Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category

Many years have passed since I first picked up Alex Haley’s Autobiography of Malcolm X and since then I find that I am without understanding of who this man really was.  I can remember as a child watching different documentaries or hearing adults and teachers speak about his character.  These accounts of X’s character, mostly by word-of-mouth were the seeds that have grown to my current idea of who he was.  I always thought of Malcolm X as being intimidating and relentless in his efforts toward equality.  It was as if I was taught that Malcolm was the good bad guy in the civil rights movement and Dr. King was the one that I should be fond of and take heed to.  Nevertheless I always found myself having more of a natural curiosity when it came to Malcolm.  An issue that I’ve developed concerns how elders like to portray Malcolm– is that he is this fierce and fearless leader.  I dare not discredit his involvement in his fight for civil rights but something a lot people overlook is the fact that Malcolm is merely but a spokesman.  His rhetoric is second to none; to watch him deliver an address to any size crowd was like watching any master craftsman in the middle of creating the piece they’ll be remembered for.  But Malcolm’s initial agenda was given to him by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam.  As their national minister traveling all over the country and the world he would spread the beliefs of an organization he decided to join, not one he created.  It wasn’t until after Malcolm renounced his allegiance to the Nation of Islam that he, to my understanding, started to become a true leader.  Creating his own organizations and spreading a message of his own.  It is unfortunate that he was killed so young, because if he had lived to continue his work I truly believe that he would have been immensely more popular and influential then anyone would’ve been able to imagine.

Though as I’ve mentioned, the very nature of how the two of these texts were developed couldn’t be more opposite.  The beginning of Malcolm’s life, as told by both Haley and Marable was nothing short of colorful.  His family dynamic is what I believe made X so special.  The fact that his physical appearance was so striking, having red hair and a long slender frame, people tended to favor him in many instances throughout his life.  What both texts have been successful in doing is illustrating that there has been a sort of mystique about Malcolm since the day he was born.  Being raised in a household that was as deeply rooted in the principles of Garvism as the Littles were, it was a place that prompted their children to think much more independently than others in many instances.  Though this may sound beneficial to the development of their children I believe it caused too much confusion.  In a sense they were brainwashed like many children are as they don’t have a choice as to what doctrine the family chooses to observe.  The issue with this is that those very principals that they believed so strongly in weren’t readily accepted by the likes of whites or blacks; and it was this very movement that led to the destruction of their family.

The violent cluster of potential underlined emotions, motives, and beliefs, in the Little household were overwhelming.  I found myself wondering if Mrs. Little honestly believed in what her husband was doing for the Garvey movement or did she assimilate out of fear of being defiant to her husband.  Did Malcolm’s father decide to join this movement looking for more than just a opportunity to advocate for his human rights or did he see an opportunity to put his family in a better financial position granted his advancement in the organization?  None of us will ever know the true motives behind the actions of an individual but it’s always interesting to hypothesize.  Nevertheless I believe that it was because of Malcolm’s father and his plight to spread the gospel of Garvey, and his subsequent death because of it, that led the eventual mental breakdown of Malcolm’s mother and pretty much eroded the family all together.

Yes, Little Sr.’s devotion to Garvey did the family as a whole more harm than good; but my observation of the family dynamic isn’t to be taken as a criticism.  I find myself giving praise to all who in their own way were joining the fight for their human rights.  Instilling in Malcolm that he was no less of a human than any of his white counterparts was the best thing to come out of this; and possibly the reason he was such a bright student as a child.  Never was he afraid of challenging others’ opinion of him; curtailing his academic and social abilities was never an option and he often outperformed all of his peers because of it.  He was a gifted boy who wasn’t intimidated by his white peers’ jealousy or his superiors telling him to lowers his expectations of himself. This I believe was the most dangerous personality trait he acquired, his absence of fear when it came to challenging the authority and his disregard for anyone who tried to stop him from realizing his dreams.  The makings of a young revolutionary.

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I know what you might be thinking… “Is he about to give us a history report?”  or “others have written about Malcolm’s life already. What could Vincent have to say that hasn’t been said?”  Well I’ll tell you how this may be different…

Those who might try to stay current to what’s going on as it relates to black history might already be aware that one of the most recognized African American intellectuals of our time was recently called home.  Dr. Manning Marable has been studying and researching the life and legacy of the iconic Malcolm X for the better part of the last 20 years or so.  The publishing of his work Malcolm X A Life of Reinvention happened days after his passing.  Because of this we can be sure that the text as it is-is exactly how he intended for readers to have it.

