by Inji Kim
On Monday, Feb. 13, Drew Muslim Students Association hosted educator and activist Ilyasah Shabazz in the Concert Hall of the Dorothy Young Center for the Arts. As the third daughter of the famous activists Betty Shabazz and Malcolm X, Shabazz is an author, producer, and a motivational speaker who retraces her parents’ legacy and advocates for community building. The event started with the recitation of the Qur’an by Imam Saffet Catovic, the advisor of the MSA, followed by a greeting from Nadiya Nawsheen (’19), the Secretary of the club. Nawsheen said that, though MSA took the initiative to bring Shabazz to campus, the event was a result of a collective effort from the diverse organizations, departments, and clubs on campus, expressing her gratitude for the help and support MSA has received.
After a short introductory video, Shabazz appeared on stage, engaging the concert hall completely filled with students, faculty members and community members. Shabazz began her talk by emphasizing the importance of identity, humanity and care on college campuses. “As I stand here today, I am reminded of my own youth as an undergraduate,” remarked Shabazz, sharing her own memory on how different experiences that seem disconnected eventually shaped who she is today. After stressing the importance of encountering diverse experiences in college, Shabazz also expressed her concern with the current generation’s focus on wealth. “Civilized society is achieved through a goal of service and passing that down to the future generation,” said Shabazz, strongly urging that no young person should be preoccupied with wealth. Shabazz remarked that her father was never deterred from his purpose of demanding equal rights because of chasing wealth. Malcolm X, in Shabazz’ memory, was purpose driven, insisting on liberty and justice for America to reach its greatest potential. Though she does not have many personal memories with him, Malcolm X’s legacy remains central to Shabazz as a model to follow.
Another important figure to Shabazz is her mother, Betty Shabazz. “I still reflect on my mother as a source of inspiration and change,” said Shabazz. As a mother of six daughters and a widow of Malcolm X, her mother committed to educating her children and herself as well as giving back to the community. Better education was a constant theme throughout Shabazz’s speech; she advocate for having a correct understanding of history to distinguish right from wrong and helping truth shine through justice. After a round of applause following her powerful speech, Shabazz answered questions from the audience. The questions ranged from personal questions about being a black woman in the current political climate to the effectiveness of current educational resources for activism for education. After answering questions, Shabazz also took time to personally meet attendees and sign her book Growing Up X.