by Curlan Campbell
A song paying homage to the legacy of Louise Langdon Little, the mother of civil activist and revolutionary, Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X), has taken veteran calypsonian Elwyn “Black Wizard” Mc Quilkin back to his roots in La Digue, the village in St Andrew where Malcolm X’s mother was born around the 1900s.
The song entitled, A Tribute to Louise Langdon Little, morphed from being only a verse and a chorus back in 2019. He performed the song during a community goodwill concert to honour her and Malcolm X, and at the time of IPE Annual Commemorative Emancipation lecture by distinguished Grenadian poet, Dr Merle Collins. The song is its entirety is to be released in February 2022.
This song is his latest contribution after 50 Years of calypso wizardry and is said to be his last vocal contribution to the calypso art form, despite continuing to write songs for other calypsonians. Black Wizard said this musical tribute will serve to commemorate and honour her legacy and contribution of Mrs Langdon Little, whose activism towards advancing grassroots Garveyism for the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), and ensuring that her children understand the importance of black self-determination has helped shaped the ideology during the formative years of Malcolm X.
He said, “As the song says, every man is born of a woman, so who is this woman who gave birth to Malcolm…I believe we cannot just celebrate Malcolm X and not celebrate the mother who gave birth to him. So the song is not only talking about the importance of Malcolm X’s contribution as a civil rights leader and black nationalist but also the contribution of his mother who came from La Digue, so it is important for us to commemorate that.”
The story behind the upbringing of Louise Langdon started with her grandparents Jupiter and Mary Jane Langdon, both “liberated Africans” who were captured from Nigeria and later freed from a slave ship by the Royal Navy. Later her grandparents settled in the village of La Digue, where they had 6 children, including Edith Langdon, who after being raped by a man of Scottish descent, named Edward Norton, became the mother of Louise Langdon.
Following the years that passed, young Langdon migrated to Montreal, Canada in 1917 after the death of her grandparents, where her uncle Edgerton Langdon, the son of Mary Jane and Jupiter Langdon, introduced her to Garveyism and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). There she met Earl Little, from Georgia, USA, whom she later married and moved down to Philadelphia, and then to Omaha, Nebraska, in 1921. Four years later, Malcolm X was born on 19 May 1925.
The song to commemorate the life of Malcolm X’s mother is scheduled to be released to mark the 57th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X on 21 February 2022. It will join the Wizard’s list of timeless classics such as The IMF, Pan Man, Soca Feelings, New World Order, When the Carnival Over and OH Grenada, that continue to remain relevant for years to come.
Mc Quilkin said as a teenager, he was educated about the life of Louise Langdon Little and her connection to the community of La Digue which came as a form of inspiration. “A woman who goes by the name of cousin Olive, she was related to Malcolm X, so I didn’t read that in any book or heard it on the radio but I heard it from her directly. Especially those days when you had the civil rights movement taking place in the United States had an impact on me personally and as a calypsonian if you listen to my songs, you can see that. So you don’t always have to read things from books, I also tell people that informal education is as important as formal education, so growing up around older folks, you gain a lot of knowledge about your culture and heritage.”
Through this process of releasing his new tribute song, Black Wizard hopes he can inspire a new generation of people, especially within the La Digue area to become conscious of their heritage. “The people of La Digue must know of their history and must take ownership of that and by extension that people of Grenada must also do the same. Our youths, for instance, should be conscious of their history so that it can help them to develop their personality that will help build this country…So the song has to inspire people to fight for their rights like Malcolm X but it seems these days that people sort of becoming dormant especially here in Grenada.”
Black Wizard’s tribute forms part of activities spearheaded by the La Digue Community Heritage and Honours programme, IPE Dare to Understand Enlightenment Series and the Caribbean Freedom Fighters.
Wizard is a member of the La Digue Community Heritage and Honours Organising Committee and it is their hope that “the Third Monday of February” would be recognised as La Digue Heritage Honours Day and that a monument and/or plaque in honour of Louise Langdon Little and Malcolm X can be erected in the community of La Digue to memorialise and commemorate their legacy.
Today, at 6:30 pm, Professor Emerita Dr Merle Collins of the University of Maryland will speak on Louise Langdon Norton Little and her Importance to Grenada’s Stories! at the La Digue Community Heritage Honors Virtual Public Education Forum 2022.