Black History Month runs from Feb. 1-March 1, 2021. CanPL.ca will feature articles throughout the month profiling the Canadian Premier League’s many outstanding players of colour, as well as stories about their views on the importance of Black History Month.
Cavalry FC’s Elijah Adekugbe didn’t hesitate when nominating Malcolm X as one of his personal heroes for Black History Month.
Adekugbe, a 24-year-old midfielder who’s set for his third season with the Cavs in 2021, became familiar with Malcolm X’s work, specifically his autobiography, while attending Trinity Western University in B.C.
“After I read it, I felt like a change,” Adekugbe told CanPL.a, specifically recalling Malcolm X’s trip to Mecca.
“He went there and saw the diversity and how different people are different colours, genders, backgrounds, whatever it was, how they all treated each other. What really resonated with me was that moment fundamentally changed him as a person – he realized that’s what he wanted and how he could accomplish it.”
RELATED READING: Black Lives Matter – Helpful reading and video resources
Malcolm X is one of the most notable figureheads in the United States civil rights movement, rising to international prominence in the 1960s with powerful messaging around racial justice and African American empowerment. His early theories were often controversial, specifically while he was a members of the Nation of Islam. But, as Adekugbe points out, his education allowed the perspective to change.
“He just wanted Black people to feel confident and have no more fear of the repercussions of what white people would do if they stood up for themselves,” Adekugbe said. “But as he aged his message then evolved into, can we not just all live peacefully together?”
Malcolm X famously adopted the Muslim faith and studied Black history in prison before his eventual release. That “self-education,” Adekugbe added, was a big influence on him and something worth highlighting.
“He’s one of the biggest success stories that you can ever have when it comes to self-education,” Adekugbe offered. “He pretty much locks himself in the library for 10 years and learns everything about black history, the history of African Americans in Africa, before they came over to America.
“I love that as a leader, first and foremost – the fact that everything that he learned, he learned of his own accord. That really resonates.
“The idea once you understand how things work you as a person are now more powerful than anything… Especially Black people who have been given disadvantaged situations, I think it gives them hope.”