Ilyasah Shabazz Discusses the Power of Family and Heritage

June 30, 2014

“We allow our children to be taught to hate,” said Ilyasah Shabazz, the daughter of Malcolm X, and an auditorium speaker on Sunday at the 2014 ALA Annual Conference. When love and positive values are not instilled in a family, she said, “Ultimately, we have failed our obligation to God (if you believe in God), our obligation to our children, and our obligation to ourselves. We must do better.”

Shabazz, author of Growing Up X and Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X, as well as two forthcoming books, The Diary of Malcolm X and with Kekla Magoon, X, said her father was a man of impeccable compassion and caring for others, and his example as a leader inspired her. “I was in love with my father,” she said. “He was Daddy. The house came alive when he was home.”

Her mother, Betty Shabazz, was left with four young girls and pregnant with twins when Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965. Yet Betty Shabazz went on to get a PhD and further her husband’s mission, which Ilyasa has continued to carry on. “I am so grateful to have had her as my mother. She was serious about the work she did,” said Shabazz.

Shabazz emphasized the need for children to hear “the full contribution of all people. Our history did not begin in slavery. Our ancestors built phenomenal pyramids, cities, and ships. History cannot be one-sided.” It is through instilling values of self-respect, self-esteem, and an understanding of history that she said she feels empowered.

“You are the bows that your children, as living arrows, are set forth,” she said.

Shabazz’s talk was sponsored by Simon & Schuster.

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