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Ilyasah Shabazz says 'The Godfather of Harlem' is "great," but didn't show the "depth" of her father Malcolm X

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Courtesy of Ilyasah Shabazz(NEW YORK) — Malcolm X’s daughter Ilyasah Shabazz is sharing her thoughts on the Forest Whitaker-led crime drama Godfather of Harlem.

In the series, Whitaker plays Bumpy Johnson, a Harlem crime boss who finds his neighborhood ruled by the Italian mob when he returns from a 10 year bid. During his battle to regain control, Johnson forms an alliance with a young influential preacher named Malcolm X. Shabazz tells ABC Audio that although she enjoyed the popular Epix series, she had some major issues with it.

“It was a great series, but it’s on historical characters,” she says. “And so the historical character portrayed of my father is not really accurate, nor is the portrayal of Adam Clayton Powell. And so it’s just important to understand their significant contribution.”

“My father wasn’t only trying to get converts. My father was empowering people,” Shabazz continues. “He was speaking power into their souls and into their ear. And there’s a big difference in that.”

While the series is an obvious dramatization of Bumpy Johnson’s life, the two men did have a real-life friendship that dated back to the 1940s when X used to be known as a street hustler named “Detroit Red.” Shabazz says she would have loved to have seen her father in a more authentic light and not just as a one-dimensional character. 

“And so while it is a great series, I think it is important to give the depth,” she says. “To show the depth of these gentlemen, these historians, these past leaders.” 

A release date for the second season of Godfather of Harlem has yet to be announced.

By Candice Williams
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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