The Sharpton Sisters: Malcolm X’s Daughter Ilyasa Shabazz

Ilyasa Shabazz on The Sharpton Sisters. Image courtesy FOX SOUL
Ilyasa Shabazz on The Sharpton Sisters. Image courtesy FOX SOUL /

Ilyasa Shabazz, daughter of famous civil rights activist Malcolm X, joined The Sharpton Sisters to discuss her legacy, her work as an author, and what it means to be her father’s daughter.

When discussing the legacy of Malcolm X, she said,

"“First of all, people try to write him out and pretend like he didn’t make this signficant contribution…remember, in the sixties, we weren’t sure who we were. We thought we were ‘negros’. 1950s, people marching and demonstrating protests…and just as they do today, my father came along and said, ‘we demand our human rights as your brother’, there’s no asking…he introduced the human rights agenda for the first time in the civil right movement. So, my father made a significant contribution…He had a profound reaction to injustice against anyone. He simply insisted that America live up to her promise of liberty and justice for all of its citizens.”"

Ilyasa Shabazz and the Sharpton Sisters even connected over IIlyasa Shabazz’s mother, Betty Shabazz, who had helped participate in the Sharpton Sisters’ upbringing. When speaking of her late mother, Ilyasa Shabazz said,

"“She’s the wife of a man who challenged a government that was historically unjust. And her witnessing her husband’s assassination, living through her home being firebombed, and taking care of six girls…she was still so filled with love and compassion and care. She wanted to make sure her girls were properly educated…we’re so fortunate that we have parents that made sure that we knew who we were as women of the African diaspora, of being just women…we learned about our heritage, our culture, our identity, which fortified who were were…But also making sure we had a quality education. And usually, a quality education was not afforded to people who looked like us. I always take my hat off to my mother.”"

The Sharpton Sisters and Ilysasa Shabazz also talked about the difference between their fathers, Reverend Al Sharpton and Malcolm X, as their parents compared to understanding them as civil rights activist icons.

Ilyasa Shabazz also spoke on what it meant to grow up without her father, saying,

"“My mother made sure that she kept his [Malcolm X] presence constant in our household. She did not want us to grow up with this abrupt sense of loss. She did not want us to grow up feeling that our father left us, or our father didn’t love us. And so, my mother had daily conversations about daddy, about her husband. What he would like what he wouldn’t like. But most importantly we knew about his value system. I came to understand, when I went to college, that my mother safe-guarded her husband’s legacy.”"

She also spoke about the Shabazz Center,

"“I know she [Betty Shabazz] looked forward to retiring and appropriating the legacy of her husband at the Shabazz Center. And that is the reason why I work there. I do everything that it takes to make sure the center is truly operational and that it’s going to be a resource to communities here and far. Because people all over the world are attracted to Malcolm, and we want to make sure we are utilizing that fully.”"

But Ilyasa Shabazz is not just Malcolm X’s daughter. She is also an author in her own right. Speaking about her latest novel, she said,

"“My favorite book, my most recent is ‘The Awakening of Malcolm X: A Novel’… I was not going to stop until I finished this book…My father, this whole notion of him being illiterate when he went to jail and he walked out being an icon, it’s impossible…If that’s the case, then it means we don’t need a village. And we all need the village. Had it not been for his mother and father when he did find himself in a corner, he might not have been able to walk out as Malcolm X the icon. His mother and his father instilled specific values. They were two activists…”"

Check out the season finale of The Sharpton Sisters on FOX SOUL as well as the other interviews discussing the legacy and what it meant to grow up with a celebrity relative.

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