Black History Month: Dr. Betty Shabazz, Widow Of Malcolm X, Became A Great City Educator
NY1's series on African-American women who helped shape the civil rights movement continues with Dr. Betty Shabazz, who soldiered on after her husband Malcolm X was slain and becoming a leading educator in New York City and founded a center in the Washington Heights location of her husband's death. NY1's Cheryl Wills filed the following report.
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New Yorkers fondly call 3940 Broadway in Washington Heights, Manhattan "The House That Betty Built," but it is home to one of the most tragic events in African-American History.
Back on February 21, 1965, the building was known as the Audubon Ballroom and civil rights leader Malcolm X was murdered there in cold blood as he gave a speech, in plain sight of his pregnant wife, Betty Shabazz, and his four daughters.
Now, the building is the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center, a place of peace that Shabazz envisioned before she passed away in 1997.
A ribbon cutting this month at the center welcomed a new exhibit called "Freedom's Sisters," which honors the legacy of 20 African-American women who helped shape the civil rights movement.
Two of Betty Shabazz's daughters, Ilyasah and Malaak Shabazz, paid tribute to their mother's legacy.
"I remember asking my mother, how was she able to do this?" said Ilyasah Shabazz. "She witnessed her husband's assassination right here in this center and she had four babies, she was pregnant with twins, the wife of a man who challenged the government. And never accepting 'no' or 'I can't' as an answer."
"People always ask me, 'What's it like to be the daughter of Malcolm X?' Easy. What's it like to be the daughter of Dr. Betty Shabazz?" says Malaak Shabazz.
Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, says she shared a special bond with Dr. Shabazz.
"We were more than just the widows. It send a message to young women that you should be your own person," said Evers-Williams.
Officials at the Shabazz Center said they plan to use the facility to promote tolerance and social transformation.
"This center represents a vortex between sorrow where Malcolm X was assassinated and hope for the future," said Shabazz Center Chair Zeav Ramadan.
Ilyasah Shabazz, the author of "Growing Up X," said her parents would be deeply proud of the center.
"My mother turned this place that represented tragedy into a place of triumph," she said.
"Freedom's Sisters" will be on display at the Shabazz Center until April 22. For more information, visit www.theshabazzcenter.net.