“There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance next time. – Malcolm X”
I learned about Malcolm X right around the same time I watched Lynn Whitfield dance around in a banana skirt and bare skin in the Josephine Baker Story. Should I have even mentioned the two in the same sentence? That I’m not sure, but I’m telling you the facts as they are. I was a little girl at the time; ten years old to be exact. The film Malcolm X had just hit the scene thanks to Spike Lee and starred no other than Denzel Washington as the controversial Black Nationalist leader. Of all the scenes my 10 year-old memory somehow managed to latch in on and remember remarkably clear probably aren’t the greatest examples to refer to when talking about such a historical figure, but I’ll reveal them to you anyway: the first is the scene where Malcolm X is getting his hair permed, the second is the trip to Mecca and the last being the repeated attempts to extinguish Malcolm’s existence.
Fourteen years later and only a tiny bit wiser, I realize I really don’t know much about the man. Granted there is only so much the mind can retain, I often find it funny what we retain and why it needed to stay planted in the brain. At the time remembering that Malcolm X was born in Omaha, Nebraska was unimportant, but I have recently rediscovered this information. Having been like glue in my hotel room I decided to take a break from my work to flip through the Omaha Visitors Guide when I saw the short piece on the Malcolm X Birthsite. Thinking no one I knew could be from Omaha, I was in slight disbelief. I let my silly thoughts pass and decided to take advantage of the situation. I wanted to relearn many things about Malcolm X and I wanted to pay homage.
I dialed the number for the Malcolm X Foundation located right there in Omaha, Nebraska and inquired about the site. What was there to see? What was there to experience? After speaking with Sharif I was told to phone Marshall Taylor to arrange a time to see the marker. Marshall seemed more than glad to show me around on Friday morning and Friday morning he showed me around.
My tour began at the African American Bookstore in Omaha. Marshall gave me a warm welcome and handed me Malcolm X, the book as written by Alex Haley. Having heard my cry earlier to be enlightened he gave me one of the best gifts of all. Along with the book he provided me with some information on the organization and the founder Rowena Moore. It had been a dream of Ms. Moore’s to construct a major educational and cultural institution at the birth home of Malcolm X in Omaha, NE. Although Malcolm’s family only lived in the Omaha area until he was about 4 years-old, Moore was inspired by speeches she heard on the radio from Malcolm and after Malcolm’s return from his trip to Mecca she decided to begin an organization.
Once I finished learning about the foundation and their plans to build a Learning Center in addition to the memorial at 3448 Pinkney Street, it was time to go see the site. Marshall took me around to a fenced in area of green space. The area is closed off to prevent people from dumping as it used to be a major dump site. This is the main reason you can’t walk up to the memorial freely, but once the museum, library, amphitheater and all else is complete the fence will come down and it shall be open to the public. (Hopefully all will be done in another two years.)
In the meantime there are several ways to get involved if one feels inclined to do so. The first is to become a major contributor or “sustaining member.” (Donating on a monthly or annual basis.) The other is through the donor brick program. A donation of $100 bucks allows you to contribute to the project and have a small part of history in the making. The bricks are 4″x8″, clay and have three 20 space lines to accommodate a custom-engraved individualized statement. Additionally, donors will receive a mini replica of the brick with a map showing location of the piece. Pretty nice, if you’re into history and being apart of a good cause.
If anything I encourage any with an interest in Mister Malcolm’s life to visit this birthsite today and in the future, when there should be a whole lot more to check out. Omaha may not be on your travel radar anytime soon – understood and if so visit the website: www.malcolmxfoundation.org for coming information. Another great resource for learning about Malcolm X is also this official Malcolm X website.
Now I have to get started reading this book and refreshing the mind of anything else it may have forgotten.
Signs mark the way to the historical site.
Bright sun rays shine down on the Malcolm X site.
Standing in front of the historical marker.
The area still has much work to be done, but I am hopeful it will happen and in the very near future.
Malcolm’s place. 3448 Pinkney Street, Omaha, NE.