Ilyasah Shabazz Disappointed Lifetime Movie Depicted Her Mother As Weak

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Ilya ShabbazzThe Lifetime Movie Network has been known for making sappy chick flicks that tug at the heartstrings and get the tears flowing. This is not so for one of their latest movies, Betty and Coretta. It was a biographical film that showed the friendship of the widows of Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. The movie however, according to Malcolm X’s daughter, was more fiction than fact and her mother was not portrayed correctly.

The movie featured a great cast including Angela Bassett, Mary J Blige, and Ruby Dee. Ilyasah Shabazz, who is the daughter of Betty Shabazz and Malcolm X stated that while the actresses did a good job, the movie did not accurately show who her mother was. She said the film showed her mother as a weak woman who was insecure. Ilyasah says that her mother was compassionate, strong, beautiful, and loving.

Betty Shabazz has had sororities named after her because she was an influential person in the Civil Rights movement and was a great inspiration for young women everywhere. Ilyasah says that in the movie, even the wardrobe was wrong and that her mother did not dress as they showed.

While criticizing the movie, Ilyasah said that she was not trying to come down on the television network, but she was disappointed that more fact checking was not done and not enough was done to ensure this was an accurate portrayal of her mother. She believes that Dr. King’s children will not be happy either, with the portrayal of their mother.

You would think that when putting a biographical movie together, the network would have wanted to speak to family members to get a sense for the character so they could accurately portray them, but this was not the case.


  1. Jordan

    February 6, 2013 at 9:51 am

    We don’t have the true information about both families or the men that lead the families. Malcom is portrayed as a outrages fool with a gun and King is running getting his ass beat by the oppressor. Both are wrong ! To both families , can we have the truth about what really went on? Peace to all of you.

  2. marcus davis

    February 6, 2013 at 9:54 am

    She should sue the production company that made the movie.

  3. Minister Terry George

    February 6, 2013 at 10:00 am

    No one can tell our story but us.Should of goten family input.They(Betty & Coreta) are to important to tell inaccurate information.We also must learn not to beleive everything we see on TV regarding our History.Malcolm &Martin were advete readers. So should we.

    • nathan

      February 6, 2013 at 10:18 am

      until the lion tells his story the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter!!!!

      • Tracey

        February 6, 2013 at 1:48 pm

        I love that quote Nathan. I am so tired of us getting upset about how our story is told by other folks, when we are not telling our own story. It will never be accurate until we tell it ourselves, point blank and the period.

      • gigi

        February 7, 2013 at 2:25 pm

        Well said my brother!!!

  4. mayimuna afi

    February 6, 2013 at 10:04 am

    For those of you who think you now have a better understanding of who these women were, please keep in mind the movie merely taught “stand by your man.” Ilyasah, good for you. I was immediately struck by the aparent weakness and timidity with which Sister Betty was portrayed. Had she been such so fearful and apprehensive she never would have become a college professor. She was a dynamic public speaker with never a hint of any apprehension for taking to the podium. I also agree with the young man who is tired about the lies whites put out about us. That’s why we need BET writer, producers and film makers like Spike to make documentaries about us that are true and accurate. If I had the talent and technical knowledge I would do it myself. But we need us to talk about us – forget making the money. Just get the truth out there.

  5. denise

    February 6, 2013 at 10:07 am

    I cannot believe that didn’t ask the family in their research. How can u make a bio-type movie without families consulting. Thereby getting ti know your characters. Disappointed. The acting was wonderful however.

  6. Michael B.

    February 6, 2013 at 10:33 am

    Well believe it Denise this is nothing new, when it comes to telling our story. If we didn’t write it, didn’t direct it, didn’t produce it then don’t buy into it!

    • Miss T

      February 6, 2013 at 10:44 am

      @Michael B…thank you very much! Now that’s real talk!

  7. Lhunter

    February 6, 2013 at 10:35 am

    Spike Lee did a excellent job porytraying Malcolm X, his focus was Malcolm not the wife but the parts that Angela Bassett had inthe movie as Betty Shabazz was powerful, she stuck by and with her man, with you beautiful little girls hanging tough.

  8. Nicole Hopkins

    February 6, 2013 at 10:41 am

    When you tell someone’s story, it is important to get it right. I find it disrespectful that every time a movie is produced about someone black, they write a fictional story, when there are family and friends around that they can speak with who can give more accurate information. The same thing was done for the Nina Simone movie and countless others. To depict someone other than who they really were says something about the producers and writers. The point her daughter is making is that you can’t learn the truth about someone if the truth is not presented. Some of you think this is much to do about nothing and that those who agree with Betty’s daughter are just “crying foul.” Well, this world is filled with inaccurate information about us, and an inaccurate portrayal especially in movies is dangerous because when the future looks back they won’t know the truth. We have to tell our own stories, it’s just that simple. Below, I posted one of my favorite poems, written by Langston Hughes.

