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Toward the BAM/BAMBD Billion Dollar Trust Fund by Marvin X
Economics and the BAMBD
The primary question is how shall we make money in the BAMB District? What about a mixed portfolio? We can walk and chew gum, can't we? Aside from businesses already in the district, what else can be added to monetize? For sure, as artists we have creative properties to monetize. Perhaps this is our essential connection to the BAMBD business persons. Far too often we have the art, the show, but lack show business. Surely business persons can assist us in getting our show business together, e.g, how to package, produce, promote and sell our creations in a professional manner. Let's do things in a big way as a businessman used to tell our community. Do for self is in the BAM tradition. We had no choice but to publish our own writings once it became clear the commercial presses weren't interested in our products. Only a few writers were able to publish commercially. Most of us printed chapbooks to get our works to our people. Today there is publishing on demand and China. The Chinese can give us a very good deal. My daughter recently had her book published there.
But we can begin by taking an inventory of our products. Some of us have archives all over the house, e.g., manuscripts, paintings, audio and video productions. I've made more money from my archives than from my books, and my archives were in boxes that would be trashed upon my transition. This is the usual procedure with us. When the elders depart, we enter the house to take jewelry, China dishes, silverware and other items. But the letters of mom, pop, auntie, grandmother, we throw in the trash, in reality the gold: photos, diaries, scrapbooks, notebooks, etc.
Performing artists can collectively produce concerts, readings, books, audio and video tapes for sell to our people thirsty for conscious knowledge.
My daughter is a Bonds attorney. Some time ago she suggested training young people as bond sales persons. We can raise money for the BAM District through the sale of bonds on the grassroots level as well as on the municipal and state level.
We suggest the Afrikan Women's Market Day and the Black Farmer's Market Day on weekends, maybe in the Frank Ogawa/Oscar Grant Plaza. Lynette McElhaney, President of the City Council, mentioned how the plaza is underused.
We want street vendors in the district on a daily basis, similar to Berkeley and San Francisco. We can begin with a pilot project from Clay to Franklin along 14th. This will give our people a place to sell their creations and products. This will encourage entrepreneurship among youth and adults.
There can be Art and Soul concerts monthly on different blocks for the exhibition of the many genres of art: paintings, crafts, food, clothing, books, CDs, DVDs; performance: R and B, Jazz, Hip Hop, Spirituals, Spoken Word, lecture/discussions, healing sessions to address the plethora of ills, physical, mental, spiritual.
For sure, we can sell BAM memorabilia: tee shirts, caps, jewelry and other products promoting BAMBD.
We can have tour guides for visitors and local people ignorant and/or curious of BAMBD. The City has a downtown tour guide, but we must expand the tour.
Stores and shops must have high standards with holistic items that will improve our health rather than destroy us physically and mentally.
All merchants in the district should pay membership dues for the greater good. Artists should pay membership dues as well.
We want to acquire housing and other properties for artist space, business space and housing for our people in the downtown area. We suggest the Land Trust for BAMBD properties. The SRO hotels can be acquired and sold with the life estate title, i.e., the people can own their space for life, but upon their transition, it reverts to the Land Trust. Generally speaking, homelessness can be solved over night with the life estate.
Mental health session must be required so we can recover from our addiction to white supremacy, Type I and II (Dr. Nathan Hare).
In order to do for self, we will initially need help from City, State and Federal agencies, along with generous donations from Silicon Valley firms and Globalists who have caused much of the displacement and destruction of the cultural vitality of our community. Governor Jerry Brown recently passed legislation to establish cultural districts throughout California.
As per the Oakland Downtown Plan, there may be the need for an immediate moratorium on rents and evictions in the BAMBD. The final Downtown Plan should include the necessary changes in the zoning laws, permits and tax structure.
We need to establish a billion dollar trust fund for the district. This should be enough to endow us for the next few years as we pass the baton to our children. They won't be able to say, "Why ya'll didn't leave us nothin' (somethin')?
These are some of my thoughts. What do you think? We welcome your comments.
The BAMBD is part of the City of Oakland’s downtown plan for the next 25 to 50 years. If it is to survive and thrive, the must be an independent endowment trust fund established to avoid city politics and budget crises that may cause defunding of the BAMB. So while we are not averse to receiving grant funds from city, state and governmental agencies, the BAMBD Billion Trust Fund would insure an independent repository of funds for the life blood of the BAMBD. We want the trust fund to be primary supported by the North American African people of Oakland and elsewhere throughout the nation. It will be a symbol of self-determination of the people. While we would not turn down funding from government and corporate entities, The BAMBD Billion Dollar Trust Fund should symbolize and express the spirit of cultural and economic independence of the Black Arts Movement. As citizens, we have every right to receive funds from governmental and corporate agencies but the primary contributors to the fund should be North American Africans. In the past, too many of our organizations have been funded by persons and agencies not in harmony with the true aspirations of North American Africans. It must be clear that we will not compromise our principles and values for financial assistance. We stand on the shoulders of our ancestors who called for cultural and economic independence.
Priorities of BAMBD Billion Dollar Trust Fund
As indicated in the BAMBD pillars, housing is a priority. There must be market rate and affordable housing for workers, artists and common people in the BAMBD. We propose all properties in the BAMBD should be placed under the land trust to preserve land and properties for future generations, especially to stem the tide of gentrification. To help end homelessness, we seek to acquire SRO hotels for the homeless and grant them life estate titles to their dwellings. This will end a certain degree of homelessness overnight. Housing would assist those recently released from incarceration and those suffering from drug abuse, mental illness and partner abuse.
The BAMBD trust fund would acquire commercial properties for the district that would include office space, retail space, performance and exhibit space. In certain cases, we may need to re-gentrify properties for the benefit of the BAMBD community, placing such properties under the land trust.
We propose the establishment of the Dr.David Blackwell Institute of Math, Science, Technology and Art as an anchor educational institution in the BAMBD. The institute is in honor of the great North American mathematician who taught at the University of California, Berkeley. We invite UC Berkeley to partner with BAMBD in the establishment of the Blackwell STEM and Art institute. Silicon Valley corporations should also support the Blackwell Institute.
Again, the BAMBD trust should rely on the primary support of North American Africans who do indeed have the wealth to fund their cultural and economic endeavors.
The BAMBD Billion Dollar Trust Fund would be under the direction of a community board with a vision for the future.
We invite non-profit groups in the BAMBD area and vicinity to partner with us to make the BAMBD a reality. We would especially appreciate such groups partnering with us to apply to the MacArthur Foundation’s 100 Million RFP for long range projects with broad community support.
