Portrayed by Darrick Johnson from Capitol Heights MD
Malcolm X is still seen as one of the most controversial figures — from one of the most highly charged periods in American history. His assassination and those of JFK, MLK and RFK rocked the nation. There is nothing more revolutionary than a martyr’s cause.
His message was a “Revolution of the Mind” in which he responded to institutional racism and segregation with tactics that evolved beyond the struggle for civil rights. Instead Malcolm demanded that America restore the human rights of African Americans. He drastically changed his life from a criminal with an 8th grade education to becoming one the most powerful intellectuals in American history.
While alive Malcolm X was a polarizing figure that both energized and divided African Americans, while frightening and alienating whites. Now, over 50 years after his death, we are still coming to grips with the complexity and power of his revolutionary message.
In 2007 Darrick was chosen to portray Malcolm X in the stage play, The Meeting, a fictionalized drama which questions: what would happen had Malcolm X and Martin L. King attempted to join forces. Darrick’s resemblance to Malcolm X and the his resonance with the story of the Malcolm X story was so profound that he developed a one-man show to tell Malcolm’s story. And he has been telling it ever since.
Actor, playwright, poet and author, Darrick Johnson, uses his creative talents to teach through the creative arts – to enlighten, educate and entertain. He is an advocate for change and his is a voice of hope and encouragement. He’s the Artistic Director of “By any Means Edu-tainment” featuring artists who use their creative talents to challenge and stimulate minds in hopes of influencing and transforming lives. He has written, directed and starred in In the Name of Love, and Same Goal Different View Love is Revolutionary.
If anyone expressed the anger, struggle and insistence of black people for freedom in the ‘60s, it was Malcolm X. In Omaha, he was Malcolm Little, honor student. Later he became “Detroit Red,” small time street hustler. From prison emerged another Malcolm “X”, the fiery, eloquent spokesman for the Nation of Islam. After a trip to Mecca, there was a last transformation – a new willingness to embrace white allies. Who killed him and why has never been fully explained.
Born Malcolm Little, he was the son of a Baptist preacher, murdered for civil rights activism. After his mother’s nervous breakdown, Malcolm and his seven siblings were separated in foster care. Despite this trauma, Malcolm was an honor student and class president. Then, at 15, when his favorite teacher told him becoming a lawyer was not a practical or obtainable choice for a Negro, he dropped out of school surviving on the streets as a petty thief and small time hustler. (That same year Thurgood Marshall successfully argued a case before the Supreme Court.)
At age 21 Malcolm Little landed in State Prison where he was a defiant troublemaker until he noticed a fellow inmate Bimbi (John Elton Bemby) whose words and speaking skills commanded the respect of even the white guards. Suddenly the honor roll student re-emerged as Malcolm spent countless hours reading and improving his vocabulary. In prison, he studied the tenets of The Nation of Islam, which ignited his spiritual conversion.
After his release, he became Minister Malcolm X and quickly rose to become national spokesman for the Nation of Islam. His fiery rhetoric turned him into a media celebrity. After a falling out with the Nation of Islam, he took pilgrimage to Mecca where he experienced a second conversion and became “Al Hajj Malik Shabazz” whose message was no longer just for African Americans, but for all humanity.
“The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.”
Malcolm reminded his followers that their revolution was a “Revolution of the Mind.” Once this began, the rest would follow – leading not only to the liberation of Black people, but also to the liberation of a nation. Like his contemporary Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm also “had a dream.” Malcolm’s dream started in anger, fostering Black independence on the shoulders of retaliatory separation. It ended with the acceptance of a unified brotherhood and the replacement of anger with peace and a quest for international equality for all mankind.
“I am not a racist. I am against every form of racism and segregation, every form of discrimination. I believe in human beings, and that all human beings should be respected as such, regardless of their color.”
