Shabazz Urges Education, Justice

by Gary James ’10

April 4, 2008

Ilyasah Shabazz, daughter of civil rights leader Malcolm X, urged students in Pioneer Chapel Thursday night to empower themselves and others through education. Shabazz spoke of her father’s commitment to social justice and how learning about one’s history can help define identity.

Click here to see photographs from Ms. Shabazz' lecture.

"I come here today to challenge each of you to fully declare yourselves to continue the struggle for peace and justice. There can be no peace without freedom; no freedom with out justice; and no justice without truth."

Shabazz said she thought the message of seeking out truth was especially important for young people who have no sense of hope or history. In a previous generation, she pointed out, it was young people who came together to bring awareness to local and world-wide oppression and demanded the history of Africa to have a larger place in curricula. Ms. Shabazz urged students to continue that thirst for knowledge to further the causes of equality and social justice.

Shabaaz’s talk was part of an ongoing speaker’s series coordinated by the Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies. She has written Growing Up X: A Coming of Age Memoir about her family and life, which received the NAACP Image Award Nomination for Outstanding Non-Fiction Literary Work. Shabazz in conducting a WAKE-UP Tour to motivate America’s youth to the importance of learning and seeking out truth. She is also president and Board Member of the Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Education Center at the Audubon, where her father was shot.

Shabazz spoke about her father, misconceptions of him, and how his legacy can set an example for young people to lead purpose-driven lives. She described her father as a man of action, compassion, and courage. She acknowledged people are uneasy about her father because of some of the ideas he espoused during his life, but Shabazz described her father as an example of how people can evolve over time and the importance of having stable parents or role models to keep a person grounded.

"My father was a young man of insight and integrity. He was able to commit himself because he saw himself in each of you. My parents understood the value of education and the importance of the struggles against misinformation and the tragedy of a narrow education. Just as my parents insisted for our education we should insist on a broad based education for our children."

Shabazz spoke about persistently negative perceptions of Africa – its poverty and instability – that ignore the context of colonialism’s affect on the continent and the richness of its history. When Africans of the Diaspora were at their lowest point, she said, her father had the courage to stand up and educate a miseducated nation. According to Shabazz, everyone should take it upon themselves to educate and empower themselves and others.

Ms. Shabazz said many of the disparities in the African-American community can be traced back to historic causes of slavery and racism. To promote a more equal society, Shabazz advised students who wanted to study medicine or law to not simply go to make money but to improve the quality of life of those around them and to remain committed, like her father, to leading a purpose driven life.

The Shabazz lecture was organized with the support of CMG Worldwide, the Hadley Fund, the Lecture Implementation Committee, the McGreger Fund, Media Services, the Multicultural Concerns Committee, the Muslim Students Association, the Visiting Artist Series, and Wal-Mart Optical.


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