Events

Malcolm X Day — more than a day off?

Like any parent of Berkeley schoolchildren, my son is off school today for Malcolm X Day. Berkeley has celebrated the birthday of black nationalist Malcolm X since 1979. Schools, public offices and libraries are closed.

Malcolm X was born 85 years ago this Wednesday.

As far as I can tell, no other city in the US celebrates the holiday (although the first known celebration — but not public holiday — for Malcolm X Day took place in Washington, DC, in 1971). More strange to me is that the holiday is taken in Berkeley but I can’t find a single commemoration or event to mark the occasion. It just seems a day off.

Is there something happening in Berkeley to commemorate Malcolm X today?

Photo by Marion S. Trikosko donated to the public domain

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  • laura menard

    It is not just schools that take a day off, city employees enjoy this paid holiday.
    Makes me wonder if police and fire are paid holiday rates for “special” Berkeley holidays.

  • laura menard

    My oldest son, ’04 grad, was required to read Malcolm X’s autobiography three times: 5th, 7th, and 11th grade. In junior year of the CAS program students moaned about rereading this thin book yet again, but the teacher chose to support the recommendation because it came from one of his favorite students whose mother was active in promoting PCAD. So typical of Berkeley’s interest in teaching diversity of ideas.

  • david Bunnell

    it may be time to rescend this ridiculous holiday…and don’t get me wrong there is much to admire about Malcolm X and his life should be studied in school

  • Maureen Burke

    How about the International Women’s Day holiday? Oh the irony of scrambling for child care when my kids were in elementary school and I couldn’t take time off work.

  • hi_friend

    this Wednesday we will be having a special dinner

    but nothing today, no

  • Brian

    I’m glad I don’t live in Berkeley anymore.

  • http://trampleasure.net/lee Lee Trampleasure

    In my opinions, Berkeley did a good thing to give International Women’s Day and Malcolm X Day off as holidays. When we did this, it was one way we could tell people that these were important issues. Now we have ML King Jr. Day as a national holiday. And, as Maureen pointed out, taking off Int’l Women’s Day generally makes women work harder (we still live in a society where most of the childcare is handled by women).

    In days when schools and cities are looking on ways to save money, perhaps it is time to rescind these local holidays. Schools and the city government can still commemorate them if they believe they are important. City workers might have to work an extra couple days, but they probably get these days as extra days when compared to other cities. School teachers are required to teach a state-mandated number of days, so it would just make the the school year a couple less days into summer break (or start a couple days later).

  • Brian

    Was Malcolm X ever within 300 miles of Berkeley?

  • John Seal

    Complain if you will about Malcolm X, but his autobiography is anything but ‘thin’. The standard Ballantine paperback edition is 460 pages long.

  • http://basiscraft.com Thomas Lord

    Brian,

    Good question. I had never thought about it.

    The answer is Malcolm X was within 0 miles of Berkeley – and there’s an interesting bit of history there.

    See, for example:

    http://www.jofreeman.com/sixtiesprotest/speakerban.htm

    Very briefly: for decades, the University of California banned certain speakers from campus. Communists were apparently one favorite target.

    In 1961, Malcolm X was banned from speaking on campus on the grounds that he was a religious leader. That same year, Billy Graham spoke on campus. Malcolm gave his talk at the Y.

    By 1963 the ban had been lifted. The student political party SLATE (instrumental to the campus Free Speech Movement) invited two speakers: Malcolm X and a representative of the Ku Klux Klan.

    The article I linked reports:

    “They were greeted politely. Malcolm X was applauded. Capt. Forbes heard silence relieved by occasional laughter.”

  • Lori Kossowsky

    Thanks for the info Thomas. Maybe there should be a Berkeley Day, when we all help each other in these hard times. Just a thought.

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  • http://embracingtheabsurd.blogspot.com/ Cori Kesler

    I wrote a post on my blog about my feelings on this. http://bit.ly/bvgn2x The comments are interesting … I do think that Malcolm X should be studied in school. As should Booker T. Washington, WEB Dubois, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and many others. The school district now lumps Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays as one on a Monday in February dubbed “Presidents Day” and honors them all. Could we not do the same thing and have ONE day that celebrates the achievements of ALL the leaders in African American History?

    Just a thought.

  • laura menard

    Just for the sake of accuracy, I did not complain about MX, I provided yet another example of poorly aligned and repetitive curriculum based on a Berkeley style of flag waving. My point was to complain about the missed opportunity to read a variety of books, remember most Berkeley students are not assigned much reading during the K-12 years.

    As to my personal view of MX, I tend to not admire people who find their moral center and conscience through religion as MX did.