Tag Archive: louis farrahkhan


 

obiwan

I don’t believe anything says more about where I’m at going into this Ramadan, than the fact that for the first time, I have no major vices to give up.

All three dimensions that I feel define ‘Malik Aziz’ are peaking, and they’re all very visible (for all of the definitions of me as ‘super mysterious/secretive’).

As far as my ‘GQ cover boy movie star’ side goes, I’m crazy excited for you to see the project I’ve been prepping.  I can’t say much about it without ruining the joke, but it’s another of those short, layered pieces that I feel are part of my ‘signature.’  If ‘Lady’ showed off my dramatic side, this one really establishes my comedic voice.  Strongly.  I had planned to have it shot already but life got in the way.  The music is done (thanks Jermaine!), I have the cast and crew I love, this is going to be nice.  I was aiming for the end of the summer, but the return of ‘Greenlight’ might have moved up when I want to shoot this…

As far as my ‘spiritually grounded citizen of the world’ side goes, the most joyful part of my life right now is doing as much as I’m able to affect others.  The higher profile work I do with the SAG Foundation and BookPALs, the off the radar work I do that’s more individual and directly affects people on an individual level.  Once I found my own peace and I started asking ‘what else?’, the advice that stuck with me (from Farrahkhan as some of you recall) was to recommit to serving others who don’t have/will never have the breaks I was given.  And I’ve only just begun.

As far as my ‘romantic clown’ side goes, that element is enjoying this extended peace.  Some of you pick up on it through our ‘social media’ relationship, some of you who know me in ‘real life’ sense it in my attitude and overall demeanor.  My very proud individuality surely played its part in how long it’s taken for me to find my ‘comfort zone’, so did starting my romantic life as an African-American Muslim artist living in Kansas (that’s really it’s own movie isn’t it?), but I think the combination of natural maturity and life experience (learning what works and what doesn’t), and let’s be honest, not a perfect love life but more importantly not having any “You took 5 to 10 years out of my life that I can’t get back” experience, I’ve remained optimistic. And it’s paid/paying off.  Another benefit of patience I guess: without spending a lot of time going in another direction, that ‘grass is greener’ mentality is gone.  Said another way: the women in my life that I choose to go all in with relationship wise are the women who very obviously want to be a part of my life.  That young mentality, chasing someone who’s toying with you or who lets you know pretty straight out ‘You’re not my type’; now my attitude toward women like that is still polite, but also very definitely, ‘I believe you.’

I took the longest way possible to say ‘I’ve found my type’ didn’t I?  (laughing) Well, you get it.

In the past I’ve used Ramadan as a reason to go into complete seclusion.  Those days have passed as well.  Being the three dimensional 21st century hippie that I am means there’s no longer an offseason to being a world citizen.  So my LA friends, I hope I’ll continue to see you over the next month even if my energy level may be low until the evening hours.  For my Muslim brothers and sisters around the world, I pray for a blessed Ramadan for you as I’m sure you do for me.

And the rest of you…have a good weekend!

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aliesquire

Alright, let’s start here.  I fully acknowledge I’m WAY too invested emotionally in this one.  So I’m not going to try to tell you this is the ‘best’ of the several great Ali documentaries.  It’s easily one of my favorites though.

And why?  Because THIS is the one that finally tries to go into detail about ‘the Exile Years’: everyone knows Ali gave up part of his prime because he wouldn’t go to Vietnam.  But whereas pretty much all the other stories give you that one line summary in the context of his athletic career as the Greatest, ‘The Trials of Muhammad Ali’ goes in the other direction, using the boxing career as the dressing in the story of this uniquely American life.

So a lot of the basics of his athletic life is the setup: the boy from Louisville, Olympic gold medalist, supreme confidence from the beginning.  While this is going on, the viewer is introduced to the Nation of Islam. Point one for the film: whatever your feelings on the Elijah Muhammad brand of Islam, you (should) get why his teachings struck such a strong chord with urban blacks (among them of course, a young man by the name of Malcolm X).  Clay winning the title is near the beginning of the rift between Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad; Ali siding with Elijah and Malcolm’s assassination set the stage for the real story of this film.

The Ali of my lifetime is very much a hero, but refusing to go into the Army (even in a symbolic way like Joe Louis), it’s a sacrifice I still can’t imagine.  Millions of dollars and the prime of your career.  Everyone wants to criticize athletes today for not taking stands like this, but hell, I don’t know many people in any walk of life that principled.  Score another point for the film in how it humanized Ali during this stage; he wasn’t an icon just yet, but a still pretty young kid unsure if he was making the right decision. He was a smooth talker promoting fights, but learning how to connect with the college audiences who were often not Muslim or black but who supported his stance; that was a process.

The technicality the Supreme Court used to overturn his conviction (a story I never knew in detail, another point for the film) is really quite hilarious; you have to love lawyers I guess.    After that, it’s the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’, and, I’m guessing you know the rest.

