|X means Malcolm
|Published in 1965, The Autobiography of Malcolm X not only revealed the emotions of bitterness, anger and passion of an American Muslim-convert, but it echoed the sentiments of all Afro-Americans living under racial discrimination, regardless of their religion.
A visual expose of this autobiography was screened on May 23 at Darat Al Funun’s southern garden, amidst the ruins of its ancient Byzantine church, where an audience of Jordanians touched upon the historical and human importance of this book.
The book, which is the result of the fruitful collaboration between Malcolm X himself and freelance Journalist Alex Haley, chronicles an era of oppression, racism and violence against Afro-Americans through the life experience of X.
Born on May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska as Malcolm Little, the son of Baptist minister Earl Little and half-white Louise Little, Malcolm grew up leading a life engulfed with violence and hatred that were inflicted on his family by white racists within the Ku Klux Clan.
The narrator at the opening intro of the documentary announces that from the very first sentence the autobiography of Malcolm X was filled with anger; and as his words echo accompanied with visual sequences of Malcolm’s house being attacked by members of the racist clan, who would blame the disgruntled young African-American for his anger.
Little by little the documentary narrates how the struggling Malcolm, who had hopes of becoming a lawyer, shifts into crime after the groseome murder of his father and his mother’s admittance to a mental hospital. Despite his excellent performance at school, his dream of becoming a lawyer was discouraged when a white teacher put him off as he told him that his birth color will make his dream impossible.
From that point on, the documentary’s in-acted scenes—choosing a young actor with an actual resemblance to Malcolm X—would take the viewer on a trip of loss, thievery, drugs and a 10 year incarceration in 1944, when the Afro-American protagonist found solace in Islam and words.
One of the emphasized periods in his life through the autobiography and the documentary was the time he had spent in prison, where Malcolm Little found the "X" in his life, replacing his original lost African surname. At that moment, the viewer watches one of his speeches during a Nation of Islam meeting, where he rhetorically asks the convening people if anyone can still remember his original ancestral African family name that was altered to Christian after being brought into America during the 1450-1750 slavery trade.
A voice narration representing Malcolm, who was 20 years old when he was released, admits that what he hated most about prison was the time when all lights went out, interrupting his ferocious reading and his memorizing of words from the dictionary brief; however, with the help of a dim external light, he continued his reading lying on the floor.
According to interviews in the documentary with people who knew him—like actor Ossie Davis, television Journalist Mike Wallace and daughter Attalah El Shabazz—Malcolm X knew the power of words, especially the ones he used in his fiery speeches, which compared to Martin Luther King Jr.’s, were stronger in content.
The book not only holds within its folds an account of Malcolm’s life but it also describes his gradual metamorphosis into a third character known as Malik El-Shabazz, who had more moderate views and concepts of what Islam truly is.
The change within Malcolm occurred during a pilgrimage to Islam’s holy city of Mecca, where Malcolm’s aggressive approach to Islam changed after finding out that a lot of the Muslim populations in the Middle East were white.
Alex Haley the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, who died in 1992, acknowledged later in his career that co-writing the book with Malcolm had a great impact on his own life that resulted in the writing of his ancestral saga Roots in 1976.
As for the influential leader El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm)—who in his own words in the autobiography and documentary foretold his end—he was assassinated on February 21, 1965 during a meeting in New York City by unknown men, whom some say were linked to the Nation of Islam.
"I live each day as if I am dead," stated the outcast leader in the documentary after shunning the Nation of Islam and Elijah Mohammad for their extreme beliefs.
The sad part presented in the documentary is that we are told that X never read the autobiography in its final form; however, due to his reputation as a righteous man among Afro-Americans, so many people did.
"The main thing is that we keep a united front, wherein our most valuable time and energy will not be wasted fighting each other," those were Malcolm’s words repeated by actor Ozzie Davis in his eulogy on February, 27, 1965.