Saturday, February 13, 2010

Malcolm X Deserves a Michigan Monument

February 8, 2010

Detroit Free Press

A Michigan man, Malcolm X deserves a Michigan monument

Brought up in Lansing and nicknamed Detroit Red, Malcolm X, like former President Gerald R. Ford, is a Michigan man. You wouldn’t know it, though, by driving around the state or flipping through a tourist guide. As far as I can tell, the only concrete reminder of Malcolm’s Michigan roots is an obscure homesite marker at 4705 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Lansing.

Malcolm X — born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska — spent much of his youth in Lansing, where the family moved when Malcom was 4, and, later, in Detroit, the birthplace of the Nation of Islam and home to one of the first temples Malcolm attended. Still, our state has no monuments, libraries or public waysides devoted to this seminal freedom fighter, who was assassinated in New York City on Feb. 21, 1965, at the age of 39.

It’s a shame. I believe Malcolm X to be the greatest American leader in the last century. (I’ll explain why in a print edition column this week.) As part of a Black History Month celebration, a concert Sunday night at Second Ebenezer Church in Detroit, organized by the Detroit International Jazz Festival and Bishop Edgar L. Vann II, will honor Malcolm X, King, Rosa Parks and Muhammad Ali, performing a jazz opus by Christian McBride.

More than any leader before or since, Malcolm X reminded us how far we have to go, and continues to do so today. An advocate for the dispossessed, his message should have special relevance to Michigan, a bleeding state whose largest city virtually defines the crisis of America’s cities.

Acknowledging his life in a concrete way would encourage others to carry on his work, and that’s the best way to honor this fearless and uncompromising freedom fighter. It’s time the state created a monument to Malcolm, a Michigan man who changed the nation, and the world.

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