Tag Malcolm X

Salaam Malcolm: 50th Anniversary 1965-2015

1990. ‘Malcolm X Fever’ is at fever pitch.

There is a plethora of Malcolm X iconography inspired primarily through the music of legendary, afrocentric and conscious rap/hip hop groups such as, Public Enemy and the X-Clan who had just dropped their debut album, ‘To the East Blackwards’; the films and merchandising of Spike Lee through his newly opened store in Brooklyn, Spike’s Joint; and the bold, fresh and funky fashion of Cross Colours.

These were ‘X-citing’ times. But as with any popular cultural movement, it can reach its point of overload and for many people, like myself who were into Malcolm-X for more historical and political reasons, the seeming reduction of him to that of purely a fashion icon was a bridge too far.

That point of overload was to literally hit home to me, in my locale of East Sheen in south-west London, when suddenly I’d see all these white middle and upper class kids in the local high street, rocking their Malcolm X and Public Enemy t-shirts.

In hindsight, I wish I could maybe have viewed it less cynically and accepted it for what it was, which whatever the reasons, was a mainstream, multi-cultural adoption of Malcolm X, which would have been utterly inconceivable in his lifetime.

Instead, to be honest, I was more consumed with mixed feelings of cultural appropriation and a desire to push a more meaningful adoption of Malcolm X, his teachings, his politics and his philosophies.

However, these feelings inspired me to design one of my first ever t-shirt designs, which I created to recognise the 25th anniversary of Malcolm’s death in 1965.

Malcolm RIP XXV © Jon Daniel

I deliberately took a less populist approach, using his muslim name of ‘El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz’. And a typographic rather than image-led visual treatment, using an excerpt from the eulogy read at Malcolm’s funeral by the Black actor and civil rights activist, Ossie Davis.

The design, which I initially sold on the street at the Notting Hill Carnival in 1990, and then afterwards at a few select stores around London, also proved to be a powerful creative catalyst.

It forged within me a new mindset to use design and creativity as a tool to promote the rich historical legacy of Black heroes and heroines from the African diaspora, and to take a progressive and pro-active stance to issues that affected the Black community.

As-Salaam-Alaikum.

 

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Cultural Figures

Growing up through the late 1960s and early 1970s, I think I am fairly typical of the British born, first generation offspring of West Indian parents, in my search for identity.

It took me a long time to come to terms with Britain being a part of who I am. There was little in the British culture that either appealed to me or I felt I could be a part of.

Any positive images or messages, were all coming from the West Indian culture of my family and the African American culture of the United States.

I was fortunate as a child to visit America on a few occasions to visit other members of my family living there. Everything about America seemed brighter, bolder, blacker and better.

The sheer volume of the sophisticated tv programming available such as ‘The Jeffersons’; cartoon series like ‘The Jackson 5’ and The Harlem Globetrotters; motion pictures like ‘Shaft’, ‘Car Wash’ and ‘The Wiz’; and the music, funk, soul and r’n’b that we could also access in the UK through import records or pirate radio all had a profound influence on me.

If I could have grown up in Harlem at that time, I could not have been happier.

And no doubt, this is a desire that has been instrumental in the nature of the collection of Action figures I have subsequently acquired.

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Contrary to the childhood nature of the subject matter, I did not start collecting them until I was in my late twenties / early thirties. Possibly, the birth of my children was a major factor. But more likely, it is due to the rise of the internet, as the availability to scour the globe and find these items more easily became a reality.

My main focus is collecting figures from the 1970’s and 80’s, as they are naturally the rarest, and embody the period of time I most identify with.

One such figure that I am most proud of (and only recently acquired after a search for several years and many unsuccessful eBay bids) is the 1975 Shindana Super Agent Slade action figure.

A truly ‘superfly’ figure modelled on Richard Roundtree’s black private detective character, Shaft, it is highly sought after by collectors of this genre.

What’s next?

One day I hope to finally acquire a Medicom Jean Michel Basquiat RAH action figure. It’s not extremely rare, but it is extremely cool.

And at the end of the day that’s what its all about.