On Jan. 23, just a few days before the start of Black History month, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University welcomed keynote speaker Ilyasah Shabazz, the daughter of Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz, to the UNCG auditorium for the seventh annual joint celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The night was initiated by some young African American talent from both campuses. An N.C. A&T student who was the recipient of the MLK oratory award, performed a spoken word piece followed by UNCG’s Neo-Black Society choir.
Afterward, author and community activist Ilyasah Shabazz filled the auditorium with her authoritative and authentic voice, drawing in and keeping the attention of the entire audience, entitling the theme of the night, “Timing, racial justice then and now.” She expressed her gratitude for current community leaders and their predecessors.
To begin her speech, Shabazz conveyed the honor of her father within herself. However, she credited her mother for the strong black woman she is today. Due to her father dying when she was just 2 years old, Shabazz said it was her mother who instilled in her the qualities of an activist.
Shabazz emphasized throughout the night the value in loving oneself and the importance of the parent-teacher. She stated, “when you’re an activist you make sure your children are equipped with certain values and that they are able to navigate around the injustices. That they are compassionate leaders willing to step forward and right the wrongs of society.”
While Shabazz is aware that not all parents are activists, she ensured students that it is the duty of parents to begin the lesson of self-identity for their children. She indicated the importance of proper education and knowledge of one’s background in discovering the ties they have to other strong, intellectual and interdependent minorities. She believes that this will encourage them to travel around the world and learn the facts in their history.
Shabazz, being aware that people sometimes commit acts of violence because of hatred and ignorance, assured the young minds that it is the knowledge and love of her identity that allows her to see the image of others within herself. She was optimistic that loving one’s self is the first step to loving others. Understanding the truth of identity attracts love and the awareness of the hate in others’ hearts, which she says should cause many to ask the question James Baldwin did, “What is misconstrued in others’ psyches to inflict hate on others?”
Speaking on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Shabazz addressed the miseducation and fallacies that have arisen over time, concerning him and her father. She stated that people see MLK as the ‘Turn the cheek leader.’ However, she assured the audience her father and MLK both had the same beliefs and values and that MLK too grew weary of injustice.
According to Shabazz, society needs to concentrate on injustice in all manners, taking the focus off black and white and discussing the moral issues of right versus wrong. She used the analogy of stabbing a person in the back, removing the knife and then acting as if the wound was never made. This alluded to her point of holding bigots, cynics and egoists accountable for their actions. Whether the future is changing for the better or worse, Shabazz believes it is vital that we address the underlying issues of hate in society.
Shabazz stated that it is time that the youth holds its elected leaders accountable for seeking out their demands. There are more people than representatives, and Shabazz encouraged the audience to speak up and against what they feel is wrong, and to educate themselves on law and order to obtain the change she feels they deserve.
Standing as a reflection of her parents, Shabazz activated the minds of many young people as she shed light on miseducation, the truth of identity, parenting children, right versus wrong and much more. Leaving students were inspired to continue their studies, and to be prideful in their identities and futures. To close the night, Shabazz stated that, “this generation of young people must be fully prepared with studies and identity intact to take the baton when history calls upon your leadership.”