Marvin X Replies to Paul Cobb, Oakland Post Editor
Paul, thank you for you kind letter of support. I've never had a birthday party that I recall, so I hope I will know how to act. I just want you to know this afternoon I had an earthshaking experience on our old turf, West Oakland. Ayodele Nzingha's Lower Bottom Players presented my first play Flowers for the Trashman at their theatre, 10th and Peralta, across the street from Prescott Elementary and the former St. Patrick's, both of which I attended. As I told the audience, I can still feel the pain of the Nuns beating me across the top of my hands because I wouldn't pay attention. But it was mind blowing to see the young men performing my play that was written about our old hood. Of course I wanted to be a writer even then. I used to write in the Children's section of the Oakland Tribune. Did you think you would be publisher of the Oakland Post? I told the young actors how proud I was to see them on stage doing something positive. And a young man in the audience told how inspired he was at seeing the performance. Writer Wanda Sabir was there also. Someone said they could see the young brothers knew their lines. This play must be part of my birthday celebration, along with Ayodele's Death by Love and Geoffrey Grier's The Spot. These writers came out of my Recovery Theatre and have gone on to establish their own. Geoffery is director of San Francisco Recovery Theatre. These plays are about healing and love, a much needed subject for discussion. As I told the audience, African drama and for that matter, World drama, began in Egypt with the Osirian drama of Resurrection, ten thousand years ago. And we are yet today continuing the myth-ritual drama of resurrection. As my student/colleague, Ptah Allah El says,"We have gone from Warrior to Trashman (Flowers for the Trashman). We consider ourselves trash, we eat trash and think trashy thoughts. We live in a trashy society. Yet we must arise from Trashman to Warrior man and woman." Thank you again for your support and lifelong friendship. Any donations should be sent to Amira Jackmon, Esq., 1220 Dwight Way, Berkeley CA 94702.
--Marvin X Jackmon (El Muhajir)
Paul Cobb reply regarding Marvin X:.
Since we started in kindergarten together,
I will be happy to serve on your surprise birthday committee and will donate some space, time and money=====at least $65.00, that is. I will also find a way to present you and your accomplishments on at least one whole page in all 7 editions of the Post and maybe a brief mention in El Mundo.
We do not, nor never will, have sufficient space to acknowledge all of your prolific flourishes and prodigious writings.
We marvel at you Marvin for your marvelous ability to focus your energies on your masterful musings.
You have fought the good fight.
You have kept the faith.
And, in the face of blistering pessimism, you kept us all focused on getting Barack Hussein Obama in the White House. I must say that when most of us doubted that event would occur in our lifetime, you never did. Most of all you seemed to will us all into its acceptance. You saw and felt it coming.
What a picture! You and Imamu Baraka, at the corner of 14th and Broadway, boldly and coldly pushing Barackphernalia and your books , banners and buttons on brothers who hadn't read since high school as well as to curious whites who dared not pass you by without purchasing your FANONical Black&White skins and masks covered books-------the "Black Man's Ice was finally colder."-----What a coup!
Both of you, progenitors of the Black Arts Movement, artfully dealing still!
Since we are all at least 65 and alive, now maybe we can create a social security blanket of mutual support. I hope everyone on the committee will pop for $65 each to buy your books to be sent to juvenile hall and/or the "correctional?" institutions---now that's a sitmulus package to stimulate us. And, since I shined shoes and sold watermelons with my cousin Roy Overall, in front of your family's floral shop on seventh street, 55 years ago, just as boldly as you still do too, I will present you your flowers and a" letter from home" on May 29.
Happy Birthday to ya!
In a message dated 2/22/2009 1:31:17 P.M. Pacific Standard Time, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
Marvin X Birthday Committee
On May 29, Marvin X, one of the founders of the Black Arts Movement and the father of Muslim American literature, will celebrate his 65th birthday. His students, comrades and friends are organizing a celebration in Oakland. The following are hereby drafted to the committee.
