Sunday, February 25, 2007

I Have a Dream Detroit

Detroit has seen and heard from such sparkling orators as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and, most recently, Louis Farrakhan, the current (and recuperating) leader of the Nation of Islam who speaks again in Detroit today at Ford Field, site of last year's Super Bowl.

Malcolm Little (5/19/1925-2/21/1965) joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name to Malcolm X; he later became a "mainstream" Sunni Muslim and changed his name one last time. His changing identity is fascinating to trace: Malcolm Little, Detroit Red, Malcolm X, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.

On June 23, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. (1/15/1929-4/4/1968), tried out much of his "I Have a Dream" speech in Detroit -- two months before the version he delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Here's a snippet: "They say, 'Why don't you do it in a gradual manner?' Well, gradualism is little more than escapism and do-nothingism, which ends up in stand-stillism. . . We want all of our rights, we want them here, and we want them now."

Malcolm X El-Shabazz in 1965, shortly before his assassination: "I realized racism isn't just a black and white problem. It's brought bloodbaths to about every nation on earth at one time or another."

Like Malcolm X and MLK, Louis Farrakhan (b. Louis Eugene Walcott, 5/11/1933), now almost 74, has had an interesting life's journey with lots of twists and turns and changes in attitude and approach. Today in Detroit, he's expected to call for Interfaith dialogue.

Nation of Islam: Muhammad's Mosque Number One at 14880 Wyoming Street, Detroit.

Cafe inside Muhammad's Mosque Number One.

Today's Rune: Fertility.

Birthdays: Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919); Herbert "Zeppo" Marx (1901-1979); Anthony Burgess (1917-1993); Diane Baker (b. 1938); Douglas Alan "Doug" Yule of the Velvet Underground (b. 1947); Sandrine Kiberlain (b. 1968); Rashida Jones (b. 1976).

Salaam, Detroit. Salaam, World.


Johnny Yen said...

I came to be very impressed with Malcolm X after reading "Malcom Speaks," a collection of Malcolm's speeches over a period of 5 or 6 years up to his death. You can see the change-- his Hajj was a profound, life-changing experience-- I'm glad Spike Lee depicted this in the movie. He came to see racism as a human problem, not just a black American problem. And like King, toward the end of his life, he began to connect the problems of black Americans to politics and economics.

Esquire magazine put out a special issue back in 1982, which I read on a train trip from Chicago to San Francisco. They had writers like Terry Southern, Tom Robbins and others writing about who they felt who the 100 most important Americans of the 20th century were. The little bio of Malcolm painted a very different picture of the private man versus his public firebrand image. He was chatty, gregarious and gossipy.

Erik Donald France said...

Johnny, love Malcolm Speaks and always graviated more toward him than MLK, sort of like the Stones vs. the Beatles tone for civil rights if that makes sense.

I'd love to read the Esquire take. Sounds fun.

Stephen Renico said...


I'm surprised to see you give even a modest plug for Farrakhan, a man who openly scorns things which you seem to value- gay rights, racial tolerance, etc.

Not to mention that the NoI has this disturbing belief that white people were created by an evil scientist or a demon (I lose track of which) named Yakoub to plague black people.

Johnny Yen said...

That was the gist of article-- the author stated that King had, in his words, "left him cold." The Beatles/Stones thing is a brilliant analogy. I know I still have the issue-- it was really good. Email me your address ( and I'll photocopy the Malcom article and mail it to you.