Wednesday, December 31, 2008

by Marvin X
Black Scholar magazine, circa 1970

I am not an Arab, I am not a Jew
Abraham is not my father, Palestine is not my home
But I would fight any man
who kicked me out of my house to dwell in a tent
I would fight to the ends of the earth
someone who said to me
I want your house because my father lived here two thousand years ago
I want your land because my father lived here two thousand years ago
Jets would not stop me from returning to my home
Uncle toms would not stop me
Cluster bombs would not stop me
bullets I would defy.
No man can take the house of another
and expect to live in peace
There is no peace for thieves
for those who murder for myths ancient rituals
wail at the wall
settle in Judea and Samaria
fate awaits you
you will never sleep in peace
you will never walk without listening.

I shall cross the River Jordan
with justice in my hand
I shall return to Jerusalem
and establish my house of peace
thus said the Lord.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Gaza and Global Politics

Gaza may go the way of Falujah, the city in Iraq that was completely eradicated of resistance fighters by American troops after two American mercenaries were hung from a bridge. Except Gaza may suffer worse by the Zionists. Even as we write American made bunker -buster bombs are dropping on Gaza, one of the highest population density areas in the world, surely innocent civilians are “collateral damage” to a high degree. Four hundred have died already. Mosques, schools, hospitals and office buildings are being systematically destroyed by the bunker busting bombs of the made-in-America Zionists.

The Vandals are at it again, destroying the holy land. Because a Zionist child is peeing in her pants, you must destroy a nation of people who have every right to live, certainly as much right as your peeing children. At least only a few Palestinian children have been bombed to death in Gaza.

But let us be clear, this present battle was not only hatched in Israel and America, but in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. It is a conspiracy between all of the above Sunni Muslims (with Jews and Christian Americans) against the coming power of Iran in the Shite crescent which includes Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and occupied Palestine, including the Gaza Strip.

Does the Hamas people of Gaza who voted in democratic elections for the rule of Hamas have the human right of self determination? So what if they are defined as terrorists by Israel, USA, and the Sunni Muslim reactionary regimes of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, along with the neo-colonial collaborator regime of Abbas and his PLO, who reminds us of Mbeki and his billionaire ANC revolutionaries in South Africa.

We only know that similar to the Black Panther Party in the USA, Hamas won the loyalty of the people by providing their essential needs, food, clothing and shelter, schools, clinics, and security, while the PLO partied in Europe with women and booze and money stolen from the national treasury of the Palestinian people.

The Zionists may win the battle of Gaza but they shall not win the war of liberation by the Palestinian people. The reactionary regimes of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and others have revealed their running dog connection with Zionism and American imperialism now called Globalism.
If you are brave in the African warrior tradition, invite Marvin to you black history celebration. Call 510-355-6339.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Plato's Last Class

"Marvin X is Plato teaching on the streets of Oakland."
--Ishmael Reed, author, novelist, McArthur Genius Award winner

After three years teaching on the streets of Oakland, Plato (Marvin X) was recently told by the Oakland Police that he can no longer vend his books or teach at 14th and Broadway, the crossroads of Oakland, no matter that the youth and adults of Oakland have had the pleasure of a leading writer and intellectual freely at their disposal, someone with whom they could engage on any topic, personal or political, religious or spiritual, matters of black consciousness and history.

In New York recently to see a production of his play Salaam, Huey Newton, Salaam, at Woody King's New Federal Theatre, Marvin returned to his open air classroom but was soon approached by a police officer who informed him the area was off limits to vending (after three years with no hassle, with police present on the block daily)--although vending was merely a front for Marvin X to engage the people, discussing their needs. The poet had set up a micro-credit bank on his table from which anyone could borrow money to satisfy their hunger, need for transportation or whatever critical need they had. People who borrowed from the micro credit bank (basket) would come by to repay their loan.

Intellectuals and politicos such as OCCUR's David Glover, entrepreneur Geoffrey Pete, attorney Walter Riley, actor Michael Lange, photographer Gene Hazzard, educators Ptah Allah El and math teacher Ramal Lamar often gathered to discuss current events, especially happenings at Mayor Ron Dellums' City Hall across the street, or the Obama Drama Plato wrote about in the Oakland Post newspaper whose office is located down the block at 14th and Franklin Streets.

Is it possible the OPD moved on Plato because of his series of articles on OPD connection to the murder of Oakland Post Editor Chauncey Bailey? (See the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, San Francisco Bay view Newspaper; also the Cross and the Lynching Tree and Who Killed Chauncey Bailey, Oakland Post.)

