Cuban President Pays Tribute to Malcolm X in Harlem

By Deisy Francis Mexidor on September 19, 2023 from New York City

photo: Deisy Francis Mexidor

“We have come to honor Malcolm X and, with him, to pay tribute to our African-American brothers and sisters, to the people of the United States, to those who fight for justice, against exploitation and segregation. To all those who believe, like Malcolm, that a better world is possible.”

These were the words last night of Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, speaking at the Shabazz Center, located in the popular neighborhood where Harlem and Washington Heights meet, in Upper Manhattan, to celebrate the legacy of slain African-American leader Malcolm X.

Fidel and Malcolm X, Sept. 19, 1963

Fidel and Malcolm X, Sept. 19, 1963

On a gray and rainy afternoon, which is beginning to herald the change of season and where it is already necessary to wear light coats, the president received all the warmth of representatives of a community that on this  September 19, 63 years ago also opened its arms to the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, when he held a memorable meeting with Malcolm X.

For Fidel and for Cuba, Malcolm X also defied the imperial powers, said the head of state, who affirmed that the Cuban Revolution will never forget his role in extending the invitation to host him and his delegation at the Theresa Hotel, in the heart of the black neighborhood of Harlem, when there was an attempt to boycott his presence at the United Nations in 1960.

Miguel Díaz-Canel, with Dr. Ilyasah Shabazz, daughter of Malcom X, photo: Luis de Jesus

Díaz-Canel said that it was that generous and fraternal gesture that culminated in the historic meeting between Malcolm X and Fidel in September of that year.

“Let us all honor the memory and legacy of Malcolm X, as a commitment to those who have suffered and still suffer poverty, injustice and exclusion, to those who have suffered and still suffer as a consequence of colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism, exploitation, racism, selfishness,” he said.

He also thanked the people of the United States for their support in the struggle against the blockade imposed by the U.S. government on Cuba for more than six decades.

Right at the end of his speech and in the midst of the applause, there were cheers for Cuba and the Cuban Revolution.

Earlier, referring to the presence of Díaz-Canel at the center, Dr. Ilyasah Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X, said that this visit gave continuity to an entire legacy of solidarity.

“My father admired Fidel Castro very much,” Shabazz said, insisting he always admired the way he was able to free his people from the yoke of imperialism so close to the United States.

Cuban President Díaz-Canel and Dr. Rosemarie Mealy. photo: Deisy Francis Mexidor 

Dr. Rosemarie Mealy, author of the book Fidel and Malcolm X, memoir of an encounter, said she was happy that the gathering occurred “on the eve of the 63rd anniversary of a historic encounter that occurred just 38 blocks from here when the people of Harlem joined Malcolm X in welcoming President Fidel Castro.”

“Today we come full circle in our reflections, reaffirming the friendships and historic ties that bind our nations and our peoples,” Mealy noted.

Diaz-Canel upon his arrival, accompanied by his wife Lis Cuesta, laid a wreath to Malcolm X, and shortly before leaving he witnessed the unveiling of a commemorative plaque and went to the place, in the same hall, where a small podium with white flowers commemorates the place where he was assassinated on February 21, 1965.

Diaz-Canel lays a wreath in the place where Malcolm X was assassinated, photo: Luis de Jesus

Among those present were former Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel, Charles Barron, member of the New York City Council, Claudia de La Cruz, candidate for the U.S. presidency for the Party for Socialism and Liberation, as well as a representation of political sectors, solidarity and local social organizations.

The Cuban side was represented by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodriguez, and Public Health, Jose Angel Portal, among other diplomatic representatives of the island’s missions in New York and Washington DC.

The head of state is in his second day in New York, where he traveled at the head of the Cuban delegation attending the High-Level Segment of the United Nations General Assembly.

Díaz-Canel is also raising his voice there on behalf of the G77 and China, whose pro tempore presidency Cuba holds until the beginning of 2024.

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano – English