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VIPKid Diversity Speaker Series: Ilyasah Shabazz on Education, Racism, and her Parents’ Legacy

By VIPKid  |  March 16, 2021

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We want to take a moment to thank Ilyasah Shabazz for kicking off the VIPKid Diversity Speaker Series. Ilyasah was kind enough to speak with VIPKid teachers on the importance of education and shared insightful thoughts on her parents Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz. 

About the speaker

Ilyasah Shabazz is an award-winning author, educator, and producer. She is the author of five historical novels and has served as project advisor for the PBS award-winning documentary Prince Among Slaves. She is the daughter of human rights activist Malcolm X, and is Co-Chairperson of the Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center. Working to preserve the legacy of her parents, she committed her life to intergenerational leadership development through diversity, equity, and inclusion. For more information on Ilyasah, please explore her website here

On the role of teachers

As an educator, Ilyasah believes in the power of students celebrating their identities. By cultivating an educational space where students are encouraged to love themselves, students are more likely to be open to learn and love others. She spoke to the importance and power of providing students of color with the opportunity to learn about people who look like them and to learn that people of color have accomplished great things throughout the history of the world.

“I believe that every child deserves an opportunity to know they are worthy of love, worthy of a quality education, worthy to participate in society.”

Discussing her mother and father

Remembering her mother’s words, Ilyasah speaks to the power of education as a means to fight racism and hatred in America: “Education is the most powerful tool to combat the injustice of systemic American racism.” Through education, students learn several skills, historical context, and empathy that equips a student with the historically accurate knowledge to fight racism in America.

Touching on the magnitude of her father’s legacy, Ilyasah shared the impact of the Nation of Islam on Malcom X’s beliefs. He championed human rights for all because of his faith, and he believed in our collective humanity. He believed that education, compassion, and understanding were key to creating a society where people treated each other better. 

Malcolm understood the goal of peace required truth and education and a healthy identity formation based on historical facts”

Listener reflections

Teacher Almut Godette: 

I enjoyed hearing that Ilyasah was able to go to Mekka/Medina and follow in her father’s footsteps, and was touched hearing that Ilyasah was able to read her father’s diary. I agree with her idea that education begins at home, and that we must teach children the importance of respect and love. “You first have to love self, in order to be able to love others.” rings so true to me.

Teacher Christine Coffee: 

When we love our whole selves, it is easy to love others. As teachers, we can help students learn to love every part of themselves by including a diversity of people and cultures in our curriculum because seeing and learning about people like themselves is what helps them learn to love themselves.

Teacher Margaret Madsen:

I really enjoyed her point about always going to the source of something to fully understand it. She spoke about her father studying the etymologies of words in the dictionary, so that he could use words as effectively as possible during debates. Ilyasah Shabazz has studied the roots of her family and her people, and thus can fully understand her own identity. I hope that I can do the same.

We want to extend our thanks to Ilyasah Shabazz for sharing her thoughts on education and the legacy of her parents. This is the first in our Diversity Speaker Series, and we eagerly look forward to learning from our future speakers.   

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