Please contact Dr. J. Vern Cromartie ASAP:
Dr. Julia Hare
Nathan and Julia Hare
Destiny and Chris Muhammad
Ptah Allah El
Ramal Lamar and Hajr
If you would like to help organize this event, contact Dr. Cromartie:
Black Arts Movement
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Black Arts Movement or BAM is the artistic branch of the Black Power movement. It was started in Harlem by writer and activist Amiri Baraka (born Everett LeRoy Jones). Time Magazine describes the Black Arts Movement as the "single most controversial moment in the history of African-American literature-- possibly in American literature as a whole." The Black Arts Repertory Theatre is a key institution of the Black Arts Movement.
The movement was one of the most important times in the African American literature. It inspired black people to establish their own publishing houses, magazines, journals and art institutions. It led to the creation of African American Studies programs within universities. The movement was triggered by the assassination of Malcolm X. Other well-known writers that were involved with this movement included Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, Maya Angelou, and Rosa Grey. Although not strictly involved with the Movement, other notable African American writers such as novelists Toni Morrison and Ishmael Reed share some of its artistic and thematic concerns. Although Ishmael Reed is neither a movement apologist nor advocate, he said:
I think what Black Arts did was inspire a whole lot of Black people to write. Moreover, there would be no multiculturalism movement without Black Arts. Latinos, Asian Americans, and others all say they began writing as a result of the example of the 1960s. Blacks gave the example that you don't have to assimilate. You could do your own thing, get into your own background, your own history, your own tradition and your own culture. I think the challenge is for cultural sovereignty and Black Arts struck a blow for that.
BAM influenced the world of literature, portraying different ethnic voices. Before the movement, the literary canon lacked diversity, and the ability to express ideas from the point of view of racial and ethnic minorities was not valued by the mainstream.
Theatre groups, poetry performances, music and dance were centered around this movement, and therefore African Americans were becoming recognized in the area of literature and arts. African Americans were also able to educate others through different types of expressions and media about cultural differences. The most common form of teaching was through poetry reading. African American performances were used for their own political advertisement, organization, and community issues. The Black Arts Movement was spread by the use of newspaper advertisements. The first major arts movement publication was in 1964.
The Black Arts movement, usually referred to as a "sixties" movement, came together in 1965 and broke apart around 1975/1976. In March 1965 following the 21 February assassination of Malcolm X, LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) moved from Manhattan's Lower East Side uptown to Harlem, an exodus considered the symbolic birth of the Black Arts movement. Jones was a highly visible publisher (Yugen and Floating Bear magazines, Totem Press), a celebrated poet (Preface to a Twenty-Volume Suicide Note, 1961, and The Dead Lecturer, 1964), a major music critic (Blues People, 1963), and an Obie Award-winning playwright (Dutchman, 1964) who, up until that fateful split, had functioned in an integrated world. Other than James Baldwin, who at that time had been closely associated with the civil rights movement, Jones was the most respected and most widely published Black writer of his generation.
Although Jones's 1965 move uptown to establish the Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School (BARTS) is considered the formal beginning (it was Jones who came up with the name "Black Arts"), Black Arts, as a literary movement, had its roots in groups such as the Umbra Workshop. Umbra (1962) was a collective of young Black writers based in Manhattan's Lower East Side; major members were writers Steve Cannon, Tom Dent, Al Haynes, David Henderson, Calvin C. Hernton, Joe Johnson, Norman Pritchard, Lenox Raphael, Ishmael Reed, Lorenzo Thomas, James Thompson, Askia M. Touré (Roland Snellings; also a visual artist), Brenda Walcott, and musician-writer Archie Shepp. Touré, a major shaper of "cultural nationalism," directly influenced Jones. Along with Umbra writer Charles Patterson and Charles's brother, William Patterson, Touré joined Jones, Steve Young, and others at BARTS.
