Earl Grant, 89, a courageous and committed Pan-African warrior, died of what his doctors labeled heart failure on April 7 in Los Angeles. Those of us who knew Earl know that his heart didn’t fail; it just closed down after enabling him, for many years, to make a productive and valuable contribution to the ongoing battle against white supremacy/racism.
Earl, a brilliant mathematician, jokingly described himself as a “descendant of a long line of distinguished cotton pickers. His family had been one of those who fled the overt terrorism of East Texas to the more covert of the same in California.
He moved on to become one of the most important aides and supporters of Brother Malcolm X, another great Pan-African warrior. Their close friendship and collaboration in the battle against white supremacy/racism in North America (or, more aptly, the USA) and race-driven colonialism in Africa is clearly reflected in the following excerpts from a letter Brother Malcolm wrote to Earl in October 1964 while in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
“My Dear Brother,” wrote Brother Malcolm, “Your letter was awaiting me upon my return to Addis two days ago. And I was very pleased to hear from you, especially to learn that you are expecting an addition to your family. This is a blessing and proves that what we oft-times are told by others is impossible is actually made very easy as long as we don’t become discouraged and give up. No one knows what can or cannot be accomplished until all efforts towards that end has been expended. … I pray Allah will bless you and your wife with a very healthy child that may bring you much deserved happiness. It hurt me to think that you feel you have outlived your usefulness to me. Usefulness is not the yardstick I use to measure what I feel has always been a warm personal friendship between us. Ours has never been a minister to Muslim relationship. It has always been brother-to-brother and on that basis you have confided many of your personal feelings and problems to me and, in turn, I have done likewise to you. As for my part that warm brotherly relationship has never faded.”
Later in the letter Brother Malcolm wrote that Earl “should be the happiness of those whom I left behind because you have the most mature outlook over things, especially in the international context. Everything that I came here to do has been done with maximum success … we are now more firmly fitted into and supported by world forces more than we could imagine previously. And I had to remain here this long to rightly lay the foundation. It has been a great personal sacrifice for my family because I left them at a time when they actually needed me the most. But the potential gain has been worth the risks. You and many others have also made great sacrifices but I believe no one will regret it in the long run.”
Earl’s equally deep feelings about their friendship is reflected by excerpts from his essay, “The Last Days of Malcolm X,” in the book “Malcolm X: The Man and His Times.” That’s a book conceived and formatted by Earl and myself as a response to what we considered efforts by other forces to gain control of Brother Malcolm’s legacy. When we were totally rejected by several publishers we met with Dr. John Henrik Clarke who liked the project. With him onboard we finally got a publisher.
In his contribution, which is required reading for anyone dealing with Brother Malcolm’s life and legacy, Earl included the following about a visit to his home by Brother Malcolm. “…coming to my home was the one black man in the United States who was able to understand, define and identify with the problems of black Americans in the twentieth century.”
He also wrote that “Brother Malcolm called a business meeting for Saturday night, February 20, 1965 at a sister’s house. There were about a dozen of us present. Malcolm was very tired and restless but he said it was important that the meeting be held. He said he wanted a complete reorganization of the OAAU to be made. It had not been operating to his satisfaction. Also he wanted women to be given a more clearly defined role in the OAAU.”
I was not at that meeting but I do remember Brother Malcolm saying to those of us backstage on Feb. 21, 1965, that right after a trip to Mississippi that week at the invitation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), he was going to spend six months building up the Organization of African American Unity (OAAU).
Earl’s reaction to the assassination of Brother Malcolm on Feb. 21, 1965 is clearly revealed in the following quotes from his essay: “As I stood by his coffin, I looked upon the face that I had loved so much. The tears were streaming down my face as I said ‘As Asalaam Alaikum’ to him for the last time. I thanked him for allowing one, so unworthy as I, to share his life with him. I asked for forgiveness for my being unable to have done more for him.”
Through the past 54 years, Earl attended and or participated in celebrations on May 19, Brother Malcolm’s birthdate and commemorations on Feb. 21, the day he was assassinated by Negroes who willingly collaborated with proponents of white supremacy/racism. Besides conceiving and formatting the book “Malcolm X: The Man and His Times” in 2006, Earl and I, along with former OAAU secretary Sara Mitchell, pulled together a reunion of former OAAU members. Eighteen brothers and sisters and their families experienced a powerful and memorable reunion.
In 2009, I Amtraked to Los Angeles and spent five days with Earl discussing ways to sustain and advance Brother Malcolm’s critically important legacy. Tehuti Hughes, who basically looked after Earl during the last years of his life, interviewed us for nearly three hours. The last time I spoke with Earl was a few days before his death. I told him about a book I was doing that will focus on Brother Malcolm’s international agenda. Earl couldn’t speak but Tehuti said he was responding with body movement as I spoke. Earl and I will be listed as co-authors of the book since he has provided me with critical information and insight.
Earl ended his “Last Days” essay with the following quote describing how he felt after the burial of Brother Malcolm. “I returned home and fell into a deep sleep. It was the first real rest I had been able to get in months. There was no longer any reason to jump when the phone rang or to sleep with a loaded gun. The best year of my life was at an end. But, I along with all of the brothers and sisters, would live it again, Allah willing.”
Rest in peace, our warrior Brother.
Bailey, whose latest book is “Witnessing Brother Malcolm X: The Master Teacher,” can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.