NEW YORK—More than 1,400 people filled a meeting at
Harlem’s Apollo Theater May 6 that featured Minister Louis
Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, and Betty Shabazz, widow of
Malcolm X. Billed as
A New Beginning, the meeting was a benefit
for the Shabazz family fund, originally initiated to raise money for
the legal defense of Qubilah Shabazz.
Qubilah Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz, came under federal indictment January 12 for allegedly plotting to assassinate Farrakhan. On May 1, prosecutors dropped their murder-for-hire case against Shabazz in a plea-bargain agreement.
One of Shabazz’s attorneys, Percy Sutton, told the audience that
the evidence against her was cooked up by Michael Fitzpatrick, a
former high school classmate and longtime FBI informer.
grateful to Minister Farrakhan and Congressman Rangel, Sutton
for intervening in a case that should never have been brought
From day one I feel he [Fitzpatrick] sought to entrap me,
Shabazz told the May 9 Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Federal officials agreed to pay Fitzpatrick $45,000 for his help in secretly recording telephone conversations with Qubilah Shabazz. Fitzpatrick, who is in the government’s federal witness protection program, currently faces a five- year prison term on an earlier drug charge.
In her remarks to the meeting, Betty Shabazz said she
would like to
thank Mr. Louis Farrakhan for his original and gentle words of
assurance in defense of her daughter.
Minister Farrakhan, may
your conceptual framework keep broadening, she said.
take up the mantle and do God’s work.
Prominent figures attend meeting The Apollo event was organized by the
Nation of Islam and a number of community activists and ministers. A
large banner hung over the stage that read:
ALL PRAISE IS DUE TO
ALLAH: Celebrating Unity, The Hon. Minister Louis Farrakhan and
Dr. Betty Shabazz.
Some prominent figures in the Black community spoke at the event,
including U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel; Rev. Calvin Butts of the
Abyssinian Baptist Church; Conrad Worrill, chairman of the National
Black United Front; Haki Madhubuti, formerly Don Lee, of Third World
Press; poet Sonia Sanchez; and radio talk show host Bob Law of
Other speakers included civil liberties lawyer William Kunstler, who also served as legal counsel for Qubilah Shabazz, and attorney C. Vernon Mason. Benjamin Chavis, recently ousted as executive director of the NAACP, and City University of New York professor Leonard Jeffries, were on the speakers’ dais but did not address the meeting.
During the fund-raising portion of the program thousands of dollars
were raised, including from celebrities like Mike Wallace of the
60 Minutes, who pledged $1,000. Boxing
promoter Rock Newman promised that $1 million of the proceeds from the
next title fight of his client Riddick Bowe would be split among the
Nation of Islam, the Shabazz family, and the Union Temple Baptist
Church in Washington, D.C. People paid $50-100 a ticket to attend the
Coming 30 years after the assassination of Malcolm X, many among the hundreds who attended the four-and-a-half- hour program viewed Louis Farrakhan and Betty Shabazz sharing the same stage as a historic event.
Break with the Nation of Islam Malcolm X was forced out of the Nation of Islam in late 1963 after being ordered to remain publicly silent by the group’s leader, Elijah Muhammad.
Once he announced his separation from the organization in 1964,
Malcolm X was hounded by Nation of Islam members. Malcolm explained a
week before he was killed that
Elijah Muhammad invited—called
all his officials, national officials, to Chicago in October and
ordered them to kill or maim any of his followers who leave him to
At that time nearly every minister in the Nation of Islam was
making incendiary speeches about Malcolm, Muhammad Abdul Aziz said
in the Feb. 8, 1995, issue of the Nation of Islam newspaper, The Final
Call. Aziz, formerly Norman 3X Butler, was one of the three men
convicted of Malcolm X’s murder.
The day of Malcolm X’s assassination, Feb. 21, 1965, Talmadge Hayer was caught by members of the audience at the Audubon Ballroom in New York. He was arrested by the New York City cops and subsequently tried and convicted. At the trial, Hayer confessed to involvement in the murder. He has repeatedly denied being a member of the Nation of Islam.
