Martin Luther King is Getting a Monument, Let’s Now Build Something for Malcolm

9 Aug

malcolm x, martin luther king, black leadership, black scholars

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Your Black WorldScholarship in Action

As we prepare for the unveiling of the Washington memorial for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it is important that we take a second to contextualize this extraordinary event. Dr. King deserves to be celebrated next to other great heroes of American history, and it is a proud testament to the growth and maturity of our nation that Dr. King has been honored in this way.

Most of us also know that an equally extraordinary American, Malcolm X, has not been given the same respect as Dr. King. Malcolm’s grave site doesn’t look like it holds one of the greatest men in American history; it looks as common and anonymous as the one next to it. There is very little mention of Malcolm in public school history classes, and Malcolm’s contributions are not considered essential to the social evolution of America. Millions of African Americans who attend cushy (and excessively commercialized) dinners and galas for Dr. King every year don’t even know Malcolm X’s birthday.

Let’s be clear: Malcolm X was the George Washington for Black America. He was a man who gave his life to stand against unspeakable tyranny and demanded nothing less than true equality, freedom and empowerment for the people he loved. The fact that America has left Malcolm’s legacy in the basement of our history books is largely a testament to the fact that our nation still does not accept the principles of decency and equity that Malcolm demanded for people of color.

Nearly a half century after the death of Malcolm X, our nation has achieved what we thought would be the pinnacle of integration: We have our first black president and Attorney General. We have countless Black doctors, lawyers, professors, and corporate executives. We even have African Americans in leadership positions within the Republican Party.

But in light of the Black American gains from integration, we still find ourselves with the highest unemployment rates, our wealth was decimated during the Great Recession from the last three years, we are faced with a mass incarceration epidemic that has reached holocaust proportions, and we endure educational systems that lead our children to hug on the tree of perpetual ignorance.

In addition to being last in line for educational and economic opportunities, we have almost no ability to control our images in media, as nearly every major black online media outlet is owned by a big (mostly white) corporation. We’ve found that having black faces in high places on Capitol Hill and elsewhere means almost nothing if you are not truly powerful at your spiritual, psychological, and economic core. Dr. King helped us to fight for our freedom….Malcolm X taught us how to fight for our independence: A man who is free, but not independent is ultimately a puppet to those who control the things he needs to survive.

If there were ever a time that Black people needed to embrace the spirit of Malcolm X, that time would be RIGHT NOW.

African Americans had long hoped to be invited to the Dinner Party of Integration, but we found that our meal would be served next to the toilet. Malcolm warned us that achieving integration without earning some degree of genuine autonomy would only result in second-class citizenship; you can’t live in someone else’s house and expect to move around the furniture. Even your friends lose respect for you if you can’t take care of yourself.

America’s inability to appreciate the legacy of Malcolm X is, in many ways, symptomatic of the fact that racism still flows in the social veins of our society. Malcolm gave America the tough love that it needed, and our nation has rejected it the way an alcoholic’s body rejects fruits, vegetables and vitamins. The day that America learns to appreciate Malcolm is the day when the country will have learned to appreciate all of us.

Black America needed both Martin and Malcolm equally, and most of us know this. So, as we put on our party hats and celebrate the unveiling of the King Memorial in Washington DC, it might behoove us to build a Monument of the Mind in honor of the brilliant and powerful legacy of the great Malcolm X. In fact, demanding that our community celebrate and respect Malcolm just as much as Martin would be a tremendous step toward obtaining the independence of thought that Malcolm wanted all of us to have.

There are at least two great dreams in Black American history and neither have been fulfilled. We can’t let either dreamer disappear from our collective consciousness.   Martin Luther King convinced the rest of America to accept us, but Malcolm X reminds us that it’s just as important for us to accept ourselves.


29 Responses to “Martin Luther King is Getting a Monument, Let’s Now Build Something for Malcolm”

  1. SapphiresMomma August 9, 2011 at 4:53 am #

    Dr. Watkins,

    I am sure we all respect Malcolm and what he stood for, and we all honor him, however this celebration is for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, a monument for him.

    Malcolm will and should have his day, however we must not leave it to the powers that be to build any type of monument for Malcolm. If we want such an honor hfor him then we need to make sure that we do it ourselves!

