Praise Song 3 to the courage of a life: Malcom X

X, 2003, digital chromogenic print on coated plastic sheet. 

Fred Wilson, American born 1974. Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

 

 

 

 

This composition is based on a photo taken by Marion K. Triskosko at a press conference in1964 at the US Capitol given by Martin Luther King.

At the right rear is a portrait created by John Singer Sargent of Madame Pierre Gautreau, a socialite based in Paris.  She is here known as Madame X.

  

 

Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau), 1883-1884, oil on canvas. 

John Singer Sargent, 1856-1925, American.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.  Detail photo is from the net.

 

 

_______________________

 

 

X, 2003, digital chromogenic print on coated plastic sheet. 

Fred Wilson, American born 1974. Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

 

 

 

Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little (1925-1965),

 

raised in foster care after the death of his father and committal (for psychiatric care) of his mother,

 

had the most astonishing life.  

 

He was a petty criminal who progressed to crimes serious enough to net him 10 years in jail at the age of 21

 

There he read voraciously and became a member of the Nation of Islam.

 

A spectacular orator, a man both riveting and powerful in appearance,  Malcom X became one of the chief spokesmen for the Nation of Islam after his parole in 1952.  His sulfurous reputation stems from this role and from the teachings of the Nation which encouraged the segregation of Blacks from Whites and did not eschew violence for the achievement of political gains.

 

Malcolm X agitated for civil and economic rights in ways both discomfiting to the political establishment and

controversial in the eyes of many white Americans;

and enabling by many African Americans.

 

Malcolm X‘s estrangement from the Nation of Islam and its leader in the early 1960’s resulted in his departure from that organization in 1964.

Thereafter he associated himself with Sunni Islam and, without  openly renouncing violence, moved towards the messages and means of the Civil Rights movement.

 

At the hajj rituals of 1964, he was astonished to see an enormous diversity of people worshipping together.

 

Thereafter he discussed the importance of Islam as a mechanism for people of all races to reach political and spiritual maturity.  

 

He was assassinated the following year at the age of 39 in New York.

 

Three members of the Nation of Islam, were convicted of this murder. One was paroled in 2010. Two were released in 2022 with apologies for wrongful arrest and detention.

 

The details of the conspiracy to kill him are still not publicly known:  an astonishing ‘fact’ given that Malcom X had been under police surveillance since 1953.

 

 

Malcolm X ‘s life is one of the clearest examples

that it is the ‘interior’, spiritual work that an individual does

which is the necessary precursor for initiating and executing political change in one’s community. 

 

 

Malcom X’s courage and the bond between his spiritual insight and discipline and his political daring are his legacy.

 

 

 

 

X, 2003, digital chromogenic print on coated plastic sheet. 

Fred Wilson, American born 1974. Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Praise Song 3 to the courage of a life: Malcom X

    1. As healing, yes, Poet.

      A healing, it seems, which is directrly connected to the primary role of poetry as truth telling whether about a single life or many lives or of the human condition or whatever.

      Which when spoken and heard or written and read bring on a relief which is often the anteroom of healing because the poet has dared the truth. Which is why the long dry spells of poets because this can be exhausting and difficult. Not to speak of revolutionary..

      But only poetry, Poet. Not just ordinary words outside the poetic form. Those can also kill. Sarah

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