Friday, October 19, 2012

Attallah Shabbaz, Malcolm X's Daughter, Gives Inspiring Talk in St. Paul

Attallah Shabbaz

Last night, Thursday, October 18th 2012, I had the pleasure of hearing Attallah Shabbaz speak, and had the honor of meeting her at Metropolitan State University, in St. Paul Minnesota. Attallah Shabbaz is one of Malcolm X's daughters.

In an event sponsored by the university's Muslim Student Organization, Attallah Shabbaz gave an inspiring talk on spirituality, self-esteem, and community.

Attallah Shabbaz is an elegant, beautiful woman and warmly engages her audience. She presented her father, Malcolm X as a compassionate person, who had love and concern for all people. She explained that he his views were broadened before his trip to Mecca, and that his nationalistic phase was only one chapter of his life.

During the Q&A, I asked her how she felt about various parties and groups trying to claim her father, and how her father might view our current context were he alive. She said he had his own opinions, but she felt he could not be claimed by anyone's agenda or party. In answering this question, she made a clever statement which the audience enjoyed very much: “if you are pissed off, don't put my father's face on your flag, put your own face!”

Ms. Shabbaz's talk was not just about her father, or even primarily about her father. She invoked his memory fondly, yes, and provided some wonderful quotes from Malcolm X. She is her own person, and it is her message in her own voice that she presented to the audience.

I was very moved by her view of God. She said at one point “Allah is always with you, loves you unconditionally. Tell your self good things about yourself, God won't accuse you of being vain.” I got a little misty-eyed as she spoke these words. As a Christian, I felt this Muslim woman was speaking in the Holy Spirit. One of my friends who came late to the talk said he could feel the wonderful atmosphere in the auditorium as he entered it.

Shabbaz proclaimed herself an “Ecumenist,” who rejoiced “that God gave us many ways to reach him,” a reference to the various religious traditions of humankind.

Shabbaz presented her fathers slogan, “by any means necessary,” in a fresh light. It is not about violence but about doing whatever it takes to overcome the obstacle's in one's life, or, for a community. One of quotes she gave from her father was "The greatest tool of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed." Her point is that we can imprison ourselves with our limited thinking, by accepting the narrative of the oppressor, or our own narrative of powerlessness. Her talk reminded me that Malcolm X's message was about empowerment.

Although part of her message was one of self-esteemed, based on God's presence in our lives, it was not an individualistic message. She exhorted us that we when we vote, “Make sure your vote is more than just about you.”

As she closed her talk, she said that one of the things her father said, is that we need to be concerned that others around have what they need.

Attallah Shabbaz's talk was a beautiful, inspiring one. I was glad and blessed to be at this event.

- Lance
I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Shabbaz after the presentation

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