Malcolm X

Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty

Imagine being named after one of the most radical Black activists of the Civil Rights era. Now also imagine being told by your school that you aren’t allowed to have your legal name printed on your senior sweatshirt because it was that of the very same activist. That’s precisely what happened to 17-year-old Malcolm Xavier Combs, a student at Christ the King High School in Queens, N.Y. “All I wanted was the ‘X,’ he told New York Daily News. “My name is Malcolm Xavier Combs.”

His mother, Mychelle Combs, went on to recount how her son was pulled out of his advanced placement English class and told by white school official Veronica Artibello that a man who stated “a man without an education, you have nothing” is not someone he should want to be associated with. Can we just say: Veronica can have all the seats available in that building for interrupting this young man’s National Honor Society education. An extra seat for reportedly joking about his name while introducing him to white school basketball coach, Joe Artibello (who is her husband), as “the new Malcolm X.”

“I felt insulted,” Combs expressed. “They just laughed at me … that’s my name, Malcolm X., not a nickname.”

Though Combs’ parents weren’t contacted by the school regarding the incident, they have reportedly reached out to Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network (NAN) and Combs’ father reportedly plans to visit the school on Thursday.

“This is absurd that in 2018 we have to teach school administration how to be culturally sensitive,” said the Rev. Kevin McCall, who is crisis director for NAN. “In the spirit of Malcolm X, we are calling cultural inclusion events with this school administration so that they can understand what it means to be black in America.”

Combs’ mother says she has no plans to sue the school, but instead hopes those employed by the school receive culture-sensitivity training and increase the amount of Black and brown folks on staff.

“I’m asking for a legacy for the African-American students who come in after my son, so they won’t be ridiculed for their culture,” she said. “Malcolm X not only represented African-Americans, he also represented Muslims. I wonder if she has a problem with them as well.”