February 21st marks the 49th anniversary of the assassination of El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, Omawale, “our Black Shining Prince,” Malcolm X. This year is also fifty years since Malcolm delivered The Ballot or the Bullet speech. Brother Malcolm made numerous speeches, and it is hard to imagine one that was not inspirational, informational and powerful. The two speeches that stand out for me are Message to the Grassroots and The Ballot or the Bullet. Frankly, nothing matches Message to the Grassroots for its conviction, searing logic, clarity, passion and power. It’s an awesome oration!
But, The Ballot or the Bullet is a milestone speech because it comes at a critical juncture in Malcolm’s political evolution and development. After his painful departure from the Nation of Islam, Malcolm is striving to assure his devoted followers that Black Nationalism is still the philosophy/ideology which guides his work. He is also setting the stage for a more active engagement in the “civil rights movement” by offering a critique of the Capitalist political economy and its dominant political parties, the Democrats and Republicans. The Ballot or the Bullet signals a transition in Malcolm’s evolution, one which witnesses him seeking to build Muslim Mosque, Inc. and the Organization of Afro-American Unity as independent structures to advance his vision of Black liberation. Tragically, Malcolm was cut-down before his vision could reach fruition. Nonetheless, it may be useful to examine the tenets articulated in this speech to assess their relevance fifty years later. (New Pittsburgh Courier)