Malcolm X's widow tells UM group to set agenda

November 24, 1992|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- Betty Shabazz, the widow of Malcolm X, urged students last night to commit themselves to changing the world.

Blacks, she said, must be prepared to deal with racism both on campus and in the world. The problems of poverty and drugs are too great to ignore, she said.

"For some people, the hour has come and they know that," she said. "You have to make a decision. What kind of person are you?"

Addressing about 1,000 people at the University of Maryland's Stamp Student Union here, Dr. Shabazz said, "No one can oppress you or discriminate against you if you don't allow it."

She has lectured often the last few weeks as interest in director Spike Lee's new movie about her late husband's life has swelled.

"Malcolm says that everyone must have an ethos. You must have a purpose. You must have aims," she said.

Dr. Shabazz, 52, is the director of communications and public relations at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, N.Y. She has a Ph.D. in education administration from the University of Massachusetts.

A native of Detroit, Dr. Shabazz was a nursing student when she met Malcolm X at a Harlem mosque in the late 1950s.

She credited her husband for broadening her world view.

"Everything I say -- I hope you know that it can be attributed to Malcolm," she said. "I don't know how I thought before then. I was a little domestic Methodist girl from Detroit, Mich."

Dr. Shabazz scoffed at the notion that Malcolm X advocated violence.

"Anybody who says that 'by any means necessary' is violence is narrow-minded and blocked intellectually," she said, referring to her late husband's call for blacks themselves to take action to attain equality. "They called him a racist. They said he taught hate. Did he teach hate?

"No," many in the crowd answered.

"He taught blacks to love themselves," she said.

Dr. Shabazz asked for audience response several times in her hourlong speech.

"Talk to me," she said at one point.

A moment later, she complimented a white student who wore a hat with the 'X' insignia. "You're looking real good with that hat on," she said. "I just want to let you know."

She went on to urge black students to celebrate their own ancestry, just as -- she said -- whites have set for themselves a "Euro-agenda."

Dr. Shabazz was in the Harlem ballroom when Malcolm X was shot to death in 1965. Together they had six daughters, including twins who were born six months after their father was killed.

Near the end of his life, Malcolm X changed his name to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.

His widow said she was disturbed about the new movie's portrayal of her husband's crime-ridden youth until she began thinking about the aimless youths who can be seen in America's cities today.

These young men, she said, are "oppressed, discriminated against, segregated, with nothing to do and feeling nobody loves them."

"It also shows you what we must do for our young people," she continued. "We cannot be so quick to 'dis' them," she said.

In the movie, actress Angela Bassett portrays Malcolm's wife as highly confident -- a depiction that amuses Dr. Shabazz.

"I was not that assertive," she told a small group of students after her speech. "I always wanted to be. She [the screen counterpart] came in and spotted this guy and said, 'I'm going to get him.' "

Dr. Shabazz said she has no problem with the widespread merchandising of Malcolm's name and likeness.

" . . . It is better than tranquilizers, it's better than liquor," she said. "It is wholesome."

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