MONDAY, JANUARY 16, 2017
How Marvin X would allocate the BAMBD Billion Dollar Trust Fund
Marvin X, the Black Arts Movement Business District co-founder and planner, suggests the BAMBD Billion Dollar Trust Fund would be allocated as follows:
$100 million for General Fund $100 million for Five Year Plan $200 million for mixed use rental housing (seniors, artists, workers, mentally disabled, recently incarcerated, single parents) $100 million for mortgage loans, especially for purchase of modified SRO hotel rooms with life estate titles for the chronically homeless, thus ending homelessness overnight $100 million for job training $ 100 million for micro and macro loans to entrepreneurs $100 million to establish the David Blackwell STEM Institute (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) $100 for land and real estate acquisition $100 for reentry assistance to displaced former residents of Oakland
TUESDAY, JUNE 20, 2017
we love africa! marvin x speaks on the black arts movement business district
This event is to honor and uplift our Black and African community. We will be showcasing the richness and diversity of the Black and African culture through food, dance, music, and fashion. We will be collaborating with Black and African businesses to help give them a platform in the community while encouraging people to purchase products and services from them. This event as a whole will unify and bring together communities who may feel that they are alone or marginalized in this era of gentrification. We will encourage standing together, standing tall, and working together to make our community flourish.
Bio of Marvin X
Marvin X was born May 29, 1944, Fowler CA, nine miles south of Fresno in the central valley of California. In Fresno his parents published the Fresno Voice, a black newspaper.
Marvin attended Oakland’s Merritt College where he encountered fellow students how became Black Panther Party co-founders Bobby Seale and Huey Newton. They taught him black nationalism. Marvin’s first play Flowers for the Trashman was produced by the Drama department at San Francisco State University, 1965. Marvin X dropped out to established his own Black Arts West Theatre in the Fillmore, 1966, along with playwright Ed Bullins. Months later Marvin would co-found Black House with Eldridge Cleaver, 1967.
Marvin introduced Eldridge Cleaver to Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. Eldridge immediately joined the Black Panther Party. Huey Newton said, “Marvin X was my teacher, many of our comrades came from his Black Arts Theatre: Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, Emory Douglas and Samuel Napier.”
One of the movers and shakers of the Black Arts Movement (BAM) Marvin X has published 30 books, including essays, poetry, and his autobiography Somethin’ Proper. Important books include Fly to Allah, poems, Beyond Religion, toward Spirituality, essays on consciousness, and How to Recover from the Addiction to White Supremacy, a manual based on the 12 step Recovery model.
Marvin received his MA in English/Creative writing from San Francisco State University, 1975. He has taught at San Francisco State University, Fresno State University, UC Berkeley and San Diego, Mills College, Merritt and Laney Colleges in Oakland, University of Nevada, Reno. He lectures coast to coast at such colleges and universities as University of Arkansas, University of Houston, Morehouse and Spelman, Atlanta, University of Virginia, Howard University, Univ. of Penn, Temple Univ., Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, UMASS, Boston.
His latest book is the Wisdom of Plato Negro, parables/fables, Black Bird Press, Berkeley. He currently teaches at his Academy of da Corner, 14th and Broadway, downtown Oakland. Ishmael Reed says, “Marvin X is Plato teaching on the streets of Oakland." For speaking, readings and performance, contact Marvin X @ email@example.com, 510-200-4164. www.blackbirdpressnews.blogspot.com
We hope this finds you and yours in the best of health.
In commemoration of the day that the news of emancipation to be enforced by the US Military reached the people of Texas in 1865, we celebrate Juneteenth!
Pan African City Alive will participate in the East Palo Alto festivities this Saturday at the Bell Street Park from Noon to 7PM. Come out and enjoy the fun, fellowship, marketplace and music.
DRUMS DRUMS DRUMS! Pan African City will have a special sale on Djembes from Ivory Coast, Small drums from Ghana as well as Drumsong Drums handmade by our own Charles McKnight. There will also be some miscellaneous drums.
We will also have our usual items for sale: mud cloth, black soap, pure Shea Butter, oils, jewelry, hard to find books, etc.
National Teachers Academy: Fighting For Fairness In Academic Excellence
By Mary L. Datcher | Defender Sr. Staff Writer
The National Teachers Academy (NTA) is the latest sacrificial lamb slated to be on the chopping block if CPS and the Prairie District Neighborhood Alliance (PDNA) has their way. Located at 55 W. Cermak, NTA was opened in 2002 and shared partial land with CHA’s Harold Ickes Homes for eight years. Now that the neighbor-hood has welcomed new, more affluent neighbors—and the school has drastically improved– some are pushing to transition from pre-K to 8 to K-12, which would reduce the boundaries for those allowed to attend NTA.
The Harold Ickes Homes was built as a part of the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) projects in 1958. In its heyday, Ickes Homes included 11 buildings and 1,000 families; its last building was vacated and demolished in 2010.
Rapid gentrification from 12th Street to 35th Street bordering Chinatown extending to the Lake Meadows community has created a class war among many residents. As construction cranes hover over the areas of Cermak and Calumet, it is a clear indication of the economic changes anticipated by the residents and commercial businesses. Once considered underdeveloped and quietly overlooked—the South Michigan Avenue corridor was left dormant for decades. Throughout the 1950’s and 1970’s, it was vibrant and bustling with commercial retail businesses between an overflow of car dealerships and record companies that stretched within a 10-block radius.
The recession hit businesses hard in the 1980’s and left the area riddled with transient hotels and empty storefronts.
National Teachers Academy School And a predominately African-American community called the near South Side home since the Great Migration. Gradually, businesses began to identify the sleepy area’s potential as nightlife spots such as Chic Rick’s and later E2 nightclub would bring weekly attention to the area for young clubgoers. With the expansion and build-out of McCormick Place Convention Center and new Hyatt Hotel in 1998, plans were put in place by then-mayor Richard M. Daley to develop the area into a high traffic tourist destination.
As more residential luxury homes and apartment buildings gradually aligned Calumet Avenue from Roosevelt Road to Cermak Road, it became abundantly clear—change was inevitable.
Residents who have called the community home for decades in some of its affordable housing residences gained wealthier new neighbors. The concern of which schools and with whom their children would intermingle with became a hot button issue. Nearly 12 years ago, South Loop resident and attorney. Robert O’Neill pitched a charter school for the neighborhood to address the issues of parents wanting a separate school within the neighborhood. He later formed a non-profit organization called Urban Assets to organize parents, local leaders and lobby school board officials.
His attempts failed due to then-CPS Superintendent Paul Vallas saying the proposed school would “racially isolate” the area.
