Birthday Love for Malcolm X

The charismatic leader would have turned 86 today.

By Jamilah King May 19, 2011

Today marks what would have been Malcolm X’s 86th birthday. The movement icon’s been in the news a lot lately thanks in part to a controversial new autobiography written by the late Manning Marable. Now, one of the twentieth century’s most misunderstood icons gets continued credit as an immensely complex thinker whose ideas were constantly changing, shifting and growing.

Malcolm’s legacy lives on in the words and struggles of today’s freedom fighters. Back in 2007, Rob "Biko" Baker, executive director of the League of Young Voters, wrote for the now-defunct WireTap Magazine about how younger organizers often perceive leaders of the civil rights generation. HIs words seems especially relevant today.

The superhero narrative especially dominates our memory of the civil rights movement. Partly because of the powerful iconic images that have been captured by television cameras. It’s hard for us GenX-ers and Millenials to believe it, but the mid-20th century was the first time that history could be documented by capturing moving images.

…We don’t need to believe in the leadership of one superhero; we need to believe in ourselves. No one else is going to step up and lead us but us. We are all Malcolm. We are all Martin. And until we really begin believing that, we will never be able to conquer the insurmountable odds that are up against us. I believe we can and we will. We are all makers of history; it’s time for us to start acting like it.

So here’s to Malcolm X’s life, work, and all who’ve been inspired by him. We’re ending the day as often as possible by celebrating love. We welcome your ideas for posts. Send suggestions to submissions@colorlines.comand be sure to put Celebrate Love in the subject line. You can send links to videos, graphics, photos, quotes, whatever. Or just chime in to the comments below and we’ll find you. Be sure to let us know you’ve got the rights to share any media you send.

To see other Love posts visit our Celebrate Love page.