Updated: Sep 29, 2021
Grandnephew of Malcolm X discusses MXECH and Uncle's Legacy
NBC joins Arjun Collins (Curator of MXECH) on Malcolm X's 96th Birthday, to examine the significance of the leaders time in Boston.
"People are willing to buy the idea of a New York hustler...but are people willing to, not buy, but examine the life of a philosopher, a poet, a martyr, a family man..."
From what was once Malcolm X’s bedroom; I can see a few great trees bracing themselves against concrete that extends towards a towering city beyond. Uncle Malcolm’s view from this room would’ve been far different from my own. Nevertheless, both he and I practiced our gazes similarly; looking ahead while keeping history and the present at the forefront of our minds. I was just a child when I first visited this house. I did not fathom then, the significance that Malcolm’s time living here would have on my life and the lives of so many others.
Malcolm’s sister, Ella—Grandma as I knew her best—was an educator, litigator, activist and at one time the largest black landowner in Massachusetts. Grandma raised Malcolm in this house since his childhood.
After Malcolm was incarcerated at 20 years old, the 72 Dale Street home was a base for the constant visits Ella made to and from the prison where her Brother was held. Following Malcolm’s release it became one of the first places he visited; welcomed by a party of family members eager for a reunion after seven years imprisonment.
Even during Malcolm’s campaign for human rights he found refuge in this home among family and close friends. Malcolm and his Sister Ella—both naturalist who meticulously observed nature—would regularly walk through the park on Dale street to admire the local flora and fauna. Malcolm could not have known then, that the park would be named after him one day.
The house kept Malcolm grounded in the familial education given to him since childhood. Anytime Malcolm returned to the doorstep on Dale; Ella’s neatly kept garden was a reminder of the pea plot Malcolm's mother taught him with raise and harvest as a child.
Malcolm was never too far from his Roxbury home— even returning just days before his assassination. His time here not only defined the house on Dale but also a global movement for human rights and the man Malcolm X came to be.
For that same reason, following Uncle Malcolm’s assassination in 1965 Grandma Ella refused to ever return to this home; it became filled with too many painful memories.
After being vacant for nearly three decades following the assassination the house experienced significant deterioration; accelerated by the vandals and looters that frequented the property. Restoration only began after my families involvement— a process that continues today.
The Malcolm X—Ella Collins House is a living resources that maintains historical artifacts for the purpose of education. Beyond this, it is a totem in alliance with the the struggle for human rights, dignity, liberation and the pursuit of knowledge.
Grand Nephew of Malcolm X
Curator of the Malcolm X—Ella Collins House