New York Exhibit on Malcolm X

Having grown up in the 1960’s, few people had as much influence upon me as Malcolm X. He had already been assassinated when I began to read his writings as a teenager, but his words jumped off the printed page and forever became a part of me. He once said, “We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock - that rock landed on us.” The man was full of one liners that flew to the heart like a flaming arrow… but he could also present the most complicated analysis and critique to people in a way that was entirely understandable. As the war in Vietnam raged and the US was tearing apart, the words and analysis of Malcolm X provided clarity and focus. “You’re not to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.” Ossie Davis, the now deceased actor, provided the eulogy at Malcolm’s funeral. In that oratory he referred to Malcolm as “our shining Black Prince who didn’t hesitate to die because he loved us so.” But Malcolm wasn’t just a hero to African Americans… he was my Black Prince as well.

Celebrating the eightieth anniversary of the birth of Malcolm X, the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is mounting a major exhibition on Brother Malcolm. It will be the first time that a major exhibit on the life and times of Malcolm X will have been presented to the public. The exhibit, titled Malcolm X: A Search for Truth, presents memorabilia, photographs, and documents that were hand written and typed by Malcolm (also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz). The exhibit includes photos of Malcolm taken by well-known photographers Robert L. Haggins, Richard Saunders and Laurence Henry, depicting the leader as he traveled abroad and throughout the US. The documents from the Schomburg Center include journal entries, speeches with hand-written notations, personal letters and recordings. Some 250 artifacts will be displayed, many of which have never been shown in public before. Ilyasah Shabazz, one of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz’s six daughters, said of the exhibit: “This sensitively curated exhibition by the Schomburg Center permits the general public access to our parents in ways previously impossible. These pictures, letters, and artifacts detail the evolution of their quest for social justice. We see them purely, plainly, and simply committed to giving back to the world what their parents had given to them: thirst for knowledge, love for humanity, and passion for justice.”

Dr. Paul LeClerc, President of The New York Public Library, said “This is one of the single most important collections to come to The New York Public Library in the last decade. And it is one of the only significant collections of archival materials on this galvanizing leader. The path blazed by Malcolm X led African Americans to greater freedom and respect in our society. It is important that the history of his efforts be preserved and made accessible to future generations.” In conjunction with the exhibit, several interesting programs will be held. On Friday May 20th, a panel discusssion will be held on the legacy Brother Malcolm and its impact on the arts and humanities, as well as an examination of its influence on ethnicity and religion. On May 21st and 22nd, the one-character monodrama Brother Malcolm X: Reminiscences of a Black Revolutionary will be performed. The two-act play features dramatist Duane Shepard as Malcolm X. This important exhibition runs from May 19th, 2005 to December 31st, 2005. Admission is free to the public. For details on program information, exhibit hours and location, visit the New York Public Library website.

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