Unforgettable: Malcolm X on the BBC


Malcolm X remains a cultural icon whose resonance has persisted, if not grown, during the half century since his assassination. To listen to Malcolm speak, to share in his ideas is to find someone whose thoughts and ideas are as relevant today as they were to his contemporaries. Swap out the references to 'Negros' with 'African-Americans' and you could be listening to a TED speaker on the internet.

In many ways it can be taken as a depressing fact: Malcolm's relevance endures because although things have changed in the intervening years, things have not changed enough. Or to use a phrase his French-speaking mother Louise Little might have recognised ~

~ Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose ~

~ The more things change, the more they stay the same ~

Another interpretation of today's reality is that Malcolm spoke out of his time, and into ours; that he was not just a product of his own age, but a product of the hundreds of years of oppression and exploitation of a people. Set against that timeframe, a brief 50 years further of unpicking society's hardwired racial injustice does not seem that long. We are reminded that there is still much work to be done before we reach equality for all. If we listen, even a little, act, even a little, there is surely hope.

Last week BBC Radio 4 concluded their series 'Unforgettable', a series of time-travelling conversations between people, with Malcolm X and Rodnell Collins, his nephew. (Rodnell is the son of Malcolm's oldest half-sister Ella). In the programme Rodnell's questions to his illustrious uncle are spliced with archive of Malcolm's thoughts about the issues of the day pressing down on his community.

It's a rich vehicle for discussion and worth a listen, or three. You can get it here until mid-September 2016.

Rodnell Collins wrote a book about his Uncle Malcolm. Titled 'Seventh Son: A Family Memoir of Malcolm X' it can be found here.

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