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Black American Women You Need to Know
Day 22: Betty Shabazz
It's sorta sad that the majority of people who recognize this name only associate it as "the wife of Malcolm X". Not that there is anything wrong with being known as the wife of a great man, Betty has always been so much more and many people don't realize that.
From her early years, Betty was raised by a socially conscious foster family, the mother of whom "organized campaigns to support black-owned businesses and boycott stores that refused to hire black employees". (via Wikipedia) It is no wonder then that she was also a conscious woman. Surprisingly, for being an active family, Betty has written that when she first encountered racism while attending college in the South, her foster family did not like to speak about it and made her feel that it was her "fault" that she was being mistreated. Perhaps that is what really galvanized her feelings and activism.
Millions of people look to her for some kind of understanding of the history of the struggle. She's the wife of one of the greatest African-American leaders of history. ~ black activist and poet Amiri Baraka
(via CNN, when announcing her death)
His young widow, pregnant with twin daughters at the time of his murder, was left to raise them - and their four sisters - by herself. In the ensuing years, Shabazz avoided publicity when she could, opting instead to provide a quiet, normal home life and full education for her children.
"I really don't know where I'd be today if I had not gone to Mecca to make Hajj [a spiritual pilgrimage] shortly after Malcolm was assassinated," she confided in Essence. "Two young doctors - one from Harvard and the other from Dartmouth - invited me to go to Mecaa in my husband's stead. And that is what helped put me back on track. I remembered Malcolm saying, 'Don't look back and don't cry. Remember, Lot's wife turned into a pillar of salt.' I began to understand the meaning of that statement."
Other meaningful things Betty said that we can learn a lot from include:
God must be upset with his creation, that we can't get along together.
We can say 'Peace on Earth,' we can sing about it, preach about it or pray about it, but if we have not internalized the mythology to make it happen inside us, then it will not be.
Malcolm was a firm believer in the value and importance of our heritage. He believed that we have valuable and distinct cultural traditions which need to be institutionalized so that they can be passed on to our heirs.