This summer I will be doing a direct comparison of Dr. Marable’s work and the world-famous Autobiography of Malcolm X written by Alex Haley.  I believe that this will be a colorful journey through the life story of one of the most iconic individuals this world has had the pleasure of witnessing.

I promise not to bore you with excerpts from my essay; that is not the intention of these  posts.  I will be letting you in on my personal thoughts as they relate to Malcolm and the life he lived.  Sharing how his story makes me feel as a Black male continually striving to understand what it means to be Black in America.  His story is so complex that it will likely touch on more topics than I am ready to discuss.  Thankfully I have LaCharles and Vernon to help me realize and understand some of the emotions that this experience will surely bring out.  So I welcome you, and urge you to lend me your thoughts as you see fit.

 At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance (2010) by Danielle L. McGuire

            A Black Woman’s Body Was Never Hers Alone,” this is what women were taught in the Mississippi Delta and I would suspect in other parts of the South. The women in the South not only struggled to find a place to sit on the bus, to protect their sons and daughters, but they also struggled to protect their bodies from Jim Crow White men. Black women were sexually tortured, harassed, and/or raped by White men who, because of Jim Crow, often escaped prison time or even being arrested. However, if a Black man was even falsely accused of glancing at a White woman he risked being beaten to death or lynched by aggressive White mobs.

In At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance, author, Danielle L. McGuire candidly and painfully give voice to the struggles that Black women faced in the Jim Crow South, specifically as it dealt with rape at the hands of White men. Her narrative and historical style is shown throughout the book as she revisits African American women’s long struggle against sexual violence and its larger role within the freedom struggle. According to McGuire, in order to fully understand the role rape and sexual violence played in lives of Blacks within the struggle for freedom, “we have to reinterpret, if not rewrite, the history of the civil rights movement.” As McGuire contends and I agree, At the Dark End of the Street does that, it meticulously attempts to (re)construct our understanding of the civil rights movement but more importantly the paramount role women played in resisting White patriarchy, violence, and everything else that sought to destroy the Black community. During this reconstruction, we (the readers) are taking on an historical journey in an attempt to uncover the history of the “Montgomery campaign” as a “women’s movement for dignity,” of how Black southerners resisted the “sexually charged campaign of terror” by White southerners to maintain a racial hierarchy and a bold and important challenge to the dominant historical discourse on/around the Mississippi freedom struggle by eloquently and poignantly documenting black women’s resistance to racial and sexual abuse.

For years, we have been taught to think of the civil rights movement as a series of nonviolent demurrals, led by ministers, who were mostly Black men that eliminated White supremacy. While this is true to an extent, but the roles of Black women are always, somehow, left out of our discussions on and around the civil rights movement. Well, not in At the Dark End of the Street, McGuire movingly re-articulates the decisive role(s) Black women played in the civil rights protests (i.e. Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer). As she tells the story of the catalyst that moved the freedoms movement to its apogee—I found myself crying, reflecting, and smiling all at different points of the book or simultaneously. As I read the line “It was like all of us had been raped,” I was brought to tears (in fact, I am tearing up as I write this sentence), as the voices of my ancestors recalled their pains and collective memories around rape—it moved me in ways that I am unable to describe. More painfully, as the women told their horrific stories of being raped by White men to the jury and the courtroom they were treated as whores, prostitutes, or somehow consenting tacitly to being raped, a hard part to read indeed. To have their intelligence, dignity, and stories contested/ignored in defense of White men who would used their racial privilege to brutally rape women had me ready to stop reading. In spite of this all, what kept me immersed in the book was the profound strength, respect, and dignity the Black women exuded despite their darkest moments were utterly gripping and humbling. Black respectability and womanhood stood as a beacon for Black women, my ancestors.

At the Dark End of the Street, was both painful and heartwarming to read—there is nothing like resiliency and collective voices. McGuire truly highlights what Black resistance means and the African American tradition of testimony. Through McGuire’s passion, adept, and dedication to the history of Black women, especially victims of sexual violence, she restores the memory of Black women, who together audaciously challenged not only the legal system but also White supremacy in the South. I recommend this book for anyone who has a heart and hunger for understanding the complexities and struggles of the human life or interested in reading the reconstructed story of the civil rights movement that includes the voices of women. Thank you Danielle McGuire for such a moving, complicated, and trenchant piece of work that will forever be a favorite of mine.

If you’re interested in the book, click here