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Is There Room for Malcolm in America Today?

02/26/2015 11:44 am ET | Updated Apr 28, 2015

February 21 marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X, El-Hajj Malik Shabazz, a figure whose memory seems to wax and wane with America's troubled conscience. On the one hand, many would argue that with the first black president in office, it is Martin's dream that has been realized. Yet, on the other hand, with endless wars abroad, increasing police brutality at home, and a society more divided than ever, it is safe to say that Malcolm's critique of -- and challenge to -- America has never been more urgent. This might be an obvious point given the series of high profile conferences and media attention taking place this month to remember Malcolm's legacy.

I had the privilege to discuss Malcolm's legacy with Imam Talib Abdur-Rashid, the spiritual leader of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood, which is the direct institutional heir of the Muslim Mosque Incorporated, founded by El-Hajj Malik Shabazz. The conversation was part of an ongoing digital archive and oral history project I help manage called After Malcolm: Islam and the Black Freedom Struggle. We discussed everything from the relationship between NSA surveillance and COINTELPRO to Islamophobia, race, and African American/Immigrant Muslim relations. We even spoke about Bruce Lee at one point! One of the many goals of the After Malcolm project is to allow this country's rich and complex history to better inform how we navigate the many obstacles facing social progress today. The scroll of clips below with Imam Talib is an effort in that direction. Enjoy!

I started the conversation out with the question: Is there room for Malcolm X in America Today?

On why Malcolm X is such an important name

On how Malcolm X's biography has been homogenized

About the American Dream

We spoke about institutional racism and the myth surrounding Malcolm's trip to Mecca