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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  October 10, 2011 4:00am-5:15am EDT

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biography of malcolm x. >> good afternoon. welcome to the 2011 harlem book fair. i am yohura williams from fairfield university and chief historian at the jackie robinson museum. i want to welcome you to this forum. we are here to discuss manning
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parable's recent book malcolm x a life of reinvention and its impact on our appreciation of the life and legacy of this african-american icon. manning parable began his study as a corrective to the influential autobiography of malcolm x which for five decades stood as one of the most important works of african-american literature ever produced. despite its widespread influence and a claim there have always been questions concerning its authenticity. publish nine months after his death the autobiography presents a unique portrait of malcolm's life as a quintessentially american morality tale but also has been at odds with the complex individual many new him to be. in addition the liberal controlled press enjoyed the final draft bags the question what malcolm himself might have excised or included in the book had he lived. when confronted with many of these obvious errors and distortions in the book one
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scholar, manning parable asked the question, quote, how much isn't true? how much hasn't been told? for two decades manning parable made answering those questions his life's work. the product of that work is now x:a life of reinvention. from the outset manning parable contends his primary goal was to uncover the truth about malcolm divorced from any personal or political agenda, quote, the expectation for the biographer of an iconic figure is to portray him either as a virtual scenes without normal contributions and blemishes that all of human beings have. i have devoted many years to understanding his personality and concluded this temptation disappeared long ago. the work manning parable produced has been hailed by some as the most important book on malcolm x ever written. others have denounced as careless scholarship. an attack on malcolm's legacy of, quote, and proven facts and
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speculation. our panel will help us sort for the controversy as we examine the legacy of malcolm x and manning parable's reinvention. we would like you to join the conversation. there are microphones position up front so we can take your questions. given to the turnout for this event i will ask you in advance to limit your remarks to questions for our panel. having said that we have this afternoon a distinguished panel of scholars and activists to discuss the book. let me introduce them so we can move on to our discussion. they are award winning author, journalist, co-author of civil rights yesterday and today and editor of the forthcoming by any means necessary:reviews of malcolm x's life of reinvention, herb boyd. [applause] >> award winning historian, university history professor and author of darker days and bright
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night from black power to barack obama, dr. peniel joseph. next former associate director of columbia university, malcolm x project and research assistant for manning parable on reinvention, historian zaheer ali. last but not least we have award winning author, activist pleaded will play right, african-american icon in her own right, harlem icon and national treasure dr. sonia sanchez. [applause] >> let's move into our discussion and begin with assher ali since you worked so closely with malcolm on this prectect. what drove manning parable's research and how might he have surprise -- responded to the
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criticism the book has received? >> a lot of us began to use his name because he spent so many years working on this project. this was a dedication of his for two decade and the actual work on this book took a concentrated effort of 12 years. he initially wanted to apolitical biography of malcolm and as he read about autobiography more closely what he discovered was the autobiography is a very powerful story of personal transfoobamatn but is a politicized and contractual ties story. personal transfoobamation does t take place in isolation. what malcolm experienced take place in a specific social and
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religious context. what manning parable set out to do was mass that architecture. this life is one of certain continuities and seems. we see a very robust detailed discussion of his history which is something malcolm dracts not treat laying the understanding of the conversion malcolm experience in prison with the nation of islam because he was introduced to the nation of islam. it was as much a religious converleton as much as coming home to is family. many of the ideas about black institutions and independence
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movement and reorientation towastors africa in the thistor world was something here heard echoed in the elijah muhammed. we look and to enroll all men of lafayette made everything happen on there and. what manning parable set out to do was give a sense of the world in which this person worked and struggled. >> you new malcolm. he would be 86 years old this year. is this an accurate reflection of the man you knew or does it fall short of his portrayal of this african-american icon?
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>> i didn't know him as a cherished friend but i knew him as other people knew him by following him, listening to him going to university and listening to him. i talked in real terms about the first time i spoke to him. we thought we were the most militant organization on the planet earth because if it wasn't doing right we would shut it down. when new york took that vote to come back to a place called harlem to engage harlem with change, a note came from brother malcolm that said we are going to have a demonstration that you cannot do anything in harlem without me because i am harlem and i am not a revisionist. who does that man think he is? can you imagine saying that
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u.s.? he is racist. we are reminded he was racist. someone said he is racist--but that day i went in front of the hotel theresa on the island and spoke and i was with some corps members who said after he finished speaking -- sometimes on this cloudy day you watch the building is gained color from the dullness of the day. i watched malcolm's face gain color from the dullness of the day and i jumped off the island. i am so tall i was able to manage to go in and out and touch him on the shoulder and said mr. x and he turned around looking for the person who attacked him on the shoulder and
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finally looked down and by that time they were getting ready to remove me and he shook his head and i said i didn't agree with most of what you said, my brother. he looked at me and said you will leverage the my sister. i looked at his eyes. we should always look at people's eyes. he had the most gentle eyes on the planet earth. i read the book our dear brother manning parable wrote. every now and then came across the idea of this man who was a kind of gentle man. when he expected malcolm to cast somebody up because this aggressive man, this righteous man looked at the person with gentleness and began to teach. the point about me in this book is i don't think brother malcolm
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reinvented himself. i think he continued this journey that he was gone and he went from change after change after change. reinvention means at some point there is something underneath that you are reinventing yourself for some kind of end. i think this brother was one of the greatest intellects of the 20th century. in no uncertain terms he had the ability to look at what was going on in new york city and this country. he had the ability to look and say i am going to get this information and change and like the boys -- we teach the boys we also teach the most important period in his life. in the same manner we should give malcolm the same benefit that he wasn't reinvented. he also liked the boys and thinkers of the 20th century and
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also was able to we imagine what it was being african-american. 3 imagine what it was to be a black man in a place called america. that to me is the most important reinvention. you reinvent yourself quite often doing it for an ulterior motive and i don't think there was an ulterior motive here. i talked the autobiography of malcolm x. did not teach just that. became informational so that manning parable had. >> reporter: information -- the history of our dear brother. we also understood part of that book was not just a written by the brother. there were other people -- it was an understanding that we also had to add to the book and in addition what malcolm had
