In celebration of Black History Month, a packed BREC Independence Park auditorium Friday night welcomed and said goodbye to Malcolm X’s daughter the same way — with a standing ovation.
After a series of performances by local students, one of which ended with six girls’ fists held in the air in solidarity, Ilyasah Al Shabazz took the stage to answer questions about her parents’ lives both in the home and abroad as social activists during a heated American civil rights movement.
The audience snapped photos and took video as Shabazz, the third daughter of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz, recounted adolescent experiences in her father’s life that turned him from Malcolm Little into Malcolm X, touching on one specific moment in the classroom when he was 12 years old and his teacher told him that he could not be a lawyer.
“You have to be realistic,” Shabazz said is what her father’s teacher told him. “You’re a n*****.”
Shabazz said when Malcolm Little eventually came to terms with the challenges he faced he started signing Malcolm X.
When asked about her father’s negative reputation, Shabazz urged people to take into account the social climate at the time he lived.
Shabazz, author of “Growing Up X,” a memoir and tribute to her parents, spent several moments describing the positive influence her mother made on her, one of six daughters.
Shabazz’s mother had been pregnant with twins the day Malcolm X was assassinated in New York City in 1965. Ilyasah Al Shabazz had not yet turned 3.
Shabazz impressed the importance of a close and educational relationship between parents and their children, like the one she shared with her mother, telling the crowd of at least 400 people to be involved in their children’s education and teach their children the history of African-Americans.
“People know about the Jewish Holocaust,” Shabazz said. “Who has heard of the African Holocaust?” she said, adding that the movement of African-American slaves to the New World was the largest forced migration in all of human history.
She also told the crowded room of families to find worth when they look in the mirror, referring to a study that says children of all races preferred white dolls to dolls of color.
“Systemically, we’ve been brainwashed” into thinking people of color might be worth less, Shabazz said as she briefly recounted the chain of events behind international African-American slavery and colonization.
Shabazz said it was the duty of those listening to make sure they honored the work of the African-American men and women before them.
“Make sure history speaks truth,” she said.