    “Note on Commercial Theatre”
    You’ve taken my blues and gone–
    You sing ’em on Broadway
    And you sing ’em in Hollywood Bowl,
    And you mixed ’em up with symphonies
    And you fixed ’em
    So they don’t sound like me.
    Yep, you done taken my blues and gone.

    You also took my spirituals and gone.
    You put me in MacBeth and Carmen Jones
    And all kinds of Swing Mikados
    And in everything but what’s about me–
    But someday somebody’ll
    Stand up and talk about me,
    And write about me–
    Black and beautiful–
    And sing about me,
    And put on plays about me!
    I reckon it’ll be
    Me myself!

    Yes, it’ll be me.

    • Barbara

      February 6, 2013 at 1:48 pm

      Thanks for that Langston Hughes poem Nicole!!! He said it all; case closed.

    • Sharon

      February 8, 2013 at 11:56 am

      Absolutey, on point..

      Thank you for posting

  9. Steve A. Rhoden

    February 6, 2013 at 10:57 am

    I did not see this movie as of yet, so it is hard for me to give my
    valid input. If Shabazz’s daughter is upset, though, in terms of how
    her mother was portrayed, perhaps the producers of this movie should
    have checked with the families of both of these women before making this
    movie. As a voracious reader, I have read a lot about Betty Shabazz and Coretta Scott King in order to determine what is fact and fiction
    about their real life. Folk are simply out to make a quick buck without
    accurately researching their information for the true facts in my opinion.

  10. Latrice

    February 6, 2013 at 11:37 am

    This does not surprise me. She doesn’t want to down the network, so I will for her. Lifetime never shows any black female movies!! They were catching heat for that fact, so of course they would take two iconic women and turn them into weak jellyfish. This was supposed to teach us not to demand quality tv time on “their network”. How insulting not to confer with the families. Of course these women were strong. You could not be married to such strong men with wills of steel and not be strong in your own right. BEHIND EVERY GREAT MAN THERE IS A GREAT WOMAN

  11. Tamm E Hunt

    February 6, 2013 at 11:39 am

    Truth is, any information regarding Ms Shabazz could have been gotten from Angela Bassett who played an excellent Betty Shabazz against Denzel Washington’s Malcomb in Spike Lee’s MALCOMB X.

    I do agree that the producers, writers and director are remiss in not consulting with the King and Shabazz families regarding the matriarchs.

    Another point, actor Ruby Dee had a close association with Mrs Shabazz.

    • Tamm E Hunt

      February 6, 2013 at 11:42 am

      I know I messed up. Spelled the man’s name wrong. MALCOLM!

  12. Latrice

    February 6, 2013 at 11:45 am

    Who wants to bet me these families tried to get their mothers’ stories told, with no success???? Come on, Oprah, Tyler, Spike, Ice Cube, anybody

  13. Bro Brian S. Saide (Ibraham Saide)

    February 6, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Sister Ilyasah,

    The beauty if your Mother, Dr. Betty Shabazz and Sister King, those who truly know, know. I’ve been blessed to know your mother’s story through your book, “Growing Up X'” meeting and speeking briefly with you and your sister Malaak, and from your father’s book, “The Autobiography of MalcolmX.” I know there is so much more I dont know, it’s sad that you weren’t consulted nor were the King children. Quite honestly, the producers and writers of this story have a lot to learn, not just about whom our heros are, but that one shouldnt just produce something based on their interpretation. Especially when there are people like yourself, who can tell the TRUE STORY. Until that day, May Allah grant you much prosperity, joy and comfort.

  14. Samantha

    February 6, 2013 at 11:55 am

    Actually this is a first project for Mary J Blige. I didn’t see her as weak at all in the movie. I saw her a womsn that was robbed of her stability and had to raise and protect her babies. That’s what good sisters do. This woman is like everyone else trying to get her 15 min of fame. Where were you when your nephew was acting out and set fire to your mothers house? Why did your elderly Mother have him in the first place? Why didn’t one of the sister step up and take him? I’m so sick and tired of people who are living off their parents name have a criticism for everything someone else does. She should have told the story she had just as much time as the people who did.