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done after his return from mecca how he set up the various organizations and that was very important to us and how he changed and the most important thing was how alarmed people were around him that he was changing so fast. manning parable was right on that. he was changing fast. he was making other statements. people could not keep up with him. to this day people fixate malcolm at the point that he was in the 60s. right in the early 60s and you and i know when you to a close reading of his life and his work you understand truly that he had moved to another place. >> thank you. peniel joseph, in your book malcolm x figures prominently in that narrative. you talk extensively about his impact on american democracy and
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the black power movement. what other revelations of the new biography and how does it change the intellectual landscape in which we understand him? >> from the outset manning parable takes malcolm seriously as an organizer, as an intellectual and a global figure. right now we are in harlem. harlem is a city within a city. when i refer to harlemite think of it as a city. some people say it is a neighborhood in new york city. it is really black metropolis. when we think about malcolm x, malcolm x standalone alongside dr. martin luther king jr. and don the in the postwar age of colonization. he is that big a figure. when we think of the post civil-rights era malcolm is written out of that script. what is very important for us to
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understand about mao x, he is an organizer. what is great about this book is it showed the inner workings of how malcolm transformed the nation of islam. there has always been a dialogue with nation of islam and malcolm x in the aftermath of malcolm x's assassination. people say malcolm could not have been what he was without the honorable elijah muhammed. he was the greatest fruit of that tree but when you look at what was going on and how he organized the nation of islam you see a real dialectical relationship. a real symbiotic relationship. nation of islam has few numbers before malcolm x and once mao:joins the nation of islam he is paroled from prison on august of 1952. the next 12 years he works day and night to transform the nation of islam and not just as a religious institution but a political institution.
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when we look at malcolm x, he is the quintessential organizer. what is interesting is in the last year of his life he doesn't have time to organize the organization of afro-american unity. some say how come he had less than 500 followers at the time of his death? he had helped organize a group making millions of dollars that was now global in scope and he was under threat of death last year of his life and tried to organize two different organizations. i will conclude by saying what is so important about malcolm is he was a local organizer who transformed the black freedom struggle but impacts what we mean by democracy. he has a long running dialogue with people like martin luther king or organizations like student nonviolent coordinating committee for emmylou hater. transforming democratic insulations. if we exclude malcolm from the
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civil-rights landscape and the human rights landscape, if we exclude malcolm as one of the most eloquent critic of american democracy and imperialism and capitalism we do him a disservice and we do ourselves a disservice and when we think about where we are now in the age of obama, malcolm would have been a critic of where we are because he was an indefatigable critic. he even criticized the nation of islam and the honorable elijah muhammed who he said saved him. when he found corruption wherever he found it, wherever he found immorality or wrongdoing malcolm x spoke true to power even under threat of jeff and that is the example the need to follow today. [applause] >> many critics including activists and former associates have denounced the book and accused manning parable of tarnishing his legacy. what is your position on the
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book and the controversy and do you believe the book has elevated or diminished malcolm's legacy? >> let me say from the start that nothing can diminish malcolm x's legacy. [applause] >> one of my friends said he is beyond that. welcome to the new york sauna. this is an intergenerational thing and that is absolutely necessary. the kind of dialogue leeboard has stimulated, we need even more than manning parable's book. there are other books we need to consult and read in order to frame and contextualized malcolm's life and legacy. i had a chance in 1958 i met malcolm and he changed my life. heaven only knows what i was on my way to but he showed me a direction and i was eager to
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follow him. first time i went to the mosque in detroit i was mesmerized. my cousin took me and we were sitting there and he would have a lectern or blackboard on the stage. he is writing all the time as he is talking to people and he misspelled word. i nudged my cousin. do you going to tell him? not going to tell him. no way in the world by will correct him on that and after it is over we have a chance to meet demand you stand in the aisle when he goes up and down shaking everybody's hand thanking them for coming out. later on in life i shall will chamberlain's hand but i remember malcolm's hand. one of the most powerful groups i ever experienced. like you can pick up a flower
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and point down a road with it and the strength of that hand and his integrity has lived with me all these many years. i knew ahead manning parable very well at the same time. .. >> and we've come up with a book tentatively titled "by any means necessary be" looking at the
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commentaries and critiques and reviews around manning's book. and just looking at going over these reviews and be everything and trying to gather the impressions of people like peniel joseph, dr. burrows is also going to be a part of this particular effort, and it's an attempt, zaheer, to keep this dialogue going. i think it's a very important discussion. those of you who may have seen this morning's new york times in terms of erasing, a possibility of reopening this case and looking at some people who for according to manning have escaped their prosecution, and some people who were unjustly accused who had nothing at all to do with that assassination. so you've still got a lot of work to do to sort out exactly what's going on. and i think i'd like to be a part of this whole pursuit of the truth. one of my students asked me, says is this book, is this
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fiction or nonfiction? and i say, well, and i thought about, you know, alex haley and the whole "roots" thing, and we end up saying that was faction -- [laughter] because he had to create a whole lot of things that's impossible for him to know the kind of discussions that they have gone on with distant ancestors and that sort of thing. well, i don't want to go that far in terms of putting manning's book into that kite of category, but it warrants discussion that we can talk about the the infidelity and the homosexuality which, of course, triggered discussion around the book. so i stand right in the middle, i'm prepared to take it from both sides. >> great. and picking up on that. i want to direct this question to sonia, but everyone on the panel's welcome to debate this. manning argued memorably that a black scholar has a specific
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mandate to produce scholar that is descriptive, prescriptive and corrective. did manning meet the responsibility in this particular book, did he meet that standard in this book by writing a study of malcolm that is descriptive, prescriptive and corrective? >> i'm not too sure that he did all of that. um, you see, i come from a generation that truly believes at some point that we learn many things about people when we write about them, but we're not necessarily obliged to reveal them all or to talk about them if it does not, if it will not benefit the people, if it will not benefit, um, the scholarship. and i think that at some particular point, um, i don't think that if i had been writing the book, that i would have, in a sense, included some of the things that he included when with it did not benefit be our
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knowledge of this man called malcolm and our knowledge of sister betty. i mean, that's just my opinion. i do know, however, my brother, is that what manning did do in this book is that he did show us that malcolm demystified, that manning demystifyied the sense of malcolm, and he also talked about how malcolm demystified, also, white america. i think that this is really crucial. because i think the young people sitting here you've got to put this in context at some point. to read this book in 2011, you know, you really have to in a sense have been in that place to understand what it was to have a man like malcolm on television.
