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Malcolm X Archive Goes to the Schomburg

With distress, she described Betty Shabazz as the anchor for all the Shabazz women, someone with whom she spoke daily, and without whom she felt at sea. She described a hard life, residing in various places, working and sometimes doing public speaking, but struggling with numerous difficulties to take care of herself and her child. "I have to struggle," Malikah Shabazz said, "but I'm OK with that."

The picture painted of the innumerable decisions and responsibilities faced by the daughters at that time was grim. By all accounts, including Ilyasah Shabazz's memoir, Growing Up X, Betty Shabazz was accustomed to making all the decisions. This explains, in part, the disarray her death brought to individual lives, the estate, and projects in which she was a pivotal figure, such as the Audubon Ballroom, renovated by the city but basically sitting idle since her death. (Dodson said the family and library were interested in programming at the Audubon.)

Asked about the history of the material, Attallah Shabazz recalled last week, "Our house was bombed in 1965; then we had things in storage; then they moved to our house in Mount Vernon; then we tried to clear out and go through things in the whole estate when we lost our mother. What is yours just doesn't become property of an estate. . . . Boxes just moved and relocated. Someone got their hands on it without the consensus or knowledge of the whole family." There was a obvious effort to get past blame.

When pressed further on this question, she resisted. "We need to keep things . . . whole, united—spirit has been broken," said Attallah Shabazz. "We are orphans, despite legacies. We are people who should not be without a parent, and if you got to know my mother at all, my mother was an everyday, all-around parent with unsolicited advice, at your house—we were not prepared for that. It's not a heart attack; this wasn't an illness; there was no preparation. Everyone was in it. We didn't heal. Everyone was in it."

And so, together, they have taken the first step.

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