Ilyasah Shabazz, the daughter of slain civil rights leader Malcolm X, told Hempstead and Long Beach residents on Friday to continue her father’s legacy of fighting for equality and unity.
Shabazz was invited to the Martin Luther King Center in Long Beach by City Councilwoman Anissa Moore to commemorate the end Thursday of Black History Month and the start of Women's History Month in March.
"We recognize women's and black history is tied to American history," Moore said. "Malcolm X was our brother and a civil rights leader devoted to empowering the people and working to unite all people to a true brotherhood."
Shabazz spoke to about 50 residents and students from Hempstead High School about crafting their own legacy and loving one’s self.
“The capacity of right and wrong are not black and white," said Shabazz, 56. "You should like the reflection of yourself. The image people had of Malcolm was so wrong, they didn’t expect me. They had the expectation of someone coming with a rifle and I showed up with love, peace, joy and happiness.”
Shabazz said history has incorrectly portrayed her father as a controversial activist and said he never advocated for violence. She said he wanted to be a lawyer and an advocate like his father, Baptist minister Earl Little, who instilled an upbringing of education and love, while addressing the history of slavery and discrimination.
Malcolm X was assassinated Feb. 21, 1965, in the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan while delivering a speech.
Shabazz said that today’s black youth don’t know how to express themselves when they are told their lives don’t matter. She said young men and women should see themselves as powerful and overcome petty differences to come together.
“It’s important to not be distracted by things that divide us," she said. "We know they’re trying to build a wall. My father said, ‘Only a fool would sit back and allow his enemy to teach his children.’ It’s important not to alienate yourselves. Forget about the things you think matter, because I guarantee they don’t.”
Shabazz said everyone has a legacy they need to craft to make a difference in the world and show that their life matters. She said many of the issues her father was fighting are still being fought today.
“What was Malcolm fighting for? To recognize the power you possess as a young person and as a human being,” Shabazz said. “My father was not controversial. He was righteous and spoke truth to power, but he was always the same loving and compassionate person. He never advocated for violence. It was about empowering ourselves and getting this boot off our necks.”