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people who should be challenge inside washington d.c. i think, by golly, malcolm would really put them in their place or, you know, he would tell them exactly what they should know at some particular point. so i guess what i'm saying on some levels when i look at what manning was attempting to do with this man called malcolm that i wish at some point that we would, he would not have, in a sense, become a voyeur to this man's life. i think that we are so attuned even as scholars and writers to this voyeuristic part of people's lives; whom they slept with, who came to the hotel, who didn't come to the hotel. that's unimportant as far as i'm concerned, as far as this man is concerned, and i don't think it should be our concern. i think what we could truly -- we should truly understand at
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some point, and i'm suffering from vertigo, so if i go off a little bit, it's because i do go off. [laughter] it's a disconnect, vertigo. it's the very -- i was in the tornado in alabama, and i come back with ears that still hum and hurt, and the head that still hurts. and be also the body -- and also the body that is not on balance, you know? so at some point i just want to -- is this man malcolm who asked, who taught you to hate the color of your skin, who taught you to hate the shape of your nose, who taught you to hate yourself from the top of your head to the soles of your feet? who taught you to hate your own kind, to hate the race you belong to so much? malcolm liberated our minds by dissecting america transforming
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police, integration, liberals, our government. he did all of this, you know, in no uncertain terms. and he made us also begin to look at the idea that it was possible to challenge white america, um, you know, this political murder, this economic murder, this social murder, this mental murder that happened. he showed black america posture, the private emphasis beneath the public words. and he called at a very early time along with people like kwame for a black united front which many people are not really talking about again at some particular point. and i think what i'm looking at in this book what -- is that the conversation that will happen now again about malcolm, the conversation by the black united front, the conversation, also, about america, the conversation about what does it mean to have a black president in america, you know? the conversation that we don't have someone like malcolm necessarily talking. i don't mean people who respond
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to what goes on, but you see the point about malcolm, he was an initiator. he initiated. his life was not just response at all. and i always called him and the people in the freedom moment the thunder of angels. that's who they were. they were about reconciling us with ourselves and helping us reclaim our histories. because i wanted to begin by saying there's an ancient saying if you want to create a new body, you must step out of the river of your own memory and see the world as if for the first time. and our brother malcolm and martin and the freedom fighters, the brothers and sisters in the south and the north helped us see the world of our foremothers and forefathers and ourselves as if for the first time. this man, this man, this man, this careful crafts person of words. and you see, what i wanted manning to do always is to be as
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careful a craftsperson of words as malcolm was. you have got to be a careful craftsperson talking about him. this aristocratic sourcer is or, this man, malcolm was, with a communist eye informed us that activism and work that flows from the heart is god-conscious activism. his eyes went back to africa and the caribbean and america and told us to take god out of the sky and put god in our hearts, our feet, our hands, and we did. and we are forever grateful for that man for doing that, for teaching us, you know, what america was truly all about. and i think that, you know, this man, manning, you know, attempted to do this in some uncertain terms, but i think also, too, um, his idea of always that this man was reinventing himself, that this man was always packaging himself, you know, for america and for his, you know, for
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blacks, i doubt that he was doing that at all. he was not packaging himself, and he was not reinventing himself, you know? at all in this place called america. >> well, i'd like to tackle that because i think that one thing many people have not read the book, some of this criticism of the book in terms of there's two pages of the book where, that talks about homosexuality and suggestion. there's deferent points where -- different points where it talks about alleged infidelity with sister betty she because, the overwhelming terms of that book is really the political side of malcolm x and how malcolm little -- i won't use the word reinvention -- is transformed into malcolm x and changes over a period of a very, very short time. >> right. >> malcolm x is the quintessential self-made african-american of the 20th century, and that's a huge tradition because we have got
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frederick douglass, we've got david walker, we've got harriet tubman, and these self-made black men and women talked about self-determination. so the bulk of that book is a dramatic example of the way in be which malcolm's call for political determination was also reflected in his personal life. because his family are actually pioneers of black nationalism sent to omaha, nebraska, and who are run out of omaha, nebraska, by racial terrorists, by white supremacists who are eventually run out of lansing. and his father is killed and lynched in lansing. so when we think about malcolm x, malcolm x transforms himself over time based on the situation that he finds himself in. he finds himself growing up in an america where small d democracy does not exist, and even though he joins the nation of islam and talks about armageddon and says that the whole country is doomed, malcolm spends the rest of his life trying to transform these
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institutions even to the point, like sonia sanchez said, when he becomes this human rights activist which he always was, he becomes a global evangelist for a human rights version of islam. he becomes a revolutionary pan-africanist that people like kwame carmichael are going to pattern their own lives after. so malcolm is always on the cutting edge of transformation and self-determination. and the book we're talking about, manning marable's malcolm x, the life of reinvention, it's important for everybody out there to read it for themselves because manning is getting a lot of criticism from people who didn't read the book. >> right. >> and, remember, in the black community we cannot have sacred cows. malcolm had no sacred cows. everything was open for criticism if it was corrupt, if it wasn't helping people. that's why malcolm is the quintessential black working-class hero of the 21st century. so we can't say we can't criticize malcolm x.