Hayer said he was hired to do the job and insists that the two men convicted with him—Norman Butler and Thomas Johnson, both known members of the Nation—were not involved. Instead, Hayer named four other Muslims as his accomplices.
In the final days before he was shot to death, Malcolm X raised that
more might be involved in the unfolding pattern of attempts on his
I’m going to tell you something brother, he said,
according to Alex Haley, the writer who was helping to prepare his
The more I keep thinking about-the things that have
been happening lately, I’m not at all sure it’s the
Muslims. I know what they can do and what they can’t, and they
can’t do some of the stuff recently going on.
The New York City police publicly admitted at the time of Malcolm
X’s death that they knew an attempt was to be made on his
life. One of Malcolm X’s bodyguards, Gene Roberts, turned out to
be an undercover cop. He was sitting in the front row when Malcolm X
was killed. Roberts said in the recently released documentary Brother
Minister that his assignment as an undercover cop for the New York
Red squad was to infiltrate Malcolm
X’s Organization of Afro-American Unity.
Nation of Islam involvement In his speech at the Apollo Theater, Farrakhan invoked biblical figures of forgiveness and redemption and referred to negotiations taking place among political forces around the world today.
The Irish and the British, who have been at war with one another
for years now, come together across pools of their people’s
blood. Their handshake has been received with gladness, he
It is my hope that a dialogue between Betty Shabazz and
myself will be encouraged to continue.
If we cannot forgive each other, we will go down in the dust from
whence we sprung, he said.
Members of the Nation of Islam were involved in the assassination
of Malcolm, Farrakhan publicly acknowledged for the first
The Nation has taken the heat and carried the burden of the
murder of Malcolm X. We can’t deny whatever our part was.
Farrakhan then pointed to the government’s role in Malcolm
X’s assassination, saying,
We must not let the real culprit
get away with hiding their hands.—It was manipulation and
stimulation of our own pettiness and weakness by outside forces. The
government of America is that outside force.
The government by its own admission had agents on both sides to
manipulate the zeal and ignorance inside the ranks of the Nation of
Islam and among the followers of Brother Malcolm X to create the
atmosphere that allowed him to be assassinated, he said.
sums of taxpayers’ dollars were used by the FBI to hurt the
legitimate movement of our people toward liberation, the Nation of
Islam leader added.
Farrakhan called on the government to open its files on the
They know that Farrakhan had nothing to do with the murder of
Malcolm X, he stated.
We in the Nation of Islam as well as
those outside the Nation of Islam need to know all of the truth as it
relates to the assassination of Brother Malcolm X.
Betty Shabazz said in a television interview with WNBC last year, that
she believed that the Nation of Islam was involved in the death of her
Nobody kept it a secret, she said.
It was a badge
of honor. Everybody talked about it.
In her opening remarks at the Apollo Theater, Shabazz told the
audience that Malcolm X had predicted his murder and told her,
Don’t be bitter.
Returning to the government’s case against Qubilah Shabazz
Farrakhan suggested a broader intrigue was in the works against
I believe the entrapment of Sister Qubilah was part of a much
wider conspiracy. It was supposed to lure me into a fight with
Dr. Shabazz, he stated.
There is no way that the government of the United States would
commit Michael Fitzpatrick, a member of the Jewish community, to
assassinate Louis Farrakhan knowing of the possible repercussions it
could cause. I do not believe the government wants a Caucasian to be
openly involved in an attempt on my assassination. Their desire would
be a member of our own Black family, preferably a Muslim or a
At the end of his talk, Farrakhan promoted a national demonstration he
is organizing for Black men only.
This year Oct. 16, 1995, we
propose a million-man march on Washington, we call it the ‘Day
of Atonement,’ he declared.
On this day of atonement we
are asking the government of America to acknowledge her sins against
the people. Against the struggles of poor and Black people for