The three biggest black figures for me are Richard Pryor, Muhammad Ali, and Malcolm X. I learned something important from each of them. Pryor taught perspective, Ali taught confidence, and Malcolm taught the importance of intelligence in all things.
Speak plainly, be friendly, consider your position, and if the time comes, you put the hammer down. You don’t thank someone for finally doing the right thing they should have been doing all along. You don’t accept anything less than what you deserve. Your anger should be a scalpel, not a bludgeon. Get the jelly out of your spine and keep cobwebs out of your mind. When it comes to right and wrong, there is no compromise. There is either the ballot or the bullet.
A brief quote:
“How can you thank a man for giving you what’s already yours? How then can you thank him for giving you only part of what’s already yours? You haven’t even made progress, if what’s being given to you, you should have had already. That’s not progress. And I love my Brother Lomax, the way he pointed out we’re right back where we were in 1954. We’re not even as far up as we were in 1954. We’re behind where we were in 1954. There’s more segregation now than there was in 1954. There’s more racial animosity, more racial hatred, more racial violence today in 1964, than there was in 1954. Where is the progress?
And now you’re facing a situation where the young Negroes coming up. They don’t want to hear that “turn the-other-cheek” stuff, no. In Jacksonville, those were teenagers, they were throwing Molotov cocktails. Negroes have never done that before. But it shows you there’s a new deal coming in. There’s new thinking coming in. There’s new strategy coming in. It’ll be Molotov cocktails this month, hand grenades next month, and something else next month. It’ll be ballots, or it’ll be bullets. It’ll be liberty, or it will be death.
Malcolm X would have been eighty-five years old today. Happy birthday.