Ishmael Reed Reviews Land of My Daughters by Marvin X
Marvin X has been a witness to history. He shows that an excellent
minority writer can raise issues that the mainstream publishers and book
reviewers find hard to grapple with. Don't look for this book to be
reviewed in the San Francisco Chronicle Book Review.
His Land of My Daughters includes poems written between 1995-2005. The
subjects include private relationships, heroes and she-roes, eulogies,
and problems that effect African-American communities from coast to
coast. For example, the callous and casual killing of young people caught
up in the competition over drug markets. These children were raised by
television and its crass appeal to materialism: "Tommy
Hilfiger...Nike." Some of their music is little more than a list of brand names and a few Hip Hop performers have even stooped to peddling alcohol.
In his "Let's Get Back to Normal," he addresses the issue of "only
nigguhs killing nigguhs." People forget that black on black murder was
experiencing a decline until 1984 when crack began to appear in the ghetto
streets as a product. In another poem Marvin X condemns the abuse of
alcohol in his "Jesus and Liquor Stores," implying that both Christianity
and Liquor are ghetto obsessions.
Marvin X prefers the religion of the prophet Muhammad. In his "How To
Love A Thinking Woman" he cites Sufism, Sunni and other branches of
Islam. "Let Allah know you know Him and serve Him."
He mentions a number of 1960s activists, names with which the young
generation might not be familiar: Kwame Toure, Eldridge Cleaver, Rap
Brown, Huey Newton, Betty Shabazz, Dudley Randall, Lil Bobby Hutton. There
are a number of poems about Amiri Baraka and his family. Among the most
moving poems in this collection are those about his own family.
Like many black fathers caught up in poverty and the revolutionary
ferment of the 1960s, Marvin X was an absent father and has spent years
making up for that absence.
He, Huey Newton, Eldridge Cleaver and others were also casualties of
the chemical attack on African Americans in the form of crack and alcohol
waged by corporations and a government that placed questionable foreign
policy goals above the health of its citizens.
Marvin X survived his personal hell and provides a lesson to members of
the younger generation. He is an example of what one can overcome
through will. Addiction is as American as Apple Pie and it engulfs the local
crack and heroin addicts as well as Wall Street moguls and President's
daughters. Marvin X kicked his and lived to tell about it in his brilliant and powerful play "One Day In The Life."
Many of those who inspired the cultural revolution of the 1960s remain
stuck there. This volume shows that Marvin X has moved on.
Ishmael Reed is an internationally known poet, playwright, novelist,
editor, and publisher.
He is a supporter of Marvin X's many projects, including participating
in the Kings and Queens of Black Consciousness at San Francisco State
University, 2001, and the San Francisco Black Radical Book Fair, 2004.
Bay Area residents can catch Marvin X performing at Oakland’s Java
House Wednesday evening, June 1. Los Angeles folks can catch him at the
2nd Annual Los Angeles Black Book Expo, June 11-12, where he will be
presented a life-time achievement award.
Marvin X and the 60s are the subject of a just released book The Black
Arts Movement: Literary Nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s by James E.
Smethurst, University of North Carolina Press, 2005.