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we have to be able to criticize all the icons that we look at. now, when we say that, is it constructive creatism or deconstructive creatism or destructive criticism? i think you can have constructive criticism. so personally i think -- do i agree with everything in the book? and no, like herb said, it's not a perfect book. but the bulk of that book, 95% of the book is about malcolm as a political figure, right? and the personal biography in the book is about malcolm as this gentleman that sonia said. the other stuff that we've talked about, issues of infidelity or suggestions of homosexuality form a droplet of that book but have overwhelmed the reception of that book. the bigger, the bigger revelation of that book is that malcolm x is this quintessential human rights organizer in the 1960s whose impacting dr. king, who's impacting the civil rights movement, who's impacting the state department and cia who's following his
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every move because they're scared of what he's doing in the north africa and the middle east. and malcolm's revolutionary approach to islam is something we should all think about now in this age of the war on terror. malcolm had a different conception of islam. malcolm looks upon islam as this global human rights philosophy that can be melded with anti-imperialism, a critique against capitalism and a human rights revolution. so he goes to both conservative and liberal muslim clerics and says how can we refashion, um, islam in the united states and build these bridges for a human rights movement? >> can you comment on that as well, please? >> yeah. well, first there is, you know, manning marable taught that history is a con testation of interpretations over facts. so there is, you know, think of how many books there are on
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abraham lincoln, on george washington, on john f. kennedy, on martin king. there should be no one book on malcolm. there's always going to be an ongoing conversation as more materials become available about how malcolm was, about what he did, about who he spoke to, about what he meant. so manning clearly expected, you know, a vigorous discussion around the issues that he raised -- >> and it should be. >> absolutely. because malcolm was not a sacred cow, and neither was manning marable. and manning marable writes with, to me if you read the book, great humility where he can be definitive, he's definitive. where he cannot, he is not. and people have criticized him for the should have, could have, would have, must have, might have, but this is the thing. history is not -- a historian doesn't deal with, often times, certainty. you also deal with probability. and your job is working with a string of artifacts that maybe
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you have maybe three artifacts to cover a month of activity. what is the meaning of these three artifacts in kruking the subject's life over -- in constructing the subject's life over the course of that month? we don't know exactly what he did day in this and day out, but you can approximate it based on patterns that you see from these artifacts. so when manning set out to do this biography, he began building a chronology. and i just want to give people a little about it because i don't want people to think he approached it in a flippant way, right? there are some points many where i think the language may be a little flippant, but for the most part i think people should know that he approached these issues, including the sensitive issues, with great gravity and grappled with how he should represent it or if he should represent it at all. so he compiled this massive chronology, drawing on letters,
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correspondence, bureau documents, manhattan district attorney's case file, oral history interviews that he did, that were archived here at the schaumberg, at columbia, at the research center at howard, um, you know, so muhammad speaks newspaper, amsterdam newspaper, i mean, he -- so, you know, drawing on all of these materials begins to plug them into this chronology. and where you find or where we found and where he found clusters of these sources, those events, those items became sign posts. they, obviously, were significant if they generated three or four newspaper articles. i'll give you an example. in the autobiography of malcolm x and in malcolm's popular narrative as we know most people believe his first international travel took place after he left the nation of islam. that is not true. malcolm travel toss the middle
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east and africa in 1959. now n his biography it's one line, and then he moves on, right? manning gives it three to four pages of detail because malcolm wrote articles from khartoum, from saudi arabia, the bureau of special services and fbi documented this trip. while he was in egypt he met with anwar sadat who was not yet -- and this was before he became president. nasser invited him to a meeting. he said, i'll hold on that, you should meet with elijah mohamed first. he writes this article in the pittsburgh courier about all of these connections he's make anything 1959 while still in the nation of islam. fast forward to 1964 when he's traveling, guess who he begins writing? guess who he begins contacting? the people that he met in 1959. so this is the kind of work that is done in this book. so you get a fuller sense that what happens in 1964 doesn't come out of nowhere, it comes out of this longer engagement
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malcolm had with the muslim world. now, as to the, um, the human side of malcolm, you know, malcolm, um, most of us who have studied malcolm, read his autobiography, read his speeches or listened to his speeches captivating -- one of the best speakers of the 20th century, sharp political thinker. but he was not a political machine. he was a human being. he was, i mean, he really tried to be a machine at one point according to what we have in this book. he has to check himself into the hospital for exhaustion. and, like, a few days later he's back out the hospital on the road again. but what's important, you know, and this may be a generational thing in terms of historians, and manning really tried to debate or really tried to come to an understanding of what was public and what was private, and why with was the private important in certain instances. in the case of malcolm's challenges that he had with his marriage with dr. betty she
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because, i think -- and what this comes across is the head of a religious community that is patriarchal, right? that promotes a certain gender-constructed gender roles of men and women. >> all about -- [inaudible] >> right? that's true. so he is trying to impose this part of the challenges in his family is his trying to impose this, these gender roles and expectations in his personal family. malcolm as much as he was a dynamic political thinker, we have to be critical of him on the issues of gender. in his own autobiography, you know, he says of his wife, like, i think i trust her, right? maybe 75% of the time. in the his evolution as a political organizer, it isn't until he's with the oaau that he appoints a woman or several women to lead up his organizing. so, i mean, i think one of the
