Ilyasah Shabazz, the third daughter of Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz, acknowledged being inspired by the current generation of activists who helped push the Black Lives Matter Movement globally.
She said her famous late parents predicted that young ones in this day would recognize those in power have misused their authority.
“They have to uncover the truth, and they are willing to do the necessary work ensuring that it happens,” Shabazz told the National Newspaper Publishers Association in an exclusive interview at the Marriott Marquis hotel in New York City.
A role model herself, Shabazz has picked up the mantle from her beloved activist parents and has advocated for youth and women and girl empowerment.
She has dedicated her life to helping others “find inner strength and purpose,” Shabazz, 59, said.
An adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, Shabazz has written five award-winning books about hers and her parents’ lives.
The latest, The Awakening of Malcolm X, is described by publishers as “a powerful narrative account of the activist’s adolescent years in jail.”
“I had the opportunity to work with Tiffany T. Jackson, an award-winning novelist, and it provided the chance to focus on the criminal justice system and humanity,” Shabazz said. “I discovered that my father was the star debater at an experimental rehabilitation facility which had inherited an enormous number of books.
“Malcolm read just about every one of those books, and he read the dictionary so that he could understand the root words to enable him to be his best self by any means necessary.”
Shabazz denounced America’s spending of billions of dollars on mass incarceration instead of using the money to address skyrocketing tuition costs and after school programs.
She noted that much of her activism and the foundation for her beliefs are addressed in each of her books, Growing Up X, Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X, X: A Novel, and Before Betty X.
“I remember when I wrote Growing Up X my mother had just passed away, and I recalled attending a town hall meeting with her where everyone got up to speak and acknowledged her,” Shabazz said. “I admired my mother because she wasn’t there to say something great and leave. Instead, she was there to make a difference. At that moment, though, I also remember thinking what we would ever do if we lost her.”
Betty Shabazz died in 1997, slightly more than 32 years after Malcolm X’s assassination.
“I wanted to finish some of the works my mother was doing,” Shabazz said. “I didn’t think that I was capable, but I wanted to, and so I decided to write a book, and that’s when my editor found that my life as the daughter of Malcolm and Betty was not what one might have been expecting.
“People were misinformed, and there were so many false images and information about my father. My father was joy, dignity, and truth. Unfortunately, the images portrayed by some were absolutely contradictory to all of that, so whenever people would meet my sisters and me, they were thrown off.”
Shabazz, who has implemented several cultural and community outreach initiatives, revealed that she and her sisters had enjoyed excellent relationships with the families of civil rights icons Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Medgar Evers.
“We are fortunate to have and have had relationships with Aunt Coretta (Scott-King) and Aunt Myrlie (Evers),” Shabazz said. “I am also grateful to have [King’s daughter] as my sister.”
Shabazz echoed her father when discussing racism in America.
“If we all believe in the oneness of God, we certainly believe in the oneness of man, the oneness of women, and the oneness of humanity,” Shabazz said. “My father provided the biggest critique of America and insisted that America live up to her promise of liberty and justice for all. Malcolm insisted on the truth. I’m optimistic about this generation, and my father recognized that this generation of young people would be willing to roll up their sleeves and do the work necessary, and that’s what we are seeing.
“After the murder of George Floyd, young people organized these mass movements in all 50 states and in 18 countries abroad where people from every walk of life proclaimed that Black lives matter. I think everyone got it.”