Stillwater and I watched the premiere of the Lifetime Film, Betty & Coretta, the night before last on TV. I was pleasantly surprised to find the movie feminist, which is something I so rarely see in the media these days as men continue their escalating 6,000 year war on women and male violence continues to be the biggest issue on this planet.
Betty & Coretta is a film about the friendship between Dr. Betty Shabazz (played by Mary J. Blige) and Coretta Scott King (played by Angela Bassett). For those unfamiliar with American history, they were the widows of Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Both men were activists and leaders in the Civil Rights movement who were gunned down and assassinated. Myrlie Evers, the widow of Medgar Evers, another Civil Rights activist and leader who was also assassinated, makes a couple of brief appearances in the film as well. I was unable to find the name of the actress who portrayed Myrlie Evers, as the media continues to invisiblize women and focuses on the men even tho the movie wasn’t about the men. I was appalled to see that the media doesn’t even seem to know these incredible women’s names even tho they were brilliant, charismatic activists and leaders in their own right. The media refers to them only as widows and merely the property of their husbands.
The film primarily focuses on Dr. Betty Shabazz’s trials and tribulations after the assassination of Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz) and her friendship with Coretta Scott King. Dr. Betty and three of her and Malcolm’s daughters were present and only a few feet away when Malcolm X was gunned down in front of their eyes. Qubilah Shabazz, their second daughter, who was 5 at the time, was especially traumatized by the event which continued to haunt her well into her adult life and led to a life of struggle. Which is part of the problem of the man box. It focuses only on the men and ignores the toll it takes on wives and children, who are invisibilized and forgotten.
In 1995, Qubilah Shabazz was arrested in connection to an alleged plot to kill Louis Farrakhan, who the family believed to be responsible for Malcolm’s assassination. I doubt it’s merely a belief. They probably had good reason to think Farrakhan was involved. I personally have no use for the man. He oozes with evil and makes my skin crawl. Farrakhan agreed to drop all charges and support and finance Qubilah’s defense if Dr. Betty would stand with him in public and retract her assertions that Farrakhan was involved in Malcolm X’s assassination. The family believes they were set up by Farrakhan. Qubilah continues to maintain her innocence in this alleged plot to kill Farrakhan. Told you the man is evil.
Due to Qubilah’s incarceration and troubles, Qubilah’s son Malcom Shabazz Jr. at age 12 is forced to live with his grandmother, Dr. Betty Shabazz. According to the film, Malcolm Jr. is angry that he cannot live with his mother and sets Dr. Betty’s home on fire. It was not his intention to harm his grandmother. I guess he figured if he burned the place down, he’d have no place to live and could then go back to living with his mother. Unfortunately, Dr. Betty thinks Malcolm is still in his room and tries to rescue him from the fire. She sustains burns over 80% of her body. She hangs on for 3 weeks before death mercifully takes her. Malcom Jr. serves 18 months in a juvenile detention center for the arson and death of his grandmother. All I can say is I hope there’s a cold place in hell waiting for Louis Farrakhan who I think should be held responsible for this entire mess – from the assassination of Malcolm X to the troubled lives of Qubilah and Malcolm Jr. which result in their incarcerations and Dr. Betty’s death.
In any case, Dr. Betty Shabazz and Coretta Scott King were remarkable women with remarkable lives. As mentioned above, they were billiant, charismatic human rights activists, leaders, and feminists in their own right and arguably created more positive change for people of color and women than their late husbands did. The sisterhood they forged for their black sisters and women in general, who they never forgot and often mentioned, will not be denied as long as I have some say-so in the matter. And since I am the goddess of this blog, I do. In the meanwhile, we can thank Coretta King for our Martin Luther King holiday, which as she said, is a victory for all of us. That we can overcome adversity despite the odds against it, and make this world a better place for all of us. Not only black folks, women and the poor, but gay and lesbian folks as well, who Coretta King advocated for. Coretta King passed on in 2006 due to complications from ovarian cancer.
I was 7 when Malcolm X was assassinated. I do not remember the event. It must not have received a lot of coverage given the fact I remember the assassination of JFK just fine, which occurred when I was 6. I was 10 when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. I remember the event well. My father, who was born in Spanish Harlem, was a New York City fireman who worked in both the South Bronx and in Harlem. After the assassination, there were riots and the cities were being set on fire, which jeopardized my father’s safety as he had to go into the thick of things and put out the fires. Coretta Scott King tho, despite the tragedy and her grief, rose to the challenge and took the lead to calm the masses and the rioting, as Dr. King, who advocated non-violence, would have wanted it. My family owes her a debt of gratitude. In doing so, she helped insure my father’s safety.
As an adult, I saw the dedication to Coretta Scott King when I visited Antioch college in Ohio some years ago, her former alma mater. It inspired me to walk the same ground that she once walked. Coretta Scott King, Dr. Betty Shabazz, and Myrlie Evers were/are truly great women. I can think of no better way to kick off Black History month. Hat’s off to you, ladies, and thank you for letting nothing stand in your way in making this world a better place. You are an inspiration to us all.