How Do We Honor Malcolm X?


For these first five months of 2013, my blog articles focus on the need for Black activism. Indeed, most of my articles provide information and analysis designed to stimulate and encourage Black people to organize and become active agents in our liberation.

This topic becomes especially important as we approach what would have been brother Malcolm’s 88th birthday tomorrow (had ignorant/misled Negroes in conjunction with repressive white American government interests not killed him).

Malcolm X represents many things to many people, but we can all agree that his primary concern, both as a Nation of Islam member and during the 11 months after his departure from the organization, was the complete liberation of Black people in America and throughout the world.

Tomorrow in Harlem and all across America and the world, people will gather to commemorate brother Malcolm. Radical intellectuals and activists will participate in panel discussions recalling his words and deeds; people will view and listen to his speeches; poets will articulate Malcolm’s meaning.

We hope that somewhere in this mix of activities, people will honor Malcolm by becoming active agents for Black liberation.

The question is how exactly do we accomplish this huge task? One way to approach this is simply to carefully observe what Malcolm himself did.

Dr. Maulana Karenga  summarized this in Malcolm’s call for Black people to “Wake up, clean up and stand up.”

We can honor brother Malcolm by embracing his three-part call:

1. Wake up: Eliminate our ignorance, seriously study our history, oppressors, and the world we inhabit.

2. Clean up: Purge ourselves of self-defeating ideas, habits and behaviors; counter our societal brainwashing which causes us to feel inferior to others or to accommodate to our oppression.

3. Stand up: Become meaningfully involved in and committed to activities that advance, articulate, defend and liberate our people.

You will notice that the first step involves education. The second step speaks to self-discipline and a re-orientation of our views, values, and behavior. The third step compels us to do something useful and empowering with the knowledge and consciousness we’ve developed.

To our credit, many of us have pored through countless books, speeches, documentaries and classes on our road to consciousness. Some of us work diligently toward self-improvement either by earning certain credentials, new skills, adopting a faith system or through fasting, praying, better dietary choices and exercise.

Of the 3 steps Malcolm advocated, perhaps the first and last represent our greatest challenges. We have unprecedented numbers of college graduates and professionals, wealthy entertainers and business-owners, elected officials and scholars. Yet their level of sociopolitical consciousness is questionable.

And even among conscious Black people, we see evidence of a gap between what they know and can do vs. their commitment to organizing their talents and resources to actively empower Black people and address Black issues in tangible ways.

We have brilliant and competent educators, but they have generally produced no independent Black schools drawing from curricula and practices that adequately prepare our children to lead and sole problems for Black people. We have masterful doctors and nurses but no Black-owned/operated hospitals or medical clinics serving Black people literally dying from poor health practices and inadequate healthcare.

We’ve produced political scientists and pundits that serve white corporate political parties/interests, but create no independent Black parties or effectively organize Black people to develop true political power within the existing political system. With all of our wealth, talent, and knowledge, we have not effectively addressed or resolved the issues of police brutality, Black-on-Black crime, failing schools, poor healthcare, unemployment, affordable housing, or racially disproportionate incarceration.

When you consider the legions of people who claim to agree with Malcolm’s analysis and ideas. Ponder our tendency to post informative video clips, and articles or engage in bitter and energy-consuming online debates without creating organizations/programs/institutions in our communities to improve our condition.

So tomorrow, on Malcolm’s 88 birthday, I will reminisce on his ideas, speeches and activities. I will attend a public commemoration and will thank God, our ancestors and Malcolm himself for his courage, insight, and commitment.

Yet I’m reminded that while I’m doing that, our children are being murdered by cops and themselves in the streets; schools continue to dumb down our young people; our people struggle to survive and sustain themselves; we’ve elected people to public office who ignore and trivialize our problems while assisting others; floods of our brothers and sisters languish in captivity for petty crimes (or none at all), while Wall Street bankers and other corporate crooks  go unpunished; our elders look incredulous as they see their sacrifices go unharvested by us; our youth desperately search for identity, meaning and inspiration – and find it in gangs, the streets, and bastardized Hip Hop, illegitimately fathered by white corporate music executives.

I recognize that no speeches, commemorations, or trash-talking alone will liberate us. Therefore I choose to honor brother Malcolm by continuing the mission his murderers hoped to kill along with him: organizing and unifying Black people to empower and liberate themselves! I do hope you will join me.


Agyei Tyehimba is a former NYC public schoolteacher, co-founder of KAPPA Middle School 215 in the Bronx, NY, and co-author of the Essence Bestselling book, Game Over: The Rise and Transformation of a Harlem Hustler, published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. Agyei has appeared on C-SpanNY1 News, and most recently on the A&E documentary, The Mayor of Harlem: Alberto ‘Alpo’ Martinez.” Mr. Tyehimba is a professional consultant and public speaker providing political advice and direction for Black college student organizations, community activist groups, and nonprofit organizations. If you are interested in bringing Agyei to speak or provide consultation for your organization, please contact him at

5 thoughts on “How Do We Honor Malcolm X?

  1. I know I’m a couple of years late… but I found this article after Googling the phrase ‘how can white people honor Malcolm X’. Obviously this is not at all the focus of your article, but I am wondering if you had any advice or suggestions toward that end. Whites are mostly frightened of and misunderstand Malcolm X and his work. Is there a place for white activism in helping Black activism? Or does that always end up going wrong and we should just do our best to get out of the way? (These are sincere questions BTW, not sarcasm at all.) Thank you very much for your time.

    1. If whites want to challenge white supremacy, they should begin challenging/educating their friends, classmates, churches, families.You can also learn about white privilege and begin using it to assist Black folk. Finally, if you join Black struggles, you must respect the principle of Self-Determination and let Black people to lead our own struggles.

      In a simple sense, you honor Malcolm X by fighting imperialism, oppression, and white supremacy, police brutality, and white entitlement. Since the beneficiaries of racism exist in your family, neighborhood, etc. the best place to start is right there. You must begin to decolonize your mind. Try reading Peggy Mcintosh’s groundbreaking essay.

      Thanks for reading, and thanks for asking….

      1. Thank you very much for your reply. Obviously this is a complex issue which must be approached thoughtfully. Are there any other written resources you would recommend? A person can either contribute to a problem or to its solution, and given the option, I prefer to participate in the solution. I have great respect for the written word and I regret that my exposure to Black socio-political authorship is much less than I would like it to be. Thank you again for your time. I will do my best to follow your advice.

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