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reasons why we have to explore his personal relationship to gender and gender roles is because as we move forward as the black freedom movement, we have to have a conversation about gender. we have to have a conversation about -- and it's not just about, you know, protecting women. that is part of it. but if you're protecting women only if they submit to your understanding of what women should do, then we have to be critical of that, right? and so these are some of the areas where i think, um, manning -- and people have said humanizing, and now humanizing is, apparently, a bad word, called a human being. but manning's humanizing of malcolm, i think, gives us a couple of things. one, it tells us that you don't have to be perfect to accomplish great things, and malcolm was not perfect and accomplished great things. see, when you have this vision of an unblemished hero on a pedestal out of reach and then we try to present that to ourselves and to our children who know we are not unblemished,
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who know we have human failings, we're like, oh, that's somebody to be worshiped, that's somebody to be adored. that's not somebody like us. and and i think what manning tried to do is give us as comprehensive a view of malcolm and all of his complexity. and we can debate different aspects of this, but i think manning would have welcomed that debate. he was not perfect himself, and like i said, a historian oftentimeses has to rely on probabilities where certainties don't exist. and if you have, like, if you have to construct the life of someone who lived 39 years, and you, you know, think of your own life. how much of your life is documented so that if a historian came along would they really be able to compile an accurate accounting of your day-to-day activities? probably not. they would go on maybe two or three letters you sent, a few christmas cards, a few birthday cards, a few e-mails. think of, my god, what you've posted on facebook. [laughter] do you really want somebody
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building your life story off of that? but this is what historians try to do. and in some cases they succeed admirably, and be i think many cases manning does that using malcolm's diaries which are here at the schaumberg. he's the first scholar to publish a critical investigation of malcolm's life based on his diaries. you see malcolm writing islam is our bridge to africa, and african-american is the bridge to islam. i mean, you see him working and trying to make these connections. and so i think, um, those are the ways that this book really -- and i just wanted to convey that. because, unfortunately, manning is not here to convey the spirit with which he worked. and those of you who know his work, race, reform and rebellion, capitalism underdeveloped like america, this was a man who was a committed activist. nothing was too big or too small for him to do. i saw him speak at universities, i saw him speak at public
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libraries before ten people. he had a deep commitment to social justice for black people, and be he did not set out to smear or take down or destroy malcolm. he wanted to bring malcolm closer to us because he felt that malcolm had been taken too far away from us. and malcolm needed to be closer to us to inspire to do what we needed to do in the 21st century. [applause] >> go ahead. >> and this is what happens when you have a dynamic panel, and i want to in the spirit of malcolm make sure we have enough time for questions from the audience which will be in about six or seven minutes. i want to direct the final question to herb. herb, malcolm is perhaps the most authentic lead freres the black working class who ever lived. in what ways did his personal biography offer hope to the urban under class and society's margins? what cowe take from that example? -- what do we take from
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that example? >> beautiful question. let me say a couple of thing before we get to that. zaheer, you talk about -- how many people out there have read the book? show of hands? i should say in the process of reading the book since we're talking about 600 pages, you know, so it's a pretty huge upside taking. but -- undertaking. but i think you have that responsibility, you know, listening to what we have to say up here, you have to arrive at your own conclusion about this project, about this book. no investigation, no right to speak. you've got to get into it. in fact, one of the things you can do is check out the exhibit that's right upstairs here. i think one of the coordinators who helped pull that together, christopher moore, is here. by all means, visit the exhibit before you leave because you can see, you know, some of this here kind of so-called reinvention. transformation is fine, you know, but i like political evolution. i think that malcolm was ever
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evolving. it's like a process, you know? new information is coming in. again, zaheer, as you say, think about your own lives in the terms of how you've changed from, you know, one year or from one incident, you know, or from one meeting to another. and begin to get a better feel on who you are and where you stand within the context of all of this here matter in motion. so i think it was a political evolution that malcolm was undergoing, and he in 1964 and 1965, those are the most important year of his life as far as i'm concerned. because he had reached a certain kind of plateau of awareness. can you imagine here's a man who's traveling all over africa and meeting with some very important revolutionaries, people who had changed the whole
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dynamic, political and social dynamics of their country. that's high cotton. he's in real high cotton. it's kind of like in a process of learning on the run too. because he hadn't read all these things and gone through all of these kind of changes and a kwame, you know, julius, nasser, and he's sitting talking to these individuals. can you imagine at certain moments it must have been a little bit of intimidation, a bit terrifying for him to meet with such important individuals and be his own sense of preparation. however, you are talking about someone who was a quick study. you look at that diary. i remember when the two crates first came in here to the schaumberg, and we opened those crates up. i was fortunate enough, howard dotson invited me and the late
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james gilbert, photographer, to come over, and we opened up these crates and saw all of this here, a plethora of information. tremendous stuff. it had gone through a circuitous change because one of the daughters had put it in storage down in florida, it had been auctioned off. a man had bought like a pig in a poke, he didn't know what he had. my goodness. he sent it off to san francisco to butterfield's where it was going to be auctioned off. the family stopped that process with a court injunction. all of it came here. you must understand that. zaheer, you mentioned 1959. that's a very important year because that's the year, march of 1959 is when punitively he, malcolm x, wrote a letter to elijah mohamed about troubles he was having in his marital relationship with betty. what malcolm said in that letter
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and, of course, that letter has to be challenged because it's only one reference that manning gives to that letter, and it's coming from that gary senate. the same man who claimed to have had the original letter and be put it up on ebay for, i think, $125,000. it was the same man who supposedly had the letters of adolf hitler, original letters from hitler that turned out to be a fraud. so we have to question then, you know, the reality of that letter, the authenticity of that letter because it stimulates this whole discussion about the so-called infidelities. the other concern about the homosexuality comes from a man named malcolm jarvis that who was fingered by malcolm as part of his burglary crew and went to prison. so you understand here's a man who may have had some grievance about, you know, being fingered
