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Ilyasah Shabazz
By Christen McCurdy | The Skanner News
Published: 24 May 2018

On May 19, Malcolm X’s birthday, the NAACP Portland branch kicked off a series of events to honor the life and legacy of the civil rights icon – culminating in a fundraising brunch featuring Ilyasah Shabazz as the keynote speaker.

E.D. Mondaine, who stepped into his role as president of the Portland branch earlier this year, said the time is ripe to remember and continue the work of Malcolm X.

“[Malcolm X] reframed the work of empowering marginalized communities not just as a dream, but as an imminent reality that must be lived into in the here and now,” Mondaine wrote in a short statement about Malcolm X week that was shared with The Skanner. Today our survival depends on seeing the world in its three-dimensional, rounded, and fully realized existence — understanding that we are all of us the same distance from its luminous center. In the name of righteousness, now is the time we must walk the unbroken circle that binds us together.”

In an interview with The Skanner, Mondaine said the time is ripe to remember the legacy of the civil rights movement of the 1960s, as well as the forces that led to the 1909 formation of the NAACP by a biracial group responding to lynchings and Jim Crow laws.

The deaths of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Alfred King, and John and Robert Kennedy in the 1960s meant “so many voices were gone” from the national stage and many members of the public became complacent about racism, Mondaine said. He likened the 2016 election of Donald Trump, who ran a campaign explicitly targeting Mexican and Muslim immigrants, to turning on the lights in an apartment that hadn’t been cleaned for decades – and discovering it full of scattering cockroaches.

“We’ve been given a gift in President Trump. The gift is our ability to see ourselves in what we’ve built together as a nation.”

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Mondaine is from St. Louis, and recently made a trip home that included a solemn, solitary pilgrimage connecting two sites critical to the racial history of the United States. Mondaine realized Dred Scott, who was born into slavery and whose unsuccessful lawsuit to obtain freedom resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling that people of African descent could not be citizens, is buried just three miles from the site where 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by police in 2014, sparking days of protest and national scrutiny of law enforcement’s interactions with young Black men. Mondaine walked from Scott’s grave to the site of Brown’s death weeping, without company or ceremony.

“We’re in a critical state in America,” Mondaine said, and Malcolm X’s calls for better education, for economic enterprise and for unapologetic self-defense are timely.

The week of events honoring Malcolm X’s legacy and life started May 19 with a birthday event in the branch’s new office at Lloyd Center Mall, continued Wednesday with a night of readings from local spoken word artist Mic Crenshaw, musical performances by Eldon “T” Jones of N-Touch, Norman Sylvester and many more on Wednesday, May 23, in North Portland’s Celebration Tabernacle Church.

They will culminate in a fundraising brunch from 10 a.m. to noon May 26 with keynote speaker Ilyasah Shabazz. Shabazz is the daughter of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz. For more information about the X-Factor Brunch, click here.

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