‘Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention’
Author: Manning Marable
You are many people.
To your friends, you’re supportive, funny and solid. Your boss sees you as someone who gets the job done. Your kids think you’re authoritative, with a wallet. And your family knows the you with warts.
You’re a person with many faces; some public, some private, but never the same. In the new book “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention” (c.2011, Viking, $30.00 / $34.50 Canada, 594 pages, includes notes) by Manning Marable, you’ll get a (supposed) peek at a complex man with several personas.
Born in 1925 in Omaha, Neb., Malcolm Little was raised with the notion that Blacks were “a mighty race.” Both his parents were fierce supporters of Jamaican activist Marcus Garvey, whose “Pan-African perspective… would become… crucial for Malcolm later in life.”
Malcolm was smart, but a dropout, and his siblings remember him as lazy, with a streak of leadership. He “drifted through a series” of girlfriends and “menial jobs” as a young man, but couldn’t stay out of trouble.
In jail, he was intrigued to learn about Allah, and it wasn’t long before he joined the Nation of Islam and converted. In his single-minded zeal, Malcolm wrote daily letters to Elijah Muhammad—the NOI’s leader—and Muhammad soon accepted the earnest young man into his inner circle.
Malcolm, who changed his surname to X (to reflect NOI beliefs), quickly rose in the organization’s ranks. In less than a year, he was a full minister in the Nation of Islam, and one of the movement’s most influential figures.
But it didn’t last.
While on a trip to Egypt and a hajj to Mecca, Malcolm observed that Muslims overseas were “color-blind,” which surprised him and made him question the teachings of Elijah Muhammad and the NOI. Following an inner scandal that rocked the Nation of Islam, Malcolm bluntly defied Muhammad’s orders and was banned from the NOI.
“By the fall of 1964,” says Marable, “rage against Malcolm infected every part of the Nation….”
In February, 1965, that rage spilled over....
“Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention” is a doorstop of a book, more scholarly than not. If you’re willing to endure a long slog through its pages, though, you’ll be rewarded with some gasp-worthy (albeit inflammatory and contentious) moments.
Author Marable challenges Malcolm’s autobiography and claims that he was under surveillance more than he knew. His work also upends some scandalous stones in this biography, indicating that Malcolm was not entirely the man followers thought he was, and suggesting that the men arrested for his murder might not have been the killers.
Accusations have, of course, been denied, but their main subjects—Malcolm, his wife, Betty Shabazz and, indeed, the author of the book—are dead and unable to comment, which leaves things in a curious and uncomfortable state of being unfinished.
Can I recommend “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention”?
Not really, but it depends on what you want from it: Malcolm devotees will be outraged, detractors will wonder what’s true, and readers just looking for something light will want to X it off their reading list.
In the midst of America’s anger-fueled movement against Islam, a voice hardly acknowledged in the mainstream press is rising and demanding to be heard.
Najee Ali, founder and director of Project Islamic H.O.P.E. (Helping Oppressed People Everywhere), a leading Los Angeles advocacy group, recently announced plans to step forward and fill the void left in the American Society of Muslims leadership that has existed for nearly three years since the Sept. 9, 2008, death of Ali’s former father-in-law, Imam W.D. Mohammed, who was the national leader of more than 1 million African American Muslims.
“Color no longer counts in leadership; it is the people (who) hold them accountable that will rule at the end of the day. It is our responsibility to become the people that we want to serve,” said Idi-Nkruma La’Moomba.
My 8th is designed to rebuild the 8th District community through a socioeconomic model that gives power to individuals working collectively to achieve a positive outcome. The hope is that the organization will create unity locally, nationally, and internationally.
“We are men; we have souls, we have passions, we have feelings, we have hopes, we have desires, like any other race in the world. The cry is raised all over the world today of Canada for the Canadians, of America for the Americans, of England for the English, of France for the French, of Germany for the Germans— do you think it is unreasonable that we, the Blacks of the world, should raise the cry of Africa for the Africans?” -Marcus Mosiah Garvey
Truthfully, the bad news came as no surprise.
Your Mom hadn’t been feeling well lately, and for weeks you’d heard your parents whispering. You knew she was having some tests done. Still, when they finally told you she had cancer, you couldn’t believe it. You cried for 20 minutes, ran out of the house, kicked the door, or just quietly went to your room to think.