According to the website, the PDNA is a non-profit organization, founded in 2006 by resident volunteers who advocate for neighborhood development, city planning, public safety and education. The group has pushed hard for NTA expansion into a K-12 high school for the last ten years because of limited seats at nearby Jones College Preparatory High School and the neighborhood grade school South Loop Elementary.
The Local School Council President for NTA Elisabeth Greer says because of overcrowding concerns at South Loop Elementary, CPS and PDNA wanted to ex-tend into NTA’s building a few years ago.
“At that time NTA was under enrolled, the school did not have the Regional Gifted Center (RGC) program. They had about 500 students in a building that could seat 840 children. From our understanding, the local school council at South Loop Elementary voted among themselves to move their middle school into NTA.” Greer said, NTA’s then-principal Amy Rome was not aware of the proposal and found out about it through a reporter who saw the CPS proposal.
Greer says, “The proposal was straight out of the Jim Crow handbook. They said, ‘We want our children to have their own floor. We want them to have their own parking spaces. We want stagger and stop times so we don’t have to interact with the NTA kids who were already there.’ Principal Rome, to her credit, had to fight hard. She said, ‘How dare you talk about my school and basically colonize and never talk to me about it?’ Fortunately, the community came out in force. CPS ended up calling her and apologizing. It was a huge disaster and it was so racist and classist.”
Audrey Johnson is a former resident of the Earl Ickes Homes. Her family moved there when she was five and she’s raised five children of her own—three have graduated from NTA with two currently enrolled.
She admits the school has had its challenges struggling from a Level 3 school to now 5 points away from achieving a Level 1+ status—the highest score for a school to achieve. Johnson contributes a great deal to the efforts of former Principal Amy Rome’s dedication and commitment.
“She was awesome, she was our principal. We took her through the neighborhood and we took her throughout the Ickes homes and introduced her to the management. We brought her to the residents; we tried to go to each and every unit to introduce her to the parents,” she said. “We took our teachers through the projects so they could see our living arrangements and what help and support we needed in there. Our projects honored them to the utmost and they respected them coming to our building.”
Amy Rome was the school’s principal from 2006 through 2012, working diligently with training teachers to work with students in challenging Urban learning environments. The level of academic excellence combined with meditative methods have garnered remarkable results. The Defender reached out to NTA’s current principal, Isaac D. Castelaz, who was unavailable for comment regarding the CPS proposal.
NTA Turns Around
In 2007, CPS turned over management of NTA to the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL). With a program de-signed for academically and advance children, the school’s curriculum has progressively helped the entire student body to excel in their academics and test scores. Close to 80 percent of NTA’s student body is Black and nearly 70 percent are from low-income households.
Hannah Imam, a South Loop business owner, had her apprehensions in the beginning when she started searching for schools for her child. After a long conversation with the principal, she felt good about selecting NTA.
“One of the things that I’ve noticed, they do look at the development of the students very comprehensively. It’s not about what happens in the classroom. For example, everyone in the school in the morning, they take what they call a ‘mindful minute’. When someone speaks over the speaker and they encourage all of the students in the school to take a moment to sit in quiet. No one says a word and students center on their work when they start the day,” Imam said.
“Even with the 8th grade students, I’ve seen them do yoga practice. When there’s conflict in the school, they sit with the children and help them talk through their is-sues and help them understand each other. In doing this, they’ve eliminated some of these emotional distractions, helping students come more attuned with them-selves and be able to see their capabilities better.”
When speaking with PDNA’s President Tina Feldstein, she directed the Defender to the organization’s website where an official statement is currently posted.
“While PDNA supports the current CPS plan to bring a neighborhood high school to our community, we do so not as an attack on NTA or its school community. PDNA learned long ago that perfect can often be the enemy of good, whether it is development, transportation, parks or education. PDNA’s advocacy for a neighborhood high school is not an attack on NTA or their community or a lack of recognition of the progress that the school has made. Right now, there are two options — go with the CPS plan or continue on without a neighborhood high school option.”
PDNA’s members mostly live between 18th and Cullerton, Prairie and Calumet Avenue—some middle-to-upper class families residing within the small historic tree-lined area where property is valued within the six to seven-figure range.
In 2009, the group was in support of the school board’s initial plans to include NTA expansion to include South Loop Elementary School, but CPS was not financially feasible at the time.
Opponents of the NTA high school proposal says there’s a much bigger elephant in the room.
Both Dunbar Vocational Academy High School and Wendell Phillips Academy High School are within the school district for South Loop families to send their kids to public schools. Phillips High School has dramatically improved academically and boasts a 100 percent graduation rate this year—having most of its graduates accepted at colleges and universities. Some parents feel the school is also in need for the same expansion and build out afforded for the proposed $62 million budget CPS has slated for NTA’s conversion into a K-12 campus with an additional $10 million for its high school.
Elisabeth Greer is appalled. “When NTA is built [including the high school], it’ll cost $72 million. When instead you could’ve taken a fraction of that money and put it into Phillips High School, which is severely under-utilized and a gorgeous facility, create strong academic programs, like double honors and ID and selective enrollment to draw middle class families to the community and strengthen our neighborhood schools. That neighborhood is gentrifying rapidly. It’s happening at Amundsen, Von Steuben, Lakeview—why is this not happening in the near South Side?”
Alderman Pat Dowell (3rd Ward)
The Alderman’s Involvement
In 2010, Alderman Pat Dowell, who rep-resents the 3rd Ward, was an advocate on behalf of low-income residents fighting for the right of their children to stay within the school district boundaries and against South Loop Elementary takeover of NTA. Now, as the neighborhood has shifted more in diversity and with growing families, she feels it is time for change and compromise.
“This is a larger community issue. The elementary school, which is primarily located in the South Loop, is an overcrowded elementary school and 113 percent overcrowded. Since I’ve been an alder-man, that has been an issue in addition to former Alderman Bob Fioretta represent-ing his portion of the South Loop,” Dowell says.
“That is what I’ve been advocating for in terms of finding a location, identifying the funds to build this additional addition to the existing school, to relieve overcrowding and provide opportunities for more people to be able to attend South Loop Elementary. It’s not an attack on NTA,” she says.
NTA parents do not feel the support has been fair from the alderman and blame her appeal to wealthier residents, political al-lies and construction developers.
Audrey Johnson feels deeply hurt regarding the alderman’s position. “Pat Dowell played a big part in our school and that’s why I’m so angry with her,” The mother of five says. “When we were having trouble with the police harassment, she came down and helped us. When we had the fight with South Loop Elementary before, she was on the panel against that. As long as those buildings [Ickes] were up and we were supporting her, she supported us. Now, the buildings are gone; she went on to the next neighborhood to manipulate them. You’re against us because you don’t have those development votes,” said Johnson.