1960’s America was prosperous but lived in fear – fear of communism, fear of nuclear war, fear of cultural change, and fear of black empowerment. Malcolm X was passionately committed to being heard over these fears. Although the mainstream media deemed him a hate teacher and a racist, he did not advocate violence or initiate acts of aggression towards anyone. He did believe in self-defense and that Black people in America were well within their rights to protect life and property “by whatever means necessary” – especially when their government was unable or unwilling to protect them. Malcolm argued that the Black struggle was not for Civil Rights, but rather for Human Rights as fellow citizens of the United States of America and the world.
“It’s time for martyrs now, and if I am to be one, it will be for the cause of brotherhood and this is the only thing that can save this country.” (Feb. 19, 1965 – 2 days before his assassination)
The shots that killed him on February 21, 1965, as he stood on a podium in New York’s Audubon Ballroom, tore through his chest and resounded around the world. Black America stood lifeless as supporters wheeled his bullet-ridden body towards the closest hospital. An ambulance had been called, but none came. No one among the conspirators who plotted his death, or the authorities whose silent complicity assisted his murder, could have imagined or predicted that anyone would be still talking about Malcolm X fifty years after his death. Who knew that the history of a man they viewed as the most dangerous in America would enjoy such longevity?
Malcolm’s life was a battle of ideas in which he responded to institutional racism and segregation with tactics that evolved beyond the struggle for Civil Rights. Instead Malcolm demanded that America restore Human Rights. Malcolm spoke of the frustrations of many who no longer believed in turning the other cheek. Instead he drastically changed minds. He changed his life from a criminal with an 8th grade education to become one the most powerful intellectuals in American history. The revolution that Malcolm X fueled was a Revolution of the Mind.
“If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.”
- 1925 – (May 19) born Malcolm Little in Omaha NB
- 1929 – family’s Lansing, MI home is burned to the ground
- 1931 – Malcolm’s father is found dead on the town’s trolley tracks (age 6)
- 1940 –drops out of school and moves to Boston (age 15)
- 1941-46 – small-time hustler in Harlem
- 1946 – sentenced to 8-10 years for armed robbery and serves 6 ½ years at Charlestown, MA state prison
- 1947-52 – introduced to Islam and converts. Translates entire dictionary
- 1952 – released from prison, changes name to Malcolm X, and joins nation of Island and becomes Assistant Minister of their Detroit Temple
- 1954 – promoted to Minister of Nation of Islam’s New York Temple
- 1957 – founds influential Black Muslim publication “Muhammad Speaks”
- 1958 – marries Betty Dean Sanders
- 1959 – PBS documentary “The Hate that Hate Produced” – Malcolm X’s first TV appearance
- 1963 – (Dec 4) Nation of Islam suspends Malcolm because of remarks responding to President Kennedy’s assassination.
- 1964 – (Mar) breaks with Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam and founds the Muslin Mosque, Inc.
- 1964 – (Apr 22) makes pilgrimage to Mecca and receives name El-Hajj Malik al-Shabazz
- 1964 – (Jun 28) Forms the Organization of Afro-American Unity
- 1964 – (Aug 13) US State and Justice departments take notice of his influence on African leaders at the UN
- 1965 – (Feb 14) his home is firebombed
- 1965 – (Feb 21) assassinated will speaking at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City
- You’re living at a time of extremism, a time of revolution – a time where there’s got to be a change. People in power have misused it. And now there has to be a change and a better world has to be built. And the only way it is going to be built is with extreme methods. And I for one will join with anyone, don’t care what color you are, as long as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this earth.
- One of the first things I think young people, especially nowadays, should learn is how to see for yourself and listen for yourself and think for yourself. Then you can come to an intelligent decision for yourself. If you form the habit of going by what you hear others say about someone, or going by what others think about someone, instead of searching that thing out for yourself and seeing for yourself, you will be walking west when you think you’re going east, and you will be walking east when you think you’re going west.
- We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity.
- We are nonviolent with people who are nonviolent with us.
- A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.
- Don’t be in a hurry to condemn because he doesn’t do what you do or think as you think or as fast. There was a time when you didn’t know what you know today.
