Remembering Malcolm X as Oakland Festival Enters 18th Year


The Malcolm X Jazz and Art Festival is Sat. May, 19, from 11:00 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Oakland’s San Antonio Park, 17th Avenue and Foothill Boulevard. Free. For more information, go to

They all would have loved it: Malcolm Little, Detroit Red, Malcolm X, El Hajj Malik Shabazz.

For 18 years now, the festival celebrating Black creativity and entrepreneurship has been the premier event for its sponsor, the Eastside Arts Alliance.

Raised by leaders of Marcus Garvey’s United Negro Improvement Association who fled their Omaha, Neb., home because of threats made by the KKK, Malcolm Little would have appreciated the festival’s devotion to Black culture of the past, present and future.

The jazz stage will feature Jennifer Johns, The Frederick Douglass Youth Ensemble and the Howard Wiley Quartet. A dance stage includes the Samba Funk Funkquarians led by King Theo while the poet stage features Thea Matthews, Tureedah Mickell and QR Hand among others.

The art aspect includes Lino printing, live painting, youth walls and a steno workshop.  DJs Lady Ryan and aebidee are the hosts for the day.
Detroit Red would have appreciated the vendors’ creative entrepreneurship.

As an orator, Malcolm X would have applauded the force and beauty in the expression of the poets.

And El Hajj Malik Shabazz, who was changed by his pilgrimage to Mecca, would have appreciated the power of people coming together for a purpose.

But Malcolm X had another name, one that he was most proud of, bestowed while he was on a visit to Nigeria. Omowale, which means ‘the son who has returned home’ in the Yoruba language, was given to him by the Nigerian Muslim Students Association in 1964, a few months before his assassination on Feb. 21, 1965.

Awon Ohun Omnira, who was asked to open the festival with a libation, Bata drumming and singing for the ancestors in old Yoruba, will also be calling the name Omowale, what he considered his most treasured honor.

Perhaps Omowale’s visits to Africa meant he had come full circle in his life, fulfilling to some degree his parents’ aspirations for Pan Africanism as Garveyites.

While the Oakland’s UNIA headquarters languishes in West Oakland, the Malcolm X Festival’s organizing sponsors, the Eastside Arts Alliance, strives to establish and maintain a black space for culture formally called the Black Cultural Zone. All of the Malcolms would have loved that, too.


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