Umbra, which produced Umbra Magazine, was the first post-civil rights Black literary group to make an impact as radical in the sense of establishing their own voice distinct from, and sometimes at odds with, the prevailing white literary establishment. The attempt to merge a Black-oriented activist thrust with a primarily artistic orientation produced a classic split in Umbra between those who wanted to be activists and those who thought of themselves as primarily writers, though to some extent all members shared both views. Black writers have always had to face the issue of whether their work was primarily political or aesthetic. Moreover, Umbra itself had evolved out of similar circumstances: In 1960 a Black nationalist literary organization, On Guard for Freedom, had been founded on the Lower East Side by Calvin Hicks. Its members included Nannie and Walter Bowe, Harold Cruse (who was then working on Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, 1967), Tom Dent, Rosa Guy, Joe Johnson, LeRoi Jones, and Sarah Wright, among others. On Guard was active in a famous protest at the United Nations of the American-sponsored Bay of Pigs Cuban invasion and was active in support of the Congolese liberation leader Patrice Lumumba. From On Guard, Dent, Johnson, and Walcott along with Hernton, Henderson, and Touré established Umbra.
Another formation of Black writers at that time was the Harlem Writers Guild, led by John O. Killens, which included Maya Angelou, Jean Carey Bond, Rosa Guy, and Sarah Wright among others. But the Harlem Writers Guild focused on prose, primarily fiction, which did not have the mass appeal of poetry performed in the dynamic vernacular of the time. Poems could be built around anthems, chants, and political slogans, and thereby used in organizing work, which was not generally the case with novels and short stories. Moreover, the poets could and did publish themselves, whereas greater resources were needed to publish fiction. That Umbra was primarily poetry- and performance-oriented established a significant and classic characteristic of the movement's aesthetics. When Umbra split up, some members, led by Askia Touré and Al Haynes, moved to Harlem in late 1964 and formed the nationalist-oriented "Uptown Writers Movement," which included poets Yusef Rahman, Keorapetse "Willie" Kgositsile from South Africa, and Larry Neal. Accompanied by young "New Music" musicians, they performed poetry all over Harlem. Members of this group joined LeRoi Jones in founding BARTS.
Jones's move to Harlem was short-lived. In December 1965 he returned to his home, Newark (N.J.), and left BARTS in serious disarray. BARTS failed but the Black Arts center concept was irrepressible mainly because the Black Arts movement was so closely aligned with the then-burgeoning Black Power movement. The mid- to late 1960s was a period of intense revolutionary ferment. Beginning in 1964, rebellions in Harlem and Rochester, New York, initiated four years of long hot summers. Watts, Detroit, Newark, Cleveland, and many other cities went up in flames, culminating in nationwide explosions of resentment and anger following Martin Luther King, Jr.'s April 1968 assassination.
In his seminal 1965 poem "Black Art," which quickly became the major poetic manifesto of the Black Arts literary movement, Jones declaimed "we want poems that kill." He was not simply speaking metaphorically. During that period armed self-defense and slogans such as "Arm yourself or harm yourself' established a social climate that promoted confrontation with the white power structure, especially the police (e.g., "Off the pigs"). Indeed, Amiri Baraka (Jones changed his name in 1967) had been arrested and convicted (later overturned on appeal) on a gun possession charge during the 1967 Newark rebellion. Additionally, armed struggle was widely viewed as not only a legitimate, but often as the only effective means of liberation. Black Arts' dynamism, impact, and effectiveness are a direct result of its partisan nature and advocacy of artistic and political freedom "by any means necessary." America had never experienced such a militant artistic movement.
Nathan Hare, the author of The Black Anglo-Saxons (1965), was the founder of 1960s Black Studies. Expelled from Howard University, Hare moved to San Francisco State University where the battle to establish a Black Studies department was waged during a five-month strike during the 1968-1969 school year. As with the establishment of Black Arts, which included a range of forces, there was broad activity in the Bay Area around Black Studies, including efforts led by poet and professor Sarah Webster Fabio at Merrit College.
The initial thrust of Black Arts ideological development came from the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM), a national organization with a strong presence in New York City. Both Touré and Neal were members of RAM. After RAM, the major ideological force shaping the Black Arts movement was the US (as opposed to "them') organization led by Maulana Karenga. Also ideologically important was Elijah Muhammad's Chicago-based Nation of Islam. These three formations provided both style and ideological direction for Black Arts artists, including those who were not members of these or any other political organization. Although the Black Arts movement is often considered a New York-based movement, two of its three major forces were located outside New York City.