  15. Chryll D. Crews

    February 6, 2013 at 11:58 am

    I’m surprised she is complaining about the portrayal of her mother. I thought she would have been upset about how her sister was portrayed. Clearly she had a mental illness and even now her son, Malcolm, Jr., is in trouble again with the law. Or maybe she should be upset about the portrayal or information about the fire? Or the exchange of getting her sister out of legal trouble by sharing the stage with Farrakan, whom she believed to be responsible for her husband’s death? Yet, she’s focusing on the clothes and whether or not her mother was portrayed as weak? Is it hard to believe that a woman who initially started out as timid or weak and gained strength as she progressed through life when she had a husband who wouldn’t let her do anything but be a housewife? Or what about the selfishness of having your home set on fire and then leaving you wife and kids, very soon after, to go speak somewhere? Her response could be a window into why the producers didn’t bother conferring with the family: the focus would have been on the insignificant.

    • Censored

      February 7, 2013 at 11:48 am

      Malik Shabazz is not her son but that’s beside the point–he is in trouble with the criminal syndicate that is the FBI–the same ones who REALLY were instrumental in the deaths of MLK & Malcolm X. They are like the gestapo & soon too, any of us, who are brave enough to speak truth to power, may be targeted by them. So don’t think just b/c they have arrested him on some bogus charge that that is an indicator of guilt of anything. You have heard of NDAA, haven’t you? As far as your other assertions, you apparently don’t know that Betty was a Nurse when she joined the Nation so she was always much more than a ‘house wife’. Maybe you need to pick up a book and stop relying on white people and Hollywood to mold your perception of your own.

      • Censored

        February 7, 2013 at 11:49 am

        Correction: You did make it clear that Malik is her sister’s son, so I stand corrected on that, but everything else I wrote stands.

  16. patricia taylor

    February 6, 2013 at 11:58 am

    The movie did not show the strength of Dr. Betty.
    i went to college with Illyassah and i know for a FACT how
    strong, kind, caring and beautiful Dr. Betty was.
    She was in the struggle with Brother Malcolm and continued
    the struggle long after his untimely death.

    Allah Ak’ba
    Aluetia Contniua

  17. chinee

    February 6, 2013 at 11:59 am

    The story was told from a different vantage point. Perhaps the family should write their own story from their vantage point. We all see things differently based on our own experiences. The story is probably not inaccurate just viewed from a different vantage point. Apparently Ruby Dee and others didn’t have a problem with the story. I think criticism is helpful but it should be followed up with a solution. Otherwise, we are just naming, blaming and complaining.

  18. rosemary davis

    February 6, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    I am quite sure Lifetime got imput from the Shabazz family regarding their Mother Mrs. Shabazz before production started if their were any dissatisfaction about her Mother being protrayed as weak then should have voiced her opinion.And I am sure she and her siblings were paid well for allowing the likeness of their mom being acted out by Mary J.But now that the money has been taken she complains so too me it was take the money and run and talk later.

  19. Tiffany

    February 6, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    I saw the movie. Don’t independently know if the depiction was accurate, but I did not take away a portrayal of either of the women as being weak or insecure.

  20. bobby mcdonald

    February 6, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    Hollywood loves to embellish on autobiographies because they think thats what the public wants to see. Just tell the story as it happened and it will still be interesting. Even Spike Lee’s movie “Malcom X” had additional content and situations that never took place. This is a pet peeve of mine especially for African American Autobiographies

  21. Elaine

    February 6, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    Why wait until movie is aired to state inaccuracies?! Better yet why produce a documentary yourself. As a daughter I don’t know all sides of my mother. There are things that her friends know that I’ll never know. As a mother there are things about me that my adult daughter doesn’t and won’t know. It’s possible Lifetime captured a side of her mother that she didn’t know. Lastly, if she left it to a television network to tell her mother’s story then she permitted an altered/edited version of actual facts.

  22. ordinarybrotha

    February 6, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    Why are we so quick to protect white folks so effortlessly. It is a reflex, it is second nature!!! it is 2013, and we continue to protect them as if we are still on the plantation. Self_correction; we are still on the plantation!!! Black People, wake up, clean up and stand the hell up. That film had to be written and directed by white folks, Jwes in particular. How many times are do you have to illustrate in one movie the point about connecting Minister Farrakhan to the murder of Brother Malcolm.Cowards doing cowardly deeds. I definitely concur with sister Ilyasah’s viewpoint pertaining to her brother. i have seen her speak on many occasions and that was the epitome of Black womanhood, she was brilliant, campassionate, decisive and strong.

