U.S. News

05.10.13

The Tragedy of the Malcolm X Family: Grandson Malcolm Shabazz Killed in Mexico

The death of the civil rights leader’s grandson marks the third generation in which the family has lost a member violently. Journalist and activist Herb Boyd, who first met Malcolm X in 1958, on the latest tragedy.

Since the first reports that Malcolm Shabazz had been killed, there has been a series of confusing accounts, and there are sure to be more as his death is investigated.

The latest reports from Talking Points Memo confirms the State Department’s report that a U.S. citizen was killed in Mexico on Thursday.  While the State Department did not disclose the victim’s name, noted activist Terrie Williams, a close associate of the Shabazz family, told the Amsterdam News it was Shabazz who was killed.

According to the account on TPM from Juan Ruiz, a member of Rumec, a labor organization, Shabazz “was murdered. He was in Mexico City and I believe they attempted to rob him and he didn’t allow it, so they beat him to death and he died on his way to the hospital,” said Ruiz. “This is all I can confirm, everything else is under investigation for the meantime.”

Ruiz’s account was secondhand from his associate Miguel Suarez who was actually traveling with Shabazz and provided the information to Ruiz.

With the confirmation of Malcolm Lateef Shabazz’s death, it marks the third generation in which the family has lost a member violently. Malcolm X’s father, Earl Little, was killed by the Black Legion or the Ku Klux Klan in 1931. As Malcolm X recalled in his autobiography, “Negroes in Lansing have always whispered that he was attacked, and then laid across some tracks for a streetcar to run over him. His body was cut almost in half.”

He also related that three of his father’s brothers were also killed by white men in Georgia, which prompted his father to leave the state.

Malcolm’s body was riddled with bullets by assassins on February 21, 1965, as he prepared to address an audience at the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights.

Along with the tragic deaths in the family’s patrilineal line, Betty Shabazz was killed in 1997 by a fire in which her grandson, Malcolm Shabazz, was accused and convicted of setting.

The death of Shabazz at 28 makes him the youngest in the family to have his life end so violently. His grandfather was 39, still in the prime of his life, and on the road to even greater success after meaningful contacts with world leaders in Africa and the Middle East.

As the son of Qubilah Shabazz, Malcolm Shabazz was apparently in the process of putting his life on a positive and productive path, attending the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and writing his memoirs. But now the family has to deal with yet another devastating setback.

During a 2012 interview with Aliya King for NewsOne.com, Malcolm agreed to be photographed to show his resemblance to his grandfather, including posing with a hat, ring, and rifle, staring from a window.

He had very little to say, but did add these comments. “I am [my grandfather’s] first male heir, his first grandson. [I’ve read and been told that] he always wanted a son. No boys in the Shabazz family until me. I used to think [Malcolm X] was my father. My mother told me that. I would ask and she would show me pictures of her father and tell me it was my father. I can’t talk to her about him. Nothing in-depth. She acts like she doesn’t know about him. She was there. She was four years old and sitting right there [when he was killed]. I don’t think she’s ever recovered from that.”

In 2010, Malcolm Shabazz made the hajj to Mecca and last year it was erroneously reported that he had been arrested while attempting to travel to Iran. He had been arrested, the family said, but it had nothing at all to do with Iran.

Malcolm Shabazz was apparently in the process of putting his life on a positive and productive path, attending the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and writing his memoirs.

But Shabazz offers a different take on the situation, and in a long email circulated by Cynthia McKinney from her Facebook page, he speaks at length about his developing relationship with Iran, the persistent harassment from law enforcement agencies, and other political matters.

“I have lived & studied in Damascus, Syria, for over a year, and now the U.S. is instigating conflict within the very same region,” Shabazz wrote. “I went on ex-congresswoman/former presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney's delegation along with Dr. Randy Short to Libya, and met with Leader Muammar Gadhafi one week prior to N.A.T.O. intervention and I was most recently getting ready to travel to Tehran, Iran to be a participant of the International Fajr Film Festival and give a lecture addressing the issues of Hollywood and violence:  Modern Violence & Terrorism, provoking clashes between religions & populations. I was picked up by authorities after I filed for a visa to Iran, and 2 days prior to my departure.”

The investigation of his death continues as calls have been made to the consulate general’s office in Tijuana, Mexico, as well as an email seeking more information about his death.