The Michigan State University Muslim Studies Department held their 3rd Annual Malcolm X Community Forum last night. The forum included a keynote speech from activist, author and former National Basketball Association player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf.
The event was sponsored and organized by the Muslim Studies Department alongside the Broad Art Museum and MSU Libraries, among many other donors and took place at the Erickson Kiva.
Director of the Muslim Studies Department Mohammad Hassan Khalil said the purpose of holding this event every year is to commemorate American Muslim minister and human rights activist Malcolm X.
Malcom X delivered the speech, “The Race Problem in America," at the Erickson Kiva exactly 61 years ago, on Jan. 23. Khalil noted the reason the department wants to honor this speech goes beyond the speech itself.
Malcolm X lived in the Greater Lansing Area, even working at the Coral Gables restaurant on Grand River Ave. His father was also killed in Lansing.
Khalil said Malcolm X’s connections to the area are often overlooked.
“(The event) is recalling Malcolm’s ties to Lansing, to kind of help folks arrive at a better understanding of his legacy,” Khalil said.
Khalil said of the most important factors of this event is the keynote speaker. This year, Abdul-Rauf was asked to speak to his life, work and connection to Malcolm X's legacy.
“Each year we bring in a different kind of speaker,” Khalil said. “And each year, people are able to appreciate the different ways that Malcolm X has influenced people.”
During his speech, Abdul-Rauf said he was greatly influenced by Malcolm X. He converted to Islam shortly after reading Malcolm X’s biography in his freshman year at Louisiana State University. Abdul-Rauf also spoke about his childhood, relationship with his education and his love for reading, his time in the NBA and how Malcolm X influenced his approach to social justice issues.
“I love him because he’s a reflection of, sometimes, our pain and our rage," Abdul-Rauf said. "He would give insight into it that would make you want to move and act on it."
Following his speech, Abdul-Rauf answered audience questions, and after the event, attendees were able to line up to buy Abdul-Rauf’s autobiography and get his signature.
Lansing Community College sophomore Aisha Mukhtar attended the event. She reflected on many key moments from the speech, noting that she related to Abdul-Rauf's intersectionality and his stories of his struggle with identity throughout his childhood.
Mukhtar said she was "moved" by Abdul-Rauf’s activism and passion.
“He’s just seriously an inspiration,” Mukhtar said. “I think he’s officially a mentor in my life. I feel like this is a turning point.”
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