(TriceEdneyWire.com) – When folks think about the families of leaders such as Brother Malcolm X, it is limited, at best, to their wives, children and parents. Many don’t even think of those relatives.
They fail to realize that he also had aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, first, second, and third cousins and grandparents. That’s why it was such a memorable experience in summer 2017 to attend a Little family reunion in Baltimore. The Littles had invited me to speak at the reunion banquet held in the Reginal F. Lewis Museum of the Maryland African American History and Culture. Over 100 members of the family from at least 12 states—Alabama, Florida, Ohio, California, North Carolina, South Carolina, Illinois, New York, Mississippi, Connecticut and Maryland, plus Washington, DC—were part of the celebration.
After receiving the invitation, I decided to read again the chapter, “Ajar,” in the book, Seventh Child: A Family Memoir of Malcolm X, co-written by Brother Malcolm’s nephew, Rodnell Collins and myself. The chapter begins as follows: “It was the summer of 1985. Over 100 members of the far-flung Little family had gathered together in Memphis, Tennessee for its first-ever family reunion. A family member who was present described it as an awesome, electrifying and unforgettable moment when Oscar V. Little, the convener of the reunion and the family’s unofficial historian, announced that his extensive research, done at the archives in Washington, DC and Virginia had finally revealed the name of the Little ancestor whom a few of us (Rodnell wrote in the first-person) knew vaguely as an African kidnapped and delivered into slavery in South Carolina in the early 1800s.
“His name was Ajar,” Uncle Oscar told the stunned family members, “He was brought to slavery in South Carolina in 1815.” Uncle Oscar told us that he first heard the name Ajar from an elderly Chicago-based relatives named Temple Little. She was the daughter of one of the 22 children born to Tony (Ajar’s son) and Claire Little, Ma’s and Uncle Malcolm’s great-grandparents. She told Uncle Oscar she had often heard her parents speak of a great-grandfather named Ajar.”
With personal statements, dance, poetry and the noting of accomplishments of current Littles, they celebrated their ancestors. There was also a “Guess Who?” questionnaire in which family member were requested to answer 17 questions such as the name of the person who started tracing their ancestry, the name of all 22 of Tony and Claire Little’s children, the family member who has visited the most countries and where, the name of seven family members who own their own businesses and, the easiest of all, the family member who coined the phrase, “By any means necessary.”
Karen May, who works with the Association for the Study of African American Life and History in Washington, DC, recently discovered that she is a member of the Little family. She noted, “Family history has been a passion of mine for decades. Missing branches, the brick wall, have had me relentlessly searching Little genealogy records for an absolute relationship with Malcolm Little, (Brother Malcolm X), for years. My Aunt Hattie Little (Rosie Little’s daughter) said we were related. I silently accepted her acclamation without any solid proof and would sometime quip ‘we’re supposed to be related to Malcolm X,’ but I tipped around the actuality. My great grandfather, Ben Little and his daughter, Rosie Little, my grandmother, were the beginning connections. Discovering Malcolm’s father was born in Georgia snuffed out my Malcolm X light, although, my heart wanted the relationship. I logged onto the Noxubee County, Mississippi genealogy Facebook page and met Cousin Duane Perry, a Little. He forwarded a copy of his Little family tree tracing Malcolm’s ancestors to Sumter County, Alabama. Ben and Rosie Little were born in Sumter County, Alabama…When A. Peter Bailey stopped by my office and told me about the reunion in Baltimore, I told him I had recently discovered I was related to Malcolm. Wonders never cease. Peter informed me he would be the guest speaker at the Little Family Reunion in Baltimore July 29-August 1, 2017. I quickly called the host, introduced myself and rattled off my Sumter County, Alabama connection. Just over a month ago, I attended the reunion in Baltimore, met Little cousins, shared Little history and listened to Peter’s personal reflections about Brother Malcolm X, my cousin.”
In my presentation, “Personal Reflections on Brother Malcolm X, A Master Teacher,” I relayed to the family why Brother Malcolm had such a power impact on me and others like me. I explained that his knowledge, wisdom, determination, integrity, and self-assurance, immunized our minds from being infected by the deadly toxic disease which I call white supremacitis. I urged them to learn and teach all they can about their brilliant, legendary relative.
We should thank and salute the Little family for having provided us with one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century.
A. Peter Bailey, whose latest book is Witnessing Brother Malcolm X, the Master Teacher, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.