As the movement matured, the two major locations of Black Arts' ideological leadership, particularly for literary work, were California's Bay Area because of the Journal of Black Poetry and the Black Scholar, and the Chicago-Detroit axis because of Negro Digest/Black World and Third World Press in Chicago, and Broadside Press and Naomi Long Madgett's Lotus Press in Detroit. The only major Black Arts literary publications to come out of New York were the short-lived (six issues between 1969 and 1972) Black Theatre magazine published by the New Lafayette Theatre and Black Dialogue, which had actually started in San Francisco (1964-1968) and relocated to New York (1969-1972).
In 1967 LeRoi Jones visited Karenga in Los Angeles and became an advocate of Karenga's philosophy of Kawaida. Kawaida, which produced the "Nguzo Saba" (seven principles), Kwanzaa, and an emphasis on African names, was a multifaceted, categorized activist philosophy. Jones also met Bobby Seale and Eldridge Cleaver and worked with a number of the founding members of the Black Panthers. Additionally, Askia Touré was a visiting professor at San Francisco State and was to become a leading (and longlasting) poet as well as, arguably, the most influential poet-professor in the Black Arts movement. Playwright Ed Bullins and poet Marvin X had established Black Arts West, and Dingane Joe Goncalves had founded the Journal of Black Poetry (1966). This grouping of Ed Bullins, Dingane Joe Goncalves, LeRoi Jones, Sonia Sanchez, Askia M. Touré, and Marvin X became a major nucleus of Black Arts leadership. 
 Effects on society
The movement lasted for about a decade, through the mid 1960s and into 1970s. This was a period of controversy and change in the world of literature. One major change came through the portrayal of new ethnic voices in the United States. English language literature, prior to the Black Arts Movement, was dominated by white authors.
African Americans became a greater presence not only in the field of literature, but in all areas of the arts. Theater groups, poetry performances, music and dance were central to the movement. Through different forms of media, African Americans were able to educate others about the expression of cultural differences and viewpoints. In particular, black poetry readings allowed African Americans to use vernacular dialogues. This was shown in the Harlem Writers Guild which included black writers such as Maya Angelou and Rosa Guy. These performances were used to express political slogans and as a tool for organization. Theater performances also were used to convey community issues and organizations. The theaters, as well as cultural centers, were based throughout America and were used for community meetings, study groups and film screenings. Newspapers were a major tool in spreading the Black Arts Movement. In 1964, Black Dialogue was published making it the first major Arts movement publication.
The Black Arts Movement, although short, is essential to the history of the United States. It spurred political activism and use of speech throughout every African American community. It allowed African Americans the chance to express their voices in the mass media as well as becoming involved in communities.
 Key writers and thinkers of this movement
Amiri Baraka (Born Everett LeRoy Jones.)
Jean Carey Bond
Marvin X (known as Marvin Jackmon)
John O. Killens
"Willie" Kgositsile Nannie
Barbara Ann Teer
Date: Thu, 19 Feb 2009 22:19:36 -0800
Subject: Re: Marvin X as Distinguished lecturer
COMING SOON FROM BLACK BIRD PRESS
Up from Ignut
Pull Yo Pants Up
Fa da Black President
The Soulful Musings of a North American African Thinker
Black Bird Press
1222 Dwight Way
Berkeley CA 94702
pre-publication price: $10.00
Marvin X: " Poet, Playwright & The Undisputed King of Black Consciousness"
Written by RBGStreetScholar on Apr-26-07 8:34pm
Marvin X in Harlem, 1968
Marvin X—born Marvin Ellis Jackmon on May 29, 1944 in Fowler, California—attended Fresno at Edison High, Oakland City College (now Merritt College) receiving an associate degree in 1964. Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, the founders of the Black Panther Party, were fellow students at Oakland City College. Marvin also received a BA and MA in English at San Francisco State College (now San Francisco State University).
