Sharif explained a basic history of Malcolm, including Malcolm X’s early years being involved with drugs and prostitutions, his conversion to nation of Islam while in prison, his eventual dissillusionment with Nation of Islam, and his eventual change of heart regarding whites and people of other faiths. In the end, Malcolm X realized that every faith has some members who are hypocrites, and his focus was on working alongside people who wanted to tackle the problems of the day, regardless of race or creed. Unfortunately this change of heart came only a year or so before he was assassinated by some Nation of Islam supporters.
Some friends wondered why Simple Free was inviting a Muslim to speak at our group. Some thought it was great. Sharif and the Malcolm X foundation have a heart and a mission for a part of Omaha just north of Gifford Park which most people ignore. We were challenged by the good things they are trying to do, and they are open to having the Malcolm X birthsite be utilized by other groups who have a desire to do good things in the neighborhood. Obviously we have differences in theology and faith, but we do have some common concern and common goals for our neighbors, and it is always encouraging and challenging to hear about the good work that others are doing. Sometimes its even more motivating to hear from those outside your own circles. You see what others are doing, and you think, “why aren’t we doing something like that?” or “how can we do positive things to contribute to that part of town?” so we think there is great benefit in hearing from people reaching out in the neighborhood.
Malcolm X was far from perfect. He was a man who lived fervently, lived during a time of great racism, and he altered his views over time as he experienced more and more. At times he was militant and said radical even violent things, but he was in some ways a product of his era. It would have been interesting to see what he could have done if he had had more life to live after he became more concilliatory towards those outside the Nation of Islam.
The Malcolm X foundation has an 11 acre plot of land which was previously overgrown and used illegally as a dump. Some different groups have come along to help clean it up, including UNO students and even a College Republicans group! People are often seeking it out, just to visit. It is a location which could be a destination for visitors to North Omaha. Sharif is more of a community builder than a monument builder though, and said that in some ways he would rather spend donor money on community projects for teens rather than a statue, but he realizes that there is some desire from visitors to have something more substantial at the site itself. Sharif has a lot of knowledge, and his wife has a strong spirit and had some great things to add. People stuck around until close to 10 asking questions and learning more about Malcolm X and the work Sharif is doing. We were fortunate to have them with us on our porch, and hopefully we will be able to work with them on projects in their neighborhood in the future. Here are some pictures of the Malcolm X birthsite, which is on the north side of Adams Park off of Bedford St.:
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