ROBERT HAYDEN’S POEM “EL-HAJJ MALIK SHABAZZ” PAYING HOMAGE TO MALCOLM X

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[Black History Month\Robert Hayden\Honoring Malcolm X]
"Allah pledged to wrest him from the hellward-thrusting hand of Calvin's Christ-to free him and his kind from Yakub's white-faced treachery...He rose renewed renamed, became much more than there was time for him to be."
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[Black History\Poetry]

Robert Hayden (August 4, 1913 – February 25, 1980) was an educator, poet, and essayist who was born in Detroit, Michigan. He was the first African-American U.S. Poet Laureate.

In the following Hayden poem El-hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X), Hayden pays homage to Malcolm X, who was killed inside Harlem's Audubon Ballroom on February 21, 1965.

In honor of Black History Month, the Black Star News will be featuring speeches, interviews, poetry, etc. all month from important figures who fought for Black liberation and who represent the Black experience with honor.

El-hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X) by Robert Hayden

O masks and metamorphoses of Ahab, Native Son

I

The icy evil that struck his father down

and ravished his mother into madness

trapped him in violence of a punished self

struggling to break free.

 

As Home Boy, as Dee-troit Red,

he fled his name, became the quarry of

his own obsessed pursuit.

 

He conked his hair and Lindy-hopped,

zoot-suited jiver, swinging those chicks

in the hot rose and reefer glow.

 

His injured childhood bullied him.

He skirmished in the Upas trees

and cannibal flowers of the American Dream--

but could not hurt the enemy

powered against him there.

II

Sometimes the dark that gave his life

its cold satanic sheen would shift

a little, and he saw himself

floodlit and eloquent;

yet how could he, "Satan" in The Hole,

guess what the waking dream foretold?

 

Then false dawn of vision came;

he fell upon his face before

a racist Allah pledged to wrest him from

the hellward-thrusting hand of Calvin's Christ-

to free him and his kindfrom Yakub's white-faced treachery.

He rose redeemed from all but prideful anger,

though adulterate attars could not cleanse

him of the odors of the pit.

III

He X'd his name, became his people's anger,

exhorted them to vengeance for their past;

rebuked, admonished them,

 

their scouger who

would shame them, drive them from

the lush ice gardens of their servitude.

 

Asalam alaikum!

 

Rejecting Ahab, he was Ahab's tribe.

"Strike through the mask!"

IV

Time, "The martyr's time," he said.

Time and the karate killer,

knifer, gunman. Time that brought

ironic trophies as his faith

 

twined sparking round the hole,

the fruit of neo-Islam.

"The martyr's time."

But first, the ebb time pilgrimage

toward revelation, hejira to

his final metamorphosis;

Labbayk! Labbayk!

He fell upon his face before

Allah the raceless in whose blazing Oneness all

were one. He rose renewed renamed, became

much more than there was time for him to be.

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