Caribbean Roots: Malcolm X

May 19, 2010

Posted by Martei Korley

May 19th marks the 85th birthday of Malcolm X or El-Haj Malik El-Shabazz. In years bygone that meant that all of the mom and pops stores on 125th Street in Harlem would close up shop at midday in honor of the leader and human rights activist. As the memory of Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X”(1992) faded, so did the re-surge in activism and by the early 2000s most of the shops only locked up at three pm. Since then big business have closed down many family owned businesses on Harlem’s main street, now renamed Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. Among the new eateries which have sprung up on ‘two-fifth’; several are Caribbean with names like Uptown Juice Bar, MoBay, Golden Crust.

Still most people don’t know that Malcolm Little was of partially Caribbean descent. His mother, Louise Little, nee Norton, was born in Grenada, W.I. Earl Little, his father, was from Georgia and deeply involved in the United Negro Improvement Association, Marcus Garvey’s revolutionary organization. It is easy to draw a straight line from the doctrines of the Garveyism to Malcolm’s firebrand Nation of Islam doctrine, and on to his personal enlightenment. In any case, Large Up aren’t by any stretch the first to take note. Here is Dennis Brown’s tribute to the Great Man: