February 8, 2010
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
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.