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in that particular ordeal. so, again, you know, all of the things we see we have to go back to the sources, go back to the sources of these concerns in terms of infidelities and homosexual allegations. take it back to the sources and find out, like, can they stand scrutiny? are those worthy and authentic documents? >> i'm going to let you respond the that quickly, but we're going to take questions so if you have questions, please, move forward. >> very quickly. you know, when manning was, as i said, when he did this chronology and pulled all these sources and where he found clusters of sources where he found sign posts, he didn't include anything in the book that he didn't have at least three different sources for, right? in the case of malcolm's challenges in malcolm's marriage to betty, that letter mentions many things that could be verified in other sources such that -- including malcolm's relationship with evelyn, you know, according to other
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documents, letters, um, the memoir of collins who were malcolm stayed. evelyn was known to be someone who knew malcolm when he was detroit red. so there's certain things referenced in the letter. i mean, i think what your point is fair, and this is why scholars have citations, and i think manning is fairly transparent in be saying where he gets these materials from. even if you throw out that letter, it's true that malcolm and betty had challenges in their marriage. actually after each of his first three children were born, and he left the house after each of his first three children were born. i mean, we have to come to terms with that. if you want to throw out that letter allegedly written in 1969 on the homosexual allegation thing, and i think it's really important how we have this conversation so it's not like a charge that's being made because it's something bad to be called. first of all, manning isn't the
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first person to raise the issue of malcolm's potential same-sex encounters with oh -- other men. this was done by bruce perry in 1991, and bruce perry claims many, many more encounters than just this one. and around this particular one he found particular sources, one was jarvis, one was collins, one was malcolm's -- what he wrote in his prison record he wrote paul lennon as his employer. paul lennon is this white businessman. the other was letters he wrote to his siblings saying that paul lennon would vouch for him to get parole. so manning from this says, and it says plainly, based on circumstantial but he believes strong evidence. so it's circumsubstantial. you don't have to believe it, and he goes on to say very clearly there is no other
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evidence of any same-sex encounter that malcolm had with anyone after this point. so i think it's really important to say that. manning never says malcolm was gay because gay is an identity that is, has evolved over the last half of the last century. at the time, you know, some people have a one-drop rule of gayness. [laughter] like, if you, if you look at another person of the same gender, um, automatically you're put in this box. and that's not what manning did. so i think it's important to say. and i think it's transparent. you can challenge it, and i think that's fair to raise those questions, but i think to understand how manning reasoned his conclusions is also important. >> thanks, zaheer. >> why don't you recognize dr. ben is here. [applause] >> yes, please. >> dr. ben is back there. >> dr. ben, can someone help
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dr. ben? [applause] thank you for recognizing dr. ben and his incredible contribution to the history of our people. we're going to take questions from the audience now, we'll begin here with this gentleman. can you state your name and ask your question? the. >> yes, my name is leslie, i'm a high school teacher and graduate student at rutgers university. fantastic panel and enjoying it tremendously. >> pull the mic up a little bit. >> malcolm x was in harlem in the 1940s, and manning marable introduces the fact that during his time this '40s he was around the formation and experimentation of modern jazz. did malcolm -- that malcolm was in contact with charlie parker, felonious monk and dizzy
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gillespie. and this music is, in many ways, music of resistance and rebellion and race. i was wondering if you could talk a little bit, because this was something i was not aware of, how jazz was influential to malcolm's life. >> one of the great thing about the book is that manning marable argues that the jazz he listened to as a young man, and he even said that malcolm perform inside a jazz club as jack carlton as a drummer, and, um, that they were reflected in the his cadence and his speech, right? so in addition to the fact that malcolm being around all these big time musicians, some of whom he sold marijuana to, um, he's really influenced by, um, their showmanship, he's influenced by their sor tore y'all flare. he's influenced by their presence in a way. and like sonia says, i'm not
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going to say reinvention or packaging. a part of that political evolution that mall.com x undergoes is connected to being in that world of harlem in the 1940s. and i think it really influences his rhetorical style because, without question, the best speaker of the 20th century is malcolm x be, a person who can get his point across the best while saying the most succinct words possible, and he speaks in the ordinary language and vernacular of black folks whether they're from the rural south or the urban north. it's going to be malcolm connect today that. >> one of the important words that -- very good, peniel. one of the important words that associates him with that music is improvisation. for the jazz musician, that's the life blood of their creative activity. there's one good book, there's no way we can do justice to that, it's a very, very
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intriguing question, but the best book i've read on that connection between malcolm and be the world of music and particularly jazz is frank cover sky's book. and he does a remarkable job there certainly from comparing the kind of discipline, the kind of articulation, the kind of understanding, the sentiments of that music and its connection to our history and cug -- culture and struggle particularly as it relates to john coltrane. >> also, my brother, he also was a poet. and no one really, many be years ago, i mean, the year after he dies w.b. asked me to come and put together some of his speeches, and i put it together as a poem and read it. i wished i had that tape to this day. but it's a staccato and the pace that he did, you know, it's the music that he did that you heard, um, it was the high and
