59 years ago on this day, Malcolm X was assassinated. Like many others, my life was changed for the better upon reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley. I thought today would be an appropriate time to share, one of the many lessons I have learned from the life and teachings of Malcolm X. 

Many know him through his brilliant speeches like Ballot or the Bullet. His debate at the Oxford Union. His brilliant retorts on the CBC’s Front page challenge. His work as a human rights activist including his worldwide tour and his plan to take a case to the United Nations. Others know him for his embrace of Sunni Islam, or through his relationship with Muhammad Ali. His letter from Hajj. More recently, it’s come to light he had intentions to put together a pool of technicians to help create an open market as a means for economic freedom. He was a staunch, relentless, fearless defender of his family, his community and his people. There are many sides to our Brother Malcolm. Like a prism, he refracted so many different streams of light. 

Beyond all his accomplishments, one theme sticks out to me more than anything else. That is the radical idea of reinvention. He had put behind a life of crime and submitted himself to a life of learning and teaching. He had turned himself inside out. He changed his psyche, his motivations, his incentives. He transformed from one man to another. Even as he ascended in his accomplishments, he continued to exert humility, keeping his mind open and willing to be wrong. I think many of us, including myself severely underestimate how hard it is to reinvent ourselves especially as we get older. To admit that we were wrong and made a mistake. And not to admit, as a way to give in to the mob. But as pure act of humility and true willingness to learn. 

Today, anyone who reinvents themselves is quickly assumed to be a fake or fraud. We leave no room for people to engage in redemption. No room for forgiveness. For growth. We assume the worst in people, rather than assuming the best in people. We don’t believe in second chances. Mistakes today are stains that never get wiped away. 

I can speak for myself and say with confidence, that I wouldn’t be where I am today had I not been given a second chance. A second chance, that allowed me to reinvent myself for the better.

Malcolm’s life is the purest expression of reinvention. His reinvention transformed him so deeply, that even his enemies could not turn away from him. Malcolm taught me no matter how low you go, you can always rise to the top. It’s never too late, to be the best you can be. 

I don’t know where I would be today without Malcom’s teachings. I still feel he had taught me the lesson of a lifetime after all these years. I’m happy I had the privilege to learn from him in this lifetime. If you haven’t read the Autobiography of Malcolm X, I highly recommend you do. 

To our dear brother, el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, thank you.