His grandfather, the late El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, also known as Malcolm X, was a Muslim human rights icon of the early 1950s to the mid-1960s. His ideas, activism and leadership helped guide the progress of democracy for African Americans in the United States when racial segregation and discrimination were the status quo.
Like many communities around the country, Annapolis chose to honor Malcolm X's memory and celebrate his legacy. Carl Snowden, director of the State Office of Civil Rights, was the master of ceremonies. The invocation was delivered by Imam Talib Shareef from Masjid Muhammad in Washington, D.C. Imam Shareef is a retired chief master sergeant of the U.S. Air Force.
Vincent Leggett, CEO of the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis, welcomed the guests, citing the historical setting for the event - the Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center. The center is located in a large complex providing senior housing, a senior activity center and a Boys and Girls Club. Called the Wiley Bates Heritage Park, it was named for the prominent African-American businessman who provided the original Bates High School to educate Anne Arundel County black children, from 1933 to 1966, when the schools were segregated nationally. Leggett displayed beautiful art work by three Anne Arundel County high school students.
Local songstress Jessica Henderson gave a soul-stirring musical selection, "Someday We'll All Be Free." Five local politicians related how Malcolm X had influenced their lives. They gave young Malcolm a citation from the Anne Arundel County Council and pinned him as an honorary ambassador for the city. Several other community activists were acknowledged. Saisa Neel, a member of the co-sponsoring group, Concerned Muslims of Annapolis, showed a five-minute clip of the life of the late human rights icon. Unexpectedly to Snowden, CMA and Imam Shareef, accompanied by several Imams from various Islamic centers in the area, presented Snowden with a copy of the Holy Qur'an, the Muslim holy book. It was their way of thanking Snowden for active promotion of the rights of African Americans and all other citizens for 42 years in Anne Arundel County.
Eagle Scout Malcolm X. Dirton, of Troop 193 in Baltimore, introduced the keynote speaker. The audience chuckled when they learned that the Eagle Scout was elated to do the introduction, but needed to leave early to prepare for his senior prom.
Thus, amid the old Bates High School memorabilia, young Malcolm moved effortlessly from one topic to another. He commented how the audience reflected much diversity - people from various races, religions, varying ages and political views. He commented that having unity through diversity is best. He summarized 26 years of living in the shadow of his famous grandfather, a man he never knew personally.
Speaking openly of his imprisonment as an adolescent, Malcolm stated that he decided to be a positive source of change for other youth. He has traveled all over the country, urging them not to repeat the mistakes he made, but instead to read and comprehend those forces that, by design, keep them from full development of their potential. Malcolm commented on several problems plaguing Black Americans - the powerless vs. those with power, inferior education, 80 percent incarceration of Black people who represent only 12 percent of the total population, and politicians pitting us against each other.
While Malcolm had many challenges to overcome as a child, he has been able to live and study in several European countries, throughout Africa, and the Middle East. Earlier this year, he completed the obligatory pilgrimage, called the Hajj, to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. He started studying law while incarcerated and announced that he has been accepted in the John Jay College of Criminal Justice program at The City University of New York. He tries to use his experience to help uplift others who have narrow vision and minimal hope that they can overcome their circumstances. He was accompanied by "urban journalist" JR Valrey, an Oakland, Calif., activist, author and radio personality.
The program ended with a question-and-answer period and with the entire audience holding hands in prayer that our future will be more positive than our past.
The Martin L. King Jr. Committee and the Concerned Muslims of Annapolis thank the many people who attended the program, including a group of detention inmates from Washington, D.C. Judging by the time that the audience lingered to meet and be photographed with young Malcolm Shabazz, the program was quite a success. We are humbly grateful for the contributions of Councilman Daryl Jones, Alderwomen Sheila Finlayson and Classie Hoyle, Alderman Kenny Kirby and for the attendance of several members of the International League of Muslim Women of Washington, D.C. We were delighted that state NAACP President Gerald Stansbury acknowledged one of the greatest legacies of El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, that of elevating the battle of African Americans from the domestic (U.S. national) issues to the worldwide stage of international attention. We are humbly grateful for those people who provided security, especially for the excellent work of Annapolis police officer Sgt. Joseph Ridley.
We are most grateful for the hard work of members of both sponsoring groups, without which the program would not have been a reality. This was an excellent example of Christians and Muslims working together successfully.
Concerned Muslims of Annapolis