With the theme “Sankofa: Going Back to Get What You Need to Move Forward!” the District-based annual event honoring the life and legacy of and lessons provided by Malcolm X returns, as in years past, on his birthday: Wednesday, May 19.
Held virtually this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the highly-anticipated Malcolm X Day Celebration (MXDC) 2021 will once again assemble a slate of dynamic African-American activists and freedom fighters. These leaders, nationally- and locally-based, will reflect on how the lessons learned and achievements recorded in the annals of Black history can be built upon in our continuing battle for equality and social justice.
The intergenerational conversation about the past and present represents a critical step toward advancing solutions for tomorrow. In addition, it continues a tradition of providing a diverse group of panelists capable of addressing the history of our struggles of the past while highlighting examples of today’s activism.
Prior to the presentation of two panel discussions that will focus on issues of great concern to the Black community, Police Reform and Brutality and Voter Suppression, three men integral to the success of the early celebrations will provide insights on the historical roots of MXDC: Walter McGill, Charles Stephenson and Malik Edwards.
Edwards said in some respects, Malcolm X remains more relevant today than ever before.
“Young people who may not know his story will soon realize that his life is their life,” Edwards said. “The things Black youth are going through today – going in and out of jail or living in homes where they’re constantly in danger, or being abused in a variety of ways – illustrate the kinds of challenges that Malcolm X faced in his youth. But he overcame those obstacles, educated himself and contributed to his community in profound ways.”
“When we first began to develop this celebration in the early 70s, we had a saying, ‘Unity in the community.’ It still holds true because success can only be achieved when we stand united. Much has changed since then but a lot of the problems continue. Only when we reverse decades-old trends that disproportionately impact our community, like record-high unemployment, infant mortality and poverty, will we truly be able to say that things have really changed and that they’ve changed for the betterment of the Black community,” Edwards said.
Panelists and speakers include: Malcolm X’s daughter, Quibilah Shabazz, Peter Bailey, Dr. Benjamin Chavis, Denise Rolark Barnes, Thomas Penny and U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee.
The three-hour event will also include film clips featuring the words of Malcolm X including his unforgettable “Ballot or the Bullet,” comments from April Goggans of Black Lives Matter and Ron Hampton of the Black Police Association.
The party will continue with dancers, drummers, music and prayers.
Since its inception on May 19, 1972, when local entrepreneurs like Washington Informer founder Dr. Calvin W. Rolark, Sr. provided funds and services essential to MXDC’s success, most of the yearly celebrations have taken place at Anacostia Park in Southeast.
And while this year’s events will be virtual, pre-recorded or held at Black Lives Matter Plaza in Northwest, the spirit of community that once lived within the shadows in and near Anacostia Park, will never be forgotten.
Darryll Brooks, a legendary cultural curator, remembers those early days with pride.
“Anacostia Park was a place where thousands routinely came out for arts, entertainment and a lot of fun,” he said. “It was our community at our best with young and old, and families of all sizes celebrating our culture and community in peace. That was Malcolm X’s vision.”
Washington Informer contributing writer Sam P.K. Collins, who will speak during the program, said, “Malcolm X was and continues to be a testament to the fact that we are always changing and growing. More crucial than that, particularly for Black people living in the U.S., is what he said about our Afrocentricity.”
“We must get it through our heads that we are not minorities but part of a global majority. We have to identify as Africans first if we are to truly be self-determined. That message and his Pan-African vision in general often get lost in the narrative about his life, oftentimes to our detriment.” Collins said.
Stephenson summarized why Malcolm X matters in the following words:
“Malcolm X’s message to us all was about being involved, active and doing our part for the improvement of our people,” he said. “We cannot wait for others to do for us – we must do for ourselves.”
For more information, contact Walter McGill at Waltermcgill@malcomxday.org or by phone, 202-270-8635.
WPFW (89.3 FM) will broadcast the celebration from 6-9 p.m.