I attended a screening of the film last year as part of the Kwanzaa Market Festival SA at the Carver Branch Library, just days before Malcolm X’s born day in commemoration of his transformation and journey to repatriate the minds of bodies supposedly freed from bondage centuries ago. Malcolm X, also known as El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, was an internationally acclaimed revolutionary cultural icon who dedicated his life to the truth as told by the melanated peoples of the world, especially those of the African Diaspora.
The history that we are taught tends to exclude the life and times of Malcolm X because the truth that he espoused was unapologetic and unconcerned with white fragility and privileged perspective therein. With the establishment of the Organization of Afro-American Unity, founders Malcolm X, Dr. John Henrik Clarke, and other black nationalists effectively launched a cultural revolution for the repatriation of truths, self-knowledge, and sovereignty among displaced peoples of African descent.
The truth then and even now is that the progress of African-Americans, that is specifically all people of African descent in the Western Hemisphere, is intimately tied to that of the African continent itself. To engage in truth-telling in the context of Africa is jointly transformative and revolutionary; history as told by Africans is revisionist and powerful because it reverses agentism in the favor of truth-telling for its own sake rather than for selfish gain or exploitation.
Malcolm X spoke a great deal on the importance of education; the ills that he spoke of then remain today because education – the process of acquiring knowledge – is not equitable in its truth-telling and, therefore, serves as an institution that perpetuates a pedagogy of the oppressed rather than liberation, self-empowerment, or self-determination. Ergo, indoctrination is what we receive one-third of our lives, some of us more than two-thirds, not education.
The Film and the Soundtrack
The production of A Story of Malcolm X was financed, edited, and recorded in house by KuumbaNia, owned by Martin, in conjunction with 9Logic Films, owned by Born Logic Allah. This historical dramatization about the life and times of Malcolm X was written and produced by Martin, co-produced and directed by Allah. The film is a dialogue-driven historical narrative that is digestible in eight chapters.
With each chapter, the story of Malcolm X’s life and legacy grows more and more compelling and resolute. Also, the film is accompanied by a galvanizing soundtrack that ignites critical thought and heady introspection. Together, Martin and Allah crowdfunded the film that is now available on DVD and has had two back-to-back sold out screenings at the Alamo Drafthouse Park North.
A Story of Malcolm X was recently selected as an official feature film for the Houston Black Film Festival and has since reached thousands via social marketing and online advertisements. The production is reaching audiences internationally. Tickets for the next public screening on May 13 at the MATCH (Midtown Arts Theater Center Houston) in Houston are available here.
After a screening at Alamo Drafthouse Park North, there was a piquant musical performance of the soundtrack that followed the documentary. The film’s soundtrack, performed by local band Griots, was spiritually harmonized by Mondrea Harmon, Tahjee, and Brittini Ward.
Below is my interpretation of the meaning and messages of the soundtrack:
- “Black History” Ask, “Why does it matter?” George Orwell said it best: because “the most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of history.” Your history is your destiny; repatriation is a must so that history is written by its maker rather than its victors.
- “Do You Remember?” The subjugation. The degradation. The damnation. The falsification. The incarceration. The discrimination. The mutilation. The castration. Arturo Alfonso Schomburg once said that “history must restore what slavery took away, for it is the social damage of slavery that the present generation must repair and offset.” Sankofa.
- “God Bless the Children” When innocence collides with the reality of unconsciousness, predation in a plethora of forms spawns. The democratized digital economy that we live in has done much to shorten and erode childhood with the advent of smartphones, social media, and prescription medication addiction. The children, like Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Laquan McDonald, and Aiyana Jone, should not have lost their lives to the brutality of those to who they were taught to respect, trust, and defer. May God bless the children.
- “Locked Up, Locked Down” The Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) has resulted in a 500% increase in the mass incarceration of Americans in the last 40 years, making the United States the world’s leader in incarceration. Today, more than 67% of the prison population are people of color with the largest group, per capita, being Native Americans and the fastest growing group being black women. Excessive sentencing has resulted in the stabilization of the U.S. prison population. The PIC is the materialized artifice of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – legal mass incarceration.
- “Wake Up” Yosef Ben-Jochannan once spoke of education as deficient because, despite his many accolades, he never received an education of African people. He endeavored to educate himself about those who taught the Greeks like Hippocrates and other Europeans the knowledge that they exploited for personal gain and notoriety. Jochannan held that he would no longer “stand still in the halls of indoctrination” because there is nothing but extinction, not education, being taught there.
- “Black is the Power” Fortuitous, dignified and sophisticated. According to Ivan van Sertima and Cheikh Anta Diop, the Africans’ history in the Americas did not begin with slavery; the African people had been traveling by boat and exchanging materials and knowledge long before European interference. Several persons of African descent, like Yarrow Mamout, an emancipated Muslim banker from Guinea, owned land and were prolific thinkers and professionals. A gleeful portrait of Mamout, dated in 1819 and painted by Charles Wilson Peale, is currently on display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
- “Africans Must Unite” Baba Marcus Garvey once said that “a people without the knowledge of their past history, origin, and culture is like a tree without roots.” He held that the world is compelled by an organized people; while, un-unified people are exploited, killed, and stolen. Walter Rodney urged that “every African has a responsibility to understand the system and work towards its overthrow.” In order to set the world upright, Africans must unite.
- For many, “Black History Month” is the only time of year that is dedicated to engaging with the not-so-distant past of African-American contributions to American history. Busy emulating the colonizers, little attention is paid to the critical importance of self-awareness and exploration of pre-Scramble for Africa history. Yes, great civilizations reigned in Africa and produced the richest person in the world, Mansa Musa. No, slavery was not the universal condition of Africans. Malcolm X once said that the “future belongs to those who prepare for it today.” With memories and unity, we can turn an upside down world right side up again.
- “Malcolm X” The collective action problem has long afflicted the Civil Rights Movement. There is a price to pay for freeriding; it tends to result in bad governance and 90% reelection rates, the paradox of child support, and a targeted military strike against terrorism in Syria, but inaction and neglect of biological terrorism in Flint, Mich. Efficacious collective action could check and balance these atrocities. As Malcolm X simply stated, “If you’re not ready to die for it, put the word ‘freedom’ out of your vocabulary.”
- “It’s Kwanzaa Time” Harambe! Booker T. Washington once said that “no race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as there is in writing a poem.” Self-determination and sovereignty are intimately tied to one’s capacity to own land and live off of its fruits. Kwanzaa, a celebration of the African harvest, reminds us that the basic principles of community building and sustainment are fixed in the Earth. Seeds scatter, like calabash, but the borne fruits are products of nourishment and resilience. Roots may not remain planted forever but the memory of their journey is retained in the fortitude of the trunk of the tree, that which lives for as long as she is nourished.
Malcolm X once forewarned against condemnation of ignorance and reminded that “there was a time when you didn’t know what you know today.” After viewing the film and listening to the soundtrack, my hope is that the consumption of these works enlightens hearts and minds and inspires the active inclusion of difference.
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I have written in my previous essays about the dangers of otherization. The consequence of our continued blissful ignorance of our forefathers and mothers, the struggles that gained us the bits of freedom that we attempt to enjoy in the here and now, and the revolutions that were not televised, is, indeed, genocide.