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Malcolm X still stirs emotions on campus

Mt. Hood students discuss leader's impact during Black History Month
by: Matthew Ginn, Deleria Green discusses the movie

Deleria Green, a 27-year-old African American student at Mt. Hood Community College, has a dream.

'Let's take Malcolm X's strength and Martin Luther King's strength and put it together and who knows?' she said.

Green was discussing X's militant approach toward ending racial discrimination as contrasted with King's nonviolent methods during the civil rights movement.

Green was one of more than two dozen MHCC students to attend a Wednesday, Feb. 21, screening of Spike Lee's 1992 movie 'Malcolm X.' The screening is part of a series of movies being shown at the college at 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays during February - Black History Month.

The film chronicles Malcolm Little's early life as a thief and hustler; his conversion in prison to the Nation of Islam, when he took 'X' as his surname; his break with the Nation's leader, Elijah Muhammad, and his split with the Nation; his turning away from black separatism and embrace of other races following his pilgrimage to Mecca; and his assassination in 1965.

Chris Gorsek, a professor of criminal justice and geography at MHCC, introduced the film by saying Malcolm X is less discussed in the United States than Martin Luther King, whose nonviolent, integrationist message found more favor with whites than X's black nationalist rhetoric.

'Even though (X) might be seen as a much more militant figure, I think it's important to see both sides of that,' Gorsek said.

After the movie ended, students said they were deeply moved by the story. Green said she was touched by the slain leader's conversion away from black separatism.

'He was basically warped in his brain in one way and then he took it to another level,' she said.

Green and another student, Roxanne Dinca, 23, agreed that X was perceived as violent by whites, yet actually was only arguing for the right of African-Americans to defend themselves from attack, a right all people claim.

'The word that came out of his mouth may sound violent, but he wasn't violent,' Green said.

Matthew Lee Gonzales, 21, said the film inspired him because he himself was racist when he was younger.

'I used to start fights with blacks, Mexicans, Russians,' he said.

However, while working as a laborer in a museum, he said he changed his views after an African-American man saved his life by stopping a 250-pound steel door from falling on him.

'It made me realize that I shouldn't be racist, and I totally changed,' Gonzales said.

Gorsek said Lee's film resonates today not just because it addresses racism, but because it shows how X came to reject anti-white rhetoric through his Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, when he met Muslims of all races.

'So many people paint Islam as violent, but this shows the other side,' Gorsek said.