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Image: Malcolm X poses for a portrait on February 16, 1965. Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

In 1976, @npr All Things Considered marked what would have been Malcolm X’s 51st birthday by airing an interview with Alex Haley. Haley, the co-author of The Autobiography of Malcolm X, reflected on Malcolm X’s legacy 11 years after his assassination and the emergence of local and regional black leaders in America. “The country, in this regard, is beginning to become more nearly what it has long said it is—a democracy.”

Take a listen as one stalwart of black history remembers another.

Image: Alex Haley, co-author of ‘The Autobiography of Malcolm X’ and author of the multi-award-winning family saga 'Roots’. Credit:  Fred Mott/Getty Images

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Happy Birthday Denzel Washington | December 28th, 1954

It’s simple: You get a part. You play a part. You play it well. You do your work and you go home. And what is wonderful about movies is that once they’re done, they belong to the people. Once you make it, it’s what they see. That’s where my head is at. 

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Malcolm X was born on May 19, 1925. Malcolm would have turned 90 today. 

Here are some of my favorite Malcolm X quotes to celebrate his birthday:

“I just don’t believe that when people are being unjustly oppressed that they should let someone else set rules for them by which they can come out from under that oppression.”

“My Alma mater was books, a good library… I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.”

“Stumbling is not falling.”

“Nonviolence is fine as long as it works.”

“You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.”

21 February 1965
They tried to silence him, but we still hear his teachings.

“I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those that do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation.”
-Malcolm X

The thing is, capitalism has never been reformed ‘peacefully’.

Reform movements which have formally disavowed violent means - from the Civil Rights movement in 1960s America, to Attlee’s Labour government in 1940s Britain - have only been historically successful because mass, organised, revolutionary movements of the politically disenfranchised outside of the formal reform movement have forced those benefiting from the status quo to cede concessions to non-violent, often middle-class, reformist leaders. Malcolm X, the Socialist Party of the USA and the Communist Party forced the American elite to come to the table with Dr. King; the syndicalist and communist trade unions in post-War Britain made opposition to Attlee’s NHS and limited nationalisations foolhardy.

Those who preach non-violence as a strategy rather than as a flexible tactic fatally mistake capitalism for a rational, logical system which plays by its own rules and respects human life.

We know better.

I have a dream

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!”

- Martin Luther King Jr., delivered 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.

Happy MLK Day America and the whole world!

In 1964 Malcolm X said of well-meaning white protestors:

“By visibly hovering near us, they are ‘proving’ that they are ‘with us.’ But the hard truth is this isn’t helping to solve America’s racist problem. The Negroes aren’t the racists. Where the really sincere white people have got to do their ‘proving’ of themselves is not among the black victims, but out on the battle lines of where America’s racism really is — and that’s in their home communities; America’s racism is among their own fellow whites. That’s where sincere whites who really mean to accomplish something have got to work.”

Insert LGBTQ / female / person of color / Muslim into this passage and the sentiment stands - solidarity is NECESSARY, but it’s not ENOUGH. I find direction in this quote – the only way to change social attitudes is to engage those I disagree with.