In recognition of Malcolm X Day on May 19, the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC) held a panel and discussion at the Ephraim Bahar Cultural Center in Chicago on the life and legacy of Malcolm X and how his work can be carried on through dedicated community service and activism.
In 2015, CIOGC led an effort with Senator Jacqueline Collins to recognize May 19 as Malcolm X Day in the state of Illinois. A resolution was passed and the day has since been commemorated by CIOGC through educational programs and community service.
The speakers for this year’s Malcolm X Day panel and discussion program included Imam Omar Karim, Executive Director of the Ephraim Bahar Cultural Center, Jameel Karim, Youth Coordinator for CIOGC, Bashirah Mack of Sapelo Square, and Imam Charles Muhammad of the Al Aqsa Community Center Masjid in Plainfield.
Imam Omar Karim provided a background into Malcolm’s early years as a community organizer and his eventual high-ranking position and influence in the Nation of Islam. He underscored how the polarizing figure was able to bring tens of thousands of people to the Nation of Islam and came to influence African American public opinion for decades to come.
Jameel Karim discussed how the hardships Malcolm X faced ultimately prepared him for greatness as he rose above numerous challenges throughout his life. He shared how Malcolm X’s experiences, from his father’s murder by white supremacists when he was a young boy, to growing up during Jim Crow, and being victim to unfair criminal justice system, led to Malcolm’s disciplined determination to seek God-consciousness, or Taqwa, and thus, liberation of the Black community.
Bashirah Mack of Sapelo Square provided a contextual overview on the struggles the Black community and people of color have faced during and since Malcolm’s time in the 1960s. Driving home the point that struggles against injustice continue, and are arguably much greater now, she called for the unification and collective action of communities to advance the rights of the oppressed. Focusing on Malcolm’s intent as an activist, Mack also shared how his commitment to freedom, justice, and equality demonstrate the highest levels of spiritual enlightenment and God-consciousness.
Imam Charles Muhammad spoke of how Malcolm X effectively challenged the status quo during a time of discrimination, segregation, and Jim Crow, through a life of righteousness and an unapologetic commitment to universal justice. Muhammad began his presentation by asking attendees to set themselves in the time of the Jim Crow era. He then proceeded to describe vivid examples of injustices faced by African Americans and people of color. He explained that in response to these injustices, Malcolm X’s adoption of Islam and increased God-consciousness helped guide his spiritual path in recognizing and advocating for the equality of all people.
During the question and answer session, the speakers and audience members discussed how to carry on Malcolm X’s life and legacy through practical activities. Speakers and audience members recommended the Ephraim Bahar’s Walk for Moral excellence on July 29, and in general, reaching out to neighbors to meet and learn about each other, organizing events to bring communities together for a common cause, and volunteering for organizations that serve the common good.
CIOGC thanks the Ephraim Bahar Cultural Center, speakers, and guests for attending this important discussion about how to carry the legacy of one of the most influential and important Black Muslim leaders in history.