I found this striking mural a few months back while knee deep in my late night Flickr ritual of browsing imagery by contextual navigation of topical tags. As the night wore on I drifted from tags like art to street art to graffiti, eventually resting on Malcolm X.
After staring at the shot for a few minutes, I realized why this particular image struck me — on two distinct levels:
- The mere existence of such a powerful representation of Malcolm X and his words embedded in the public square for all to see
- The absence of his complete representation, both physical and philosophical, due to elemental deterioration over time
In the real world — before the internet created another dimension for the documentation of expression and our collective histories — all atom based elements had a shelf life.
Street art, by it’s very nature, had even a shorter life span.
But here I was, stumbling across this deteriorating, real world representation, frozen in time (at what point in time I have no idea) by someone who made an explicit decision to digitize the real for the sake of posterity.
Without the internet, this work — this message — might have already drifted away from our consciousness.
Speaking of the message, only a few lines of Malcolm X’s quote remained legible in it’s original format. It seemed familiar to me, so I took a few moments to run a Google search of the words I could decipher.
Thanks to the collective participation of people publishing to the internet, within a matter of moments, I was able to piece together the original context of the quote from the mural:
“With every succeeding page, I also learned of people and places and events from history. Actually the dictionary is like a miniature encyclopedia. Finally the dictionaryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s A section had filled a whole tablet Ã¢â‚¬â€ and I went on into the BÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s. That was the way I started copying what eventually became the entire dictionary.”
Context is knowledge, so I circled back to the image and added the text that would have surrounded the original quote on the wall if the wall were 50 feet high.
The Internet On This Day
Eighty-two years ago today, Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little to Earl Little and Louise Helen in Omaha, Nebraska.
Depending on your company, Malcolm X is often remembered as either an inspiration — an educated, revolutionary, evolutionary force — or an extremist that preached hate.
Without the internet, the latter of these two descriptions could easily edify his legacy for future generations to come.
With the internet, we have context of evolution and truth:
The Early Years In The Nation Of Islam
Debating At Oxford University
Returning From Mecca
A New Direction, Seeing Death In The Distance
The Assassination Of Malcolm X
Living In His Footsteps
Our Collective Responsibility
Prior to the internet, the reality of our lives drifted into the annals of time and both the discrete and general narratives of history were crafted by those with the power to publish and distribute knowledge.
Today, we must recognize the importance and responsibilities of living in a digital age.
It is our responsibility that we be vigilant in documenting our knowledge for the serendipitous discovery of our fellow man, both today and years into the future — no matter our focus or industry.
Because if it’s not us taking advantage of this platform, the traditional owners of history will be more than happy to seep into play and stake their claim.
And that would be a wasted opportunity to make his-tory, our-story.