- There is no better teacher than adversity. In every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance next time.
- Concerning nonviolence, it is criminal to teach a man not to defend himself when he is the constant victim of brutal attacks.
- I for one believe that if you give people a thorough understanding of what confronts them and the basic causes that produce it, they’ll create their own program, and when the people create a program, you get action.
- I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those that do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation.
- I am neither a fanatic nor a dreamer. I am a Black man who loves peace, and justice, and loves his people.
- I am not a racist. I am against every form of racism and segregation – EVERY form of discrimination. I believe in human beings, and that all human begins should be respected as such, regardless of their color.
- If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there’s no progress. If you pull it all the way out that’s not progress. Progress is healing the wound that the blow made. And they haven’t pulled the knife out, much less healed the wound. They won’t even admit the knife is there.
- We are not Americans, we’re Afrikans who happen to be in America. We were kidnapped and brought here against our will from Afrika. We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock – that rock landed on us.
- The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley (1964) As told to him by Malcolm X, Alex Haley explores how Malcolm rose from street hustler and criminal to become one of the most profound Revolutionaries in American history. Not only does this best seller, tell the journey of a man, it chronicles American racism and tells an inspiring story of despair and spiritual awakening. Considered to be one of the most influential nonfiction books of the 20th century, it continues to be a best seller and a great read.
- Malcolm X Speaks, selected speeches edited by George Breitman (1965) The major speeches made by Malcolm X during the last tumultuous eight months of his life. “The Ballot or the Bullet Speech” by Malcolm X April 3, 1964 is included and is a must read. It is one of the most powerful speeches in American history, Malcolm X speaks about Black Nationalism during the 1964 election year, when blacks did not have much say in who they wanted to elect. Malcolm wanted them to vote for whomever best benefited blacks.
- The Victims of Democracy: Malcolm X and the Black Revolution by Eugene Victor Wolfenstein (1981) A unique psychological biographical study that integrates a wide and subtle view of the history of white racism and the black liberation movement with a deep and sensitive understanding of the inner world of Malcolm X.
- The Diary of Malcolm X 1964 by Herb Boyd and Malcolm X’s daughter Ilyasah Shabazz (2013) A personal collection of Malcolm X’s thoughts and observations of the people he meets experiencing the hajj in the Islamic holy city of Mecca.
- Growing up X by Ilyasah Shabazz (2002) The 3rd of Malcolm’s 6 daughters who was present when their father was murdered, at age 3. She doesn’t remember, but she does express the physiological effects his murder had on her family and the perceptions she was forced to deal with growing up the daughter of one of the most powerful and controversial men in American history.
- Marked Man: The Assassination of Malcolm X by Matt Doeden (2013) Few were shocked by news of Malcolm X’s death. Since 1952 the former member of the NOI had supported the philosophy of self-defense as the method to achieve justice for blacks. But in March 1964, after a major shift in his philosophy, Malcolm changed his message. He no longer agreed with and feuded with NOI leaders. He knew that someone would try to kill him. Nearly one year later, that time finally came. The 39-year-old was shot in public at point-blank range.
- Fighting for Our Place in the Sun by Richard D. Benson II (2015) An examination of the life of Malcolm X as not only a radical political figure, but also as a teacher and mentor. The book illuminates the tenets of Malcolm educational philosophy, and also traces a historical trajectory of Black activists that sought to create spaces of liberation and learning that are free from cultural and racial oppression. It explains a side of the Black student movement and shift in black power that develops as a result of the student protests in North Carolina and Duke University.
- Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable (2012) This Pulitzer Prize for History winner recasts the life of Malcolm X (as told in the Autobiography) in new light and for a new generation. Marable pictures Malcolm X is of a profoundly flawed individual, a “struggling human being — not much different than any of us, who is often unsure of himself despite his enormous intellect and resources.” It’s an abrupt departure from “heroic” and “perfected” visions of Malcolm that were set in motion by The Autobiography of Malcolm X and popular culture.