Author Interview: Ilyasah Shabazz on her children’s book Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up To Become Malcolm X

Ilyasah at book signing;  Photo by: Melody Charles

Ilyasah at book signing;
Photo by: Melody Charles

Written by: Melody Charles

Stunning and nearly 6′ tall, Ilyasah Shabazz‘ physical presence is charismatic and commanding. Her historical legacy—-she’s the third-born daughter of the late Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz—-is also impactful, which is why she commanded rapt audiences in DFW last month when she arrived as part of an author meet-and-greet for Dock Bookshop to promote her first-ever children’s book Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up To Become Malcolm X.

Nearly 50 years after his death, the Muslim minister and Human and Civil Rights leader remains a much-discussed part of world history, but few are aware of the culture and characteristics that molded him into the man he became, part of the reason why Ms. Shabazz authored the critically-acclaimed book (illustrated poignantly by local artist A.G. Ford). “People think that Malcolm X automatically went to jail and just automatically came out as an icon and one of the greatest political strategists of our time, but this book shares the qualities that made the foundation of who he is, which were a direct result of the role his parents played.”

Because she and her sisters were either not born or very young when Malcolm X was assassinated, the 51-year-old understands the impressionable nature of children and wanted to both inform and encourage a new generation about who her father truly was and why his work still matters today.

“I think it’s very important that children develop self-love, receive quality education and read quality stories where they see themselves, the role of a mother and father and the importance of siblings.You see Malcolm X as a young boy and realize that all children are born great, but that the adults that they encounter are responsible for how they turn out.”

For those familiar with the life of Malcolm X, his criminal past was a symptom of his broken family ties: Earl and Louise Little, educated and firmly committed to the uplift of their people at home and around the world, taught him and his siblings with their daily examples of manhood and womanhood until Earl’s murder and Louise’s institutionalization, events that both shattered and shaped their middle son.

“Adults must instill specific values and a strong foundation for our children: when his father was killed and his mother was institutionalized, it meant that my father had no guidance, and we see what happens in his life. But because of what they both taught him, he went on to have compassion for us all and circle the globe—-in a hurry because he knew his life was ending [soon]–to search for solutions.

“When I did an interview with MSNBC a few months ago and saw a photo of my grandparents on the screen, it warmed my heart because all of the images of my father [exploited by the media] in the 1960s were put out there to take away from what he was fighting against—- injustice and inequality. That’s what Malcolm X was about, and he fought against all those kinds of things so that we could all live, thrive and flourish together.”

Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X


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