By: JOSELYN ELLINGTON
The presence of Llyasah Shabazz, daughter of the legendary freedom fighter Malcolm X, enlightened the audience in the Yatish Joshi Performance Hall on Feb. 23. Shabazz had a humorous personality that ignited laughter all evening, and the audience went home with a meaningful message.
Shabazz, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, is the author of several award-winning publications, including “Growing up X” and “Malcolm Little,” an illustration book. She won the 2016 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Image Award and the Library Association’s Coretta Scott King Book Award for Promoting Higher Education.
Accompanying Shabazz in the “Celebrating Malcolm X” lecture was IUSB Civil Rights Heritage Center Director Darryl Heller. He asked her a serious of questions, one that would demote what Heller called a myth, that Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. were rivals.
“It’s always this thing of either Malcolm or Martin and it’s really unfortunate because you know when we learn about Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, we don’t learn to choose one over the other,” Shabazz said. “When we learn about W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T Washington one is pivoted against the other when we should be embracing both.” Shabazz also made a comparison with late rappers Tupac and Biggie Smalls, which ignited laughter in the audience.
Shabazz also clarified some misconceptions about her father. “When he fought injustice he had such a profound reaction to it and he wanted to wake us up and that’s really what he did,” Shabazz said.
When we heard her father being loud, assertive and forceful it was his compassion and his reaction to the social climate. “He just said get your boot off my throat. Get your boot off my children’s throat. Get your boot off of women’s throat,” Shabazz said.
Shabazz talked about the self-love her mother Betty Shabazz instilled in all six of her daughters. “I used to say my mother was everything—beautiful brown skin, beautiful eyes, beautiful teeth. I would always say, ‘Mommy you are the most important person in my life,’ and she would always say, ‘Llyasah focus on yourself,” Shabazz said.
Shabazz was surprised at her mother’s reaction. “I would think to myself, ‘Wow, that’s an interesting response.’ When you say ‘I love you so much. I think you’re everything,’ you think someone’s response would be, ‘I love you too,” she said.
Shabazz realized her mother was telling her to love herself first and foremost so she didn’t rely on anyone else to determine her worth and her love.
As a motivational speaker, Shabazz instills these same values in others.
“In order to do work and go out and communicate with people and not feel scared and intimidated about what someone thinks, you have to love who you are,” Shabazz said.
Shabazz believes that every child is worthy of love and education. “When we see these children in these impoverished areas who think they are not worthy and think they are supposed to be criminals, we should pull one out. If we just did one, and let them know that their life matters, and just help them, it would make such a difference,” she said.
The audience responded well to Shabazz’s words.
“You’ve given me back so much of what is taken every day when I turn on the news or hear everything that’s going on,” author and activist Nimbilasha Cushing stood and commended Shabazz from the middle of the fifth row. The audience clapped for a long time in agreement and began to stand. “I just want to thank you for such a positive, loving, real message, and that you are doing what you do that’s going to impact the lives of my grandchildren and those that come after. You couldn’t have done anything better for humanity,” she continued.
Sitting in the middle of the front row was South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg along with Democratic Party primary candidate and venue namesake Yatish Joshi. Dean of the Raclin School of the Arts Marvin Curtis also enjoyed a front row seat. “She was terrific, said some wonderful things and gave us a lot to think about,” Curtis said.
Junior, Accounting and Finance Major, IUSB student Chi Chi Ekwenuya shared her after-thoughts. “What I saw today was eye opening. I love all of the advice she gave today and how she said we should love yourself as a woman,” she said. “I love the fact that she was real and how one person can have a great impact on the world.”