It was another gathering to hear Malcolm X speak to the crowd about liberation and fighting an unjust system. With the momentum and controversy that he carried with him, there was always a hint of danger, but no one ever thought they'd see what was about to unfold in front of them. Crowding into the Audubon Ballroom on West 165th Street in the Washington Heights neighborhood in Manhattan, the date, February 21, 1965 was about to be written into the history books while the actions behind it would be destined to be shrouded in mystery for decades to come.
During the start of the speech, the infamous setup was put into motion. “Hey get your hands off my wallet!” One voice shouts.
“We got a thief,” shouted another. As Malcolm tried to calm the situation, a couple men stepped forward and began firing. His wife Betty Shabazz and their children witnessed the 39 year old leader gunned down before their very eyes and pandemonium ensued. For years people wondered who was behind it it wasn’t until the 1970’s what the public learned about J Edgar Hoover and the Cointel Pro operations that were heavily invested in surveillance of African Americans, Leftists, and other groups of color that were deemed a threat to the US Government. Yes Crack being flooded into Los Angeles in the 1980’s was also a part of this operation.
Although it’s still met by much speculation, a lot of suspicion about who was behind it has been pointed at the FBI and the Nation of Islam which both viewed Malcolm as a threat, especially after he had returned from Mecca and appeared to hold an ideology that wasn’t so separatists. While we may never find the truth behind it, I point towards Malcolm’s bodyguard, Gene Roberts who was later discovered to be apart of the NYPD who was undercover the whole time. Of course ultimately they took down a man named Talmadge X Hayer who went by the name Mujahid Abdul Halim, who was the other voice heard and ironically the man who met with Muhammad Ali the night before the assassination even though he thought Ali was one of the biggest threats to the Nation and the country. Talmadge Hayer has been a free man since 2010. What about Eugene though? It appears him along with four co-conspirators had sought to create a sense of unity from this deliberate disaster which apparently had been in the works since 1963 after the Nation suspended Malcolm for saying President Kennedy’s assassination was simply the chickens coming home to roost. Another rumor for this says that since Gene Roberts had the NYPD arrest others who were proven to not even be there for the crime, he stayed in the shadows. It has been said that he was one of the first that was instrumental in taking down the Black Panther Party a few years later after 17 year old Bobby Hutton was killed. Panther member Fred Hampton’s death followed, surprisingly after he got the Sons of Appalachia to work with the party over workers rights.
I often wonder if this case will ever be solved beyond a reasonable doubt? I have no faith in it though because it would mean the system that killed him would have to expose their own dirty hands in the act. But it’s because of this sense of benign neglect for this particular period in history that leads us to where we are now. Fighting many of the same battles with a rather fractured point of view. I could go on talking about the plight that Black and Brown people face on a daily, but until we come together as one unified voice, we are destined to play into their divide and conquer schemes as they slowly but surely erase our movements from the books of history.
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