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Troubled life in Malcolm X’s shadow comes to a violent end

Last week,Malcolm Shabazz,the grandson of Malcolm X,was talking to his friend Daniel Stevens when he learned that Stevens was worried his fledgling rap career was going nowhere.

Last week,Malcolm Shabazz,the grandson of Malcolm X,was talking to his friend Daniel Stevens when he learned that Stevens was worried his fledgling rap career was going nowhere. Shabazz vowed to help,saying he could get Stevens’s music into the right hands. “I know lot of people,” Shabazz said,Stevens recalled.

Shabazz,who earned notoriety as a 12-year-old when he set a fire that killed his grandmother,Malcolm X’s widow,pulled out his phone and made some calls. Twenty minutes later,Stevens said,Shabazz told him he had a plane ticket to Los Angeles for the next day,and an appointment to see a Hollywood producer on Stevens’s behalf.

But Shabazz soon ended up in Mexico City,where he died early Thursday morning in a popular tourist area after being assaulted outside a bar,the authorities said. It was a violent end to a young and tumultuous life.

Shabazz had apparently decided to detour to Mexico to meet with a labor activist and a friend who had been deported in April. They were hoping to use Shabazz’s name to attract attention from the local press,apparently about the deportation,the friend said in a Facebook post.

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Shabazz,28,spent much of his life seeking to make peace with his past. After pleading guilty to the juvenile equivalent of manslaughter and arson in 1997,he was sentenced to institutions for many of his teenage years,followed by later stints in prison for other crimes. He lived in the shadow of his grandfather,whom he never knew,and whose legacy he tried to understand. He embraced his famous heritage and,at times,recoiled from expectations that came with it.

On his personal website,he called himself “the first male heir to Malcolm X,” who had overcome “obstacle after obstacle in his life,” and since his release from prison had “been traveling throughout the US and around the world speaking to different audiences about the struggles that confront this generation.”

In a prison interview with The New York Times in 2003,when he was serving time for attempted robbery,he acknowledged the power of his name. “People know Malcolm Shabazz,whether you like me or not,” he said.

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Friends said in recent years,he had often ventured abroad,mostly to the Middle East. The trips,for conferences or Muslim pilgrimages,allowed him to escape his tabloid youth and to step into a role that Malcolm X also played later in life — that of an activist,shedding light on injustice and rallying for black causes worldwide.

“He wanted to be himself,but in connection with what his grandfather had been,” said Randy Short,an activist in Washington.

First published on: 12-05-2013 at 02:25:10 am
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