Before the OPD arrived to close his classroom/clinic down, Plato had to deal with a potential suicide. A brother came to him saying he wanted to kill himself because he and his woman had gotten into it the night before. She had a restraining order on him but called his hotel room begging him to come over, so he did and soon they were arguing. He left assuming she would call the OPD. He told Plato he loved her, even though she was ball headed, had a hump in her back and walked with a limp. He said she told him she would search for him to the ends of the earth because she loved him too. Plato told him to get a grip on himself, but the young man said he wanted to kill himself. He was on the way to cash his check and turn himself in to the OPD since he presumed his woman had called them. He wanted to cash his check so he would have money on the books in jail. He said he had a good job with the City of San Francisco but didn't go to work that day because he was so upset. Plato saw tears coming from the eyes of this tall warrior who stood before him, humbled as a midget. Plato begged him not to commit suicide. He told him things have a way of working themselves out even when it appears all hope is lost. The brother left to cash his check so he would have money on the books.

A short time later several young black males gathered in front of Plato's table with Obama T shirts and Plato's books. The young brothers began shouting, "Obama, Obama, the first Black President." Plato joined them, but added to their chant, "Obama, Obama, the first Black President--now pull your pants up for the first Black President. Pull your pants up for the first Black President!" The brothers pulled up their pants, then asked for a free Obama button which Plato gave them. But then here comes an OG Negro who intervened, saying, "Leave them children alone, if they want to sag let them sag." Plato told the OG Negro to shut up and get out of his mix. He saw that maybe the source of youth ignorance is parental or elder ignorance. When the blind lead the blind they both fall into the ditch together, as the Bible tells us.

And then came the pig telling Plato to close it down, saying he was only doing his job to feed his family. Plato, being his arrogant self, took his time packing, especially since he had no fear of the OBP-- after all, his Black Panther friends Huey, Bobby and Eldridge used to shoot the OPD.

But on the spiritual plane one door closes and another opens. Down the block is De Lauer's Newsstand and bookstore which sells Plato's books. The century old business was recently bought by Ethiopians. Plato asked the owner Solomon if he knew what a writer in resident is? Solomon said yes. Plato said what is a writer in residence? Solomon said you! And so it is. Plato's new classroom will likely be at De Lauer's. Stay tuned.
A Look inside Baraka’s Toilet

By definition a classic is a work that withstands the test of time, fad, beyond the ephemeral. A classic theme deconstructs one or more of the eternal concerns of humanity, love, hate, life and death, or the problems of life that never seem to get solved even when the solution is quite apparent. The simple solution to hate is love, so simple we must revisit the question and solution from time to time.

Almost forty-five years ago, Amiri Baraka examined the themes of racism and homophobia in his one-act play The Toilet. The set is a high school men’s room, wherein he gathers a group of young men to decipher the meaning of love and hate. Mostly black, the young men appear to be at an urban manhood training rite. We see a myriad personalities expressing themselves in the rhythm and rhymes of the time—there are no pants sagging, no grills in teeth, but they are there seeking to discover their manhood, racial and sexual identity.

The tragedy of that time and this time is that their search for manhood and sexual identity is unorganized and haphazard, thus then and now young men must grapple with self discovery in isolated groups without mentor, elder or guide. No adult appears in the Toilet to give words of wisdom, thus the young men are adrift in their ignorance, seeking to find themselves in the midst of darkness. How ironic the setting is a high school where we assume learning is taking place, and yet learning occurs not in the classroom but the toilet. The toilet becomes the bush in African or primitive tradition, for there is terror, violence to bring transformation from hatred to love and interracial understanding.

A white boy writes a love letter to a black boy and the drama involves the resolution of this event. The white boy has crossed the racial line into the black brotherhood and suffers violence as a result—he his beaten into a pulp, bloody as a beet, half-dead when brought into The Toilet.

Gang violence is a natural happening in urban culture, senseless violence to express manhood; even sexual violence is a natural part of this oppressed society. And so the black boy is finally confronted by the white boy who loves him and the brother is physically overcome by the white boy to the chagrin of the black brotherhood. The white boy is again attacked by the toilet gang and all depart, including another white boy who had come to the defense of his white brother.

The Toilet ends with the black boy returning to embrace the white boy. Lights down.
What was Baraka trying to tell us forty-five years ago and what relevance has his message now? Since then gays and lesbians have come out of the closet, although the passage of California’s Proposition 8 denies them the right of marriage, and the gays are miffed at Blacks for supporting the proposition, although the president of the state NAACP in her role as a lobbyist opposed the bill, along with many black newspapers and several ministers who were probably paid to do so. Apparently a majority of blacks do not equate gay rights with civil rights. Are sexual rights human rights?

