On this day in 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated in the Audubon Ballroom in New York City.
In the 51 years since his death, Malcolm has become a cultural icon. He’s now in the pantheon of freedom fighters that includes Richard Allen, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela.
In 1954, Elijah Muhammad sent Malcolm to Philadelphia to establish Temple No. 12. For years, there has been confusion about where Malcolm lived during his time in Philly. His FBI file has an address provided by an informant. I recently viewed a documentary that includes a first-hand account of where Malcolm lived. In Seeds of Awakening: The Early Nation of Islam in Philadelphia, Brother Hassan recalled:
We would sit up all night. When Malcolm was here, we’d sit up all night talking. We had a Unity House, a Fruit House, on 2503 Oxford Street. A big house. That’s where Malcolm would stay and all the brothers would come.
The house is still there. It’s been owned by the same family since 1956.
In the next few weeks, we will nominate 2503 W. Oxford Street for historic designation by the Philadelphia Historical Commission. Later this year, we will submit the nomination to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
I celebrate black history 365. But outside the African American community, black history is recognized, if at all, in February, the shortest month.
The world-famous Apollo Theater has been “honoring the legacy, advancing the path” for 82 years. On Saturday, I attended their Open House Weekend, the theme of which was the arts and activism.
The event celebrated Apollo artists at the intersection of art and social justice. Artists like Billie Holiday, Sam Cooke, James Brown, B.B. King, Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Public Enemy and N.W.A.
Although I’ve viewed the YouTube video countless times, hearing Lady Day sing “Strange Fruit” on the big screen with the Apollo Theater’s sound system brought an immediacy to her performance.
The program included film clips, live performances and commentary by Billy Mitchell, aka “Mr. Apollo,” and legendary radio personalities Bob Slade and Imhotep Gary Byrd. It ended with the performers and audience singing “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud” like it was 1969.