Friday, March 13, 2009

Baraka and Marvin X Converse at 7,000 Feet

Santa Fe, New Mexico, March 11, 2009, Amiri Baraka and Marvin X, both poet/playwrighs and co-founders of the Black Arts Movement, conversed before an audience of seven hundred, sponsored by the Lannan Foundation. Marvin X opened the program with a poetic introduction of Baraka. The audience of mostly whites was delighted at his poetic intro, something they never seen or heard before. His intro included the poems When Parents Bury Children, Poetics 2000 and What If. When Parents Bury Children is about the murder of Shani Baraka, but it is a poem for all grieving parents who've lost children. Poetics 2000 is a lesson on creative writing, including a mention of how Baraka's mother named him LeRoi (the King) but he wanted to be Amiri (the prince). The question is why a so-called Negro would want to be a prince rather than a king, as if his mother didn't know what she was doing. Marvin X concluded his intro with What If, telling the audience this poem reveals the contrast between the two poets. Baraka sees God in nothing, Marvin X sees God in everything.

Baraka came on to read for fortyfive minutes, then their conversation for twenty-five minutes, which included discussion of the Harlem Renaissance, the Beat and Black Art Movements, Obama, and the global economic meltdown. The audience was estatic. Foundation president, Pat Lannon, asked Amiri and Marvin to do something that had never been done in the history of the Lannon Foundation. He asked the two poets if they would continue their conversation after dinner, which they did, discussing events in Cuba and Latin America. Santa Fe will never be the same. The next day Marvin X addressed students at a local high school, urghing them to get to know each other before becoming intimate and avoid partner violence at all costs. Also, be aware of the tone test when stopped by the police: the cops can do one of three things when they stop you: kill you, arrest or release you, depending on the tone of your voice. Most of the students had been at the previous nights event, but they asked Marvin to again read his poem What If. The poet gave free copies of his books to the students and signed autographs, most of whom were Native American and Latin American. The Lannon Foundation promised Marvin X that Santa Fe has not heard the last of him.

Marvin X's book tour continues to Houston, South Carolina, Washington, DC, Philly and New York. In Philly he will participate in the conference Black Studies Forty Years Later at Temple University, May 1-3, along with Muhammad Ahmed (Max Stanford, chair), Amiri Baraka, John Bracey, Jr., Sonia Sanchez, Dr. Ron Walters, Dr. Nathan Hare, Dr. Jimmy Garrett, et al.

He may not return to the West Coast until his birthday celebration at the Black Repertory Group Theatre, May 29. In South Carolina's Gullahland, he will finish work on his next book: Up From Ignut or Pull Yo Pants Up fa da Black President, Black Bird Press, Berkeley, May, 2009.

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