Baba Malcolm

So, I have this presentation that I have been doing for the last month.

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This presentation was prepared for the convening of My Brother’s Keeper initiative last month.

This presentation has gotten CREAD A LOT of work and a lot of recognition. The phone won’t stop ringing.

I am proud of this presentation.

It takes participants on a journey.

Asking them to ride along as I explain how White Supremacy and Anti Blackness permeates in our schools and in our lives.

Then I show them actual lessons that CREAD has worked on with NYC Teachers. We have an English lesson that uses hip hop to understand Robert Browning. We have a science lesson that uses a restorative circle process to get students thinking about their potential and connects with a clip from the Black Panther movie that engages students to think about potential and kinetic energy.

People love it. All people. White, Black, Conservative and Liberal.

But, when I go to the Algebra II unit, that focuses on developing students to see themselves as engineers who can build up their blocks by positioning themselves as interrupters to gentrification aka modern day columbusing/imperialism/colonialism…well that’s when the white people in the room get really uncomfortable.

After this section of the presentation–everything stops.

People got questions.

They got push back.

The need definitions for the term “DeColonization.”

It get’s thick in the room.

The first time this happened, I was naively surprised. The second time it happened I was slightly annoyed. The third time it happened, I got scared. I began to ask myself, should I stop showing this lesson? Will showing this lesson cost me contracts, relationships, opportunities?

images.jpg But thank goodness it is May. For the month of May reminds me of the ancestor who has made the biggest impact on my life and my work and my love of Black folk.

I have spoken about Malcolm X before, our long time CREAD followers know this.

I have had an absolute love affair with Malcolm X since my 11th grade history teacher put the Autobiography of Malcolm X into my hands.

Wait, I don’t even know if that was truly the first time I read the book because my middle school, PS 82 in the Bronx rented out a theatre on 161st and took the entire school to see the the film in 1992.

I remember being mesmerized by Denzel Washington as Malcolm. I made Denzel Washington Malcolm X, the two were not separate beings. Even when Denzel portrayed the “bad” guy in Training Day, when he died or got shot, or whatever happened, I yelled out in the theatre, “Nooooooooooo Malcolmmmmmmmmmm.”

I was devastated. Watching Alonzo…Denzel…Malcolm…be murdered. Again.

I think when I reread the Autobiography again in college, Malcolm morphed into my father. I wanted him to be my dad. I wanted to be safe with him. I wanted to be a revolutionary with him. I wanted to sit at his feet and listen to him. I wanted to study like him and love Black people like him. I wanted to command respect, like him. I wanted power like him.

But most of all I wanted to be fearless like him.

I so desperately wanted to have just half of the audacity that he had. I would imagine that if I was alive during the 60s I would have been in the Nation, because I would have had to follow Malcolm.

Imagine living in Harlem and walking down a street corner and Malcolm was preaching to you, looking you dead in your eyes, opening up your soul with his words.

Y’all know I went looking for a video and then fell down a rabbit hole and so now Malcolm’s speeches are just playing in the background as I type.

Malcolm Little

Detroit Red

Malcolm X

el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz

I just call him Baba.

And lately, I’ve been calling on him more and more, to help guide me as I work for the liberation of Diasporic people.

I think I told you, I recently received my first piece of hate mail, the first time I’ve ever been called a name with no face attached. Been threatened and I couldn’t identify the one who threatens me.

It was the first time I ever felt afraid for my safety.

I wonder how Malcolm felt the 1st time he received a threat from an unknown voice over the phone, or by a letter he received in the mail. I just wonder about the 1st time, because it gets easier after that. Today I asked my web guy to set up my email so that the threats go somewhere separate and not hit my inbox directly. Because it sucks to open up an email while living your life and someone is calling you names and threatening you.

I’d rather read it, when I have the time.

Baba’s birthday is this Saturday.

And for the first time, ever in my life I am going to go out and honor him and celebrate his life.

The Schomburg Center is holding their annual celebration of his birthday, which is shared with Lorraine Hansberry.

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“The Schomburg Center is proud to celebrate the 18th Annual Commemoration of the Birthday of Malcolm X. This year we have partnered with Changing Perceptions Theater as they present Happy Birthday Malcolm and Lorraine! A new generation of Black playwrights have interpreted portions of speeches, interviews and letters by Malcolm X and Lorraine Hansberry into short scenes to celebrate the birthdays of these historic figures.”

I really need this night.

I really need the space to ground myself.

I really need the spiritual power that comes whenever two or three are gathered for the same purpose.

I really need to be surrounded by Black joy.

I have another opportunity to do this same presentation next week. And I had been thinking maybe I should cut out the Algebra II unit.

I was thinking, I just want to have a nice relaxing session.

I was thinking, I just don’t want all the drama, and venom and the experience of explaining, yet again why it is important for the children of those who were enslaved to receive an education that allows them to make the changes in the world they need.

And then I began listening to Baba Malcolm.

And then I realized that my duty is to engage the drama with willingness, combat the venom with truth and explain truth with fidelity.

I have never missed a person, as much as I miss Malcolm. Yeah, that’s crazy because I was born many years after he was assassinated. But his impact on my identity, my ideology, on my being is unmatched.

I think I’m going to go to his grave site on Sunday. Lay some flowers, burn some Frankincense and Myrrh and just talk to him. That feels like what I need right now.

And my hope, for those of you, who love, honor and respect Malcolm and all he did for us, is that you are sharing him with your students this week. It doesn’t matter how you do it.


It’s time to act. So just do it.

In Solidarity.





One comment

  1. I would LOVE to see the Algebra II unit. The project looks wonderful, and I have been searching for ways to contextualize the Common Core NYS Regents curriculum. Is there a unit plan beyond the project screens on the linked blog post? Thank you!

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