Thursday, May 19, 2005

Black Power!

Not only is today Malcolm X's birthday, but it is his 80th birthday, had he lived.

I hit the streets of Harlem with my camera, looking to see how this day was celebrated. The first thing I noticed was the sheer number of people in the streets. Many of the stores were closed and people wandered around in traditional African garb. From a street vendor near to a marching crowd of celebrants, I bought a T-shirt with a picture of Malcolm X on the front framed by the word 'remember.' In the back is a quote from Malcolm X: "The blackman in America will never be respected until he respects and protects the black woman!"

The rally was not only peaceful, but surprisingly the rhetoric of the speaker reflected a sense of tolerance rather than the traditional discourse of 'down with the white man.' Nevertheless, there were some old school Black Panthers, and the rally was about Black Power. Fists were pumped. Slogans were yelled. And it felt really empowering. I had to restrain myself from pumping my fists and yelling.

There weren't a lot of people there. But the message was a good one. Times have changed - people may have once closed stores around here out of fear, now they do it more out of respect. Today there aren't enough angry black people left in Harlem to be a real presence. Today, Harlem is watered down, gentrifying, and getting soft. This isn't all bad. But sometimes it is important to remember those who struggled for the empowerment of black people in America - not just the peaceful Martin Luther Kings, but also the more militant activists such as Malcolm X.

Those of us who weren't alive in those times cannot fathom what it was like to be black in America in the 1950s and 1960s. It is important to be reminded of the long and difficult road black people have had to walk down to be recognized as equals to white people. And the struggle for equality still continues today.


Blogger Mr. X said...


5:58 PM  

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