A must see if you’re any kind of Muhammad Ali fan; the film starts airing on PBS next month.

Stokely Carmichael. Assata Shakur. Angela Davis. Bobby Seale. Huey P. Newton.  For my generation, if you grew up around a certain dynamic those are all names you knew and heard about often, without living through the Experience.  “The Black Power Mixtape” is a well-edited documentary that casts an eye on what those times were like in the Movement and the connections that have resonated with the next generation.

Narrated in sections by artists Talib Kweli, Erykah Badu, and Questlove, “The Black Power Mixtape” is visually made up of archival news footage from Sweden(?!?), as a group of young journalists came to this country during that time to try to grasp what the Civil Rights Movement was all about.  At the time where this film begins, John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers had already been killed, and the assassinations of Dr. King and Robert Kennedy finished the job of wiping out the optimism of the country.  With Vietnam’s unpopularity on the rise, the climate was rise for a more radical approach.

(On a side note, I believe it was Questlove who conspiracy theoried that the reason King was killed when he was killed was because he was the first outspoken leader against Vietnam AND, as he was doing in Memphis, he was now marching less against race and moreso against class with the Poor People’s Campaign.  I’m paraphrasing but the quote was ‘You want to ride in the front of the bus, OK. You want to cause a fuss for the military and financial institutions?  Nah… Interesting to think about in light of the “Occupy…” movement that’s going now.  Maybe today’s movement is better off without a ‘leader’?  Back to topic…)

The Black Panthers are probably the best known group to emerge out of the 70s discontent.  When J. Edgar Hoover declared their Free Breakfast Program the greatest internal threat to national security (God I hope this is portrayed in the movie about to come out), the lines were clearly drawn.  The incarceration of Angela Davis covers the second act of the film.  The first ‘must see’ clip of the film is when a reporter goes to visit Professor Davis in prison to ask her about the situation. The poor guy was probably sincere in his naivete (being from another country), but Angela Davis’ incredulous response to someone not knowing the history of violence against Blacks in this country is highly entertaining/motivating.  I know without researching it that’s there no way in hell that interview played on American television at the time (if ever before now).

The second must see clip the film provides is of a babyfaced Louis Farrakhan.  Seriously I barely recognized him before he started talking.  Only a few years after Malcolm’s assassination, the young minister shows the ‘polish’ that would soon after reunite the factions in the Nation and begin his own ascent on a larger scale.  It’s another of those interviews that I guess I should have known existed somewhere; it’s interesting to see in the context of this film.

In a sad ‘full circle’, the film begins with the communal depression from the murders of every national leader, and the film ends with the seeds being planted for the drug epidemic that would cripple the black community in the 80s.  I’m a little surprised the film didn’t mention how Huey Newton himself was a casualty, but they probably didn’t have any footage of it.

“The Black Power Mixtape” is available On Demand on many cable outlets.

 

It’s the 4th of July weekend, so what’s my gift to you faithful reader?  A book review of the in the news book about Malcolm X!  Say it with me: USA! USA! USA!

As someone who was influenced/inspired by Malcolm’s life, I had a keen interest in all the stories/rumors/gossip I heard about what was in this ‘definitive’ story on the life of Malcolm X.  The death of the author/historian right before the book’s publish was a nice twist of irony (since as many of you know Malcolm died without seeing his ‘Autobiography’ in finished form.)  But what about the stories about the man himself?  Well…

In my opinion at least, nearly all of those stories were overblown.  That’s not to say there wasn’t several times while reading the book where I said ‘Whoa!’ or ‘Damn!’, but in the context of (any) man’s entire life, the more gossip-y elements of the research seem incredibly small.  I won’t repeat the allegations here because a) the most damning stuff involves his and Betty’s personal lives and b) I have to admit, tying that aspect of his life into the book made it more readable.

So has my opinion of the man changed (that would be the million dollar question with any biography I think)?  Yes, but maybe not in the way you would think.  Whether it was Marable’s intent or not, he made Malcolm incredibly sympathetic in his final years.  His political/religious transformation is part of the public record, you tie in the personal stress of essentially being homeless and completely broke, and the fleshed out theories of how many people inside and outside his circles may have been complicit in his murder, and it’s tragic. It’s just tragic.

You know who comes out of this book looking better?  Farrahkhan.  He’s always taken a level of responsibility for creating the atmosphere that made Malcolm’s murder an inevitability, but denied direct involvement.  And this thoroughly researched book backs up that claim.

But evidently there’s still hundreds of FBI, CIA, and NYPD files on Malcolm (and in particular what those groups were aware of on February 21, 1965), so chances are we’ll never know the whole story.  Regardless, Marable’s book is fascinating and a must read if you have any interest in Malcolm X.