‘My Mother Was Not A Weak, Timid, Insecure Woman As Portrayed:’ Ilyasah Shabazz Displeased With ‘Betty And Coretta’

February 4, 2013  |  


On Saturday night, the highly anticipated Betty and Coretta debuted on the Lifetime Movie Network, which was somewhat of a biographical film that highlighted the unique friendship between the widows of  Human and Civil Rights activists Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Many were thrilled, not only because they would be allowed a glimpse into the lives of these two strong women, but also because of the all-star cast, which included Angela Bassett, Mary J. Blige and Ruby Dee as the film’s narrator. It seemed as if the project would’ve been the perfect way to kick off Black History Month. However, Ilyasah Shabazz, daughter of Betty Shabazz and Malcolm X, is urging the public not to be fooled by Lifetime’s inaccurate portrayal of her mother or her friend, reports The Washington Post.

While Shabazz does commend the movie network for their willingness to highlight an era as important as the one depicted in the film, she expresses that the movie was highly fictionalized and the manner in which it portrayed her mother was extremely inaccurate.

“My mother was not a weak, timid, insecure woman as portrayed,” Shabazz said. “She was regal, compassionate, strong, loving, beautiful, resilient and well-educated. That is why the Delta Sigma Theta sororities named academies all across this country after her, so others could be inspired how to turn tragedy into triumph,” says Shabazz.

She went on to say that even the attire that Blige wore during the film while assuming the role of her mother was wrong.

“My mother did not tie a scarf to her face as she was shown wearing in the film.”

Lastly, she expressed that her intentions were not to bash the network or nitpick, but she felt that accuracy should’ve been an important factor to the network when they took on this project.

“If only Lifetime had consulted us, the sisters, maybe this would be more than fiction. I am not pointing my finger solely at them, but it must be our responsibility to ensure history is properly documented,” Shabazz said.

Another questionable point in the film was the highly embellished portrayal of Betty’s death. According to those who were there, she was unable to speak the entire time she was in the hospital.

Although they have yet to speak out, some have speculated that the children of Dr. King will also be unhappy with the portrayal of their parents in the film. Especially the questionable depiction of the controversy that surrounded the FBI tapes that were sent to the Kings just before Dr. King was to accept the Nobel Peace Prize.

What do you think of Ilyasah’s statement?

Photo courtesy of WENN 

Jazmine Denise is a news writer for Madame Noire. Follow her on Twitter @jazminedenise

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  • Beautifulleo

    I don’t think she was portrayed as weak at all.

  • Ladydi82

    I find these women too be bias. Once the movie is in research mode most execs/writers do ask them if they want to be apart of it. They say “no” but when the movie comes out they are the first to open their mouth saying smack about they should’ve come to us and it was never like that. I’m sure the execs of this movie did their best. And if she felt it wasn’t done to her mother’s standard then make she can make her OWN movie or write a book.

  • Ilyasah, you need to have SEVERAL seats. Your mother was portrayed as the strong woman she was. After staying home, and raising YOU and your sisters, she had to come into her own, which she did with strength, grace, intelligence, and dignity. And finished raising her family. How can you disavow her accomplishments by such a petty statement. No where did i see weak. Shame on you for NOT understanding what she did!

  • Serina

    I think before someone makes a movie based on real people…THEY SHOULD TALK TO THE REAL PEOPLE. They clearly knew the children were still alive so they should’ve collaborated with them because they know their parents best. She has the right to talk about the film, it was about her mother!

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  • Crabs in a barrel.

  • FromUR2UB

    I remember the “weak, timid” part as a line in the movie, but I didn’t get the impression that the portrayal made her appear weak or timid. We’ve always seen the widows of slain men, Jacqueline Kennedy and Coretta Scott King, as stoic in their grief. I expected the movie to delve into how they dealt with that, day to day. It’s human to feel vulnerable during such a time; that’s not weakness. But, I understand the daughter’s concern because this was their life, and it‘s insulting to the family hat someone would do a biographical story and not consult the direct, living descendants of those people. I immediately thought it was odd that Betty Shabazz was conscious in that hospital scene, because I just assumed that someone who had been severely burned would’ve been too heavily sedated to speak. Some creative license is expected to move the story along, but within reasonable limits.

  • tasha

    Her mother buy honestly no one cares the movie was alright thats it after Malcolm X no cares about the 2nd n 3rds that come after

  • tasha

    Her mother buy honestly no one cares the movie was alright thats it after Malcolm X no cares about the 2nd n 3rds that come after

  • Pingback: Daughter of Betty Shabazz says her portrayal on Lifetime was inacurate: ‘My mother was not a weak woman’ | theGrio()

  • Candacey Doris

    You should always consult the people who were actually there at the moments that are being portrayed if they are still alive. If not use whatever accounts that were written/created from that time. Only if none of this is possible should you start making stuff up.

  • E

    That’s horrible that they didn’t consult with the daughters. Lifetime and the producers should be ashamed of themselves. I didn’t know her mother but I also questioned the portrayal of her.

  • IllyPhilly

    It was on Lifetime. A dramatic network, they needed some “fiction”

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  • Lana

    Well I didn’t know Betty or her daughter personally but while watching her mothers portrayal I did wonder how her daughters felt because I actually agree with the fact that they did portray Betty as a weeping willow or ‘woe is me’ type and maybe this is being presumptuous but I just can’t believe a woman who is receiving death threats daily, having to be in charge of a household while her husband is away and watch him be assassinated in front of her and her kids to be as emotional as they portrayed her. Not saying that she can’t act like a woman but it just seemed like with all that she’s accomished they would not have her seem so codependent on others I.e Coretta. Just saying

  • Nikkita Michelle

    I saw the movie. I don’t think Betty came off timid or weak at all. It takes a strong woman to educate yourself while taking care of 6 children alone. There’s nothing weak about that. I understand it was her mother and no one would know her better than her children, but she might have felt different if they would have spoken to the family regarding the film.

  • Melissa

    She didn’t come off as weak to me,and she didn’t speak it the hospital she shook her head to acknowledge that coretta was in the room.

  • She’s right…there’s no way that individuals should be portrayed in a movie without speaking to them characters that are still alive…it only makes sense!! It was a great movie, I couldn’t move from my TV but now IMO it lacks credibility because they couldn’t even consult the individuals still living….RESPECT THE HISTORY.

  • kierah

    I don’t think the film portrayed Betty as someone who was weak, timid, or insecure. I think she was shown as a reluctant activist. She took up that responsibility with the death of her husband and educated herself so she’d be more prepared for her task as activist and sole provider for her children. I was so proud of her.

    • kierah

      I guess I’ll be the mean one and say it. They didn’t speak to the daughters because they are still fighting each other over the estate. There never would have been a single consensus on the story.

  • Just saying!!

    I saw it and even though I don’t know much about Betty I must say I agree. I kept watching the movie thinking how the heck is she married to Malcolm!? …and why does she keep bowing down to Coretta like she isn’t also amazing?! Plus the woman later got her doctorate…why would they make her so naive and passive. I was displeased as well.

  • Ashlee

    Wow she looks so much like her father!

  • Kenedy

    Well, she has the right to be critical, after all it was her mother. Haven’t seen it yet, but i plan on seeing it