The man who drove Malcolm X around and introduced him to Fidel Castro

6:03 PM Aida Alami 0 Comments

Photo by Gianni Cipriano


One September evening in 1960 during a United Nations’ summit in New York City, Cuban leader Fidel Castro moved his delegation into Harlem’s historic Hotel Theresa to stay among African Americans: He felt they would welcome him.

That same evening, Luqman Abdul Hakeem drove to the hotel – up Lenox Avenue in his Volkswagen, with Malcolm X at his side. The Cuban flag hung over the building, where crowds of anti and pro-Castro protesters had gathered.

“We went up to his room and sat on a bed,” said Abdul Hakeem, holding a black and white photo of himself, Malcolm X and Castro sitting and smiling at each other. “He [Malcolm X] was part of the committee that welcomed him [Castro] to Harlem. Malcolm was considered a grassroots leader. He was very popular in Harlem.”

The meeting marked a turn for Malcolm X in his attempt to internationalize the African-American struggle and build ties with third-world countries.

To Abdul Hakeem, now 83, the event was one of the first steps in a long personal journey that would lead him to move to Morocco, where he has lived for 32 years, raised a family and runs two Aikido dojos. The move fulfilled his desire, shared by some Muslim African-Americans, to return to a country that’s majority Muslim.

“I didn’t want my children growing up in that racism in America,” he said.

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