Saturday, September 5th 1998, 2:05AM

When the Million Youth March kicks off in Harlem today, it will be in large part because of Washington, D.C., lawyer Malik Zulu Shabazz.

Tall and lean with serious eyes, Shabazz has been at the background, foreground and on center stage in the fight to bring the march to Harlem.

Shabazz was a member of the legal team that successfully challenged the Giuliani administration's attempt to ban the march from uptown streets.

Lawyers convinced a federal judge that the city's attempt to move the gathering to Randall's Island and other venues because of march leader Khalid Abdul Muhammad's anti-Semitic and anti-white rhetoric violated the participants' First Amendment rights.

Clean-cut and charismatic, Shabazz is radically Afrocentric, his world view rooted in the black nationalist belief that black people are an oppressed race that needs to be liberated.

And he believes the angry diatribes that so inflame Muhammad's detractors are just part of that war of liberation.

"Don't we at least have a right to be angry?" he asked.

"Yes, everybody doesn't like it, but it's not for everyone to like," Shabazz said of the speeches. "You can't compare the language, speech or tactics of oppressed black people to the language, speech and tactics of an oppressive white majority."

Shabazz said he is a disciple of Islam as taught by Elijah Muhammad, the founder of the Nation of Islam, which is currently led by Minister Louis Farrakhan.

Shabazz was born 32 years ago in Los Angeles, and now practices personal injury and criminal law in Washington.

He said his father, James Lewis, who also was a Muslim, was killed while Shabazz was a child "under mysterious circumstances that have not been explained to this day." He declined to give details of his father's death.

Shabazz said his grandfather and mother were the most influential people in his life.

His grandfather introduced him to the Nation of Islam and instructed him in the practice the religion. He also introduced his grandson to Farrakhan.

Shabazz was raised by his mother, who he said is a successful businesswoman he declined to give her name or her business who grew up dirt poor in a one-room house in Mississippi.

"She scrubbed floors as a domestic in Iowa, where she met my father," he said. "We started in poverty, and because of my mother's success, we became middle-class."

Shabazz is a graduate of Howard University and Howard University Law School, a predominantly black institution in Washington, that Shabazz refers to with pride as "the mecca of black education."

While at Howard, Shabazz formed a group called Unity Nation, which brought speakers like Farrakhan, Muhammad and the controversial Prof. Leonard Jeffries to the campus.

Shabazz was a spokesman and bodyguard for Washington Mayor Marion Barry after Barry was released from prison after serving time on drug charges.

He has had a long association with Muhammad, whose inflammatory remarks prompted Farrakhan to oust him from his post as head of a Harlem mosque and as a national spokesman for the Nation of Islam.

For example, on the eve of the Million Man March in October 1995, Shabazz was effusive in his praise while introducing Muhammad at a forum called the "Black Holocaust Nationhood Conference," calling Muhammad "a man who gives the white man nightmares."

Shabazz said he sees himself as a warrior battling the bleak conditions of the black community.

"I hate seeing us last and on the bottom. I was taught I should use my talents to fight for black people," he said. "When I see James Byrd Jr. dragged and having his head torn off in Texas, I want to counter-attack," he said, citing the June 7 incident in which Byrd was brutally murdered in a racial attack in Jasper, Tex. Three white men were charged in the slaying.

In fact, when the Ku Klux Klan marched in Jasper after the killing, Shabazz and Muhammad, along with members of the New Black Panther Party, held a counter-demonstration carrying assault rifles.

Single with no children, Shabazz said he dates, enjoys rap music and likes basketball. He said he turned down a basketball scholarship at Howard.

And Shabazz's career plans only begin with today's march.

"I'm planning to run for City Council at large this fall in Washington," Shabazz said.

Shabazz sees himself and many of the people taking the stage today as the "new black leadership." It remains to be seen if his ideology will be embraced by youth gathered to listen to him.

"White people always fear leadership that they can't put their stamp on," said Shabazz. "We are the black leadership that's making trouble in America."

  • Print

Newsletter Signup

Get the latest Updates.

sign up NOW