By Ron Davis
LANSING, MI --The Unity Project of Lansing, a local grassroots group organized to share the rich cultural experiences and history of the African American community, hosted its 1st annual celebration of Lansing hero and civil rights icon, Malcolm X.
A host of vendors greeted over 50 people on hand to listen to presenters and enjoy the Shabazz Academy student dancers led on African drums by "Saleem".
A brief lecture and lesson from Dr. Willie Davis emphasized valuing and protect the black woman, “the mother of us all.” He was followed by keynote speaker, Michael Imhotep, of Detroit, MI, who shed light on the phases of X's life. And the highlight of the event was niece of Malcolm X, Deborah Jones, who eloquently shared details about intimate family moments with the man who for a brief time was the voice and face of the Nation of Islam.
Jones, daughter of his sister Yvonne, recalled the last time she would see her uncle alive. That day she recalled that he entered their home surrounded by his entourage and was very serious.”He went into a room with my mother and father for a long time.” When he came out his facial expression had changed. My mother was solemn.”
Jones said that the minister had told her as he left, “stand strong … recognize the good within yourself and be proud of who you are.’ He said ‘I love you,’” and he walked out the door. That was the last time Jones would see him alive." She was 14.
Jones also told the story of X’s mother Louise, who struggled most of her life after her husband had been murdered. After spending 25 years in an asylum she moved with her family to a small northern town with her daughter and lived out her days quietly.
Unity Project of Lansing co-founders Dennis Burnside and Ammahad Shekarreki, recounted their efforts to convince the Lansing City Council to rename Main St. to Malcolm X Blvd. After years of petitions starts and restarts, and countless hours lobbying to individuals on the Lansing City Council, the night finally came for a vote, which was supported by an overwhelming number of residents, Black and white.
Keynote speaker, radio host, and historian, Michael Imhotep delivered a riveting overview of Malcolm’s life, from his street days as Malcolm Little, then Detroit Red, then the Malcolm X as most people know him now, the fiery voice and face of the Nation of Islam in the early 1960s.
Malcolm would ask questions that caused African Americans to think differently about their place in American society. “He had the ability to cause you to rethink you position,” said Imhotep.
Imhotep drew parallels with great scholars and researcher to add depth and a connect Malcolm’s teachings from Garvey to modern research and exploration of the African diaspora. He quoted world anthropologist and historian Dr. Reynoko Rashidi, noting his insistence is that what we think and do for ourselves is too often based upon what others think of prescribe for us. Malcolm insisted Black Americans define themselves in America instead of the other way around.
The mission of The Unity Project of Lansing is share our rich cultural experiences and history with the community in order to raise community and social awareness of influential and vital educational, health, economic, justice and collaborative growth and development resources within and around the African diaspora.
Monthly education and information sessions are held at the Shabazz Academy, usually on the 3rd Saturday. For upcoming meeting themes, dates and times, visit our Facebook page and group at The Unity Project of Lansing (MI), and The Unity Project of Lansing.
This was printed in the August 6, 2017 - August 19. 2017