Malcolm X (May 19, 1925 – February 21, 1965), born Malcolm Little and also known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, was an African-American Muslim minister and human rights activist. To his admirers, he was a courageous advocate for the rights of blacks, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its crimes against black Americans. Detractors accused him of preaching racism, black supremacy, and violence. He has been called one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history.
"The Ballot or the Bullet" is the name of a public speech by Malcolm X. In the speech, which was first delivered on April 3, 1964, at Cory Methodist Church in Cleveland,Ohio, Malcolm advised African-Americans to judiciously exercise their right to vote, but he cautioned that if the government continued to prevent African-Americans from attaining full equality, it might be necessary for them to take up arms. It was ranked 7th in the top 100 American speeches of the 20th century by 137 leading scholars of American public address.
Close to 50 years later this speech is still relevant.
"....22 million black victims of Americanism are waking up and they’re gaining a new political consciousness, becoming politically mature. And as they develop this political maturity, they’re able to see the recent trends in these political elections. They see that the whites are so evenly divided that every time they vote the race is so close they have to go back and count the votes all over again. And that means that any block, any minority that has a block of votes that stick together is in a strategic position. Either way you go, that’s who gets it. You’re in a position to determine who will go to the White House, and who will stay in the doghouse. You’ re the one who has that power....You’ re the one who put the present Democratic Administration in Washington DC. The whites were evenly divided. It was the fact that you threw 80% of your votes behind the Democrats that put the Democrats in the White House. When you see this, you can see that the Negro vote is the key factor. And despite the fact that you are in a position to be the determining factor, what do you get out of it? ...... Anytime you throw your weight behind the political party that controls two-thirds of the government, and that Party can’t keep the promise that it made to you during election time, and you’re dumb enough to walk around continuing to identify yourself with that Party, you’re not only a chump, but you’re a traitor to your race."
Happy Birthday Malcolm
Ernest R. Heyward is the Founder and President of the Marketplace for Social Awareness and Social Responsibility Inc.