Part 15: My Friend the Devil
After avoiding him like the plague for weeks or months, don't know how long, then one day I ran into the devil crossing Market Street near First. I was probably on a lunch break from doing temp work in the financial district. I was working at PG&E, typing correspondence between engineers at the nuclear power plant down the coast at San Luis Obisbo. The engineers were attempting to prove to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that PG&E's plant would withstand an earthquake of a certain magnitude. I could hardly understand the technical language I was typing but I had enough common sense to know their explanations and rationalizations sounded like poppycock.
But there he was coming at me across the street, a giant of a man, especially compared to my one hundred and fifty pounds at the time. I couldn't have avoided him if I wanted so I greeted my old friend, in spite of his negrocities (Baraka term). He wanted to talk but I told him I was on lunch break so we agreed to meet for breakfast soon. I could see the years had aged him since the last time I saw him speaking in Harlem's Marcus Garvey Park, introducing Fannie Lou Hamer, 1968. It was now sometime during 1977, nearly ten years had passed and I could see the stress on his face and the pounds he'd gained, quite a change from the tall, lean Panther of yesterday.
When we finally met for breakfast at a spot on Geary Blvd near Divisadero, he told me of his need for an administrative assistant. He knew I had office skills since I had served as secretary of Black House. It was then that I learned the importance of a secretary in organizations: they control the flow of information. And hence they can block information. I used to do so when whites called Black House, especially his woman Beverly Axelrod and a mad white boy named Bob Avakian, who now heads the RCP or Revolutionary Communist Party. Eldridge was his god and he called constantly for advice. But most of us at Black House were black nationalists so we tried to cut Cleaver off from the whites. Amina Baraka likes to recall at one party how my woman, Ethna (Hurriyah), told a white woman she couldn't enter the party. When the white woman said she was part Native American, Ethna told her the Native American part of her could come in but the white had to go.
Anyway, Cleaver wanted an AA, and since I wasn't doing anything substantial at the time, I agreed to work with him. I hadn't been able to land a full time teaching job, except serving as visiting professor at UC San Diego at the invitation of my childhood friend and high school lover, poet Sherley A. Williams. After teaching at Fresno State University, I'm certain I was blacklisted even though I went on to teach briefly at UC Berkeley, San Francisco State and Mills College. Not only was I blacklisted but my friend Angela Davis as well.. At San Francisco State she asked me to see if Black Studies would hire her. When I gave the message to the chair of Black Studies, she looked at me as if to say, "I don't think so." Eventually Angela was hired to teach in Women's Studies at SFSU. So what was worse: working for some reactionary uncle tom boot licking black studies department or for a boot licking uncle tom sellout Negro? If Eldridge Cleaver was getting money from the government to pay me, was it any different than the money the black studies professors received--were they not agents of the state, certainly they behaved as such since they had been put into position to block the radicals from teaching. I saw this happen at SFSU, UC Berkeley and Fresno State University where I almost lost my life fighting to teach. At all three campuses the radical faculty was removed and replaced with pliant Negroes who are still there today.
One of the most important things Eldridge insisted upon when I began conducting his affairs with white Christians was that we must be treated first class, especially in terms of travel and lodging. But the first task he gave me was not dealing with the Christians but instead the Jews who were his publicist and booking agent. He told me to fire them immediately because he was tired and frustrated from dealing with them.
I learned the Jews had a communication line that stretched coast to coast, so it was Jewish news coast to coast that a black Muslim had taken over the administration of Cleaver's affairs. They wanted to know what was up with him, had he gone crazy, how could he cut them out of the action? But I soon discovered that Christians only tolerate Jews on the surface. In the deep structure of the Christian mind is a hatred of Jews for killing Jesus.
What Cleaver actually wanted me to do was organize his ministry, the Eldridge Cleaver Crusades, similar to the Billy Graham Crusades or maybe the Crusades of the Middle Ages. He wanted to hire black Christians but we couldn't find any bold enough to join his "crusade." The black Christians were scared to death the white man was going to kill Cleaver for running a game on them, and they might get killed for associating with him. In the end I had to hire a staff of fearless black Muslims to work with us which became an embarrassment to Cleaver but he was determined to establish his own ministry since he saw how the Christians were robbing him in the name of Jesus. Charles Colson, Jerry Falwell, and their gang of thieves were constantly having secret meetings about Cleaver, mainly how to keep him under their control. Cleaver joked the Christians had more secret meetings than the Communists. Naturally they were highly upset about his staff of Black Muslims, although Cleaver fronted us off as his first converts and referred to us as heathens. We accepted his drama, laughing all the way to the bank. Cleaver was a hard worker and soon I had lost all my girlfriends from being on the road 24/7. Kathleen said once, "Marvin, the girls used to call here for you, but they don't call anymore." Don't no woman want no man who works 24/7. Often I didn't have time to cash my check or get my clothes out the cleaners as we were on the road from city to city giving his testimony about finding Jesus in the moon.