by Ronald Gordon Ziegler
The tall black man walked to the front of the stage.
"A salaam alikum," were the words he spoke,
meaning "Peace be unto you." And the audience
of several hundred, replied with the words he'd invoked,
"And unto you be peace." Then eight rows back,
some men among the crowd began to debate
or argue, and the speaker, and his bodyguards,
looked at them, and after a moment of wait,
spoke to them, and said, "Cool it, brothers,"
but as he began his speech, three black men
in the front row stood up. One of them
had a shot gun, two had pistols, and then
they began to fire as if they were a firing squad
at the speaker. Sixteen bullets tore
into the body of the speaker on the stage
which lunged back and then fell to the floor.
Some years later, the controversial Congressman
from Harlem -- for it had been in Harlem
that the execution had taken place that night --
Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., said there had been
others who had shot from out of the balcony
and that he had films which showed it clearly.
He announced that the next day he would show
the films to the press and then he
claimed it had been the F.B.I.
which, in fact, had been behind he hit.
But the next day, Adam Clayton Powell died
and no one ever heard any more about it.
Malcolm Little was born on May twenty-ninth
in 1925 out in the great plains
in Omaha, Nebraska. Four years after that,
his family was living in Lansing, Michigan.
And it was there that Malcolm went through
what he referred to as his earliest memory
-- what he called "the nightmare night.'
While all his family escaped in safety,
"I remember being snatched awake into
a frightening confusion of pistol shots,
shouting, smoke, and flames. Our home
was burning down around us," the plot
of white rascists who hated his father,
the Reverend Earl Little -- they had set
the fire for the work of his father
with Marcus Garvey's group -- he would not forget.
The Universal Negro Improvement Association
led by Garvey taught that blacks should live
separate from white people, and he tried
to organize an effort that would strive
to take black Americans back to Africa.
It wasn't his goal that they objected to,
but that he was articulate and would not bow
in the way that they thought he should do.
Only two years later, when Malcolm was six,
his father was killed, and while the deed
was never solved, Malcolm was convinced
it had been done by those who'd sought to impede
the efforts of his father to organize blacks,
and who had often threatened his life.
Mrs. Little worked hard to feed and care
for their eight children through the strife
of trying to raise them through the Depression.
She was a proud woman who would not accept
foor from the Welfare Department
who thought that she was crazy and inept.
Malcolm would later criticize them
for treating his mother as they had.
He also said that as a hungry child,
he learned that you had to be "bad":
"If you want something, you had better
make some noise -- an idea that he
would carry with him later in his life
when he fought for civil rights valiantly.
But Malcolm's mother had a nervous breakdown
when he reached the age of 13, and she
was committed to a mental hospital
where she stayed until 1963,
while Malcolm and his brothers and sisters
were sent to live with other families.
It was not long before Malcolm was expelled
from school and because of this, he
was sent for a while to a detention home.
When he returned to school, he would earn
very good grades, but he was the only
black student in his class, but he earned
the respect of his classmates who elected him
president of his seventh grade class,
but this was a shallow acceptance --
one that would, and could, not, he felt, last.
"I was proud. I'm not going to say I wasn't,"
he would later tell Alex Haley
who would write down Malcolm's recollections
when he wrote his 'autobiography.'
"I didn't have much feeling," he said,
"about being a Negro. I just tried
every way I could to be white."
And Malcolm that "This is why
I'm spending so much of my life today
telling the American black man
that he's wasting time trying to 'integrate.'
I know. I tried hard enough," he would expand.