Ilyasah Shabazz, the youngest daughter of social activist Malcolm X, addressed a full house at the University of Florida’s Pugh Hall on Monday.
“I’m really excited to hear what she has to say,” said Divya Jolly, a senior studying behavioral and cognitive neuroscience and anthropology. “I think her history of activism is so empowering.”
Shabazz’s speech, which was presented by UF’s African American Studies program, began with a series of questions including, “What are we teaching our children?” and “How are we going to create change?”
Her advocacy for education, self-empowerment, uplifting the younger generation, and equality for women became apparent as the underlying theme of her speech. Shabazz even paused to encourage the men in the crowd to give a round of applause to their “sisters” saying that “When you teach a woman, you empower a nation.”
Shabazz also discussed one of her newest books, “X: A Novel,” a fictional take on the her father’s life. Shabazz has written and edited several books that commemorate her father including “The Diary of Malcolm X: El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz,” “Malcolm Little” and her critically acclaimed coming-of-age story “Growing up X.”
After her speech, Shabazz took questions from students, faculty, and activists, including Bruce Frendahl, a 1974 UF graduate who participated in the original “Black Thursday” Protest.
“There was a bunch of white students who organized a sleep-in at Tigert Hall in March of ‘72 in order to get more black students here, because there were virtually none,” he said.
When asked of his first encounters with Malcolm X’s work during the ‘70s, Frendahl recalled, “I really thought he was centuries ahead of his time. There were a lot of people, even within the black community, that did not understand him and there were a lot of people that did not support him because he was too radical.”
It was a point Shabazz addressed in her speech.
“Most people didn’t understand who X was. They thought he was angry. He was just having a profound reaction to what happened around him. He was a person of passion,” she said.
Frendahl said he was honored to personally encounter Malcolm X’s living legacy.
“I’m very impressed with her. She is incredible. She is a very good speaker and she’s a credit to her father. And she’s a credit to the movement to get true equality in this nation.”