New York City is one of the nation’s oldest and most prominent destinations for the rich heritage of Black history and culture. In honor of Black History Month, PIX11 is spotlighting local historic landmarks across the city that have a tie to the history of the African American community.
Every week for the month of February, we will feature a new landmark that honors the stories of African Americans whose contributions to the five boroughs date back hundreds of year.
The Shabazz Center
Located: 3940 Broadway, New York, NY 10032
Q: When did this landmark come to be? What do you think it means to New Yorkers?
Najha Zigby-Johnson, Director of Institutional Advancement at the Shabazz Center:
Originally founded in 1999, The Shabazz Center has harnessed the legacies of Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz to continue their work through the advancement of racial equity, social justice, and high impact cultural programming. Located in Washington Heights, at the Audubon Ballroom -the site of Malcolm X’s martyrdom- The Shabazz Center is an internationally recognized historic memorial and community space. The Shabazz Center has honored the memory of Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz with events and programs that promote cultural engagement and public discourse on issues relevant to racial equity, youth leadership development and the African Diaspora, in partnership with Columbia University, The Smithsonian and other established institutions.
Q: What’s one thing about this landmark that most people do not know?
Najha: The Audubon Ballroom was home to Malcolm X’s political organization, The Organization for Afro American Unity, which he founded in June of 1964. Both Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz held offices in The Audubon Ballroom. On February 21st, 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated at The Audubon Ballroom while giving a speech to The Organization of Afro American Unity.
Q: How does this landmark tie back into Black History Month?
Najha: As the world rallies around the Movement for Black Lives, and institutions recommit themselves to the work of racial justice and equity, we too heed the call for structural change, innovative institution building, and spirit-driven activism. Continuing in the rich legacy of our leaders, Dr. Betty Shabazz and Malcolm X, we are doing the work of restarting The Shabazz Center, housed at the historic Audubon Ballroom in New York City. The Shabazz Center is uniquely positioned to contribute leadership to social movement work, as the living legacy of Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz. Fortified with historical knowledge of Black social movement work, The Shabazz Center has been endowed with influence and authority, which we seek to exercise with humility and care, as we work in partnership with leaders and organizations in Harlem and the greater Diasporic community.