Under the new CPS proposal, NTA grade students would be “grandfathered” in without having to relocate. They would not be required to relocate nor find another high school, but if the boundaries are decreased, 300 families—mainly low-in-come families–would not be included as new applicants.
Dowell admits the city is very segregated and the divide between both schools was created before she was elected in 2007. She’s faced with the diverse shift of residents who no longer represent one majority but several groups that are distinctly different in racial and socioeconomic backgrounds.
“I think the proposal is not designed to segregate anyone. It’s designed to really create the kind of community that the South Loop is. The South Loop community is diverse. There’s all kinds of people who live in the area. I think the creation of the school—if this proposal was passed—would be reflective of the entire community.”
Not backing down without a fight and a fair chance to be heard, NTA parents felt CPS played them to the left.
Hannah Imam says, “We weren’t afforded transparency on this proposal until we held our own townhall. Three hours be-fore our town hall took place, they released a letter admitting what their long-term plan was to shut our school down to turn it into a high school. At first, they were talking about boundaries. Now, publicly they’re decreasing NTA’s boundaries. We called them out and said, ‘We know what you’re trying to do. We know you’re trying to decrease our boundaries, label us as “unenrolled” and take us over as a high school.’ We called our own townhall meeting to address this.”
On Tuesday evening, a public hearing was held at South Loop Elementary to address these concerns among South Loop residents, PDNA and NTA parents. Both CPS representatives and Alderman Dowell was in attendance listening to heated arguments and passionate testimonies from both sides.
The next public meeting will take place at NTA on July 10, two weeks after the school year ends, but parents are ready to engage a summer long grassroots campaign to make their voice heard.
Although the existing community near the old Ickes has changed over the last decade and is now consisted of 40 percent non-African American residents which includes Asian and Latino residents—Johnson says their new neighbors aren’t so new now. She says they were hesitant about NTA and what was within the walls of the school until they took a look.
“They didn’t know about NTA. They were looking from the outside and when they came in, their mouths dropped. The school is awesome. They were worried about the color of our skin and that’s the problem now. The ones that are still going to South Loop Elementary are still worried about the color of our skin.” Living in the neighborhood for over four decades, she feels it’s more than new luxury housing developments, hotels and conventioneers.
Johnson reflects. “The South Loop neighborhood for me is from 18th Street to 35th Street. This is our family—this is our community.”
Why Is Syria Hell on Earth? Here’s the Ugly but True Answer…
The son of the president was driving way too fast through the early morning fog. He was rushing to the airport to catch a flight to Germany. He missed the exit to the airport. Lost control of his sports car. Smashed it into a barrier. The car flipped numerous times. When it came to a stop, the son of the president was dead. He was 33. His name was Basil al-Assad.
The first son was so beloved by his father that the president was fond of being called Abu Basil, which translates as “Father of Basil.” As heir apparent to his father, Basil’s sudden violent death was a shock to the family, and a stunning blow to the future of the nation and its people. The second son was never intended to be a leader. He was off in London, training to be an eye doctor. But following the death of Abu Basil’s first son, Fate left the younger brother as de facto next-in-line to become president of Syria. You know this man’s name: Bashar al-Assad.
Bashar, who the New York Times called a “shy young doctor” when he took over as president of Syria in July of 2000, quickly transformed from mild-mannered London-based ophthalmologist into the man you know as the genocidal monster of Damascus. A man far more cruel and ghoulish than his father. Bashar’s murderous reign raises a peculiar question: How many hundreds of thousands of Syrian people died because of that one car accident?
If you catch news of the Syrian conflict, it seems like a narrative that’s knotted and frayed, impossible to untangle. However, it’s not, if you pull on the right thread.
When the world learned that the Syrian government––under orders from President Bashar al-Assad––had (allegedly) dropped bombs of sarin gas on its own people, the news reports defied easy understanding. How could any leader do that to his own people? But if you know the story of Syria, this atrocity is sadly quite predictable. It follows a historic pattern.
To understand why Bashar al-Assad exterminates his own people, you must understand how Bashar values the people of Syria. His people. But before they were his people, they belonged to someone else. To understand the son, one must know the father. The story of the Syrian conflict — a tale of staggering losses of human life, death on a scale that avoids comprehension— is a war story that’s not easy to tell. There’s the factions. The history. The layers of conflict. But, if you wish to answer the question: Why is Syria hell on Earth––why have 320,000 innocent human beings been murdered––to answer why such atrocities occur despite history’s warnings, to get at this story properly, one must start with the father of Basil, and Bashar, and the republic of Syria.
His name is: Hafez al-Assad.
Syria is a nation born from an act of European betrayal. It was part of a great betrayal of Arabs by the British and French that traces back to one man, T.E. Lawrence. You may know him from his movie biopic, Lawrence of Arabia.
In the film, Peter O’Toole beautifully pines as he gazes out at those bleak desert landscapes, framed by the genius of David Lean. As the audience, we see how Lawrence, an eccentric Englishman, is sent to an undesirable outpost to aid the Arabs in their fight against the Turks. They’re hopelessly outmatched. But Lawrence inspires them with the promise of freedom in victory. He even fights side-by-side with the Arab rebels he commands in battle. Together, they achieve stunning victories against the Turks. But then, once the Turks are beaten, Lawrence learns that the British government, along with the French, intends to go back on its promise to the Arabs. The land they fought, bled, and died for, will not be theirs; instead, the European powers declared themselves the new imperial overlords of the Middle East. That’s a world class betrayal.
After the smoke cleared, the dust settled, and the blood dried in the killing fields of World War I, there sat the ruins of the Ottoman Empire. The Turkish empire was vast. In order to divide up their prize of the newly-liberated Middle Eastern kingdoms, the British and the French designated two mapmakers––men whose names are written in the history books as cartographers but were essentially imperial bureaucrats––and tasked them with the opportunity to draw new borders across lands and peoples they did not understand. It was called the Sykes-Picot Agreement. A lattice of borders was laid over the Middle East with all the care of a blind tailor. When they were done, the former Turkish-controlled lands of the Ottoman Empire were renamed as new nations. You know them as: Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, and Syria. (Armenia, was also freed from Turkish domination, but was given to the Russians.)
