Meeting A Giant Of The Civil Rights Movement Who Was An Advisor To Malcolm X

Photos: YouTube Screenshots

By Ras Kefim

The following article, by New York-based author and businessman Ras Kefim, examines his meeting, and subsequent friendship, with Dr. Lez Edmond (May 9, 1932 – April 2017)–who was an advisor and close comrade of Malcolm X. Ras Kefim is the author of the recently released book Deception In the Name Of the Lord. Read more about Deception In the Name Of the Lord in this Black Star News article.

I was introduced to Dr. Lez Edmond, I think in 1995, by a friend, Keisha Bowman, who was a student in his class at St. John’s University, in Queens, N.Y.

I had the privilege to share many memorable moments in conversation with Dr. Edmond in my store at the Colosseum, on Jamaica Ave. His humble, brutal honesty with accumulated wisdom was impossible to ignore. When we first met he grabbed my attention with the story of his family coming from Jamaica to Florida in the 1700’s.

I was amazed to find out later that I was in the company of an advisor to the legendary Malcolm X and a major contributor to what we now know as the Civil Rights Era.

What I realized after awhile was that this unassuming simple looking man was really a giant coming out of the intellectual world of the Harlem Renaissance. He had one of the most impressive résumés, in relationship to his knowledge of the Civil Right Era, and the social-cultural and educational life of Africa and Africans in the Diaspora.

Dr. Edmond taught history and psychology at St John’s University. But earlier, in the 60’s, he was a Civil Rights activist passionately dedicated to the Civil Rights Movement.

In an interview, with Saswat Pattanayak (see YouTube interview here, here and here) Dr. Edmond gives a snapshot of his childhood growing up in Florida that compels us to be reflective, given the attention the State of Florida is getting today in relationship to racial issues, education, and the political gamesmanship being used to deprive, deny, or reverse African-American progressive objectives.

In the interview, Dr. Edmond, in reflecting on his Florida childhood, stated: “Having been born in the Confederate State of Florida, in Jacksonville, to be exact, my outlook on the world was painted by that and if everyone knows, in competitive States that were very prejudiced they made life kind of difficult for our people of color. My mother would not take us downtown. I used to be kind of upset about that but she did not want us to see the brutality of racism and they protected us…”

Insight into Dr. Edmond’s relationship with Malcolm X, shortly before he was assassinated, is revealed in this quote from a Washington Post story from February 19, 2015:

“After leaving the Nation of Islam and being surveilled by law enforcement, in a meeting with followers, Malcolm put to a vote whether he should speak at an upcoming event, recalled Lez Edmond, a friend who urged him to stay in the background for a while.” Source: The unfinished work of Malcolm X.  by Krissah Thompson.

According to the book, Democracy with a Gun: America and the According Policy of Force, Lez Edmond was an intellectual and friend of Malcolm X.[7] He urged Malcolm X to stay in the background for awhile to avoid danger but his efforts failed.[8] He appeared in the Autobiography of Malcolm X, and was an associate of Stokely Carmichael, whom he set up interviews with. – Facts for Kids (kiddle.co)

In 1962, Edmond co-authored, with Earl Sweeting, the book African History: An Illustrated Handbook, presenting the accomplishments of the continent of Africa and its people. In 1964, Edmond wrote “Harlem Diary,” chronicling his thoughts and observances about Harlem’s 1964 race riot. “Harlem Diary” appeared in Ramparts magazine, a now-defunct major national magazine of the American Left. – lezedmond.com.

I was able to ask Dr. Edmond a question that was lingering in my mind from our first interactions. But, because of the sensitive nature of my query, I was hesitant until finally I mustered the will to ask “Doc,” as he is so often called or nicknamed. “Is it true that Malcolm said that the Nation of Islam was at one time financed by the KKK?” He leaned to the side, looked at me affirmed and said, “Brother, I have the tape. I will bring you a copy.”

Unfortunately his health started to slow his activities and I did not get the tape but I found it on YouTube.

A few years before his passing, I invited Dr. Edmond to speak at an event at the Afrikan Poetry Theatre, in Queens. Seeing a picture on the wall of both Dr. John Henrik Clark and Dr. Yosef be-Jochannan, he gave a short history of his close relationship with these two Master Teachers over many years. Dr. Edmond concluded his speech with a special memory of a unexpected meeting with Ethiopia’s Emperor Halie Selassie, and experiencing shaking the hand of the smiling African king, the King of Kings.

Dr. Lez Edmond, at the early stage of research for my book, “Deception In the Name of the Lord,” now published, was kind enough to volunteer his valuable time and knowledge in helping me to complete the project. His life cycle terminated before final completion of my book. However, I will be forever appreciative of the memories he left me and many others who had similar positive and inspiring experiences from his graceful, kind, wise, and respectful energy.

After meeting Dr Edmond at the event at the African Poetry Theatre, my mother said of him, “He is such a very nice man.”

Ras Kefim, the author of Deception In the Name Of the Lord, is a New York-based author and business entrepreneur who through his various businesses (including being a master tailor and hat-maker) has done work for many local luminaries, particularly within the entertainment\cultural space. Ras Kefim can be contacted via e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 1-347 369 8280.

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