Resilience and a fighting spirit flow in the veins of someone like Ilyasah Shabazz or her family. Her grandparents were dedicated to the Marcus Garvey cause and targeted by the Black Legion for doing so. And her human-rights-activist parents, well, their names are Dr. Betty Shabazz and Malcolm X.
Ilyasah previously told the story of her unique roots in 2002 when she co-authored a memoir with novelist Kim McLarin. Now, we hear a voice to her words in a newly released Audible of Growing Up X: A Memoir by the Daughter of Malcolm X. The author and educator chatted with The Knockturnal about the ins and out of her development into a human rights activist of her own—particularly as modern-day protests highlight civil and human rights issues plaguing U.S. cities.
At age two, Ilyasah was feet from her father when he was assassinated at New York’s Audubon Ballroom in 1965. Her mother, Dr. Shabazz, shielded her from bullets that day and strived to raise six daughters on her own for the rest. In the Shabazz household, Ilyasah grew up to know empowerment, community, and the importance of educating the youth.
“Many times [critics] refer to my father as an agitator and some other words that are usually inaccurate because I don’t think they’re looking at a man who is extremely compassionate, who’s very bright, who is extremely responsible, and who believes in human rights for all.”
Books and clothes of her father, Malcolm X, remained scattered around the home. A young Ilyasah took a liking to his shoes. “I used to put my feet in them cause I had the biggest feet in the house and march around, clonk around in them.” Decades later, she would follow in his footsteps as a powerful orator and motivational speaker.
Through remnants and stories of her predecessors, she sees why protestors today look towards them. Marching in their Sunday Best, her parents found purpose in promoting self-acceptance and informing the public in a world attempting to do otherwise. To assess such ideas as radical, said Ilyasah, was to ignore the fact that their ideas—much like modern-day activists—were reactions to injustice around them. “Many times [critics] refer to my father as an agitator and some other words that are usually inaccurate because I don’t think they’re looking at a man who is extremely compassionate, who’s very bright, who is extremely responsible, and who believes in human rights for all.”
Ilyasah has documented the lives of her parents in a series of award-winning books. Growing Up X introduced herself and their influence on her ideals. Its audio version is joined by one of The Autobiography of Malcolm X, written by Alex Haley and her father, and voiced by Laurence Fishburne. Both audiobooks are currently available on Audible.