The question Baraka raised had to do with transcending hatred in favor of love. Proposition 8 denied gays and lesbians the right to codify their love in marriage.
Blacks are known to be sexually conservative, although they now have many children on the streets embracing the gay/lesbian lifestyle. Blacks are thus hypocritical and drowning in denial, in similar fashion to the black brothers in The Toilet who refused to consider that one of their own might have crossed the line, not only racially but sexually as well.

On my recent visit to New York to see Woody King’s production of my play (with Ed Bullins) Salaam, Huey Newton, Salaam, Baraka’s The Toilet and Hugh Fletcher’s Amarie, I was accompanied by two lesbian assistants. Of course, being a dirty old man, I tried to get at them. (See my poem Why I Love Lesbians.) And they were highly upset at my offensive language, something they should have known I am known for by those who know me. Although I imagined them to be young women, with whom I could talk adult talk, they were suffering arrested development, in search of their sexual identity, much like the brothers in The Toilet.

Nevertheless, I wanted them to spend some time with Amina Baraka who is still in grief over the lost of her daughter Shani and her lover Rayshan to homicide. I thought conversing with the young ladies, 19 and 25, would help Amina heal from the horror of losing her only daughter by Baraka. She did meet the young ladies at the theatre and immediately saw the physical similarity between one girl and her daughter, Shani. “I knew you would see that,” I told Amina. The girl, Raushanah, like Shani, had been a point guard as well. We agreed to come to Newark to spend time with Amina, but after my verbal insults, the girls declined to make the trip, even though we reconciled our issues as best we could.

I made the trip to Newark alone to hang out with the Barakas, who had me bar hoping after a wonderful dinner at the Spanish restaurant across from city hall. One of the bars we visited is owned by former mayor Sharp James, now doing prison time for corruption.

I hadn’t planned to spend the night but Amina had other plans, so she made room for me in the space they have preserved for Shani. On my last visit, she had told me that I was the first person to spend the night in Shani’s room, filled with her artifacts, several basketball size trophies, numerous awards and proclamations to her athletic prowess and mentorship.

After the last bar, we headed home. Tired, I said goodnight to the Barakas and went upstairs to my room or rather, Shani’s room. I shut the door and looking around at Shani’s archives, something told me to say a prayer, so I did.

I got up the next morning early, way too early to disturb the Barakas, so I purveyed the room, and seeing the trophies were dusty, wiped them. I just happened to have a poem in my back pocket When Thy Lover Has Gone to Eternity, so I placed it between the trophies as an offering. I said another prayer before departing. And then I heard Shani speaking, saying, “No, no, no, no to hate, no, no, no, no.” She said, “Yes, yes to love, yes, yes, yes, yes.”

I shut the door and made my way downstairs, passing the sleeping Barakas and out into the cold Newark morning. At South Tenth and Clinton Streets I hailed a taxi, telling him to take me to John’s Place, my favorite breakfast spot in Newark . I ordered Whiting, grits and eggs, with biscuits that melted in my mouth. After breakfast, I walked to the bus stop for the ride to Penn Station and the train back across the river to New York . As I stood waiting for the bus, Shani spoke again in the winter wind, “No, no, no, no to hate. Yes, yes, yes to love.”

Shall we not love our gay children, the many young men and women who have chosen the gay lifestyle for whatever reason: we can say they were born that way, or have an identity crisis from feminine or matrifocal socialization (lack of manhood rites or womanhood rites), or there was sexual assault by a gay or lesbian relative, or incest by father, uncle, brother, cousin who turned the girl against all men. We can catalogue all the possibilities yet not get to the end of the road on this matter: our gay children need help!
They need love and support as they go through their daily round. We cannot simply look at them and reduce them to social rejects, pariahs we must shun at all costs as if they are not natural but some kind of mutants from Mars.

In short, they need our help with their growing pains. All children need love, recognition and acceptance. Do you think the gay children are not suffering the normal white supremacy virus of parental abandonment, abuse and neglect? Even more so, our gay young men are suffering the highest rate of HIV infection. What shall we do—surely we can reach out and touch these young men on a suicide path—at the very least, we can educate them about the dangers of their unsafe sexual behavior.

Our lesbian children need our love and acceptance as well. Maybe some of them will return to the straight life (as if that’s anything to brag about until we evolve our spiritual consciousness from the patriarchal mentality of domination.)

