Tag Archive: malcolm x


Where to begin?

I finally made it to the Playboy Jazz Festival this year. I finally made it to Strawberry Fields. I had a strong feeling that John was going to play ‘Continuum’ live at the Forum, but I was too deep in the eye of the hurricane at that moment to go to that show.

But, because it’s 2019, one of my good friends live streamed the performance so I was sort of able to experience it live anyway.

I’m forever connected to my favorite city to visit and won one of the biggest awards of my professional life there. Telling a story about a black family. An angry black family. I was reminded I have always had friends in Gotham and places to crash whenever I feel like visiting. I took the train to pay my respects to Malcolm and Betty. I’ve outlived my hero now and may be at the beginning of my legacy to the community.

‘1 out of 30’ is the very public thing, but my success means I try to plant the next seeds immediately. I generally don’t go for announcing charity work, but I was able to ‘help’, however small, in the black Muslim community, in Syria, in other places, in a way I haven’t before.

I visited my favorite city to visit of my youth where I now have friends, which gives me a new incentive to go back more often. I’ve done New Years Vegas, the Vegas Show, the Bachelor/’Hangover’ weekend, UFC Vegas weekend. Now it’s about Fam. As it should be at this point in life.

The professional pedestals I was put on are nice; many of you have embarrassed me by reminding me you put me on a pedestal a LONG time ago. When I appreciated the flattery, but I just wanted to be an anonymous twenty something free to make the same mistakes that other twentysomethings could make without lifelong repercussions. Someone asked me recently if I regretted not holding myself to this standard sooner, and the answer was an immediate no. I needed to figure out how to laugh everyday. I had to figure out how to have fun and enjoy myself when so many things are designed or set up for me to not win. When so much of just living as myself in this business I’m passionate about and in this country I call home is just flat out depressing. I had to figure out the difference between ‘I get along with pretty much everyone’ and ‘these are the people who are passionately in my corner, who choose me and who fight for me, even when I’m not in the room’.

Now we’re here. Malik X as the young homies call me. Overwhelmed with gratitude one more time this year as I reflect on how blessed I am, and burning with passion to completely live up to the potential of all those who believe in me.

Onward.

‘Oh Allah, if you know this matter to be good for me in my faith, my livelihood, and the end result of my affair, then decree it for me, make it easy for me, and then bless it for me. And if you know this matter to be bad for me, my faith, my livelihood, and end result of my affair, then turn it away from me, and me away from it. Decree for me what is good, whatever it may be, and then make me satisfied with it.’ – Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

I have a warm relationship with both of my parents in their twilight years. ‘I Love You Black Man’ is both a statement and a way to live among my inner circle. That feeling of ‘I got you, you’re not alone’ between myself and my allies in the Community is stronger than ever.

This has been the first year, where 24/7/365 I’ve met my own standard for who I aspire to be, as a Muslim, a Black Man, a world citizen. Insha’Allah (God willing) the first of many more years still to come. Many of you have picked it up in the way I talk, the way I carry myself: I will not lose my family, my friends, my allies, my people, or my reputation by doing something I know I shouldn’t be doing. Not anymore.

Even when everything in this country, in pop culture, in this specific life I’ve chosen, has been designed to turn me against my own identity and question my self-worth, every time I’ve gone (or been advised) to go over a line that had the very real potential of permanently turning me against the people I love, or the people who love me, I knew to stop. I’ve made references over the past couple of years of my struggle to understand my own fortune. Now the answer is obvious.

Faith. And this was the year my faith became absolute.

I’ll borrow from one of Malcolm’s signature statements to describe the full ownership of my Calling as I enter this Ramadan:

If I die, knowing I have left the vast majority of people who have crossed my path in a better place than I have found them; if I have made just one person looks at Muslims, and the religion of Islam, in a more positive light, than all the credit is due to Allah, the Lord of all the Worlds. Only the mistakes have been mine.

Sincerely,

Abdul-Malik Raushaun Abdul-Aziz

(Malik Aziz)

Ramadan Mubarak.

I was worried I was catching this exhibit at the end of its L.A. run, but as it turns out, it’s here til September 1st.

For the L.A. folks, if you haven’t made it down to the Broad lately, I can’t recommend enough ‘Soul of a Nation’. The exhibit covers several decades of black art (up to the present), and how artists specifically have tried to use their platforms to express their own feelings of isolation and rebellion.

There are pieces that reference Dr. King of course. I was naturally drawn to the pieces that referenced Malcolm, Angela Davis and Fred Hampton. Even the photographs and some of the Black Panther materials are interesting to see for those of us too young to have lived through that time (even if you don’t think of them as ‘art’ in the traditional sense.)

