Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Undone Malcolm X Radio Project

The controversy about the late Manning Marable's biography, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention (Viking) brought to mind a radio project I wanted to do at WBAI in New York in the 1970s. Unfortunately I never got to do it. Probably because of procrastination.

I wanted to do a 90-minute to two-hour roundtable discussion that would have included several people who knew Malcolm. Those I thought of inviting to the broadcast included Alex Haley, James Baldwin, Ossie Davis, Maya Angelou, John Henrik Clarke, and Gordon Parks.

Many of these luminaries are now deceased. But if the program had taken place it would have been a memorable, if not historic, document of the life and times of Malcolm X, bringing to light a lot of previously unknown facts about the iconic Black Muslim spokesman. There's no doubt that a recording of the broadcast would later have been useful to historians and biographers.

It's still possible to do a program using the printed and recorded words of the aforementioned individuals, but such a program would lack the interactivity, spontaneity, and serendipity of a live, in-studio discussion.