Marvin X has taught at such colleges and universities as Fresno State University, San Francisco State University, University of California -- Berkeley and San Diego, University of Nevada, Reno, Mills College, Laney and Merritt Colleges in Oakland.
As part of Black Arts Movement (BAM), Marvin, along with playwright Ed Bullins in 1967, established The Black House and Black Arts / West, a theatre in San Francisco's Fillmore district.
Marvin X's first play is titled Flowers for the Trashman (also produced with an alternate title, Taking Care of Business. The play's protagonist, Joe Simmons, an African American college student, finds himself in jail with Wes, whom the playwright describes as "his hoodlum friend."
Marvin X spoke from a Muslim perspective on race relations in America in his play The Black Bird (Al Tair Aswad
Marvin X's most recent production, One Day in the Life, performed by his Recovery Theatre, provides a comprehensive view into his own life as a black man using crack cocaine as well as the devastating sphere of hurt, death, and destruction that came to many loved ones in his life.
More On Marvin X:
Marvin X is the USA’s Rumi…He’s got the humor of Pietri, the politics of Baraka, and the spiritual Muslim grounding that is totally new in English—the ecstasy of Hafiz, the wisdom of Saadi….
—Bob Holman, Bowery Poetry Club, New York City
Still the undisputed king of black consciousness!
—Dr. Nathan Hare, Black Think Tank
Declaring Muslim American literature as a field of study is valuable because by re-contextualizing it will add another layer of attention to Marvin X’s incredibly rich body of work. Muslim American literature begins with Marvin X. (Note: The University of California , Berkeley , Bancroft Library, recently acquired the archives of Marvin X.)
—Dr. Mohja Kahf, Dept. of English & Middle East & Islamic Studies,University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
In terms of modernist and innovative, he’s centuries ahead of anybody I know.
—Dennis Leroy Moore, Brecht Forum, New York
Marvelous Marvin X!
—Dr. Cornel West, Princeton University
Courageous and outrageous! He walked through the muck and mire of hell and came out clean as white fish and black as coal.
—James W. Sweeney, Oakland CA
His writing is orgasmic!
—Fahizah Alim, Sacramento Bee
Jeremiah, I presume.
—Rudolph Lewis, www.nathanielturner.com
He’s Plato teaching on the streets of Oakland. His play One Day In the Life is the most powerful drama I’ve seen.
One of the founders and innovators of the revolutionary school of African writing.
He laid the foundation and gave us the language to express Black male urban experiences in a lyrical way.
—James G. Spady, Philadelphia New Observer
An outspoken critic of American economic, social and cultural discrimination of African Americans at home and Third World peoples abroad.
—Dr. Julius E. Thompson, African American Review
Although Marvin X emerged from an extremely politicized era and enthusiastically confronted the issues of the day, his work is basically personal and religious and remains most effective on that level. It should remain relevant long after issues are resolved, if ever, and long after slogans and polemics are forgotten.
—Lorenzo Thomas, Dept. of English, University of Houston, Texas
Source: ChickenBones: A Journal
posted 29 October 2006
Marvin X Table @ ChickenBones
Marvin X is available for lecture/readings. Write to him at jmarvinx@yahoo..com , or 1222 Dwight Way, Berkeley CA 94702.
Flowers for the Trashman, A One-Act Play
Author: Marvin X
Author's first produced (Drama Department, San Francisco State University, 1965) and published play. Included in the Black Fire anthology, 1968. An example of Black Arts Movement work that seeks to render issues of immediate importance to the Black Community. It is a performative work that has a sharp relevance to the relationships that shape and plague manhood in North American African communities today. As in all good art the theme, while applied specifically, has universal implications that manage to break even the imposed strictures of gender within the piece to speak elegantly about separation within intimates spaces.
Director: Ayodele " WordSlanger" Nzinga, MFA
Artistic Director of the Sister Thea Bowman Theater, The Lower Bottom Playaz, Associate Director Recovery Theater and student of Marvin X.
