The Loan from Malcolm X’s Sister

Ideas and Issues

NBE047471ew Orleans It is interesting how sometimes it is the little things that make such a huge difference.   Reading Malcolm X:  A Life of Reinvention I was struck by what might seem the smallest of insignificant details that turned out to impact certainly Malcolm’s life and perhaps had an impact of millions.

In the midst of Malcolm’s suspension and then withdrawal from the Nation of Islam, he was virtually stone broke, facing eviction from the home owned by the NOI, with a wife, three children and one on the way, he was trying to figure out where to go next with his work, his life, and the movement.  He ended up on a life changing journey to Africa where he participated in a hajj, one of the principal pillars of traditional Islamic religion by visiting Mecca, and visited other countries.   Being one of the pilgrims led him to reevaluate his views on race and the ability of whites to also unite in one vision, and perhaps change, just as he was changing.  Being in Africa moved his views as well to a larger plane.  The results were a seismic shift making Malcolm the figure of interest and inspiration he became to so many in the USA and around the world, and redirected his legacy and much else over the last more than 40 years.

All of that is well known.  What struck me though was a casual detail, easily overlooked in Manning Marable’s book.  Malcolm having no income, really, and at the time no organizational resources, really, was able to take this hajj and achieve this sea change only because he “manned up” and asked his half-sister in Boston with whom he had uneven and often a difficult relationship for a loan of $1300 to make it happen, and she somehow despite everything realized how important it might be and gave it over.

To me it is amazing how much turned on so little.  A million other, more likely, scenarios would seem possible in the way people, and even families, operate.

How can we ever fully understand the importance of resources in the work at every level? Some mouth the phrases about how every contribution counts, no matter how small or how large, but every once in a while we stumble on hard evidence of how simple, understated contributions can open doors, move minds and mountains, and change millions, or less dramatically, simply make the work and our life commitments to it possible.

Thanks to the late, Sister Ella Collins, and everyone like you, who come through every day when it matters.