Daughter of Malcolm X speaks at Black Heritage Banquet

Ilyasah Shabbaz, daughter of civil rights activists Malcolm X, spoke on Thursday evening at Baylor University for the 30th annual Black Heritage Banquet. Photo credit: Penelope Shirey

By Joy Moton | Staff Writer

The Association of Black students and the department of multicultural affairs hosted the 30th annual Black Heritage Banquet Thursday night in Foster 250.

Ilyasah Shabbaz, daughter of civil rights activists Malcolm X and Betty Shabbaz, spoke about the importance of identity, humanity, and having compassion for others. While people continue to suffer injustices around the world, people have a moral obligation to do everything they can to protect their human rights, they said.

“When one of us is mistreated, all of us are mistreated,” Ilyasah Shabbaz said. “When one’s human rights are violated, all of our human rights are violated.”

Shabbaz referenced the African proverb, “It takes a village,” to emphasize that people of all races, religions and backgrounds must unite to advocate for human rights as a community.

“Understand that our commitment is to human rights and that it has nothing to do with favoring black or white,” Shabbaz said. “Rather, our commitment is for this purpose of recognizing right and wrong.”

Shabbaz talked about her admiration for her mother, Betty’s strength. Shabbaz described her mother’s commitment to raising her and five other children. When a bomb that was intended for her father was thrown into her nursery, her father stayed in busy hotels to keep the attacks away from the family, Shabbaz said. After the attacks on Malcolm X were successful, Shabbaz said her mother was left traumatized, frightened and alone. Despite being a widow with six children, Betty Shabbaz went on to get her PhD and become a civil rights activist.

“She never took ‘No’ or ‘I can’t’ as an answer for herself,’” Shabbaz said. “She would not compromise who she was for the sake of being with anyone.”

Shabbaz discussed how the education system typically excludes significant portions of black history from curriculum. For example, most of the audience knew about the European Holocaust while only three people knew about the African Holocaust. Shabbaz described the African Holocaust as the largest forced migration of people in the history of mankind. She emphasized that this is an issue because the African Holocaust took place in this country while the Jewish Holocaust occurred in Europe. Shabbaz said it is up to the next generation to not only know history, but also push for it to be told accurately.

“We should learn from the Jewish people that it’s important that the world knows about this crime that was committed against their humanity,” Shabbaz said.

Shabbaz also mentioned that her father was only in his 20’s when he was a driving force in the Civil Rights Movement. This inspired students to start looking for ways they can make changes in the community.

“To realize that he was just a few years older than I am really makes me want to get out there and do the work that I have to do,” Houston senior Hailey Franklin said.

Students also said they were inspired by the fact that the daughter of someone they learned about from history books visited Baylor.

“I feel that Malcolm X’s daughter coming here was a really nice inspiration to all the black community here at Baylor University, and it will actually make us put forth into the community and try to make a change,” Houston freshman Paige South said.

Shabbaz said the most important thing for students to remember is to know the history, assure that society is inclusive of it, and unite with the common goal to seek solutions for injustices.

“Material gains come and go but education about truth will live on forever,” Shabbaz said.