Government Military and Veterans Affairs

Bill would create Malcolm X state holiday

Nebraska would celebrate Malcolm X’s birthday as a state holiday under a bill considered Feb. 22 by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.

Sen. Terrell McKinney
Sen. Terrell McKinney

LB53, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Terrell McKinney, would establish May 19 as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, Malcolm X Day in Nebraska.

Calling Malcolm X “the most famous Nebraskan in the world,” McKinney noted the leader’s importance in American, Black and Muslim history. Malcolm X is a central figure in the history of the social movements for civil and political rights, McKinney said, who has long been mischaracterized by those who falsely believe him to have been an advocate for violence.

“Malcolm X is one of the most fundamentally misunderstood people in American history,” McKinney said. “And perhaps the stigma around him would be extinguished if his achievements and contributions were recognized.”

JoAnna LeFlore-Ejike, executive director of the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation, testified in support of the bill. The foundation, located in North Omaha where Malcolm X was born, works to ensure his legacy, she said, and recently won a victory when the civil rights leader was inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Fame.

She said the impact of a statewide holiday could be “monumental” for future generations of Nebraskans. If more young people learn about Malcolm X at a younger age through commemoration, she said, they could become stronger, more resilient and more excited about their cultural origins.

“There would be more motivated youth willing to grow from their experiences, transform and be more insightful about their contributions to the world,” LeFlore-Ejike said.

Gwen Easter, testifying on behalf of the Nebraska Commission on African American Affairs, also spoke in support of LB53. A “world-renowned” civil rights leader should be honored by his birth city and state, she said.

“Nebraska should be proud to recognize a day to celebrate one of the few international icons from Omaha, Nebraska,” Easter said. “Many cities around the United States already do in many ways.”

Also testifying in support was Y’Shall Davis, who said Malcolm X stands out among leaders as someone who saw that he was on the wrong path and changed his life. She said his teachings kept her out of jail and encouraged her to become politically active.

“Like Malcolm X, I had to change my way of thinking,” Davis said. “When the streets of North Omaha led me astray, I was blessed to receive a copy of Malcolm X’s autobiography and it gave me hope.”

Kathy Wilmot testified in opposition, saying there aren’t enough days in the year to honor a specific individual to reflect every Nebraskan’s heritage. In addition, she said, lawmakers should ask themselves if such recognition is “proper” given Malcolm X’s exhortation to use “any means necessary” to advance the cause of Black people.

The committee took no immediate action on LB53.

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