Not since the Black Panthers invaded the California State Capitol in 1967, has a group of people rocked the area. On Saturday afternoon four people came into the area for a book party in Elk Grove at the home of James and Renee Sweeney. Sweeney is a political wheeler-dealer with an office across the street from Gov. Swartznegger's headquarters. The Sweeney's agreed to host a book party for Marvin X. Marvin arrived with his colleague, Ptah, one of the brightest students to come out of the San Francisco State University Black Studies department. Also traveling with "Plato Negro" were singer/guitarist Rashidah Mwongozi and choreographer/dancer Raynetta Rayzetta. When they arrived at the Sweeney residence they immediately went to the backyard to sit by the man made lake. Soon people began arriving. Sweeney had told Marvin to expect a mixed crowd--from the suites to the streets. And so it was. The first guest was a black woman administrator of a 100 billion dollar insurance fund, the second largest in the state of California. She was followed by artists, painters, entrepreneurs, and common people. All came seeking light and love.
After the crowd socialized and enjoyed a pot luck dinner, Sweeney asked Marvin to begin. Unlike his friends who came to the area with guns in 1967, Marvin came with his pen, his books and team of performers in the Black Arts Movement tradition. He signaled for Rashidah to begin with a song. She opened with a tribute to her father as a black man in America. When she concluded three original songs, brother Ptah came forward with two poems, the second was Can You Spare Some Change. As he neared the end of Spare Some Change, Marvin joined him with his poem Can You Change. The audience was ecstatic. It was the best rendition of the two poems together. Too bad the poets didn't put it out during the Obama campaign.
I should mention that Ptah had made opening remarks that this gathering should and must happen at least once a month throughout black America, coast to coast. As Dr. Hare suggested, we must organize these peer group meetings to address our mental health issues as we recover from the addiction to white supremacy. In Marvin's remarks, he said we must first detox then recover, as Ptah wrote in his afterword to How to Recover from the Addiction to White Supremacy. Detox involves stopping the conspicuous consumption of white supremacy goods--all that shopping at the mall for goods we don't need just want, out of boredom and the lack of spiritual harmony with ourselves, our mates, children and friends--out of harmony with nature itself. When a brother asked a question about spirituality, he was answered by a call and response reading of Marvin’s poem What If. This was the climax of the afternoon.
Ptah told his mentor that while he was reading What If, Ptah looked at a woman who was reciting with her eyes closed but smiling in a state of total joy. Ptah said he heard someone say the event was better than church. Sweeney, who knew the audience, told Marvin later that he had touched some nerves, especially with his remarks on white supremacy—there was several people who are suffering white supremacy on the job and were very sensitive to his remarks and found them refreshing.
When “Plato Negro” had mentioned the Harvard professor, Gates, who failed the tone test recently, a brother said he was happy to know the tone test: when stopped by the police, one of three things can happen: the police can arrest you, kill you or release you, based on your tone of voice.
The book party was to celebrate the release of his memoir Eldridge Cleaver, My Friend the Devil, but little of the discussion was about the Cleaver book. Marvin only read a few pages from his memoir, even though Jimmy Garrett calls it the funniest book of the year. Mythology of Pussy was the best seller. The evening ended with introductions from all present. Again, people present came from a variety of backgrounds, expressing the diversity of black life. We encourage such gatherings at least once a month from coast to coast so we can begin the healing from the ravages of white supremacy--but the focus is our spirituality. We must find the safe space wherein we can gather to share, to release the pain and trauma so often held inside until diseases result. There is much trauma and unresolved grief in our community and we must have such communal gatherings to heal and transcend to higher ground.