    There is always an agenda when white folks write about Black Life; this movie was no different. A side from painting Farrakhan as the murderer as I mentioned earlier.(I would not be surprised if they make the next movie with him being the actual killer)They portrayed sister Betty in such a negative light and that you could not help thinking that Sister Coretta was th most significant between the two,therefore Martin had to be more significant than Malcolm. They were pitting these two great men against each other through a biopic between the wives. So transparent, narrow-minded and disrespectful!!!

    It was dispicable from the lack of validity(facts) to the interaction. They communicated with other as if they were mary J and her crew, using terms like girlfriend, etc. they even got into a dialogue about how each other’s body looked in a bathing suit. I also sagreed with sister Ilyasah views on doing interviews with loved ones to get a clear depiction of the two women.

  23. kim

    February 6, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    I thought Angela Bassett and Mary Jane Blige did a fantastic job!

  24. blacjk jones

    February 6, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    I saw the movie—-Ruby Dee told the story from her knowledge of the two women—–nobodies gonna get it perfectly right—it was a story honoring Betty and Coretta—whom i’m sure…as human beings had both weaknesses and strength—to what degree no one can honestly say. THERE are many stories of BLACK WOMEN yet to be told (Strong and otherwise)—-your mother was a public figure—-and a BEAUTIFUL WOMEN—–let her rest—-making it possible for many of the other unknown stories to be told—- we will always remember Betty,(thru books and movies) and those who’ve never heard of her will hear her story thru other Women’s pain and triumph…..PEACE!!!!

  25. chris bernard

    February 6, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    Mary J. Blige and her husband, Kendu, were the producers of the film. Last I checked, both were black.

  26. Kiomi

    February 6, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    Open any one of the great books written by African American authors and stop depending on quick fix false recordings of history…..READ

  27. Thomas Muhammad

    February 6, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    This movie was only done to assasinate the character of Minister Louis Farrakhan. He is the only man that truly represents the interest of our people and condemns the injsustice done to our people. Let’s wake up.

  28. Davchi

    February 6, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    Jews owns the network that allow caucassians to run the network that put young white writers and many a black or to that no nothing of Mrs. King or Mrs. Shabazz and writing what they want to think because these woman were the wifes of the two of the greatest black prophets in America. Actors and especially a lot of black actors (actress)care only that they are going to be paid.

  29. IdrissaU

    February 6, 2013 at 8:33 pm

    It was not an acurate prtryal of Sis. Betty. I heard her speak a few times, the last time a few weeks before her death. I was introduced to her afterward the program, to my honor.

    Although Mary J. Blige is talented and she did a great job, the script she was given was not the Betty Shabazz we knew her to be. Sis. Betty was a spitfire, not a weak, scared soul.

    Ask the students and faculty at Megar Evers College in Brooklyn where she taught and directed programs for women and the community.

    They know the Sister Betty that took charge of a situation and made it better. Shame on you, LIFETIME! You should have had a better screenplay.

    You should have reached out to people who knew both women. I thought whenyou used Ruby Dee, grand dame of the Black theater and Black cinema, to narrate, you would have gotten it right! But you did not.

    Probably, the only truth in the movie were the words spoken by Ruby Dee, herself. Shame, Shame, Shame!

  30. maxine williams

    February 7, 2013 at 2:27 am

    I did not see the movie;however, neither Mrs. Scott ,nor Dr.Shabazz were weak women. I wondered why Angela Bassett, did not play Dr. Shabazz, as she did in MalcolmX. It seems to me, that she would have been suited. I also felt.Felicia Rashad, should have played Mrs. Scott.

  31. Censored

    February 7, 2013 at 11:39 am

    What is crazy is that we actually think that whites are EVER going to tell our stories with dignity, truth & honesty. That will never happen. They have distorted MLK’s image to suit their purposes. They never discuss his views on the Vietnam War & the fact that they hunted him like a dog & the FBI actually thought they could make him commit suicide by revealing his secret sexual dalliances. These people were human & complex but Hollywood is never going to show them as anything as one dimensional cardboard cut-outs. They don’t want y’all negroes getting any ideas about revolutionary fervor or freedom.

  32. Andre

    February 16, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    If we would read the credits closely we will find that the real producers, Yves Simoneau, Jacqueline Lavoie, and Larry Sanitsky admit that the movie is NOT a TRUE depiction of Betty Shabazz nor Coretta Scott King. This suggests that they did not intend to present a accurate and truthful account of the relationship between these two great women. This begs the question, “What was their real intent and motive for putting out this movie at this time?” In part it was to re-open the wounds that black America suffered when Malcolm and Martin was murdered, accuse the innocent to cause us to fight one another, and inspire us all to turn a deaf ear to the last clear voice of guidance and warning to us, America, and the Nations of the earth.

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