I have been talking a lot about redemption in my last couple posts and that led me to think about this theme across both Malcolm X and Get on the Bus. A large part of redemption is sacrifice. As I mentioned in my last post, Christianity clearly played an important role in Get on the Bus and a major theme in the New Testament is Jesus’ sacrifice to redeem humankind’s sins.
In Malcolm X, Malcolm goes through a brutal transformation, hitting rock bottom, being thrown in prison and left in solitary confinement before he began his path of redemption as a black leader. Malcolm had to endure the pain of death threats, being let down by the NOI especially his revered leader Elijah Muhammad, the stress on his marriage, being away from his family etc. But eventually Malcolm had to endure the ultimate sacrifice of death, as we see him seemingly embrace his death like that of a martyr. Malcolm’s path to redemption was not easy but he did great things, led an entire movement of thousands of people and changed the landscape of our country.
Similarly, Jeremiah’s path to redemption was not easy. He found himself practically willfully oppressed in his job for over thirty years, hit rock bottom when he turned to drinking and lost his family. But just like Malcolm, he had two important things: his faith and sacrifice. Jeremiah would ultimately endure death, giving his life in hope to redeem himself on the March very well knowing he was risking his life by going on this trip. And although Jeremiah was not muslim, not a martyr, and not a great leader, he paid the ultimate sacrifice and had an impact on the lives around him for a call to action. This theme of sacrifice connects these two very different stories and brings them together through a common thread. Malcolm X, an idolized individual with grand influence compared to Jeremiah, a poor old man making his best attempt to redeem himself. This theme of sacrifice in both Lee’s films shows the significance of both the leaders but also the individuals impact on one another.