Event Recap

A Compelling Conversation with Professor Ilyasah Shabazz, Author and Daughter of Malcolm X, at Bunker Hill Community College

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Scholar, Educator and Entrepreneur Speaks at BHCC 

Professor Ilyasah Shabazz, author, educator, and daughter of Civil Rights leader Malcolm X, spoke at Bunker Hill Community College’s latest Compelling Conversation, offering a resounding call for Black liberation, engagement and education that is true to history and not just a product of racist ideologies. Compelling Conversations is the College’s multi-decade speaker series featuring leaders at the forefront of equity and justice across a spectrum of fields and perspectives. 

In a lively conversation facilitated by BHCC Associate Vice President and Chief Equity and Compliance Officer Nahomi Carlisle, Esq., Shabazz began by highlighting the remarkable historical parallel of this Compelling Conversation happening on the former site of the Charlestown State Prison. 

“I’m really excited to be here in Charlestown, Massachusetts...because my father was here,” Shabazz said. “I’m just overwhelmed that you [BHCC students] could be here now, learning, being progressive, establishing relationships with one another that will hopefully last a lifetime.” Malcolm X was imprisoned at the Charlestown State Prison, located on the present site of BHCC, between 1946 and 1948.  

Shabazz has written several books, both fiction and non-fiction, that draw from her own life and those of her parents. Carlisle asked Shabazz about the pressures of growing up the daughter of a notable public moral and political leader like Malcolm X—to which Shabazz responded by talking about the critical role her mother played in her life.  

“My mother was such an amazing woman,” Shabazz said, citing her book Betty Before X, in which she wrote about her mother. “I discovered why my father chose my mother. All of what she endured...she wasn’t 30 years old, and she was the wife of someone who challenged the government...her home being firebombed and having four babies...a week later to witness the killing of her husband, a brutal assassination. To have these babies and be alone was traumatizing, and she could have been angry or bitter, but my mother raised us in this bubble of love.” 

“My mother made sure I and my five sisters learned about the significant contributions Islam, and that women made to the world...[as well as] the significant contributions the African diaspora made to the world, Shabazz continued. “It was important to my mother than her girls grew up with a lot of self love, because if I love me, I can say that I genuinely love you. There was nothing I could not do because my mother made sure she instilled these values in her girls.” 

Shabazz was introduced by BHCC Assistant Dean for Professional Studies Jean-Marie Handine and Professor of English Tony C. Clark, who also noted “the significance of these particular grounds...on which Malcolm X was imprisoned,” and recalled accompanying students to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library to learn about the life and times of Malcolm X. 

Shabazz also answered audience questions, many of them tying into a common theme of history and justice, including questions on the status of reparations, about the teaching of history in light of several states’ efforts to ban education around slavery, race, and Black history. 

“All students need an accurate education,” Shabazz said. “You don’t need to be Black to receive the truth about your ancestors. I want to know the truth and I think every child deserves to know. Stop whitewashing history.” 

Ilyasah Shabazz is an award-winning author, educator and producer. She has authored five historical novels and has served as project advisor for the PBS award-winning film, Prince Among Slaves documentary. She is Co-Chairperson of the Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center. In her work to preserve the legacy of her parents, she has dedicated herself to institution building and intergenerational leadership development with the tenants of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Ms. Shabazz has furthered her community impact with the City University of New York’s Office of Academic Affairs, where she created curriculum to encourage higher education for underserved, inner-city high school dropouts. She has worked with the Office of the Mayor in Mount Vernon, as Director of Public Affairs & Special Events. She founded and produced a young adult development program. The purpose of the program was to provide insight on social justice—encouraging personal empowerment. As president and founder of Ilyasah Shabazz Enterprises, she produces a variety of forums dedicated to power, possibility and sovereignty. Grounded in the commitments of her parents, Ms. Shabazz emphasizes empowerment and inclusion in her teaching and scholarship. 

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