I still feel fired up just thinking about it. Again, the exhibit will be here til September 1st; if you get a chance and you’re in town, must see.

 

shaykh

The official answer to it all is, ‘It is the will of Allah.’

If I go before I resurface next month, Surah 2, verse 286 should be on the front of the program: ‘Allah imposes not on any soul a duty beyond its scope.’

When my mind is quiet though, (which is often now), I feel incredibly fortunate.

At least once a day as of late, I’ve felt overwhelmed with gratitude.

A lifetime (really two lifetimes at this point) worth of experiences that let my family and my people live vicariously through things I could do and places I could go has turned on me; now I have feelings of guilt that I’ve come out of the other end, and somehow, for all the honest mistakes and reckless things I’ve done, I avoided the backbreaking choice that would have put me into a hole I couldn’t climb out of.

This will sound absurd to some, but I don’t know sometimes how I’ve avoided doing anything to turn my bloodline permanently against me.

This will sound absurd to some, but I don’t know how I avoided being reckless to the point of turning my Muslim people against me forever.

The people who don’t represent the same thing I represent but who respect what I’m about; I am embarrassed on a daily basis by how flush I am in genuine relationships.  I continue to do better, but I’ve also come to accept it’s just impossible for me to spend time with everyone I’m cool with.

Leading into this Ramadan, I’ve also accepted that if the law of averages hasn’t derailed me yet, I don’t intend to ruin my own plans.

The peak version of ‘Malik Aziz’ is somewhere in the spectrum between post Mecca Malcolm (part of the world Ummah but sensitive to the concerns of the community I was born into) and Denzel (no desire to be ‘a minister’, but I can use my life and my art and my reputation as the best possible selling point of the type of person my community is capable of creating).

24/7/365 now I hold myself to that standard.  There’s not a lot more to be gained by wondering why life seemed to wait for me to catch up to what I’m trying to achieve.  It’s just time to go for it.

All praise is due to Allah, only the mistakes have been mine.

 

 

livingcolour

One more song…

This is darkly comic now, but in my deep dive of Malcolm’s life there was a 48 hour period last week where I was listening to the full audio of ‘Message to the Grassroots’, and ‘the Ballot or the Bullet’, then Kanye went public calling a slavery a choice and I swear…

Sunday I’ll go into detail about where my head is at before the social media fast.

Have a good weekend.

 

 

kenobi

His birthday just passed, but Malcolm has been on my mind a lot heading into this Ramadan.  Not Spike’s dramatization of his life.  Not even Malcolm’s own dramatization, as expressed in the Autobiography.  I’m referring to the thorough breakdown provided in Manning Marable’s great book.

After he was gone, Malcolm’s legacy continues to grow internationally and it’s certainly everlasting.  But in his final days, he was all too aware the organization he gave his adult life to was trying to kill him.  The federal government had its eyes and ears on him (much closer than he probably realized).  He’s still one of the best orators and fundraisers for his cause, but in the immediate aftermath of his life, he left very little for his children financially.  At the end of the day, even the best among us are still human: what does carrying all that stress do to a man’s psyche?

God’s Plan for me to this point has played out as a series of ‘lessons learned from my heroes’: I’m more popular than I ever intended to be, but still have an extremely small inner circle, built on decades of trust and drama free bonding.  Financial stability taking priority over building a family.  The President of the United States is an overt Islamaphobe, but day by day the Resistance meets him with the checks and balances built in the system.

Hope, for the future.

Something I heard this week really struck a chord with me: You can’t be a person of faith and question God’s timing in the same breath.

As I’ve spent the past year locking back into my path, I’ve felt a lot of anger over time lost.  But I can’t have it both ways.  Human emotion shouldn’t be repressed, but at the same time, I shouldn’t let the scope of my ambition blind me to the progress that’s being made toward the endgame.  Even if I’m frustrated with the pace.

God’s timing.  Will of the Force. Trust the Process.  By whatever name you call it, I’ve improved on accepting things as they are (for now) and not as how I think they should be in my mind’s eye.  I’m still here, there’s still time.  I feel balanced in both my personal ambitions and also in doing what I can to serve the generation coming up behind me.

Good mindset to start Ramadan.

See you in June.

 

2016

Taking stock of the past twelve months…

For the first time (within one calendar year), I auditioned as Othello, Dr. King, and Malcolm X for different stage productions across town. Malcolm came post-November, and it was ‘Nation of Islam Minister Malcolm X’ at that.  I would have given Denzel a run for his money that day!  I’m comfortably in my sweet spot with the character types I excel in.  And it’s starting to mesh with the characters people see in me when I walk in the room and do a monologue.  Good times.

