Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Malcolm's example

For the friends who actually read this from time to time:

Sakina - yes, I will send your photos soon. Sorry, I honestly keep forgetting.

Well I am in New York now and have been here for about 3 months or so. This has been an extended transition period for me and now I'm really ready for things to start coming together so that I can get settled. But as we all know things don't always work out how we plan them and so we have to be patient and just keep trying. Plus, its the worst economy since the Depression, and that doesn't help anyone. I have to say though, when I get on the train and I see a white guy with a briefcase and an expensive suit, and the train is in lower Manhattan, I can't help but think that he's one of those evil bankers who caused this whole mess in the first place, which as usual, hurts the poorest of the poor the most. I once saw a homeless black guy start insulting this kind of guy, and in my head, I egged him on. 'That's right, tell him off!' Though it was more vulgar than that.

In other news its pretty great to be here in NY, mostly because of the filmmaking...thing. Is it a career? Well I hope it will be. I think this is a good place for me to be in, to do what I want to do, iA. All sorts of people are here, including a lot of very creative people, and its cool to make these connections and to continue learning. NY is also a place where tons of things get screened, and despite all my apprehensions about Google, I made a Google calendar of NY film screenings. Damn Google.

On the family front one of my brothers is in Turkey with his wife, and my other brother is going to visit them. I really wish I could go. Their pictures, emails, and blog posts are all really interesting and engaging and I can tell they're learning a lot from their experience abroad already.

I reread the Autobiography of Malcolm X. I first read it when I was 15 or 16. Man, it was a huge eye-opener then. That's the amazing and consistent power of that book. It has educated millions of people. This time, reading it for the 2nd time, I felt like I got to know Malcolm all over again. Since I already knew his story and his viewpoints on the black struggle, this time I was really fascinated by his personal character. One of the things that truly inspired me is that Malcolm was an incredibly smart man, with an eighth grade education. He became immensely intelligent and well-versed on innumerable issues because he practically read the whole prison library while in prison.

Specifically, there's a passage where he talks about China, and the history of China with Britain and the Opium Wars, and how China was then being presented in the 1960s' as the great evil Red China state (which still continues - coverage of Beijing Olympics anyone?). Malcolm analyzed how China, which had been oppressed by the West (Britain) for ages, was now seen as a major threat, mainly because of economics (funny how some things don't change). This passage really illustrated to me the depth and diversity of Malcolm's knowledge - and he gained all of it from reading books. Which has inspired me more than ever, to read as much as possible. Today I went to the library and instead of having a book in mind, I knew that now I could go to almost any section and pick a book, because I want to learn as much as possible. Everything is connected - as Malcolm knew and demonstrated.

I feel like its a blessing to have read his autobiography while in New York. I went to Harlem a few times and recognized some of the places that are mentioned in the book. I always just stand still and stare at the building or down the street, to take a moment and think about the history of the place and I'd imagine Malcolm walking down the street, entering a building, talking to people. Its awesome to be around these places that are mentioned in a book that you have in your bag. St Nicholas Avenue, the Apollo Theatre, 125th Street...the Audubon Ballroom. I also once passed Mosque Number 7, and again froze...

I got to meet Malaak, one of Malcolm's and Betty's youngest daughters, in February with Nura. Of course we were both completely floored and giddy, and we had a great time with her. It was astonishing to be in her presence, but she really comes off as being just like any other person, and is very warm and funny. I might attempt to put up my very brief interview with her online on this blog. Malaak was at a media conference I attended in DC, and this conference was specifically just for Muslims in media. I remember sitting there and she happened to pass by me after we all did our intros. She stopped, turned, and said "I want to talk to you" (it was because of the film festival). I saw her father's face in hers. Of course I was completely amazed and surprised that one of Malcolm's and Betty's daughters would want to talk to me of her own motivation.

Malcolm - we owe you so much.

That's it for now.