Congratulations to actor, director, producer, and environmentalist Robert Redford for the 2016 White House Presidential Medal of Freedom award! Some memories from the archive of
Gabriel García Márquez.
Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little
on May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska to Louise and Rev. Earl Little. His father was a Baptist minister and an avid supporter of Black Nationalist leader Marcus Garvey.
Because of this there were many threats from the Ku Klux Klan and the family relocated many times. Malcolm X was 6 years old when his Father was murdered in Lansing, Michigan. His mother,
Louise, was committed to a mental institution, while her children were split up among various foster homes and orphanages.
At thirteen Malcolm was
sent to a juvenile detention home. A pivotal moment that happened in young Malcolm’s life was when, in 8th grade, his white English teacher, whose class he was one of the top students in, asked him what he wanted to do with his life. Though he hadn’t given it much thought, Malcolm told him he wanted to be a lawyer. In response his teacher said to him “Malcolm, one of life’s first needs is for us to be realistic. Don’t misunderstand me, now. We all here like you, you know that. But you’ve got to be realistic about being a nigger. A lawyer - that’s no realistic goal for a nigger. You need to think about what you can be. You’re good with your hands - making things. Everybody admires your carpentry shop work. Why don’t you plan on carpentry?” Soon after he dropped out of school.
Living with his sister in Boston, Massachusetts, Malcolm worked as a shoeshine boy, a busboy, and a waiter. In Boston, Malcolm began visiting the black ghetto of Roxbury. There, he was drawn to the neighborhood’s street life. He began wearing flashy clothing and jumped into a criminal life that included gambling, selling drugs, and burglary.
In 1942 Malcolm moved to New York City’s Harlem neighborhood where he continued his unlawful lifestyle. He adapted well to the New York City street life and rose quickly in the criminal world. Malcolm became known as Detroit Red, for his red shock of hair. When the police uncovered his criminal activities, Malcolm returned to Boston.
In February of 1946, the same year The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad was released, Malcolm was sentenced to 10 years in prison. In 1947 a fellow inmate suggested to him to take advantage of the prison library. By 1948 some of his brothers and sisters had joined the Nation of Islam and began writing to Malcolm trying to inform about the NOIs philosophy. His younger brother, Reginald, wrote to him telling him to stop eating pork and smoking cigarettes and that he’d show him how to get out of prison. After numerous letters from his siblings and a visit from his younger brother, an intrigued Malcolm began to study the teachings of NOI leader The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad which was Islam, the origin and science of everything, and a necessary separation of the Black and white races.
His siblings urged him to write to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and he did. The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad wrote back and told him to have courage while in prison and even sent him some money.
He began to practice the religion faithfully.
In spring of 1952, Malcolm Little was paroled and relocated to Detroit and started attending Temple No. 1. He entered the organization during the time that they had a copious following and owned grocery stores, apartment buildings bakeries, restaurants, clothing stores, cleaning establishments and other businesses. He soon became a devote follower and received the name “X.” Since Elijah Muhammad taught that Black people in America have been stripped of their identity through their names. When joining the Nation Of Islam, followers agrees to replace their slave name with an “X” representing the unknown. Malcolm X went to Chicago to listen to the Honorable Elijah Muhammad live. When the lecture concluded he called Malcolm to stand and bear witness to the teachings of Islam then invited him and his entire family to be his guest for dinner at his new home.
Malcolm X and his mentor, The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
After an inspiring talk he got to work and he sought out the minister of Temple No. 1′s to offer his help, soon becoming the assistant minister. In 1953, he traveled to Temple No. 11 in Boston and briefly served as a minister, then in March of 1954 he traveled to Philadelphia to help establish Temple No. 12 in approximately three months. June of the same year the Honorable Elijah Muhammad appointed Malcolm as the minister of New York City. The next year he traveled to several cities like Atlanta and Los Angeles to help set up Temples there. The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad established the Muhammad Speaks newspaper with the help of Malcolm X and Minister Abdul Allah Muhammad.
In 1955, he and the believers helped recruit Louis Eugene Walcott, a popular entertainer, to enroll in the Nation of Islam.
Eventually Elijah Muhammad appointed Malcolm X to be the national spokesperson for the Nation of Islam.
Malcolm utilized newspaper columns, as well as radio and television, to communicate the NOI’s message across the United States. His charisma, drive, and conviction attracted an astounding number of new members.
His debating talents against white and black opponents helped spread the movement’s message.
Malcolm X opens for The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad during a Saviours’ Day lecture.
“Almighty God Allah has appeared in our midst and raised from among us a reformer in the person of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, the Messenger with a message for us. His work among us has already produced results unequaled in history,” Malcolm X wrote in the preface of the 1957 pamphlet, Supreme Wisdom. Malcolm X wouldn’t have been the man he was if it were not for the teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad. He was a Muslim in the Nation of Islam who believed that Allah is God, as all Muslims do, and worked to better the social, economic, and spiritual conditions of the Black Man and Woman in America.
In these United States, we’ve used unspeakable systemic violence to create a supremacist culture that has and continues to rob black people of freedom. Here, we don’t need to speak the unspeakable. We see it every single day, all of us. But there are people who fight for power, which is to say agency, which is to say freedom. It takes art and passion and standing up next to each another. The tide-buckers and the oppressed have been for centuries fighting tirelessly for the dignity and equality of their own bodies, lives, loves. The political rhetoric in this fight has lately taken to social media, an outlet wholly democratic for other voices to be heard and social awareness to bloom.
Forty years ago though, it took place in part on the covers of paperback books. The sale of these books — 99 cents in pharmacies and grocery lines across America — helped shape contemporary discourse and design. Stokely Carmichael and Charles Hamilton’s Black Power can be examined as an example of one such publication.
The original design by Larry Ratzkin is unassuming yet profound: a white field, with the giant words “Black Power” centered in a thick, slab-serifed type. No images, no frills. The efficiency of the cover appears so natural that any other is hard to imagine; the design has come to embody the political moment in the late 1960s when Black people began uniting in their struggle for liberation. Other variations, iterations and representations of the movement and the paperback below, originally on view in the gallery annex at Ace Hotel New York.
This selection was curated by the Interference Archive — a Gowanus, Brooklyn-based archive exploring the relationship between cultural production and social movements, and working to preserve the history of movements in an environment that allows marginalized communities to shape the way their own history is represented.
COINTELPRO 101 exposes illegal surveillance, disruption, and outright murder committed by the U.S. government in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. “"Cointelpro”“ refers to the official FBI COunter INTELligence PROgram carried out to surveil, imprison, and eliminate leaders of social justice movements and to disrupt, divide, and destroy the movements as well. Many of the government’s crimes are still unknown. Through interviews with activists who experienced these abuses first-hand and with rare historical footage, the film provides an educational introduction to a period of intense repression and draws relevant lessons for present and future movements. Interviews in the video include: Muhammad Ahmad,Bob Boyle, Kathleen Cleaver,Ward Churchill, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Priscilla Falcon, Geronimo Ji-Jaga Pratt, Jose Lopez, Francisco ‘Kiko’ Martinez, Lucy Rodriguez, Ricardo Romero, Akinyele Umoja, and Laura Whitehorn.