The new nations were never intended to be independent. They were intended to be colonies for the European powers. Of course the Arab natives of the region weren’t super eager to trade their old Ottoman overlords for new French ones. The people rightfully wanted nations of their own, not puppet governments, ones loyal to a foreign power. They’d fought and died to establish Arab republics. Which is why, in 1925, before the newly-minted State of Syria could celebrate its first birthday, rebel factions began a civil war against the French-mandated Syrian government. The rebellion was led by a man named Sultan Pasha al-Atrash.
The rebel leader Sultan al-Atrash and his followers were from a minority ethnic group in Syria, the Arab Druze people. They lived mostly by the southern border with Palestine. As tribal leaders, al-Atrash’s family had ruled this section of land since the 1870s. When the French replaced the Turks as the foreign power, the Druze refused to accept the new French Mandate. They made war against this so-called State of Syria. They’d just fought the Turks to be free. Why not the French? Plus, the Druze had largely been left out of the new power-sharing agreement between the city-states of Aleppo and Damascus. The revolution led by al-Atrash was immediately popular with other tribes in Syria, it spread like a wildfire of insurrection, lasting for two years. It burned across the countryside. But the Arab rebellion overlooked the obvious fact the French military had a brutal technological advantage. Remember, this is just after World War I.
So, what do you think the French military used to put down the revolts?
Imagine bi-planes flying over population centers packed with Arabs. It was an indiscriminate campaign of death from above. During one campaign the French air force bombed the civilians of Damascus, for 48 straight hours, murdering rebels and civilians alike. Indiscriminately. Which is how, inevitably, al-Atrash’s popular revolt was quashed. All Syrians were punished, guilty and innocent.
But the French took seriously the message of Arab discontent. They promised the Syrian people change. Real Arab leadership. A Syria for Syrians. Oui, Oui!
Their plan was doomed by another tribal oversight. The French largely ignored the third major ethnic group in the Syria, the Alawites, a Shiite Muslim tribal group native to the northern coast, up by the border with Turkey. The tribe had strongly objected to the French Mandate and never officially joined the State of Syria. As a minority ethnic population, just like Sultan al-Atrash and the southern Druze tribe, the Alawites had been left out of the French plans for a power-sharing agreement that saw the city-states of Aleppo and Damascus as the seats of Syrian power.
Quick note, this will pop back up later in our story: the al-Assad family are Alawites. If you’re keeping score, the Alawites are a Shiite ethnic group, or tribe, in a predominantly Sunni Muslim nation. This fun fact from the nation’s founding will forever affect the story of Syria. You may also notice another pattern and theme begin to shape Syrian history. Can you guess what it is?
Here, I’ll give you a hint: bombing civilians.
Fast-forward five years. It’s 1930. For reasons wholly political, a new new nation of Syria is declared. It’s called the Syrian Republic. At this point, Syria is becoming born-again faster than a Mississippi divorcee. And again, the people’s dream of a truly independent Arab-ruled Syria is rejected. Instead, the nation is given a new set of window dressings, put up by the latest version of a puppet French government. (The French are nothing if not stubborn.)
In 1936, there are new talks for a treaty of independence from France. The Syrian Republic––and all its various peoples––will finally be free to found a sovereign Arab nation. Free to set their own course. Free from the domination of foreign rulers. And one year later, in 1937, a free and independent Syria is established. But it’s never fully legalized. The French legislature decides not to ratify the treaty. Which leaves the young nation in limbo. It’s left as an unrecognized nation, about as legit on the world stage as a Disney family fun island.
By the way, notice something important about the years we’re talking about? There’s an external tension galloping along with Syria’s internal tensions. Remember what else was going on in the world in the late 1930s? If so, you may guess what happens next. That’s right….Boom!
World War II.
When the Nazis march on Paris and take over France in 1940, the occupied government of Vichy France is left in charge of the colonial French-mandated puppet government of Syria. Which means, for a short while, the Syrian Republic is governed by Nazi-occupied France. Essentially, the Nazis. Yet another new foreign power in charge of Syria. But then, the war in the European theater ends in the summer of ‘45, and the restored French government promises to pull out of Syria. The newly-liberated French claim they will finally allow the Arab nation to become a truly free and independent nation, no longer under rule by a foreign power. And, one year later, when the French still haven’t left Syria, new popular uprisings and protests break out.
In May of 1945, the Prime Minister of the Syrian Republic, Faris al-Khoury travels to San Francisco to attend the founding conference for the United Nations. He presents a proposal that outlines why Syria should be granted its freedom from the old League of Nations-approved French Mandate of Syria. Meanwhile, back in Syria, the French Air Force is bombing the country, to convince them to accept restored French rule. On October 24, 1945 the United Nations is born with the ratification of the UN Charter. Syria was a founding member state of the UN. With the establishment of the UN, its predecessor the League of Nations and its agreements such as the French Mandate of Syria are no longer legally binding. Which Syria declares is the perfect opportunity for their independence from their French overlords.
Based on what we know of the story of Syria, so far, how do you think the French responded to the Prime Minister al-Khoury’s pleas to the UN to recognize Syria as a free and independent Arab nation?
You know the answer: violence against innocent Syrians. The French fired artillery into the crowds of protesters. They shut off the electricity in Damascus. Their warplanes continued to indiscriminately bomb civilians.
But after they put down the latest rebellion, the French had a change of mind. Busy rebuilding France after the devastations of World War II, the French had their own headaches and hassles to deal with back home. Constantly putting down insurrections in a colony was becoming too expensive and unpopular. In 1946, the French decide to cut Syria loose. And on April 17, 1946 the last French troops leave Syria. The nation will, finally, be free and independent.
However, yet again, external politics intervene. In 1948, a new nation is born on Syria’s southern border. Its birth will reshape the entire Middle East region. And it spells immediate trouble for Syria. You know that new nation as….Israel.
To the south and west of Damascus is an area called the Golan Heights. It’s down there in the lower left corner of Syria. It was part of the old border with Syria’s southern neighbor Palestine. But when the Arab nation of Palestine was annexed and designated by the United Nations as a Jewish homeland, Syria is drawn into a fresh conflict with its new neighbor, Israel.
In 1948, Syria joined with other Arab nations, who’d vowed to crush Israel. Together they waged all-out war. And together, they lost. Spectacularly. One year after the beginning of the war, in July of 1949, Syria quit fighting their new neighbor. They were the last ones to put down their arms. Their loss against Israel was a crushing humiliation. In fact, it’s such a colossal embarrassment it leads to a coup. The first of many coups, new constitutions, and reformed cabinets. This settles into a pattern––for a decade and a half, Syria is a roiling cauldron of governmental upheaval.
