Trouble always followed Malcolm Shabazz
By Maya Rhodan
NNPA Washington Correspondent
WASHINGTON—For Malcolm Shabazz, grandson of Malcolm X, trouble seemed to come easy.
His troubles began in 1997, when at age 12 he plead guilty to setting fire to the apartment of his grandmother, Betty Shabazz, that resulted in her death in New York. As a result, young Malcolm spent four years in juvenile detention centers.
In 2003, he was back behind bars—this time as a result of an attempted robbery. And in 2006, it was for punching a hole in a donut shop wall in Yonkers, N.Y.
His troubles ended for good in Mexico City on May 8, when the 28-year-old was killed after being beaten outside of a bar, according to sources close to Shabazz.
Well-known publicist and family friend, Terrie Williams of New York, confirmed Malcolm’s death via Twitter and Facebook.
“I’m confirming, per US Embassy, on [behalf] of family, the tragic death of Malcolm Shabazz, grandson of [Malcolm] X,” Williams tweeted.
Shabazz was reportedly traveling to Mexico City with RUMEC, a Mexican labor organization based in California, when he was beaten to death in an attempted robbery, according to Juan Ruiz, a member of RUMEC.
Ruiz, who spoke to the political news website, Talking Points Memo, was one of the first to get in contact with RUMEC leader Miguel Suarez, who was with Shabazz at the time of his death. Suarez had been deported to Mexico from the U.S. last month and Shabazz reportedly traveling to Mexico to support the labor rights activist.
Reporters from the Associated Press spoke to Suarez who said, Shabazz was beaten outside of a bar in downtown Mexico City, after the owner asked to two to pay a $1,200 bar tab for drinks, music and dances with women inside the establishment.
The owners of the club hassled the two, demanding the cash, according to Suarez and the two were separated—a man with a gun took Suarez into a room, Shabazz was left in the hall. Suarez reportedly managed to get away, and left the bar in a cab. When he came back, he told reporters, he found Shabazz outside of the bar.
“He was in shock. His face was messed up,” Suarez told the AP. “He was alive.”
Suarez later called the police and took Shabazz to the hospital, but Shabazz died soon after as a result of blunt-force trauma.
Mexican officers have arrested and imprisoned two suspects, David Hernandez Cruz and Manuel Alejandro Perez de Jesus, who reportedly worked as waiters at the nightclub where Shabazz was killed. The two initially were charged with robbery and aggravated homicide according to a BBC report.
In a statement, the family of Shabazz expressed grief, but added that the slain 28-year-old can now rest “in peace in the arms of his grandparents and the safety of God.”
The stated released through Terrie Williams said, “We are deeply saddened by the passing of our beloved El Hajj Malcolm El Shabazz. To all who knew him, he offered kindness, encouragement and hope for a better tomorrow.”
In February, as he traveled to Iran, it was widely reported that Shabazz had been arrested by the FBI. Though the Shabazz family later deemed the news report untruthful, it didn’t come as a surprise given the record of Malcolm X’s namesake.
Like his grandfather Malcolm X, whose own young life was littered with troubles, Malcolm Shabazz was no stranger to the legal system.
When Malcolm was young his mother Qubilah, the second of Malcolm X’s six daughters, was charged with planning to murder Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan with her boyfriend. She believed Farrakhan played a role in the assassination of her father, a charge the Nation of Islam leader has consistently denied.
Though her charges were dropped and she was sent to a rehabilitation center in Texas instead of prison, Malcolm was sent to live with his grandmother in Yonkers, N.Y. at age 10.
Two years later, after an attempt at living with his mother in San Antonio failed, young Malcolm set fire to the apartment he and his grandmother shared. The fire killed Betty Shabazz, 61, the widow of Malcolm X.
Her grandson was considered schizophrenic and paranoid. He said he heard voices telling him to set things on fire. He was sentenced to 18 months in a juvenile detention center. The initial sentence led to Malcolm spending the next four years of his youth in and out of detention centers.
According to a 2003 New York Times profile, he joined a gang, sold drugs and built a rapport among the street thugs of Manhattan. In 2002, he skipped bail after an arrest for an attempted robbery in Middletown, N.Y. and spent another three and a half years in the penal system, this time in Great Meadow Correctional Facility, a prison in Washington County New York, Malcolm was 18.
Malcolm told the Times of his plans for the future, as he studied Islam behind bars, again, like his grandfather before him. He is quoted as saying, “My name will bring attention. People know Malcolm Shabazz, whether you like me or not.”
He found inspiration in his grandfather’s life, as the two both got off to similarly rocky starts.
“He didn’t know he was going to be Malcolm X. He didn’t know that,” Shabazz said in the 2003 New York Times interview. “But with me, I know what I want to do. I know what I want to be.”
According to the New York Amsterdam News, Shabazz was in the process of writing two books and was attending Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. He is survived by two daughters, his mother, and several aunts.
This article originally appeared in the May 22 print edition.