by any means necessary…

“We declare our right on this earth to be a man, to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.”

— Malcolm X, 1965

today I am reflecting on the meaning of ‘by any means necessary.’

its Malcolm’s birthday today, and I think of his voice saying those words. at the time he said it, I believe he meant it as it is commonly understood – that we [black people] must be prepared to take up arms if that is necessary to defend our communities and liberate ourselves from the weight of white supremacy.

for me the meaning has evolved as I experience more and more of this world and its layers of oppression. there are a plethora of internal and external dangers to the soul – it is so hard to keep your integrity intact, especially if you long for change, if the current world disappoints you or makes you furious.

I feel like it has become easy for us to occupy our rage without moving into action. and it has become easy for us to get angry and self-righteous without really asking what is needed in that moment.

what if what’s needed isn’t sexy, intimidating, violent…what if what is needed is forgiveness? the kind of forgiveness that seems unimaginable, miraculous, holy, unattainable. like forgiving those who hurt you, hate you, building relationship with those who kill your children?

what if what is necessary is trusting people beyond their mistakes and shortcomings, trusting their best intentions – are we strong enough to default to trust at a community level?

what if what is necessary is learning to see family where you have seen enemies? what if what is necessary is not strategy, not plans, not dollars – just unconditional love?

are we able to be that militant? i want to be militant enough to admit i am changing and growing and don’t know the answers.

my sister is about to have her second child, which has me contemplating and researching birth and labor again. after aiyana’s death I was thinking of how quickly you can violently kill someone, versus how long it takes to create and birth someone. i find a small but awe-inspiring hope in the realization that giving life and love is harder work than taking it. giving life and love and forgiveness and creating family – those are the behaviors to engage in to step into the miraculous.

as we strive to free ourselves, to uplift ourselves, to transform ourselves and our communities, let us consider what ‘by any means necessary’ looks like in practice for us now – especially if the outcome is unknown, immeasurable and unconditional; even if the means, at this moment, is militant love.

6 Responses to “by any means necessary…”


  1. 1 d-girl sommer

    these are words to live by. i love this blog.

  2. 2 Chad

    This is a fantastic blog entry!

    With all of the needless and senseless deaths of black people by black people, the message of self love that Malcolm X is needed now more than ever. Understanding the roots of the problems in the black community is needed so that which afflicts the community can be challenged. As far as black people in america have come out of civil rights era, there is still work that needs to be done… Not only for a real and tangible equality in american society, but the MOST work needs to be done within the black community BY the black community. We have to stop looking at ourselves through the standards and expectations of those who oppress and suppress, but rather set our own standards higher and put the legwork behind it. We cannot continue to hold ourselves and be bound to the destiny that is a rehash of the worst part of our history.

  3. 3 Fabiola

    we don’t talk about this nearly enough -

    “what if what is needed is forgiveness? the kind of forgiveness that seems unimaginable, miraculous, holy, unattainable. like forgiving those who hurt you, hate you, building relationship with those who kill your children? ” ever. really..

    Thank you for your words Adrienne, and sharing them with the world. I’ll be linking to your blog.

    xo

  4. 4 cj

    AMB,

    That was a wonderful blog and its how I live my life. Unconditional love and forgiveness is militant in a world filled with so much anger and despair. Thank you for sharing!

  5. 5 Luddie Bell

    Seeds of beauty! Thank YOU! Your spirit is strongly rooted here on earth! Radical love hurts while it heals, radical love unmasks us all, radical love is change. Radical love is inside of us all, inside the eyes of our ancestors. Gotta feel that freedom.

  6. 6 Akaya Windwood

    Oh AMB, this was lovely. Balm for the soul. Thank you for honoring Brother Malcolm in this way. I believe that his work was heading in just this direction, and that may have led to his assassination. I live and work for the day in which forgiveness and radical love is ordinary, and when hatred, fear and mistrust are rare. Thank you for your work in moving us along that road.
    love,
    A

  1. 1 By Any Means Necessary « Movements and Moments

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