    The way his daughters are divided in their family , and the unfortunate issues they have displayed, I would say that we certainly can’t leave it up to his children either.

    Dr. King deserves this monument and I am happy to see him honored in this way.

    • david marich May 18, 2012 at 7:37 pm #

      the powers that be had brother malcom and king killed.
      the only reason brother king got his is because of Obama, who is much more powereful that you really know. as for brother malcom educating yourself, spreading the knowledge to your family and friends would be his monument
      malcom never wanted the attention..stand up to the powers that be, and those that attempt to corrupt that which you hold dear and you will make brother malcom smile from above!

  2. Lewis August 9, 2011 at 5:49 am #

    Dr Boyce I really enjoy the articles you post here, and and on your blog, but Instead of building something for Malcolm X why don’t we Instead petition the Government to build a monument to his his teacher The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Why Is the teacher of Icons In the Black community like Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, Muhammad Ali , and Khalid Abdul Muhammad and many others In the Black Liberation movement never given the respect he Is due for educating these Black men many of us Idolize In the science of Black Theology, Black economic Independence,and Black power. Mr Muhammad was the father of the Black power movement that Malcolm X became a major spokesman of and yet there is never any mention of him. I think we all do ourselves a disservice when we forget to give the teacher of these great men any credit and elevate his students. Just my two cents. I welcome any feedback

    • nubianqueen7 August 9, 2011 at 2:56 pm #

      I a monument to a man whore like Elijah Muhammad is ridiculous. This man fathered several children and didn’t even make sure they were taken care off after he died. His estate was a mess after his death. I ask you is this what a great teacher exhibits to his follows? We have rappers with more common sense then this. This is not a great man. This was a black clown that hide behind the Quran with the morals of Jim Jones.

      • August 9, 2011 at 4:58 pm #

        Malcolm nor King were angles Nubianqueen7. There legacies of service to the Black community have nothing to do with there personal lives. Malcolm was a hustler and a pimp and reportedly a homosexual according to manning Marable’s latest book ,and King was having extramarital relations but that does not Invalidate there good works In the community

      • Anonymous October 18, 2012 at 2:58 am #

        You see it’s comments like this that keep us right where we are, and
        does very little to bring us to the table with an emphasis on appreciating the many sacrifices that our leaders past and present
        that have made and are continuing to make. Listen all I;m saying is
        when are we’re going to stop publicly ridiculing, and tearing down
        those who have labored tirlessly to make life better for our people.
        Whether I agree with the Honorable Elijah Muhammad or not, that
        shouldn’t be the talking point here. What I do know and so do you is
        that this man established something beautiful, and helpful to all
        Black people here in the United States and throughout the world,
        particularly the Black World. I am not going to deny this Man his
        place in history, and he has been a credit ti all Black people that have benefitted from his knowledge. Look all great men have had
        relations with women…Solomen, David.and so on, and you don’t
        read where Jews are bashing them for their relations with women. I
        love the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X. Dr. Martin Luther
        King, Jr. and all the Black Men and Women who have put their
        lives in harms way to bring us forward. So, please out of common
        decency show some respect. I don’t know how old you are’ but I ask
        you this:How far are you willing to go to save our people. Do you
        have what these men have? Are you willing to die for our people? Are you willing to pay the ultimate price, because if you’re not then
        you are just talking out of your ass, ASSHOLE! I just had to say that
        because you and others like you are what’s hurting us.

    • Susie August 10, 2011 at 2:12 am #

      No thank you to an Elijah Mohammed shrine. Elijah Mohammed was for himself, and anyone who would follow his agenda. As Dr Watkins said, Malcolm X taught us to like and accept our selves!

      • Orchid48 August 18, 2011 at 1:55 am #

        No, Malcolm X did not teach me to love myself. Proud, loving African-American parents and an involved community taught me this!

    • Dale McKinney August 11, 2011 at 6:19 am #

      The Honorable Elijah Muhammad was a man who made a major contribution to African Americans of all walks; however to make him the Father of the Black Power movement is to ignore all of those freedom fighters that have existed every since our incarceration in the Americas. Marcus Garvey was the leader of the largest black organization that ever existed in America. To ignore his and others contribution to the Black Power movement is to ignore a major part of our history. We must know who our true heroes are; once we know them all, we can then choose which ones we want to emulate.