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the low, you know? he would take you there and then bring you back done. and as you say, my dear brother, the improvisation, the poet of the sixes, we learn how to give speeches from listening to malcolm. we learned how to come in to arouse people, but also before we left, we brought them back down so they could go home and be safe. this is what we learned from him, and it was all in terms of this thing called jazz, this thing called music, this thing called the beat that black folk had, you know? you talk in this very hip fashion, you know? and his, and his -- if you listen to him, you saw him, you spot him as a new yorker. you know? i mean, he was a new yorker, you know? because of how he spoke. um, and because you knew that he was as hip as most new yorkers were. yeah. [applause] >> and i think one of the important pointing to the highlight is when malcolm set out to write his autobiography,
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he did it initially to highlight the transformation of islam. so he did it pre-nation, post-nation and rendered his activities as apolitical. but when we cover the political subtext of much of this formation, and i think just as detroit red the hipster was very political in many ways, so are many be of our young people today. i think it's important for us not to dismiss cultural formation as lacking any potential for political consciousness just as we shouldn't do that with our young people today. >> great point, zaheer. brother, your name and your question, please. >> i don't have a question, i have a comment. my name is todd stephen burrows, i'm a lecturer at morgan state university, and i'm co-editor on a second book that's going to collect reviews of manning marable's malcolm x. the first book is going to be published by --
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[inaudible] i wanted to thank those two publications for rising up and doing this. >> i hope you have some women in there because all i hear is men. >> thank you, sister sanchez. [cheers and applause] but i have, i'm sorry, dr. burrows, i have to get to questions. so thank you. take the next one. and, you know, one of the things that manning does get credit for, we definitely want to -- he said comment, but i have to move on, folks. >> thank you. >> next one. thank you, sir. >> hi, how are you doing? >> hi. what's your name, sir? >> [inaudible] >> and your question? >> i haven't read the book, herb, hopefully i can say something. we did study under dr. clark, and, of course, he knew malcolm personally. and helped malcolm. um, i'm going to wait to read the book, all this hysteria to
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calm down over this relationship with your wife. i mean, i don't think that's strange that a husband and wife have an argument from time to time. particularly a guy like malcolm who was a world traveler and had to leave home many, many be times, and she had a family, and they had a family. this thing about his same-sex relationship, i haven't heard from the panel that any of these, um, folks that said they knew anything about it themselves had a relationship with malcolm. so i'm just going to take that with a grain of salt. >> sir, i'm sorry, your question. >> my question is that it doesn't seem like marable in his life's work ever approached anything dealing with icons in our community that would have stirred so much controversy, so i have doubts that even some of the stuff that's in the book is
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authentically, can be awe they wantically attributed to dr. manning marable, particularly since he passed away a week or so before this thing came out. i have suspicions about it. >> zaheer? >> he wrote the book. [laughter] and just very succinctly, the book, you know, this was not something that was run off at kinko's the weekend after he died. [applause] >> good question. >> it was completed last year, so it was, he wrote the book. >> yeah, or definitely. >> not the illuminati, manning marijuana bl wrote the book -- marable wrote the book. >> what's your name? >> my name is whereas min brody, i'm a writer, and i want to say i feel blessed to be in the presence of sonia sanchez. and dr. ben. my question is, do you feel some books have to put a little tinge of sensationalism in the book just to be able to sell the books? >> well, i, i would say in terms of this book i don't think that,
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and zaheer would be an even better source. i don't think that anything manning put in the book was for sensationalism or to sell books. he was not that kind of author, he was not that kind of man. he had a lot of integrity. i do think that the publisher is going to take the two instances where he raises question and suggests that there may have been same-sex -- not to say that he was gay, but this happened in the 1940s, and then to also talk about alleged infidelity, i think, when they're sending out press packets and they want to get some publicity and get some newspaper interviews and sell some books, they're going to take ahold and say, hey, what's the juiciest thing in a biography that's really talking about malcolm x's political transformation, his political evolution and the way in which that resonates for us in our current contemporary historical
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times. so the idea that the author in this case was thinking he wanted to sensationalize malcolm, i say absolutely not true because of the integrity and the kind of person manning marable was with. but in terms of the publisher and in terms of trying to sell, well, a publisher's trying to sell books. >> yeah. sir, dr. ben wants to say something. i guess we could wheel him over to the mic? the. >> absolutely. can someone take the microphone -- >> take the mic to him. [inaudible conversations] >> i don't know if it'll reach. >> [inaudible] >> they're bringing a wireless mic. >> they're going to bring a wireless mic. do we have any questions as they're getting dr. ben taken care of? any additional questions? come on down, sir, please. quickly. >> while that's happening, we haven't talked about this one thing. one of the things that manning felt very strongly about was the unanswered questions around malcolm's assassination, and the role, the potential role of the state not only in surveilling him since 1950, but in disrupting all of the organizations that he was a part
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of. and i think today's new york times has a story that suggests some of the traction being generated from this book. >> yes. >> around the questions of his assassination. that was something that was really important to him. >> great point. la glad you -- glad you brought that up. >> yes, sir, your name. >> i'm rodney jenkins. i love the book, i read the book, and one thing i wanted to ask because i hear reinvention, transformation. to me, i think, malcolm always had a pan-african outlook, so i wanted to know how important was malcolm's early socialization in his younger years? i feel like, yeah, he did transform and reinvent himself, but he also had that pan-african outlook to reach back on. so i want to know how important was the socialization, and how can we use that to educate our younger youth in today's society? >> well, very quickly, listen, let me recuse myself because that's one of my students at
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city college. [laughter] >> i'll say very important because one of the things that's great about the biography, i think, is how he shows how malcolm is consistent as well. up with of the things that we -- one of the things that we have talked about as reinvention, evolution and transformation, but malcolm x is one of the most consistent human rights activists of the 20th century. what i mean by that is he's consistently on the side of pressed people, working class people, he's consistently connecting antirace struggle in the united states to what's going on globally. he consistently talks about a black united front. ever since 1955 he's talking about a black united front, something people still talk about to this day, and he's consistently and energetically criticizing the evils of economic injustice and racial justice. and, remember, malcolm is the person who talked about democracy's jagged edges. martin luther king talked about black america as a defense
