Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Umar Ben Hasan and Marvin X Rock Oakland

Last Poets Umar Ben Hasan and Marvin X appeared briefly in Oakland Tuesday night at Dorsey’s Locker, a poetry venue in North Oakland. Umar, in Oakland for a residency at East Side Arts, was exhausted from a European tour, so MC President Davis, star of Amiri Baraka’s Sisyphus Syndrome, was happy to have the legendary poet do one poem.
Marvin X came on first, introducing young vocalist Raushanah Bashir who accompanied him on a poem dedicated to Barak Obama, “Can You Change,” from his collection Land of My Daughters, Black Bird Press, 2005. Raushanah sang lines from Lauryn Hill’s Peace of Mind and Sam Cook’s classic A Change Is Gonna Come, closing out the poet’s performance. Marvin X then introduced his friend from the Black Arts Movement, Umar Ben Hasan. The two met in Harlem, 1968, and joined Amiri Baraka, Askia Toure, Barbara Ann Teer, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, Sun Ra, Ed Bullins and others in forming the Black Arts Movement (see The Black Arts Movement by James Smethurst, University of North Carolina Press).

Marvin passed the mike to Ben Hasan who told the story of Marvin X in Harlem during that critical year, 1968. According to Umar, Marvin X appeared at cultural events wearing a Muslim hat and stood at attention in the rear of the auditorium. He took the mike when it was time for him to read, then immediately after, returned to his post. Marvin grabbed the mike and told the audience this was an Umar Ben Hasan fish story.
Ben Hasan proceeded to recite a poem from his repertory to the pleasure of the audience who were honored to have him in the house. The venue owner, Mr. Dorsey, told Umar the poetry of the Last Poets changed his life. Mr. Dorsey had told Marvin X this fact before Umar arrived, thus the reason Marivn commanded the audience stand in honor of the legendary poet. His residency will include workshops and performance at the Eastside Arts Alliance, 2277 International Blvd., Oakland. 510-533-6629.

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