More than 40 years after his assasination, a plan to build a memorial to Malcolm X in front of his final home in East Elmhurst is moving forward.
Initial discussions for the project began in earnest last year, when Councilman Hiram Monserrate and Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer, executive director of Queens Council on the Arts, first spoke about an idea to install a bust of the civil rights activist at 23-11 97th St.
The street was renamed Malcolm X Place in 2005, following an effort spearheaded by Monserrate.
Malcolm X lived in the East Elmhurst house with his wife, Betty Shabazz, and their four daughters in the 1960s.
One of several attempts on his life was made during the time he lived there. The house was firebombed on Feb. 14, 1965.
It was only a week later that Malcolm X was assasinated by three gunmen as he was speaking at the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan.
The three men who shot him were members of the Nation of Islam, a group he had severed ties with years earlier.
Embroiled in an early life of crime, Malcolm X had converted to NOI while he was in prison serving time for armed robbery.
He would later separate from the group after a falling out with its founder, Elijah Muhammad, and form his own organization, the Muslim Mosque Inc.
Malcolm X made numerous media appearances throughout his life, fighting for equality at what many consider the height of the civil rights movement.
Monserrate said it’s important for Queens residents, especially students, to know about Malcolm X’s contribution to the civil rights movement, and also about his life in Queens.
“A lot of people equate his work primarily in Harlem,” Monserrate said, “not also knowing that he was a resident of Queens and lived in East Elmhurst.”
The councilman has secured $11,000 for the memorial through the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.
Monserrate said the current owners of the sea foam green house on 97th Street are on board with the proposal.
While he said creating a museum in Malcolm X’s honor one day would be ideal, the house’s current owners have no plans to sell. They are, however, on the planning committee for the memorial.
There are still several details of the project to iron out, according to Krakauer. First, the money for the project needs to be allocated. Then, QCA and the councilman need to work with the house’s current owners to set up the criteria for the project and plan for its future maintenance.
Krakauer said the call for artists will be open to sculptors from Queens and beyond, noting that the designer will need to be an artist who has experience creating public art or memorials.
She hopes the project will call more attention to cultural and historical points of interest in Queens — “the kind of thing we need to do throughout the borough,” she said.
Expanding the call for artists beyond Queens would also increase access to artists QCA doesn’t work with on a regular basis.
Monserrate’s hopes the memorial will help preserve Malcolm X’s presence in Queens for future generations.
“It’s more of a personal connection when they learn he lived in the neighborhood,” he said.