  3. Bob Lee August 9, 2011 at 10:36 am #

    Didn’t have to read it to agree. I’m certain there is a ‘statue/monument’ in “Liberia” dedicated to our own Ambassador “Frederick Douglas”, and Dr. Wilmot Blyden. In Kenya, there must be something there commemorating the great liberator Dr. Yomo Kenyatta. What does it matter to all of Sudan, that the colossal statues of the African Ruler “Rameses” was that of one of their own? A monument for ‘King Shabazz’? It must be on African soil.

    • Dale McKinney August 11, 2011 at 6:28 am #

      It is my opinion that to truly honor Malcolm, or any of our courageous leaders, is to pick up where they left off. Malcolm emphasized that our problem was a human rights problem, not a civil rights problem. Where is our modern day clarion for human rights? Where is our modern day Henry Highland Garnett? Where is our contemporary Medgar Evers? Where is our present day Muhammad Ali, not the fighter, the man that stood up to America and refused to put money over his people. No monuments, no holidays, lets show their courage, intelligence and love for all people in general and our people in particular.

  4. dlyt42 August 9, 2011 at 2:15 pm #


  5. dlyt42 August 9, 2011 at 2:19 pm #


  6. nubianqueen7 August 9, 2011 at 2:45 pm #

    I visited Malcolm X’s birth spot in Omaha several years ago. The city doesn’t do anything to up keep the place. The house is long gone. There is a plaque stating that he was born there and that is it. The funny part is less than a mile is the family home of Gerald Ford that looks beautiful and well cared for.

    I would love to see a monument for Malcolm X because he is revered in all different cultures too. I would like to see his historical birth spot cleaned up and have something positive happen there too.

  7. Unique D'Vine (@UniqueDvine) August 9, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

    Let us not build monuments for these men….let us become the monument.

  8. Struggleman August 9, 2011 at 3:09 pm #

    Lewis excellent post its a shame when people post thier opinions without prpoer knowledge .

  9. SapphiresMomma August 9, 2011 at 4:51 pm #

    @ nubianqueen7,

    FInally, someone speaking the truth abut Elijah Muhammad!

    What a trickster he was! He knew how to rile up black folks, and he knew exactly what they wanted to hear, and he used that to his advantage. In that way he was smart, or at least he had the game down pat.

    The only thing he contributed to is the betterment of some black men who had been to prison. He did not even teach real Islam, and his message was filled with racism, which Mr. Farrakhan delivers so well under his slick disguise.

    Thank you!

  10. David August 9, 2011 at 8:50 pm #

    If you think that America will embrace Malcolm X then you are deluding yourself. The distortion of Malcom’s life and conscience is so misrepresented that to put together his truth would only come from the movie Malcolm X. He has been so commercialized by a Jewish controlled media who viewed him in the same light as Minister Farrakhan as a hater of whites and jews before conversion, than MLK the dreamer and peace protester. Blacks may know of the love and sacrifice Malcolm gave for us and understand the different direction he envisioned, still his and MLK’s vision got the two of them assassinated and the overwhelming response to King’s death burned and shook America.

  11. Chas August 10, 2011 at 2:47 am #

    Uhhhhhh, Thurgood Marshall did more for the people than both Malcolm and Martin !

  12. James Rhodes Rodgers, MSN, RN August 10, 2011 at 2:58 am #

    I agree. He should be honored. He said a lot of things that made me think.
    I wish other leaders in his faith would take his place and talk about black unity and economics.