Marvin X wrote Flower's for the Trashman in the turbulent 1960's. It is his first produced and published play. When asked permission to stage the piece he asked, "Why?" Why is a piece of work over 40 years old relevant at this time.
The answer lies in part in the enigmatic timelessness of the piece. Something becomes a classic because of its ability to endure by translating itself across time. This is a trait inherent in fine art. It is so because the best art seats itself in the basic foundation of the human story. Significant art seeks to know something essential to human nature, it worries itself and us with the making of the human condition. This art can be cathartic, it can disturb, remind or simply call into view from the shadows of unconsciousness; elephants on universal tables.
Created in the historical context of the Black Arts Movement, (BAM), Flowers for the Trashman, is an example of work consciously intended to be preformative, created for and about subjects/issues paramount to the formation/sustaining of independent black communities concerned with self articulation/reflection that intends to provoke action. I submit Marvin X's work also passes the litmus for fine art. In it's reflection of intimate estrangement it probes familial relations on the very personal and universal /archetypal level. The work is aligned with an issue of humanness that will be dated only by a shift in the human condition itself. Thus the work satisfies the specific requirements of its lens: black male relationships, while working beyond this specificity/boundary as well.
The reflection of Blacks in America mirrors the societal dilemmas of American society writ large. While essentially an introspection of father/son communication, Flowers for the Trashman is also a vehicle to examine intimacy, isolation in company, and boundaries on a much larger level. The very specific gender of the piece is also fluid; it is the situation itself that is compelling and larger than the beautifully simple text.
The main character asks, "How can we be so far apart...? So far apart, yet so close---so close together?" This is the interrogation the work attempts. It is voiced in the final quarter of the piece and sums its query emphatically. This question should be of interest to us as a nation as we cry for change. If we knew the answer perhaps the illusive unity we seek could manifest. If we asked this in our houses, our churches, our academic spaces, halls of government, in our communities, out on the turfs of the world where we all breathe the same air; what could we learn about appreciation of difference, each other and the path to unity?
We are in the information age. We hyper communicate in multi modes yet in the midst of this explosion of ways in which to communicate; the art of intimate human exchange goes unattended. We get our news from the corporate media and other secondary sources, we miss the primacy of getting our news from each other. We travel together though the event of our lives with earphones, cell phones, and laptops. We socially network with people we will never meet and who may not be the people they claim to be. Yet our co-workers, neighbors, partners, children, parents go unknown in large and significant ways. The way we are is easy to see, the how we got there, often dies with us. The average child can tell you more about his favorite artist than he can his own family. The everyday adult knows how to talk at children but spends little time talking to them as equal humans with viable information about themselves and their environment to offer. We are alone, traveling together on a blue ball spinning in space, more connected than ever before, and yet we are alone, isolated in our individual stories of self, without an appreciation of how the individual stories inform each other we suffer in isolation.
There is space in Marvin's transparent working of the very personal for us to consciously consider the lack of intimate communication on a variety of levels. All these levels serve the function in BAM directives and serve as a space for introspection on unity and its possibility from the personal to the universal.
I am choosing to direct the piece out of my own passion for communication, my appreciation for the artistry of my mentor and appreciation of the classics. An active love of the classic demands the work be kept alive and allowed to do its work. By mounting classic art we enable its longevity by gifting it to new generations.
"If I don't know the folks on the page; I won’t direct the work."
Ayodele Nzinga , MA , MFA
Prescott Joseph Center For Community Enhancement
A tribute to Black History Month
A preview of the 2009 season at The Sister Thea Bowman Memorial Theater
FLOWERS FOR THE TRASHMAN
A one act play
Directed by WordSlanger
An excerpt from
MAMA AT TWILIGHT:
Love by Death
Written and Directed by
Ayodele “WordSlanger” Nzinga
February 22, 2009- Only
2Pm Matinee: $10:00 at the door
5Pm Show: $10:00 at the door
$5.00 in Advance
Author discussion follows each production.
920 Peralta St. Oakland CA
A We Inhale Production