Growing up as a daughter of Malcolm X

Ilyasah Shabazz has devoted her life to keeping the memories of her murdered father from being misremembered in history.

As one of the most influential African-Americans in history, her father, Malcolm X, is often cast as a violent extremist and adversary of Martin Luther King when neither was true, she said during a visit to VU at MetroWest last week.

“He stood up and stepped forward to demand the same human rights as others but he wasn’t doing anything negative,” she told a crowd of more than 100 students, academics and community members.

“The reason he was an icon around the world was because of his compassion, compassion, compassion.”

Ilyasah chose to spend the first part of her VU at MetroWest visit with a select group of VU students studying youth work and community development – reflecting her interest in youth empowerment programs at home in the US. 

Game Changer discussion with Vice-Chancellor Peter Dawkins, Ilyasah Shabbaz, Mario Peucker and Sharene Hassen

Her talk, part of MetroWest’s Game Changers’ conversation series, and in association with Variety, the children’s charity, focused on ways to recognise the essence of humanity rather than highlighting differences in religion, gender or race.

“Forget what they say about pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps – it doesn’t work. We all need each other – we’re all human beings.”

In reference to the activism of the #blacklivesmatter campaign recently created in America, Ilyasah said her father didn’t need to use slogans and hashtags to spread his message.

“It’s great that young people galvanise through social media but there is really not much reform taking place,” she said.

“Beyonce, Oprah and Obama may have moved the cause forward but there’s still institutionalised racism in the US.”

She said Indigenous people in Australia were also victims of racial injustice.

Ilyasah was joined in the Game Changers discussion by Dr Mario Peucker, a researcher at VU’s Centre for Cultural Diversity & Wellbeing and Sharene Hassen, director of the Islamic Museum of Australia.

Dr Peucker's talk was based on his recent research exploring the active citizenship of Muslim community members in Australia and Germany, which shows how involvement in grassroots community organisations and contexts can pave the way for broader cross-community civic and political participation and engagement. Sherene Hassan provided insight into how the IMA helps foster intercultural understanding and combat Islamophobic stereotypes. 

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