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Film
Title: Malcolm X
Director: Spike Lee
Starring: Denzel Washington

clip_image002Malcolm X is a 1992 adaptation of The Autobiography of Malcolm X (read my review) by Alex Haley and Malcolm X. The film begins with the depiction of the young Malcolm X in Boston and Harlem, along with his friend Shorty, and their involvement in burglary, drug dealing and prostitution. In flashbacks, the movie chronicles the life of Malcolm’s family before he was born and during his early childhood. His father was killed by the KKK (while it was said that he had committed suicide) and his mother was sent to a mental center. He was then separated from his siblings.

During a group robbery, Malcolm and his partners get sent to jail for 8-10 years, while his white female partners received 5 years in jail. After learning about the Nation of Islam and its teachings by one of the prisoners, Malcolm converts to the Nation of Islam while corresponding with the its minister, Elijah Mohammed. He educates himself in prison, and after leaving, becomes the main speaker of the movement, preaching Elijah Mohammed’s teachings of complete separation between whites and blacks, and that all whites were racists and enemies. However, Malcom’s feelings change after his pilgrimage to Mecca, where he was touched by seeing Muslims of all races and colors together. While preaching his new, flexible beliefs, he receives death threats and was ultimately assassinated.

Malcolm X is a very good movie, albeit being pretty long (3 and a half hours). Malcolm’s life before joining entering jail could have been shortened; I was more interested in his stint as an activist. His troubled young-adulthood was too detailed, in my opinion. We get that he was involved in all sorts of trouble. But the director, Spike Lee, who also played Shorty in the film, did a good job of showing Malcolm as an innocent young adult who just wanted to be cool, hypnotized by the “slave mind”, as Malcolm puts it. The film also depicted how Betty, Malcolm’s wife, sensed that he was in trouble even before Malcolm did. Since Malcolm revered Elijah Mohammed, it was difficult for him to imagine being betrayed by that person who changed his life.

I would recommend reading the book before watching the movie. The movie was very true to the book, and it was easy to follow. At the end of the movie, following real footage after Malcolm X’s assassination, Ossie Davis narrated Malcolm’s legacy and a scene with Nelson Mandela speaking to students about Malcolm X.

Malcolm’s story is a sad one, and showed that a person who wanted to change his/her society always suffered.

Malcolm X the film is available for rent and purchase on iTunes.

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In The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Alex Haley chronicles the story of the controversial civil rights leader, Malcolm X. In his youth, Malcolm X engaged in issues such as drugs, robberies and gambling. While spending time in prison for 5 years, Malcolm converted to the Nation of Islam, inspired by Elijah Mohammed, whom his siblings had told him about. Through spending time in jail, he changed his life by vigorously studying several subjects and completely changing his life habits. After he was released, Malcolm X worked for Elijah Mohammed to spread the Nation of Islam and later became a powerful speaker for black people’s rights.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X is a very rare and inspiring book. By showing the prejudice and racism Malcolm X faced since he was young, the reader understands what he advocates for more. I think that Malcolm X is a focused man with sharp perspective. His story is a remarkable one; he progressed from a “hustler” to a serious and educated person. He went through various changes in his life. While he was under the influence of Elijah Mohammed, who changed his life by introducing him to the Nation of Islam and later betrayed him, Malcolm X agreed and advocated that white people were “blue-eyed devils” and that they couldn’t help African Americans in their fight for equality. He was attacked for this, but his views changed after he visited Mecca. He came to the conclusion that problems could be overcome by brotherhood that not all whites were racist. He came to these conclusions on his own through experience. Although he may have said wrong things which he admitted to and later changed his views to the better and the wiser, the public still attacked him by calling him “reverse racist” and an extremist.

In the Autobiography, Malcolm X discusses the subtle and mixed feelings about color. He thought that his mother was specifically harsh on him because he was fair-skinned.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X is a very honest book. Malcolm X sparked anger and hatred because he revealed the hard truth about racism and had great faith in justice and truth:

““I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.””

He advocated for brotherhood because he understood that it was the only way to overcome racial barriers.

“I am in agreement one hundred percent with those racists who say that no government laws ever can force brotherhood”.

Malcolm X is an important figure because he reminded people that history cannot be forgotten or ignored, and reading his autobiography will increase one’s appreciation of Malcolm X and make one realize that what he preached was correctly said.

 

Malcolm X also said,

“I know that societies have often killed the people who have helped change these societies.”

http://www.malcolmx.com/index.html

book cover image: http://i43.tower.com/images/mm102134021/autobiography-malcolm-x-x-paperback-cover-art.jpg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malcolm_x

watch a PBS Documentary, Malcolm X: Make it Plain

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image: 101725293

Their Eyes were Watching God is a novel by the African American writer, Zora Neale Hurston. It is about a woman named Janie who becomes free after surviving three marriages, each one having its own problems. In the beginning, Janie is married to Logan Killicks when she is still a teenager by her grandmother, who thinks that the fate of black females is hopeless. She ends up living unhappily with a man who harshly tells her to work all the time. Then she marries Joe Starks, who becomes mayor of Eatonville, a black town. Although she lives a comfortable life, she is not allowed to engage in activities or talk with others and should represent the image the public wants her to see. Her third husband, Tea Cake, a confident, easy-going man, gives her more freedom as an independent person, engages in several activities with her which she would not have been able to do with her previous husbands, and takes her around the country

Their Eyes were Watching God raises several questions for the reader to think about. As the the wife of the mayor Joe Starks, her second husband, who cares only about how Janie appears in public and wants her to play a simple and docile role as a mayor’s wife, should Janie stay with him and enjoy the privilege of having a rich husband or should she leave him? In my opinion, the phonetic dialogue in the novel makes it a unique book, and really gave character to the persons in the novel.

I think that Janie finally becomes completely free and independent after her last husband Tea Cake’s death. Although Tea Cake treated her the best compared to her previous husbands and didn’t undermine her, Janie depended on him and went along with all his plans. She also worried a lot whenever he used to return home late. However, I don’t think it would’ve been possible for Janie to become fully independent without Tea Cake, who was the one who encouraged her and showed her how to be free. I think that Tea Cake was  one of the people whom Janie had to leave to become free. The death of Tea Cake was sad, since he played a large role in Janie’s personality and experience and had good intentions toward her, but if you look at the whole picture, Janie’s motive was to be free and fully independent. If every single one of her husbands was horrible, I guess that eaving them wouldn’t have been emotionally difficult for Jane. Tea Cake was a good person whom Janie had to leave (or in this case, kill in self defense), to reach her goal. When you are on an adventure to accomplish something, you meet good people and bad people. Unfortunately, it is especially difficult to leave the good people. Janie wouldn’t have left Tea Cake on her own. She wouldn’t have been who she was had it not been for him, and he had made a final act that proves his devotion to her. To get rid of Tea Cake and be free, Janie had to be in a “had-to” situation which could cost her her life. Although Janie shall always remember Tea Cake and appreciate him, she will gladly enjoy her self-made independence. Although Tea Cake was a loving husband, who got himself bitten by a dog (later receiving Rabies which led to his illness) in order to save Janie, he was still a burden to her. After shooting him to defend herself from his mania,  she felt some regret since he risked his life for her. Janie is better off without a husband.

http://zoranealehurston.com/

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