At one point, in 1958, Syria attempts to join with Egypt to create a super-nation, the United Arab Republic. They dream of one giant Arab nation spreading across the Middle East, like a Muslim superpower, a union of federated republics. But, like all dreams, it’s short-lived. In less than three years the United Arab Republic crashes hard on the rocks of reality. In 1961, Syria attempts to become, once again, a newly free and independent nation. They call their new nation the Arab Republic of Syria. Which leads to a new governmental instability. In March of 1963, the Arab Socialist Ba-ath Party takes over Syria in a coup d’état.
Eventually, we arrive at an end to all this tumultuous chaos. Finally, strong Arab leadership comes to Syria. So strong that it ends the cycles of inner turmoil and constant domination by outside nations. Finally, Syria overcomes the push and pull of world events. Out of chaos comes the birth of a new and lasting order. It’s the last and most important coup.
So, who do you think led that coup?
Ten points if you said: Hafez al-Assad. AKA Abu Basil, father of Basil, Bashar, and Syria.
Hafez al-Assad made his first power moves after Syria lost to Israel in a yet another failed war. The year was 1967. Hafez al-Assad was the Minister of Defense for Syria during the Six Days War. As Col. Hafez al-Assad he mostly stayed out of the struggles for power that resulted from the loss to Israel. Of course, Hafez had opinions, but he saw himself as a military man. The sort who takes orders. As the Minister of Defense, there were many in the military who respected him. As did many politicians. His opinions shaped Syrian policy. Which meant, he also had political rivals. His key rival was the Salah Jadid, the President of Syria. After al-Assad discovered an assassination plot against him masterminded by the sitting president, he decided it was time for him to go full gangster, and just take over the whole operation.
In November of 1970, the government under President Jadid convened an Emergency National Congress. It was called to settle down the growing crisis of confidence in his leadership. Feeling threatened by his popular Minister of Defense, President Jadid was eager to sideline Hafez al-Assad. His plan was to use the Emergency National Congress to very publicly remove al-Assad from any and all official government posts he holds. It’s a common move when one fears a coup from the military. All the top leadership of Syria attended the Emergency National Congress. But Hafez al-Assad rolled up like a gangster. One who had his own army. When he arrived at the Emergency National Congress, he ordered his most loyal troops to surround the building.
Inside, the meeting goes down as planned. President Jadid stripped al-Assad of all his official government positions. Thoroughly shamed, the president and his allies feel convinced this public embarrassment will effectively sideline the former Minister of Defense. And if they’re lucky, it might salt the earth for any future political ambitions. How wrong were they? They totally failed to realize who they were dealing with. Hafez motherfucking al-Assad.
Once the Emergency National Congress was concluded, al-Assad declares himself in-charge of Syria, and confidently orders his troops to arrest President Jadid and his key supporters, and anyone who opposes his new leadership. In a very un-democratic move, al-Assad seized control of the whole damn country. His loyal soldiers didn’t even have to fire a single shot.
After Hafez al-Assad’s bloodless coup was a total success. Everyone in Syria gets the message. And they get in line. Finally, there’s some order and stability. It comes in the form of an authoritarian leader. But there is no doubt Hafez al-Assad is the undisputed leader of Syria, a stabilizing force, and would remain so for the next thirty years.
Now, to make things a little more interesting, keep in mind, the al-Assad family are Alawites. Remember they’re the same tribal group that wouldn’t originally partner with the city-states of Aleppo and Damascus way back when the newly-formed French-mandated nation of Syria was first negotiating its various independence deals with France after the end of World War I. That’s how far back these tensions go. Unresolved tensions from World War I. And the religious tension are far older than that. Since al-Assad is a member of the Shia minority group of Alawites, to maintain his tight grip on leadership, as the supreme leader of Syria, he often acted with crushing violence to suppress any uprisings in the Sunni-predominant urban centers, such as Damascus and Aleppo.
When you hear about people living in a Syrian city such as Damascus, Aleppo, or Homs, you might think they’re all the same. They’re all Syrians. You have to keep in mind these are groups of people from different historic ethnic groups. Aleppo and Damascus aren’t just cities in Syria. They were ancient, independent city-states. As Americans, we might think of them as two neighboring cities like Cleveland and Cincinnati. But it’s more like if Cleveland and Cincinnati were once fierce rivals, and then one day, some foreigners with guns and bombs came along, drew a line around them all, called it a border, and said they now live in Ohio. This is important but often overlooked aspect of life in Syrian cities. The cities are ancient rivals.
Right about now you may be wondering, “But wait, where is America in this story? When does the U.S. show up in this tale?”
Atthe end of World War II––much like at the end of World War I––there were two new superpowers, only this time it was America and the Soviet Union. The world entered its post-colonial period. All around the globe, new nations popped into existence. Either through war and revolution, through mandate, or sometimes through royal decree. But for three decades, nations constantly stepped free of the grip of their former colonial rulers. As the countries emerged from European rule, the new nations often had to pick, either, the U.S. or the Soviet Union as their strategic ally. In return, the two competing superpowers used the new nations as sites for their proxy wars. This is how the Middle East became a patchwork of Soviet and U.S.-alliances.
Never one to miss a trick, Hafez al-Assad exploited regional politics and Cold War politics to his benefit. With Soviet weapons, al-Assad turned Syria into a feared and respected Arab republic. One that was a worthy military rival to its southern neighbor, Israel. But that fight would have to wait, because there was a new threat spreading in the Middle East, one that pitted Muslim against Muslim. The militarized political arrangements of the Seventies –– and the hopes for peace in the Middle East, that seemed so near at hand after President Carter, Menachem Begin, and Anwar Sadat struck a peace accord between Egypt and Israel –– drew to a sudden and surprising close at the end of the decade. It was like someone had turned on all the lights in the disco. The culprit was Iran. Iran turned on the lights in the disco. But that’s what you do when your thing is Islamic fundamentalism.
The year was 1978, when a theocratic movement of students and religious clerics united to overthrow the American-backed Shah of Iran, every leader in the Middle East turned their head to watch, wondering if they could be next, as the Ayatollah urged all Muslims to reject Western powers and embrace Islamic fundamentalism, to adopt religious values as the guiding voice for politics in the region. That was a direct challenge to Hafez al-Assad, who was the secular socialist president partnered with the atheist Soviet Union, who was actively at war against Muslims in Afghanistan. Not a good look for an Arab leader when everyone’s talking theocracy. And you know al-Assad will suppress the first signs of rebellion or revolt; if he detected the faintest whiff of protest it would be met with state violence. Because, never forget, al-Assad is an Alawite, which means he is a Shia Muslim who’s the leader of a majority Sunni nation. This is what anyone would call a crisis of leadership. But Hafez al-Assad had seen it coming. Since 1976, he’d been putting down his own Islamist uprising in Syria.