Again, no matter the cause of the explosion of the gay and lesbian lifestyle, it is a reality we need to deal with. Those who want to be straight should be guided, others who want to be accepted as gay or lesbian should be shown unconditional love as well.

It is wrong for anyone to hate another human being, and especially to hate a child. So let us put on the armor of God and exercise Supreme Wisdom. Either we are working with Divine power or we are on the animal plane, from which our actions are devoid of spiritual consciousness

The Toilet is a state of mind, toxic and transfixed. It must be flushed clean with pure water. There is a moment in the play when a brother goes down the row of urinals flushing each one and laughing with joy as the water flows loudly like a river. Let us flush ourselves with the royal flush of all the urine and defecation in our lives, in our minds that have a strangle hold on the eternity of love, for love is all there is that is precious and real, radical and revolutionary, love, the meaning of the morning, the essence of the night, the why we rise to try again the daily round, to suffer the pain and joy—only love makes the day possible and the night bearable.

In conclusion, moral propositions become just that and nothing more, a momentary thing, until the destruction comes, then we see some things are beyond mere propositions, thoughts, a consensus of the moral or the immoral, for who is moral today, who is immoral? Who are the good guys, bad guys? Who is without sin? You are against gays and lesbians, yet you are a child molester! You are against gays and lesbians, yet you are a wife beater, a murderer, a dope dealer, a wicked teacher, a corrupt banker. Who has the high moral ground? Is it he who does the most good—in the hood? Shall he or she determine the moral code, or is this a free for all, do yo thing, I do my thing—in the Arabic: lakum dinu kum waliyadin (to you your way and to me mine, Al Qur’an).

Unless there is a consensus, who is to say what is right or wrong? We must come to a consensus on the new morality, no matter what ancient mythologies have taught us. In Divine consciousness surely we can find the Way of Love in all matters. Let us search the ancient holy books, texts, inscriptions, for the sure path, since there is doubt persisting into the night. What do the holy books say?

Shall we be swayed by illusions of any kind, spirituality or physicality, mentality or sexuality? If we reinstituted manhood and womanhood rites of passage, we might go a long way toward helping our children cross the threshold of sexual identity and toward spiritual maturation as divine beings in human form. Sexuality and other illusions become secondary to the primary objective of reaching spiritual maturity, following our true bliss, as Joseph Campbell taught us.

--Marvin X
November, 2008
Berkeley CA 94702

Marvin X, poet, playwright, essayist, philosopher, social activist, teacher, is one of the founders of the black arts movement and the father of Muslim American literature. His next collection of essays is Up from Ignut, the Soulful Musings of a North American African Thinker, Black Bird Press, 2009. He is available for speaking and performing engagements. Write to him at 1222 Dwight Way , Berkeley CA 94702 . Call 510-355-6339. Email: Also see and Search Google as well.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Myth of the Soul

Myth under girds the soul story, the soul energy. The soul could not exist without myth, for myth makes the soul possible, its reason for being. Without myth there is no soul, for the soul by its very nature is communal not personal, and myth is the essential element is the communal. Jung taught us this: that there is a universality to myth, with basic elements common to the mythology of humanity. We all have the same basic myths, evident in our dreams, our ritual ceremonies and celebrations.

Mao taught us the class nature of mythology, as in propaganda, literature and art, it reflects class values. You love certain art and disdain other art because of your bourgeoisie education or miseducation. The grass roots appreciate certain art because it speaks to their reality and possibility, especially when it promotes radical consciousness.

Diop has taught of Northern and Southern Cradle myths, and how they differ. Diop said in the Northern Cradle or Europe they kill rather than welcome the stranger, while in the Southern Cradle or Africa they welcome the stranger, and this is true in Asia and the Americas as well, “Su casa is mi casa.” In the Arabic, “Ahlan wa sahlan”—welcome into my home and may you walk on level ground is the common greeting beyond As-Salaam Alaikum.

But in Europe the stranger was first killed then questions asked. Was he an enemy or friend, oh, sorry if he was a friend. In the Destruction of African Civilization, Chancellor Williams tells us our lack of xenophobia caused our destruction six thousand years ago. Yet to have killed the stranger first would have violated our basic mythology, our cultural prerogative. I saorw my grandmother feed strangers who knocked on her door in the projects in search of food, even white people. And all that I remember about Granny is her spirituality not her religiosity, for she was not a church going woman but she was a spiritual woman. She told my brother Ollie he would spend his life in the pen--and she told him this when we were small children. She was right. He has probably spent at least fifty of his sixty-five years in prisons and jails.

The Myth of the Soul is extracted from Marvin X's work in progress, Radical Mythology, 2009.