Private life feels settled for the first time in years as well.  There’s the Family, there’s the ‘Fam’, there are friends and there are work friends.  Current events have reinforced the natural bonds between myself and those with a common religious identity, a common racial experience; common politics or just a common vibe with how we look at the world.  More goodness.

One of the first things I took from Stella Adler is still one of the best: “Your aim should be to have a life that includes playing the part…”  Not the other way around.  My defining story of 2016, I don’t think anyone involved will be put out by me sharing this…

I got an invite about a possible job with the Los Angeles Lakers.  My Lakers.  They were looking for someone passionate about the franchise, comfortable with the camera and with live crowds, who they could trust to not talk about grabbing pussies on a hot mic.  They thought I might be a good fit.

But here was the issue: one of my brothers was getting married on the same timeline they needed to see me.  And I was in the wedding party.

Now, when I was say, 25? Would I have burned a personal relationship to the ground for a potential dream job opportunity?  Some of you know the answer to that better than others (and will never let me forget it).

But I’m not that guy anymore.  Haven’t been for years.  The wedding weekend was an experience, and of course the Lakers understood the timing was just bad, so long term they appreciated my professionalism while getting a peek into my value system as a man.  My ego was bruised for a couple days (no need to lie about that), but I did the right thing.

And not that I needed the Universe to further validate me, but not too long after that, my Hollywood patrons reached out to me out of the blue and gave me a part on one of their projects.  So you can look forward to seeing your boy in front of the camera again next summer.  If not sooner.

I haven’t always had the gift of relationship building, but I’ve learned. I’m always learning and still love doing so.

So in the year I’ll always remember for my house being completely put in order, I look outside (or in 2016, I log on) and…yeah.  The goodbyes this year have felt especially hard (like the two beloved people up top, just for starters).  Things seem especially dark on the world stage.  I have no naive optimism for you going into the next year.  Just a renewed commitment to do the right thing, even if it seems like it’s going to be harder than ever to do so.

Onward and Upward.  See you in 2017.

 

X

Ladies and gentlemen, live from Coachella…

Kamasi Washington.

Enjoy!

 

 

HeadofHousehold

When I was about to get married, one of the marriage counseling things was giving this questionnaire to your aces to help you understand your strengths and weaknesses.  The theory being, the people who love you unconditionally both know you the best and you know their critiques of you come from a good place.

I’m paraphrasing here, but one of my aces critiques of me was essentially, he had no doubt I’d be a great husband and father, but when you fully transition into that ‘head of the household’ role, they’re aren’t any more off days when you can just go off and do whatever you want.  Your wife will always be dependent on you in certain ways, your children will be watching you 24/7/365 as the example of what they’re supposed to be (or not be).  So while it was admirable in a way I didn’t project myself as a ‘leader’ to stroke my own ego, the responsibility of that role was something I would have to fully embrace in my next chapter.

Needless to say, I had never been so insulted in my life, and I never talked to that dude again.

(Kidding…)

I never wanted to be a minister. Not because of a lack of faith or understanding of what I was reading, I’ve always felt fairly confident in those things.  It was something else.  When people would argue that religious leaders take advantage of people with low self esteem and use them for personal gain, it was hard for me to call that an outright lie.  In my adulthood, I’ve found few things that draw my disdain more than hearing about some embezzlement, or sexual abuse, or a suicide bomber story that has the money quote, ‘He/she went to these people for guidance…’

Even if ‘religion’ is naturally flawed because it’s man made, that doesn’t mean the world isn’t filled with plenty of good pastors, rabbis, imams, nuns, priests, monks and other good leaders who don’t fall under any easily crafted label but who work for the betterment of mankind.  Long before this election cycle became a circus, I fully embraced my own voice and role as a People’s Champion. (And the longer you’ve known me, the more you know it’s been a journey.)  I’m not remotely this calculating, but like my hero pictured above, I’ve had a full life being ‘out there’, doing things a part of me knew I shouldn’t be doing in the first place, and I don’t run from my past.  Now though, I represent so many things, sometimes multiple things at once.  I fully embrace the responsibility that comes with being ‘on’ all the time, to suck it up on the bad days and push forward, to present myself as someone people can point to and say ‘that’s one of the guys we can take pride in.’  To carry myself as if the whole world is watching.

In 2016, you never know…

malcolm-x-happy-birthday-e1337446307128

Happy Birthday Malcolm.