Malcolm X celebrates his 90th birthday today. Or rather, he would have, in a world where he never stepped to the podium at Harlem’s Audubon Ballroom that fateful February day in 1965, and into the path of an assassin’s bullet, a martyr to the struggle for black liberation and Afro-American unity at the age of 39. One of our greatest thinkers, a name synonymous with what we still remember in 2015 as perhaps the most turbulent and pivotal time in America’s history, el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz also undoubtedly remains America’s most famous Muslim citizen (a distinction he shares with his contemporary, Muhammad Ali).
Okayplayer’s own Yasiin Bey is also on that very short list. In fact, in 2012 when Jordan’s Royal Islamic Strategic Studies released their definitive roll-call of 500 Most Influential Muslims, Bey was the only other living American besides Kareem Abul-Jabbar to be so named. Yasiin also shares with both Malcolm and Muhammad a certain fearlessness in the face of oppressive circumstances, a trait that very self-consciously carries on their legacy into the 21st century. So it seems only right that while we value the work of Malcolm’s biographers and scholars like Michael Eric Dyson and the late Manning Marable of Columbia University, we should also look to Yasiin to understand Malcolm’s living legacy in a more vital way. In that spirit, Okayplayer is extremely proud to share this exclusive clip of Yasiin addressing-and embodying–that legacy on Malcolm’s 90th. This interview was conducted in Paris on the occasion of Return Of The Mecca, an exhaustive exhibit serving as a visual archive of the intertwined history of hip-hop and Islam, in conversation with the exhibit’s curator Sohail Daulatzai.
Many pearls of insight (and no swine) are thrown down in this densely-packed clip, getting to the heart of what made this “statesman without a state” so compelling. The takeaway couplet is clearly this, however:
“If you an individual that’s not afraid of anything, then people might tend to be afraid or threatened.”
Doubly relevant from the man who opened his solo debut with the cut “Fear Not Of Man.” Watch below and to read Yasiin and Sohail’s full interview, get the 120-page book created to accompany the Return of The Mecca exhibit, which includes essays by Chuck D and the amazing photography of Jamel Shabazz, Ernie Paniccioli, B+, Cognito (Frolab) and Katina Parker, as well as an extensive archive of flyers and album cover art. Get more info via ReturnOfTheMecca.com and the RTOTM facebook page.