After four years of him waging sectarian violence against the Syrian Sunni fundamentalists, backed by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the revolts against al-Assad metastasized into full-on assassination attempts. In 1980, there was a nearly successful attempt on al-Assad’s life that did succeed in scaring him into responding with increasingly horrific violence. The embattled president put his brother in charge of a counterinsurgency with one goal: crush the Sunni Islamist revolt.
In 1982, al-Assad ordered the siege of the city of Hama. For 27 days, the Syrian government pummeled the civilians of the city with artillery attacks and waves of aerial bombings. When they finally stopped, the Syrian government had killed 20,000–40,000 thousand of its own citizens. (The number of fatalities depends on whose count you use.) Around the world, the Hama Massacre was widely-criticized, it was a shocking atrocity. But the revolt was put down. The Hama Massacre was one of the most heinous actsan Arab government ever committed against its own people. Does it sound kinda familiar though?
Now, let’s jump forward ten years.
It’s 1991. There’s a war brewing in the Persian Gulf. America led by George Bush the Elder is about to take on Iraq in the First Gulf War.
Can you guess who secular, socialist, Soviet Union-backed, President al-Assad and his Syrian government chose as their ally in the Gulf War?
Just like he did in the Iran-Iraq War in 1980, Hafez al-Assad, leader of the socialist Ba’ath party of Syria, decides to help a foreign power fight and defeat the Ba’ath party of Iraq. He stuns the world and sides with a western power, America, and aids its attacks on a majority Muslim nation.
After the First Gulf War ends, al-Assad is still in power, and now he’s a little less worried about a fundamental Muslim revolution deposing him. The Americans are now the ones to attract their fundamentalists’ anger and incur their violence. But he’s also still feeling a bit unprotected. He was about to lose his biggest ally. That same year, in December of 1991, al-Assad and the rest of the world watched as the Soviet Union dissolved like a sugar cube in the rain.
How could al-Assad negotiate the new political reality and retain power in Syria? His options were limited. He could become an unofficial American ally, like Egypt had done. But the risk there was that it might turn him into a puppet in the eyes of his people, and spell doom for his leadership like it did for the Shah of Iran. What about the Muslim nation to his north, Turkey?
For many readers Turkey’s role in the Middle East may be something of a question mark. Like, what’s the deal with Turkey in the Middle East? Are they part of it, or not? Turkey exists at the physical divide between Europe and Asia. It’s a gateway nation, which makes it’s an impossible country to read. It’s a nation with two faces. It looks one way to Westerners. And quite different to Easterners, like Iran or Russia. And, Turkey looks quite different to the Arab world. The eyes of their culture see further back in history. To Arab eyes Turkey conjures up memories of centuries of domination by the Ottoman Empire that only ended thanks to the bloodshed of World War I. And now, a century later, memories of Turkish domination are not forgotten, or forgiven. To this day, no Arab nation wishes to see the return of a dominant Turkey. Which means, Syria, like all its other Arab neighbors, will always avoid partnering with Turkey.
So, who can a socialist, religiously moderate, secular nation like Syria partner with to help them remain a free and independent country? While also avoiding the ever-present threat of a hostile takeover by the fundamentalist Islamic wave that burns like coals all across the Middle East, always ready to flare up and start a new bonfire of resistance?
To buy himself time, all throughout the Nineties, al-Assad plays diplomacy games with the West. He makes overtures that much like Egypt did, Syria will make peace with Israel. He works high level political calculus,and all the while al-Assad drags his feet through round after round of international negotiations and discussions about the planned peace deal and new treaty with Israel. President Clinton and the West especially want al-Assad’s help and stamp of approval on an Israel-Palestine solution. America thinks there can one day be peace in the Middle East. This idea al-Assad dangles like bait before the West, but he never formally confirms anything. He plays the West.
Just as he has done for decades in his dealings with the West, al-Assad employs stalling tactics in his negotiations, and soon enough, he finds he has a new ally. One that’s perfectly suited to keep the West from strong-arming him, and protect him from losing power to the Islamist fundamentalist. His new ally was an old friend.
From the ashes of the Soviet Union, had emerged a new nation, one weaker than before, but bound together by a ruthless form of gangster-capitalism. They call the new nation the Russian Federation. Thanks to the fact they’re natural and historic allies, Syria partnered with the new Russia. This move kept regional powers like Iran in check. It also kept the regional powers like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, who are both majority Sunni populations, along with the gulf states of Abu Dhabi, Qatar, and Dubai, from dominating the region with the backing of the Americans. And remember, the Americans are, for the most part, just an update on the former colonial powers, the British and the French. Which, like the Turks, no Arab nation wants as their foreign ruler. Plus, by partnering with Russia, it makes arch-rivals Israel, and Turkey, think twice about ever messing with Syria. On the geopolitical chessboard it’s a brilliant move to make. It’s exactly what you expect from a political gangster genius like Hafez al-Assad: wait for the world to change.
Over the last 100 years, since, roughly, 1920, Syria has partnered with the French, the Nazi-occupied French government, the British, the Americans, the Egyptians, the Iranians, the Soviets, and most recently, the Russians. For a hundred years, they’ve struggled to be a free and independent nation that sets its own destiny. To do that, they’ve had to play global politics. Which means they’ve played the dark and dirty games of the region, riding waves of violence as they ceaselessly ebbed and flowed, ever since the Ottoman Empire crumbled at the end of World War I.
As a nation, Syria began as two dominant city-states, Damascus and Aleppo, grouped together with a number of various ethnic tribes, most notably, the two tribal states, the Alawites in the north, and the Druze in the south, all forced together by foreign map-makers and their colonial bosses. The one man to hold power in Syria, supreme leader Hafez al-Assad, from the Alawite minority, is a strongman who always felt the only way for him to hold onto power in a majority-Sunni nation, with majority-Sunni nations for neighbors, was to periodically wage indescribable acts of violence against the citizens of his own nation. To defeat outsiders he chose to kill Syrians. At this point, you could cynically call it a family tradition.
To understand why, in 2017, President Bashar al-Assad gassed his own people, and has bombed the city of Aleppo into a post-apocalyptic wasteland, you need look no further than his father. That’s his blueprint.
First, the people living in the city-state of Aleppo are not al-Assad’s people. Bashar may be the leader of Syria, but his people, his father’s people, are the Alawite tribe from the north. The people in Aleppo are Sunnis. To Bashar, he’s killing enemies, not his people. The Syrian revolution began in 2011. One of the first and largest anti-Assad protests was in the city of Hama. Bashar responded with tanks. By the time his men were done suppressing the protest, they’d killed two hundred civilians. It was called the Siege of Hama. Which mirrors his father’s Hama Massacre. This is just what the family does to hold power.
