What Does Malcolm X Day Mean?

By Jonathan Adams May 19, 2008

"By any means necessary, " has been used over the years to juxtapose the radical Malcolm X and a more moderate, nonviolent Martin Luther King, Jr., but as we celebrate what would have been Malcolm X’s 83rd birthday today-one day after Sean Bell’s birthday-the context of the saying have even more meaning.

No, since they federal government has shown that it isn’t going to do anything about it but talk, it is a duty, it’s your and my duty as men, as human beings, it is our duty to our people, to organize ourselves and let the government know that if they don’t stop that Klan, we’ll stop it ourselves. And then you’ll see the government start doing something about it. But don’t ever think that they’re going to do it just on some kind of morality basis, no. So I don’t believe in violence — that’s why I want to stop it. And you can’t stop it with love, not love of those things down there, no. So, we only mean vigorous action in self-defense, and that vigorous action we feel we’re justified in initiating by any means necessary.

Melissa Harris-Lacewell examines Malcolm X’s legacy on theroot.com as Barack Obama seems to be headed for the Democratic nomination for President and as the NAACP just names its youngest president.

Many in the post-civil rights generation have yearned for their own history-defining, charismatic leader. But Malcolm’s struggle to make his own authentic, political contribution reminds us that ideals are more important than personalities. Progressive political movements that engender lasting change are always bigger than the flawed human beings who lead them. The goal is to invest our energies and efforts in the movement itself rather than in blind loyalty to any single figure. Malcolm reminds us that we must always lead, even as we follow.

How can young people take lessons from Malcolm X to fight against the injustice that killed Sean Bell? Byron Hurt, Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes filmmaker, produced a film in tribute to Bell. MALCOLM X: The Videos [newsone]