  13. Lawrence Campbell August 10, 2011 at 1:38 pm #

    Respect Yourself and All Others…Of the various contributions made by Brothers Malik and Martin there is little question. The legacy of The Honorable Thurgood Marshall speaks of another select group of People of Color. We may add Frederick Douglas, Simon Bolivar,J A Rogers, A Phillip Randolph, etc. The common theme is that many of us feel thy deserve recognition for their efforts – and they certainly do. All too often however, we speak as if we had (have) personal knowledge concerning all aspects of their lives and doings…we don’t! No more than they, nor many of us know our true. names and families, history, etc. Among the men identified by me and others, the Humble among them would be first to say that their reward is with their Creator, and they require nothing of us- they were here as messengers and warners of things to come.
    Let us stop stimulating ourselves with intoxicating heresay about sexual preference(s), baby mama/daddy foolishness and self effacing nonsense, resulting in a continued divide among our selves.
    Let us not forget the equal contributions made by Women…everyone previously mentioned made a journey through Her!..where is Her statue? Considering the way we speak of women, and how she regard herself in society, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate that issue too!?!?

  14. Carlton Banks, CSA August 11, 2011 at 2:49 am #

    We seem to have opened up a can of worms here. There are many Black leaders that have not be properly recognized. We have so many I don’t want to name any. It’s sad to say that it is nobody’s fault but our own. Yes I am excited and happy that they are honoring Dr. King with a memorial. The problem I see with this memorial for Dr. King is that it took so long for us to raise the money (three years). That money should have been raised within one or two months. Every African American baby boomer that prospered because of his efforts and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should have donated. Over half of Black America didn’t donate a brown penny! This is the African Americans main problem we always talk the talk and even walk the walk but when it’s time to put up that dollar we get weak in the faith.

    We should have honored Malcolm X a long time ago I remember when they were trying to sell the Audubon ball room to African Americans for his memorial. We couldn’t get enough excitement to raise the money and Columbia Presbyterian Hospital brought it. The building currently has an area for his memory but they are cash strapped and hardly any one hears about it or knows about its existence. This is why Malcolm X has never been honored because we don’t want to pay for it. Sure we use his quotes, pictures and still ware his buttons. Mr. Charlie even named one of the streets in Harlem after him but where is his memorial?
    Currently we only have two statues in Harlem of famous African Americans the first one was Duke Ellington on 5th avenue one hundred and ten street and the second is Adam Clayton Powell in front of the state office building on one hundred twenty fifth Street. When we start to control our dollars and honor the people who’s shoulders we stand upon you will see a changed Black America.

  15. chantaey August 11, 2011 at 4:50 am #

    to lewisdmatthews: if your going to be providing commentary you have to be able to keep up at least mentally: the great thing about Malcolm X was that he converted himself to a righteous, honorable man and a great, invincible leader. Being a minister was his personal life. The facts, openly known, about his transformational journey from menace to mentor of our nation through unflinching moral conviction are what make him admired. You would do well to clean up your dirty need to focus on and emphasize low-minded things. Retain the whole truth of the matter and esteem the glorious end results.

    And to Bob Lee, as far as putting monuments on African soil, those from Africa could do a lot better job of enlightening and communicating with those of us dispersed thru slavery when you reside right beside us. Inform us of all those greats, starting with saints in the Bible, so we can have a greater grasp of our true identity beyond the era of slavery, from the very origin of creation, as co-creators of the universe.

    • Lewis August 11, 2011 at 5:15 am #

      I take umbrage to your comments about my Intelligence you have your opinion and I have mine We can leave the name calling to children

  16. Bro. Charles August 12, 2011 at 9:10 pm #

    As an old schooler still in the struggle for true liberation of minds today, I am reminded of words of wisdom and truth from my Mentor Malcolm X. “I do not pretend to be a divine man, but I do believe in divine guidance, divine power, and the fulfillment of divine prophesy. I am not educated nor am I an expert in any given field. But, I AM SINCERE AND MY SINCERITY IS MY CREDENTIALS.” Very simple philosophy for brother man. Know Thyself! MAN-UP STAND-UP!

  17. Ryan August 19, 2011 at 3:16 pm #

    Hi we are from the Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies at Wabash College in Crawfordsvile, IN. Check out our website and help us better fulfill the legacy of Malcolm X.

  18. baidu September 8, 2011 at 5:10 am #

    I am glad to be able to provide useful information.

  19. Anonymous August 18, 2017 at 3:05 am #


  20. Anonymous September 7, 2017 at 8:51 am #

    King has done nothing to deserve a statue or monument, and Malcom X was the most racist nigger in the world.

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