While Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday is a widely celebrated national holiday, there is considerably less fanfare for the birthdate of Black icon Malcolm X.
"We don't see events that honor him like Dr. King," says Karanja Crews, founder of the Journey to Freedom Project (JTF).
As a response, JTF is hosting its Malcolm X Birthday Weekend Celebration at the Umoja Center at 1626 NE Alberta St.
The weekend's events will include the 2nd Annual Black Men Breakfast, service projects, a viewing of Spike Lee's biopic "Malcolm X," a vegan and raw food potluck and Revolutionary Poetry Night.
Crews sums up the reasons for putting on the weekend by citing Ozzie Davis's eulogy for the Black icon.
"Our own Black shining prince who didn't hesitate to die because he loved us," quotes Crews. "In honoring him we honor the best in ourselves."
This Saturday would be Malcolm X's 87th birthday.
Malcolm X rose to fame as a minister for the Nation of Islam (NOI), who preached a message of self-sustainability and empowerment for Black people. His time with the NOI was marked with controversy because some of his statements inflamed predominantly white media and politicians, as well as took aim at the tactics of civil rights leaders like Dr. King.
He would later split from the NOI and go on to start Muslim Mosque, Inc. and the Organization for Afro-American Unity (OAAU). Malcolm X was assassinated on Feb. 21, 1965, while delivering a speech at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City. Although three men were arrested for the murder, affidavits have since surfaced that implicate only one of the three arrested, as well as four other co-conspirators.
Many in the global community, and in the Black community specifically, have taken inspiration from Malcolm X's life story because he reformed himself from an incarcerated street hustler to an influential Black leader. His life has been depicted in his famous autobiography, Spike Lee's biopic and more recently, in the late Manning Marable's "Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention."
JTF is using the birthday weekend to celebrate some of the facets of Malcolm X's message such as healthy eating and giving back to the community.
The Coalition of Black Men of Oregon is sponsoring the Black Men Breakfast, which begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday. This is the second year that JTF has come together with them to put on the event.
Crews says the theme of the breakfast is healthy eating. They are offering vegan and raw foods.
The breakfast will feature a conversation about health statistics and diet, specifically concerning Black people. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Black adults are 40 percent more likely to have high blood pressure, but are ten percent less likely than their non-Hispanic white counterparts to have their blood pressure under control.
Malcolm X was famous for preaching NOI leader the Honorable Elijah Muhammad's message of diet reform. Most notably, he urged people to eliminate pork from their diets. During the screening of "Malcolm X," Crews plans to show a deleted scene where Malcolm discusses his views on the pig and eating healthy.
Following the breakfast, JTF will be hosting a service project from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. where participants can help clean up graffiti and trash around the Umoja Center. JTF is headquartered at the building and uses it to host Saturday School sessions for young students in the community.
At 5 p.m., there will be a screening of Lee's "Malcolm X," a critically acclaimed film that details the life of the Black icon.
Crews says the movie is extremely powerful and holds a special place in his heart.
"I specifically remember that the movie wasn't playing in Portland when it first came out," he says. "We had to drive all the way to southeast to see the movie. I remember there was a long line to see the movie. It was way around the block."
The screening will coincide with a discussion and a raw food and vegan potluck. The Green Lady, an online foods store that specializes in juices, will handle catering for the event.
In addition to the events scheduled for Saturday, there will also be Revolutionary Poetry Night on Sunday at the Yolo Lounge at 7 p.m. It will feature six scheduled poets, as well as an open mic.
"The theme is revolutionary poetry and it ties into Malcolm who was a revolutionary," says Crews. "We're just going to spit poetry and celebrate Malcolm."
For more information, contact JTF at www.journeytofreedomproject.org .