Reflecting upon the life, work and principles of Malcolm X is key-not only to the celebration of Black History Month, but to understanding humanitarian values that span across time, and geographical and cultural boundaries.
For this reason, Concordia’s Muslim Student’s Association (MSA) invited Yasin Dwyer to speak about Malcolm X-his life, his mission and his struggle.
The event, which attracted many students from Concordia as well as individuals from various parts of the community, was held on Feb. 20 in H-110. Members of the MSA also took this opportunity to raise funds by selling food at the entrance of the lecture hall.
The life of Malcolm X signifies an inspirational struggle to eradicate racism against African Americans, and to invoke pride among his people. This was the main message of Dwyer, an alumni of Concordia, who spoke passionately about Malcolm X in his roles as a political, social, spiritual and family man. Dwyer was born and raised in Canada, and is of Jamaican parentage.
Having specialized in Islamic and African history while at Concordia, he traveled to Morocco, where he studied Islamic sciences. Currently a correctional counselor and father of four in Ottawa, Dwyer has lectured widely on civil rights movements while traveling across North America.
Considering himself a ‘student’ rather than an ‘expert,’ Dwyer emphasized that his talk was both a reflection and a celebration of Malcolm X.
He began his talk with a short video clip, followed by a recitation of the Muslim prayer. He then discussed the various events in the life of Malcolm X, which shaped his purpose and his ideology. Dwyer posed the question, “Why should we study the life of Malcolm X?” to which he replied he was a “great historical figure who outgrew any specific identification.”
Malcolm X is known for his “universal appeal to many different people,” although he has often been misrepresented. Dwyer further emphasized Malcolm X’s heroic stature, which resulted from creating a positive image for his people during a time of hostility, intense discrimination and injustice.
Embedded within this struggle, was an effort to reclaim the Islamic tradition in North America.
Dwyer explained the way in which Malcolm X’s membership in the Nation of Islam and his pilgrimage to Mecca, marked his ‘awakenings’ and consequently impacted his life and work.
His spiritual experiences enabled him to acquire a renewed understanding of the ways in which to deal with humanity, and helped him to find psychological comfort about ‘who he was.’ According to Dwyer, Malcolm X saw within Islam, an answer to racism; he “built bridges within the Muslim community and the wider revolutionary community.”
In the wake of contemporary media portrayals of figures such as Malcolm X and a “collapsing of such individuals to convenient phrases,” Dwyer emphasized the need to understand and examine his legacy.
He concluded his lecture by stating that Malcolm X gave us an “educational legacy” which internationalized the struggle of African Americans, while demonstrating that his education was “completely for his people.”