Seen But Not Heard

I miss Malcolm X. Sure he died before I was born and I only know of his exploits from movies, commentary and the bevy of speeches he left behind. But one thing I know for sure, the African American community needs a Malcolm X today.

In the eulogy delivered by Ossie Davis, Malcolm was described as “our own black shining prince.” Malcolm’s voice spoke volumes and his message provoked others to listen. He is the embodiment of the current cry “black lives matter,” and his actions, words and deeds sparked change that is desperately needed in African-American communities.  I mimic Oprah Winfrey’s comment in response to the public’s reaction to the Ferguson decision, “I think it’s wonderful to march and to protest, and it’s wonderful to see all across the country, people doing it, but what I’m looking for is some kind of leadership to come out of this to say, ‘This is what we want. This is what has to change, and these are the steps that we need to take to make these changes, and this is what we’re willing to do to get it.” There was a backlash surrounding her statement. But considering that she is a media mogul, her response is the most honest.

During his heyday, Malcolm X was the 2nd most sought after speaker in the United States as reported by the New York Times. Malcolm did not use the media as a medium to be seen. It was a vehicle to be heard and promote his cause. He took command of his interviews and engaged his critics and commentators. He was eloquent, charismatic and articulated his ideas with clarity and a quiet strength that empowered black people to rise above circumstance and as he stated “control their destiny,” with “economic, political and social” power.  With Malcolm, there was a decrease in crime and drug abuse in black communities and an increase in self-confidence, prosperity and hope. “He expelled fear for African Americans,” said Sonia Sanchez. His ability to mobilize, organize and transform the mentality of Black people was single-handedly a threat to the norms that were oppressive to African Americans.  There was a reverential fear within society when he proclaimed by any means necessary, “That’s why we loved him. He said it out loud, not behind closed doors. He took on America for us.”  Fast forward, post Malcolm there is no reverence, black people are just feared and understandably so. The media images that plaster the television screens and dominate social media portray a race and class of people prone to destructive behavior. After the Ferguson decision, looters and rioters were seen destroying businesses, burning cars,  creating chaos and wreaking havoc and mayhem  within their own communities in a failed attempt to express their frustrations and denounce injustice. But as the world watched, there was no compassion for the underlying cause just disdain for their reaction.  Malcolm understood that “our communities must be the sources of their own strength.” Unfortunately, the participants in these scenarios were seen but not heard while Officer Darren Wilson was given a media platform to recount his version of the Ferguson incident.  It is likely that he garnered sympathy in the process for his role in the tragic events that resulted in the death of Michael Brown.  I miss Malcolm X.

With instantaneous social media pictures, postings and videos and newscasters more interested in sensationalized “news” stories that are derisive and inflammatory, it is imperative that African Americans take the time to be proactive instead of reactive. It is painfully obvious, that in order for that to occur a magnanimous leader must take the helm and be willing to  “work with many organizations and many people,” to continue the work started by Malcolm X in “regaining our self respect, our manhood, our dignity and freedom…”

Only then will the pattern of being seen but not heard end and the truth that black lives matter manifest.


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