Interview with Sonia Sanchez
QUESTION 6
INTERVIEWER:

If you could think back on a rally where he was present, where he was a speaker, to give a sense of what electrifying, what an electrifying speaker he was.

SONIA SANCHEZ:

Well, I think that, um, the reason why he was so effective-

INTERVIEWER:

I'm sorry, I should have said Malcolm, if you could mention--

SONIA SANCHEZ:

Okay. The reason, ah, why Malcolm was so effective was because the moment that he come into an audience, he told them exactly what he intended to do, what he intended to do with them. What he said to an audience is that almost like we are enslaved. Um, and everyone looked at first and said, "Who? We are enslaved? We're free." Um, and he began to tell us and explain to us in a very historical fashion just as to what our enslavement was about. The moment he did that, he always had some information for you, some new information as a consequence you see he drew an audience towards him. Malcolm knew how to curse you out in a sense and make you love him at the same time for doing it. He knew how to, in a very real sense, to open your eyes as to the kind of oppression that you were experiencing. On the one hand he would say something in a very harsh fashion, and then on the other hand, he would, ah, kiss you and hug you. And he said, "I understand why you feel the way that you feel because you have the following missing." The joy of Malcolm is that he could have in an audience college professors, school teachers, nurses, doctors, musicians, artists, poets and sisters, ah, who were housewives, sisters who worked for people in their houses, brothers who were out of prison, brothers who were on drugs and were coming off drugs, brothers who were workers, ah, brothers who, ah, were just hanging on the streets, whatever, or were waiting outside the temple to get inside. The point is that I've never seen anyone appeal to such a broad audience, and that reason why he could do that is because he understood the bottom line is that if you tell people the truth, then it will appeal to everyone. If you tell them all about their oppression, ah, in a fashion that they ain't never heard before, then they will all gravitate towards you. So he could have an audience of people who were, um, sediddy, you know like, "I'm in here to listen to you perhaps but I really don't want to hear too much, whatever." And a sister sitting next to him, "Yeah, you're right, man. Go on, tell it like it is." And all of a sudden you'll find yourself now saying, "Yes, tell it like it is." You say, "Yeah man, you're right!" I mean you went back to roots. Very fantastic roots you see. And he cut through all the crap. In other words he says, "I know you've learned how to speak this English in a proper fashion. But you forget that." We said, "Man, you right," you know at some point. So yes, he cut through a lot of, of nonsense in this country. At the same time he informed us, and he made, the broad mass of people respond to it. The joy of Malcolm is that he would get on a television and he would be sitting there with bright, bright people. This man with no Ph.D. This man with no M.A. This man with no B.A., and would listen in a very calm fashion to what people, how people analyze the world be they Black, or be they White, or whatever. And then he will come right around and speak in a very articulate fashion. And you see what he said out loud is what African-American people had been saying out loud forever behind closed doors. And he said, "I'm now going to say out loud for everyone to hear what African-American people have been thinking for years." And he did it. The reason why initially we cut off the televisions is 'cause we were scared. Bat he did, he said, "I will now," in a very calm fashion, "Wipe out fear for you." He expelled fear for African-Americans. He says, "I will speak out loud what you've been thinking." And he says, "You'll see. People will hear it and they will not do anything to us necessarily," okay. "But I will now speak it for the masses of people." When he said it in a very strong fashion and his very manly fashion, and this fashion that says, "I am not afraid to say what you've been thinking all these years." That's why we loved him. He said it out loud. Not behind closed doors. He took on America for us. He assumed the responsibility of father, ah, brother, ah, lover, um, um, man, um, he became, again, Martin Delany's Blake, ah, the first Black revolutionary character in, in literature. He came out and he became the person that we wanted to see. The man that we needed to see in the North and in the South. He became the man that most African-American women had wanted their men to be: strong. "See I want to take you on, America. Here I is. Look at me. I'm going to say the things that you've wanted people to say." That's why the men and women loved him. That's why we all loved him so very much. Because he made us feel holy. And he made us feel whole. He made us feel loved. And he made us feel that we were worth something finally on this planet Earth. Finally, we had some worth.