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attorney. malcolm is a prosecuting attorney. king is defending black folks, white folks and white folks to black folks. what malcolm does, he takes black humanity as a given and says there's something wrong with a society that doesn't appreciate black humanity and black citizenship. and that society should be held culpable, all right? he's a prosecuting attorney in that sense, and he's consistent even when he's part of the nation of islam. he says that there's something wrong in a country that allows child abuse, that allows racial segregation, that allows poverty and that allows violence to be perpetbe waited against citizens just because they happen to be black, and that's why after john f. kennedy's killed, he's not rejoicing in the killing of kennedy, he's saying that the killing is connected to chickens coming home to roost because the united states is the biggest purveyor of violence in the world, and that violence has had a boomerang effect and killed a sitting u.s. president. he's not happy, he's sad. he said that it's a tragedy to
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be in a country that claims to be a democracy but actually isn't. [applause] >> dr. ben is micked up. we'll take his comment. >> a comment. >> okay. >> dr. ben. >> good afternoon. >> good afternoon. >> i'm very pleased to attend this affair. and i know i have concern. [inaudible] sonia sanchezs has made me understood some of the errors in my book. and i teach at cornell with my -- [inaudible] i understood that it isn't so good what mapping marable was doing. -- what manning marable
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was doing. sonia sanchez was able to see what was done. the book was written because of -- [inaudible] the written because manning marable wanted to -- [inaudible] about malcolm, and he personally -- [inaudible] >> all right, thank you. >> thank you, dr. ben. thank you. thank you. [applause] zaheer. >> um, thank you so much, dr. ben. to the previous question about socialization, and be i think, um, again this comes back to the point of no one occurs or comes of being in isolation including great people. and it's important to understand that if we want more malcolms to be produced, they're not just going to pop out, and they're not just going to come out of the prisons and be malcolm,
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they're just not, you know? the social context that we provide for our children and for people's development is incredibly critical. malcolm as a child, his mother read him newspaper articles from the negro world newspaper which was marcus -- [inaudible] what are we reading your children? you cannot be teaching your children consciousness and want them to be malcolm x. [applause] this is the point be, like, understand that this man comes of birth in a social, familial community, religious, political, economic, social context that makes him malcolm x as much as he makes himself, he is made by his environment. and so if we want to see more malcolm xs, right? as opposed to just a historical figure, we have to be very conscious of the social environment we're creating for ourselves and our young people. >> and let me add on to that. yes, he did have all that history with his mother and his father, but also when that family broke down, then he is at
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a loss, you see? and we understand how then he will move into crime to a life of being a criminal, a life of being a hustler. you see, it's one thing you can have a base, but if you don't have, also, the community base -- >> that's right. >> -- if we are not out there support being our children, you see, if we're not out there making sure that they eat and they have a place to sleep, then at some particular point they get lost. we're blessed that malcolm didn't stay lost because most certainly he was lost. we're blessed that at some point and a place called a prison, you know, that his brothers would write to him and be tell him about that figure, that little figure, that little man who was going to change. i want you, the brother, who asked that question, from this book you learn this man was a thinker. this man was a person who was constantly learning. this man always had a book in his happened. he was always learning. he was not just listening, he was reading, and he was an
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educator, and he taught us. and above all he loved us. how many of you can say you love us? he loved the good and bad in be us, you know? he was willing to wait, he was willing to walk up to a brother who was on drugs and in a sense by touching him and telling him that you are this man, this black man, you see, and make them come and drop all those -- [inaudible] and tell me that patriarchy runs rampant in here. of course. you understand the thing that women talked about, that patriarchy is a monster, that it still is a monster. and the point is we didn't get up and jump people and fight 'em, we began to move this these organizations in such a way that we challenged them. and this is what this man will do coming out of the nation. he is naturally going to come in with his new organization, going to give women places of power because the women who came in dealing with him were accustomed to places of power, you see?
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so what i'm saying simply is that read the book. you must read the book. >> yeah. >> but don't go in as voyeurs looking for dirt. >> absolutely. [applause] >> go in as men and women. >> absolutely. >> that's right. [applause] >> as men and women who say what can we learn from this man's life? you know, that will help us survive this place called america, that will help us continue to learn, will help us with our children? what can we learn from this man as we travel to africa that if he were alive today, africa would be a different place. you know it and i know it. what can we learn from this man that will teach us that we've got to go down at some point and support this man, obama? teach him the language, the language of resistance. because he doesn't have it. obama doesn't understand the language of resi dance. but you -- resistance. but you will understand that malcolm taught us the language of resistance, what it was to
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resist in this place called america, you know? and we've got to teach our children that language of resistance. it'll get better. every day we whisper, it'll get better. it'll get better. it'll get better. and we didn't contrary to what manning thought. we were not people who just honored malcolm, we learned from him. he changed our lives. i could not be a fool on the stage because of a malcolm. i could not be a woman who would go and try to take someone's husband because of malcolm. i could not be a woman, you know, who would get into a class room and look up even though at the same time he was saying, devil. but i have whites, browns in my classroom, but because i understood underneath this man, he was saying devil at some point because he was saying the worst thing you could call a white man was the whole, the term "devil," because that was the exact opposite of being spiritual and good and be religious and an angel. hear that. >> ladies andt

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