with each other’s actions – and a comraderie type big sista-brotha friendship naturally developed. Both of us knew who we are culturally, as Africans and Indigenous, knew that our cultural heritage overarched any manmade boundaries or boxes that would separate, conflict or alienate us from the collective mission re full sovereignty in this lifetime for our political prisoners straight up to the peoples’ upliftment and advancement etc.
Fortunately, religion was never a focal point. Plus I don’t deal with “religion.” So Malcolm was open to learning and uniting with people from various lifestyles as long as they were principled, truthful and real.
M.O.I. JR: How would you describe Malcolm’s politics in dealing with the Black community?
Keita: Malcolm had a type of energy that spoke before he talked; it was bold. Not in any offensive or uncomfortable way either; just strong. Though just 28 years young, he had the presence of an elder or someone who had lived many lifetimes – because of his experiences.
And because of his experiences he encountered people from every background regardless of ethnicity, nationality, economic class, gender, social class, age and mentality. Therefore he was able to attract a crowd, speak to every person’s heart and mind, reach and mobilize people towards what everyone essentially wants and needs; but specifically in the Black Community he was progressing the liberation work of his grandfather.
Like his grandfather, he was an international voice who could organize the streets to the university and every jawn in between those extremes.
M.O.I. JR: Can you talk a little bit about the work Malcolm did on behalf of political prisoners?
Keita: As a former political prisoner himself, it was a natural progression for him to be concerned and concretely support political prisoners. It wasn’t even, I believe, a second thought to “do the work” or link Mumia Abu Jamal and lend his presence and advocacy to his or any other political prisoner campaign.
Being incarcerated with Chancellor Williams’ grandson, DeAndre, despite citing contradictions in Baba Chancellor Williams’ book, “Destruction of Black Civilization,” his advocacy for him receiving proper medical treatment and exposing the forced drugging of many youth prisoners was done – not talked about, not for attention or fame.
Those are just two examples, as he was concerned and shared information about many Black Panther Party revolutionaries, the sons and daughters of Malcolm X still on lock.
M.O.I. JR: Can you talk about you helping to hook Malcolm with the UNIA in Philly?
Keita: It only felt right that while Malcolm was in Philly that he visit the UNIA-ACL since he was a student at the Marcus Garvey Shule and because of his family’s roots and prominent contributions as citizens or members of the UNIA-ACL. So while he was here visiting with family, attending community speaking engagements for his book and documentary at Black and Nobel bookstore, Low Country Capoeira Angola Society and two junior high schools, I was like, “Yo, you gotta show some love at the UNIA-ACL too,” and he was wit’ it 100 percent.
And UNIA-ACL was no doubt about welcoming their son home. Many people came to greet, meet and just see him – honored to be in the presence of the first grandson of THE Malcolm X and Queen Betty Shabazz, the closest many of us got to actually meeting THE Malcolm X – like how people trip at meeting a so-called celebrity, but not lame like that.
The effect he had on people was a genuine humble pride despite all the media’s attempts to assassinate his character. Malcolm is and was our fam, period, and we love him!
M.O.I. JR: Why did Malcolm have such an affinity for Philly?
Keita: His bloodline put it down righteously in Philly. He had long roots here. From his grandfather’s organizing community services and businesses, educating and ministering here when he was and after he was affiliated with the NOI, his grandmother’s paternal family living here, he actually living here, the cultural street grit to revolutionary aspects that Philly finesses are uncompromisingly evident and are extensions of him.
M.O.I. JR: What do you think about how mass media covered his murder in Mexico City two years ago?
Keita: I think it was business as usual in the sense that some reporter heard the story and had to fulfill their assignment of reporting for the day. It was not until the people became more assertive regarding investigating and appealing to government – whether it was the U.S. government or Mexico – that it got more traction or the AP jocked it. I can’t remember any “publicity” or series of coverage from the “mass U.S. media,” just alternative or indie media and particular social media – but again that was the peoples’ media.
I do remember articles in Mexican newspapers, though, but it wasn’t because it was Malcolm per se at first. It was business as usual too regarding reporting the “crime of the day” in Mexico City.
M.O.I. JR: How do you feel about one of the men involved in his murder being convicted in the Mexican courts?
Keita: Bittersweet. I never heard his testimony, but feel he probably was a pawn like the fool that killed Baba Hugo Pinell (RIP). No matter if he was used like a pawn or he acted per his own volition trying to chinch someone or a mix of both, the fact is that people in the same f’d up social conditions are dumbed down to the point that their value for life is reduced to a bar tab and some hoes, reduced to acting just like the swine that are hated, reduced to trinkets or some teardrop props in a prison yard or on the streets – and that life is done in a blink of an eye, though leaving a void in the lives of so many for a lifetime.
I pray that Malcolm’s spirit will receive abundant light just due to an ancestor but also so he will avenge his murder.
M.O.I. JR: What did Malcolm share with you about his trip to Africa?
Keita: Before his visit to make Hajj, he told me that he was ready – ready to have all his sins forgiven and insperience the same spiritual path as his grandparents.
Upon returning, he didn’t speak too much about his Hajj, just that he felt accomplished and that his grandparents are smiling down on him happy he did so. He did speak on being in Damascus, Syria, and how his presence, particularly as a Black man, would literally attract a crowd, stares and pause all happenings.
He wanted to go to Algeria, having read Fanon about the BPP chapter there and the country being progressively welcoming to his grandfather’s leadership.
He talked about the gratitude he felt when Libyan President Qaddafi expressed his excitement meeting THE Malcolm X’s grandson because of the love, respect and camaraderie he and numerous African heads of state still firmly hold in their hearts for their brotha, Malcolm X, and Betty Shabazz too.
He talked about the honor it was to be appointed the ambassador of Africans in America for the youth of the African Union – and NOT because he was Malcolm X’s grandson but because he was known for his own sharp political commentary, activism and organizing in that region prior to his Hajj and the conference.
M.O.I. JR: How do you think Malcolm would want to be remembered?
Keita: I think he would want people to remember him as a genuine Black man, a father, a protector and a rider for the people.
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.