By Williamena Kwapo | OBSERVER Staff Writer
Dr. Ilyasha Shabazz, daughter of the late activist Malcolm X, came to Sacramento on Nov. 4 and declared American Muslims can play a key role in the ongoing struggle for liberation both at home and abroad.
“I believe that we American Muslims are best positioned to lead the world in articulating a bold vision for Islam and Muslims in the 21st century,” Dr. Shabazz told more than 900 people at a banquet at the DoubleTree hotel hosted by the Sacramento Valley/Central California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s leading Muslim civil rights organization.
Shabazz, an accomplished author, educator and activist who headlined the event, invoked her late father’s message: “My father said truth does not change, only our awareness of it. Systemic inequality continues to harm communities; institutional racism continues to devastate families; socioeconomic disparities continue to ruin lives.”
The third daughter of Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz, Dr. Shabazz has devoted a significant portion of her life to advocating for civil rights and social justice. Her notable works like “Growing Up X” and “Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X,” offer unique insights into her father’s life and the pivotal era in which he played a key role.
Dr. Shabazz addressed current world affairs, echoing sentiments expressed by speakers throughout the night, particularly concerning the ongoing war in Palestine. She indicated her commitment to continuing her father’s work and stressed the importance of unwavering support for Palestinians in their time of need.
Highlighting her father’s legacy, Dr. Shabazz said, “I learned from the legacy of Malcolm X that as Muslims, we must be torchbearers of truth and always act courageously, knowing that each of us is accountable in the sight of God, in spite of the complexion of one’s skin.” She passionately reiterated his 1960s stance on the Palestinian struggle, emphasizing that it transcends a cry for justice and is a fundamental battle for human rights.
The gathering brought together local politicians, community members and supporters, with Sacramento-based Palestinians and CAIR-California leaders sharing personal stories of loss and devastation in Gaza. Basim Elkara, executive director of CAIR Sacramento Valley, starkly depicted the grim reality, revealing, “We’ve lost 25 family members,” underscoring the profound impact on Palestinian lives.
Founded in 1994, CAIR emerged in response to an escalating wave of anti-Muslim discrimination and Islamophobia across the United States. With 27 chapters nationwide, including four in California, CAIR has consistently served as a beacon of hope for marginalized communities. This year’s banquet gained added significance, as one of its aims was to convey solidarity with the Palestinian people as they experience a severe humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
The evening concluded with Dr. Shabazz receiving the CAIR SV/CC Lifetime Achievement Award alongside Chet Hewitt, president and CEO of Sierra Health Foundation. In a remarkable show of solidarity, CAIR SV/CC raised more than $620,000 to continue its mission.
In closing remarks, Dr. Shabazz echoed a powerful message, encapsulating the spirit of the evening and the enduring legacy she continues to champion: “As Muslims, we are not here to survive. We are here to thrive. We are not here to follow. We are here to lead. We are here for a purpose and with a mission to endure good and forbid evil.”