Nieman Fellow Recalls Experiences With Malcolm X
"When Malcolm spoke, people [in Africa] listened and they were fascinated with his eloquence. A lot of the things he said were things they wanted to have said, but lacked the equipment to say."
Nathanial Nakasa, a Nieman Fellow and South African journalist, spent a week with Malcolm X in Dar es Salaam, Tanganyika before coming to Harvard last fall. In an interview with the CRIMSON yesterday he recalled some of his experiences with the assassinated black national leader.
"I knew him more as a person than a leader," Nakasa said. "We were in the same hotel. He was an American Negro in East Africa: I was a journalist from Johannesburg, so there were lots of things to talk about."
From what he had been able to read in South African newspapers. Nakasa expected Malcolm to be "a totally unreasonable person who was out only to destroy--without any reasonable grounds." But instead, he found "a very warm personality who's had a raw deal to some extent."
"Malcolm's father and his uncle both died viciously, and he and his family suffered at the hands of discrimination," Nakasa continued. "It is impossible for me to conceive of any black living in our times who would not have reasonable grounds for bitterness."
"But he was great fun to be with." Nakasa said, and "he got along very well with the Peace Corps' white Americans who were there."
Malcolm's personality was so strong, and he was so diplomatic, according to Nakasa, "that he was able to meet great heads of state with ease. When Malcolm walked in, protocol seemed to collapse. People spent hours with him."
By the time of his African tour, Nakasa says, much of the religious content had been dropped from Malcolm's arguments. (He had already been expelled from the Black Muslim Movement by Elijah Muhammad.) "Most of his speeches were political and social, but he still had a religious position, one which I couldn't get sorted out in my mind."
"He told me there were people who wanted to get rid of him," Nakasa said, "but he didn't say who." "He seemed to have a vary deep affection for Elijah Muhammad."
Kakasa said he was "very shocked" to learn of Malcolm's death. "The fact that Malcolm was what he was, and that he was allowed to be, spoke well, I think for the United States. But the fact that he was killed in this way will detract from that credit."
"I am not putting the blame for his assassination on anyone," Nakasa added, "but circumstances should be such that a man can say what he thinks without getting killed.