By Bashir Akinyele
This past January, America, and the world, observed the life and legacy of the great social justice activist the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This upcoming May 19, 2023, the Afrikan American community, and the activist community, will observe the life and legacy of the great social justice activist Omawali El Hajj Malik El Shabazz-Malcolm X. As I get closer to 50 years old, I am truly starting to understand the power of faith and spirituality and the power of Black cultural pride. Studying the histories of Dr. King and Malcolm X, I saw men, required by their faith and their knowledge of Black culture pride, to fight against legal racial discrimination in America and Black self-hatred. It was that higher power and love for Black cultural pride in Dr King and Malcolm X that has forced me to look deeply at what is required of me in Al-Islam and in Black culture. I began to think about what is required of me by Allaah (SWT) as a Muslim, as a Black man, as a Husband, as a father, as an Afrikan American, as a community activist, as a member of the Muslim Ummah (community), and as a member of humanity. But I am also thinking about the requirement of members of non-Islamic faiths. I am thinking about the requirement of my Afrikan Americans Christians brother and sisters. I am thinking about the requirement of other Black leaders. And what is the requirement I am pondering about you may ask? This belief in a higher power, the practice of good deeds found in faith, and the significance of a Black cultural pride that required principled Afrikan American leaders like Dr. King and Malcolm X to be committed to Black liberation. Through the examples of Dr. King and Malcolm X, I believe they showed the Afrikan American community the factors that can transform an individual, a family, a people, a leader, a community, a society, a nation, and humanity for the better, particularly, the Afrikan American community.
The requirement of faith, as Muslims, is an action called good deeds. The Arabic words for this expression are الاعمال الصالحة (al’aemal alssaliha). Therefore, we as Muslims should be helping the poor, the needy, freeing the enslaved, fighting for the liberation of the oppress, fighting for the liberation of women, fighting for social justice.
In James 2:14-26 of the Bible, my Christian brothers and sisters are required to practice good faith with good works by helping the downtrodden as well.
But both faiths do not just stop Muslims and Christians there at externally helping people. Good faith means also means being internally good fathers, good mothers, good husbands, good wives, good children, good students, good neighbors, good leaders, good, teachers, good politicians, good people of faith, and good human beings. Both Dr. King and Malcolm X faiths made them good fathers, good husbands, and good human beings as well.
Although Dr. King was Christian and Malcolm X was Muslim, they both understood that their faiths went hand in hand with their love for their Black culture.
Dr. King was quoted in his famous letter from a Birmingham Jail, “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have never yet engaged in a direct-action movement that was “well timed” according to the timetable of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “wait.” It rings in the ear of every Negro with a piercing familiarity. This “wait” has almost always meant “never.” It has been a tranquilizing thalidomide, relieving the emotional stress for a moment, only to give birth to an ill-formed infant of frustration. We must come to see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.” We have waited for more than three hundred and forty years for our God-given and constitutional rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward the goal of political independence, and we still creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward the gaining of a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say “wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize, and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she cannot go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her little eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky, and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son asking in agonizing pathos, “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger” and your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and when your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodyness” — then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of injustice where they experience the bleakness of corroding despair.”
Malcolm X said, “Who taught you to hate the color of your skin? Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair? Who taught you to hate the shape of your nose and the shape of your lips? Who taught you to hate yourself from the top of your head to the soles of your feet?”
If the Muslims of Afrikan descent applied the principles of الاعمال الصالحة (al’aemal alssaliha) and the Christian of Afrikan descent practice faith with good works, and Afrikan American Muslims and Christians practice Black cultural pride in the Afrikan American community, and in the larger American society, Black lives would truly matter to Black people, to White people, to Asian people, to Latino people, to Arab people, to the police, to the power structure, to America, to Hip Hop, and to all people! The decadent conditions (e.g. poverty, joblessness, the high incarcerations of rates of Black Men and Black Women, the proliferation of drugs, mis-education, dysfunctional families, Black on Black violence, police violence, and Black self-hatred) of Afrikan Americans would improve dramatically!
If we followed in the footsteps of Dr. King and Malcolm X, we would be armed with our respected faiths in the belief of the power of the Creator, our practice of good deeds, and furnished with a universal love for our Black culture, we would create more Dr. Kings and Malcolm Xs in ourselves that would require us to work hard to make the faith community better, make the Afrikan American community better, make America better, and make the world a better place!
Dr. King, a very courageous Blackman and Christian Pastor! Malcolm X a very courageous Blackman and Muslim leader, used their faiths, the practice of good deeds, and a Black cultural pride, to sacrifice their lives for the freedom of Afrikan Americans, and in turn, made America better by forcing this country to live up to it’s democratic ideals! They were an awesome example of the power of faith, importance of الاعمال الصالحة (al’aemal alssaliha) good deeds, faith with good works and the power of Black cultural pride! If we just looked a little deeper into our faiths as Afrikan Americans, the way Dr. King and Malcolm X did, we would find liberating answers to our many problems of today.
As Salaamu Alaikum! (May Peace Be Unto You)
-Radio Show Producer and Talk Show Host
*Note: The spelling of Afrika, Afrikan, and Afrikan American with a “k” is the Kiswahili word for African. Kiswahili is a Pan Afrikan language spoken in many parts of Afrika. It is also the language of Kwanzaa-the Afrikan American seven day cultural holiday celebrated from December 26 to January 1.