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14 September 2007

Malcolm X and me

In his final Faith Column on Hip Hop Anthony Thomas gives his personal testimony of how book he read

By Anthony Thomas

My first engagement with ‘Black’ politics came as a teenager. On my 14th birthday I was given a book by a friend of my mothers, the book was a collection of speeches by Malcolm X titled Malcolm X speaks.

At the time I was not very sure who Malcolm X was but I had seen posters and printed t-shirts with the name and face of Malcolm on worn by rap influenced Afrocentric youth, I had heard his name mentioned on Rap records but he was nothing but an abstract image.

Until I came across that book I had no idea what he stood for, although I knew it was something to do with ‘Black’ people. Later that day as I went to bed I began to flick through the pages and was blown away, by the power of his words. Within the next few weeks I would spend my evenings after school reading and thinking about Malcolm X and, a race consciousness that I had never experienced before began to engulf me. All I wanted to do was be Malcolm X.

Terms like Black Nationalism, concepts about the field and house Negro, and the dream for a Black revolution started to occupy my teenage mind. I remember going out and buying a pair of fashion spectacles, some of my friends at school started to say that I looked like Malcolm X, like Malcolm X I was the son of a light skinned Black woman and a very dark Black man, I was often called Red and one of my street names was Red man because of my complexion, a name also given to the young Malcolm X. All this just added fuel to my fire.

This feeling lasted for a few months but I soon moved into what has become the stereotypical life of inner city ‘Black’ teenagers from single parent and low income families, crime and gang violence. However, my engagement with the teachings of Malcolm X would have a profound effect on my thinking and set the foundation for who I am today.

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In 1992 Spike Lee directed his classic film on Malcolm X. I went to the cinema to watch it and when it came out on video would sit down and watch it for days on end. I also began to search around for other footage that I could find on Malcolm I wanted to know everything.

The search for more knowledge on Malcolm led me to many other ‘Black’ political thinkers. My search for knowledge would lead to me becoming a book seller on the streets of Brixton, a move I had made to feed my ever growing habit. Eventually my search would lead to me sharing platforms with the likes of Jesse Jackson, meeting with Barack Obama and becoming a spokesman for a new generation.

What does this have to do with Hip Hop? Everything, the spirit of Hip Hop is the spirit of Malcolm X, Hip Hop is the child of Malcolm X, and the Hip Hop generation is a generation made in the image of Malcolm, a generation of rebels, who speak truth to power regardless of the consequences.

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