We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience and patience creates unity.

— Malcolm X

Today is Malcolm X Day and we celebrate this icon of world history. Born Malcolm Little in 1925 , he was the fourth of eight children to Louise and Earl Little. His family experienced persistent and violent attacks from white supremacist organizations like the KKK, and one of its factions called the Black Legion, due to Earl Little’s support of Black nationalism and Marcus Garvey and his work with the Universal Negro improvement Council. The violence his family faced eventually led to their family home in Omaha being burnt down by Klan members and eventually Earl Little’s death. 

Louise Little, stricken with grief at the murder of her husband, was committed to a mental health institution where she would reside for 26 years. Malcolm and his siblings were then separated by the foster care system. 

In his early adult life, Malcolm served time in prison. During his six and a half year stint, he pledged his faith to the Nation of Islam (NOI). His work with leader Elijah Muhammad was powerful and grew the NOI from hundreds to tens of thousands of members in the United States. It was during this time that he became Malcolm X, saying, “my ‘X’ replaced the white slavemaster name of ‘Little’ which some blue-eyed devil named Little had imposed upon my paternal forebears.”

Toward the end of his life, Malcolm X left the NOI when his loyalty and faith in Elijah Mohammad had broken. Around this time, Malcolm X took a pilgrimage, or hajj, to Mecca. Here he made the decision to convert to traditional Islam. While on his journey, he had an epiphany in which his political and spiritual perspectives shifted towards a more peaceful resolution to racial disparities in the United States. 

Before this season could bloom, Malcolm X was assassinated at the age of 39 years-old. Today, on Malcolm X Day, we honor his life of activism and uplift his legacy of empowering people to action for the good of society as a whole, “by any means necessary.”