Secondly, President Bashar al-Assad is and will always be battling against the same fundamentalist Muslims his dad had to quash. In one form or another, they’re the same ones that have been trying to overthrow the Syrian government since the mid-Seventies. That’s commitment. The Muslim Brotherhood and its allies would still love to see a fundamentalist Sunni leadership in Syria. The Iran Revolutionary Guard would also love to see a fundamentalist Muslim leadership in Syria, only difference is they’d prefer it be led by Shia Muslims, not Sunnis like the Muslim Brotherhood. And, of course, there’s ISIS. Each fundamental Islamist group imagines it differently, but they share the same general goal: religious revolution. Bashar al-Assad firmly believes the only thing holding back these various flavors of Muslim fundamentalism is the constant reminder of the pain of death.
Thirdly: There’s Russia. Vladimir Putin enjoys fulfilling the role of the former Western colonial powers. For one, it’s lucrative for Russia to sell weapons and arms to Syria. The Syrian conflict also gives Russia a place to run military exercises. It’s a powerful means for Putin to project dominance on the world stage. And, most importantly, Syria is an arena for Russia to challenge the presumption that the old colonial powers––the British and the French, and the new ones, the Americans, who back the Saudi Arabians and the gulf states––are the real power in the region. Putin doesn’t agree with that assumption. The Syrian civil war is a monkey wrench the Russians can throw into Arab regional relations, and into world politics. Bashar al-Assad learned from his dad this global game-playing amongst the world powers is how one retains power in Syria. You leverage outsider power to control your own people.
Syria is not a free and independent nation. It has yet to achieve that goal. And the people pay for that failure. Millions of innocent people, unfortunate to have been born in Syria, must live in the murderous intersection of tribalism, religious and sectarian divides, proxy warfare by foreign powers, and wartime capitalism. Their lives are unfairly marred by the original sins of Turkish and subsequent European colonialism. Their supreme leader, President Bashar al-Assad, is just the latest symptom of a devastating disease. He’s playing a role not written for him, and thus he does the only thing he knows works: be as vicious and cunning as dear ol’ daddy, Hafez.
History doesn’t repeat, but it does rhyme. This may be why Syria remains a bloody cluster-fuck. There’s no end in sight because no one is working on the sources of the tensions. Instead, well-meaning outsiders are overwhelmed by the endless cycles of violence, even if they’re occasionally motivated into action by the pitiful looks on the faces of helpless children. The people doomed to live in Syria lack the ability to overcome all of these various forces working against them. Survival is their best hope. Hell, they just tried to wage a revolution for their freedom from tyranny. You see where that got them. The last 7 years have been the government’s answer. Plus, it’s not like America’s going to do any serious and committed nation-building guided by the tiny hands of Donald Trump and his under-staffed and under-funded State Department. And, the Russians? Well, we all know they aren’t known for spreading democracy. There is no peaceful escape for the people from the murderous reign of Bashar al-Assad.
The only person who’s successfully held power in Syria was a socialist gangster military mastermind from an ethnic minority. Who do you think the eye doctor son who accidentally became president after his older brother died in a car crash is going to emulate? The story of his father, Hafez, sheds light on an ugly truth: for the foreseeable future, with Russia’s backing, Bashar will guarantee that Syria remains bloody as a slaughterhouse killing floor.
How many hundreds of thousands of lives were lost because of that one car accident? Big brother Basil may not have been a better president, but it’s difficult to picture he would’ve been more monstrous than his little brother Bashar. But, who knows? Basil may have tried to surpass his father’s cruelty, and he may have exceeded Bashar’s civilian-killing ways. That’s not the best question to ask. The only good and important question to ask is:
What can possibly save the people of Syria from this endless cycle of violence that’s as predictable as the sweep of the arms of a murderous clock?
In other words, when will Syria finally be a free and independent nation? Right now, America and Russia continue to bomb hospitals in Syria, as they try to defeat ISIS. Meanwhile, the Russians aim to keep Bashar al-Assad in power, while the Americans give aid to the rebels looking to depose him, the same rebels that are aligned with the latest fundamentalist Sunni Islamists, ones you know best as…Al Qaeda. That’s right. In Syria, America is uneasy partners with Al Qaeda. That’s Syria.
And that’s been Syria for the last 100 years. That’s why refugees are desperate to leave, the same ones President Trump has banned from entering the U.S. The same refugees that drown in the Mediterranean, desperate to reach Europe. The West drew the imaginary lines in the sand that created Syria. That original betrayal of Arabs by the West is the reason why Syria became hell on Earth. It’s easy to ignore the truth of that statement if you blame Bashar and Hafez al-Assad for the bloodshed we see in the news.
In a flurry of tweets and retweets Monday night, Colin Kaepernick used his sizable social media platform (1.1 million-plus followers) to comment and promote issues concerning police violence involving minorities and the prison-industrial complex, notably the use of inmate labor.
This isn’t new. His Twitter feed is a near daily display of activist messages and arguments. Last weekend he retweeted a couple images that compared modern police officers to slave catchers of the past. To some it was a history lesson. To others who see the many honest and fair members of law enforcement that are trying to build a better future, it was an insult.
Maybe you agree with his posts or maybe you don’t. Maybe they cause you to think about the issue for a second. Maybe you’re bored with anything Kaepernick has to say.
This column isn’t about changing any opinions. You can take it up with Kaepernick. He doesn’t seem to mind the debate.
What Kaepernick hasn’t been tweeting about, or speaking about, or granting interviews about is that he remains an unsigned free agent as NFL training camps creep closer and available jobs are being filled. Kaepernick, who once started in a Super Bowl but is most famous for taking a knee during the national anthem last year, is unemployed.
No one says he should replace Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers or even be slotted in as a starter. He is undoubtedly better, however, than some of these third-stringers with camp invites.
As team after team passes him by, the obvious conclusion is that his high-profile political stances have made him, in the minds of NFL decision-makers, a liability greater than the perceived value he would bring to the team. Make no mistake, if Kaepernick completed 69.9 percent of his passes for 38 touchdowns against just 7 interceptions last season (MVP Matt Ryan numbers), he could tweet whatever he wanted.
After all, there are plenty of other players who joined him on one knee during the anthem who will be suiting up next season.
When your perceived-negatives outweigh your perceived-positives though, you’re done. This is pretty much how it works in every profession, let alone one as cutthroat as the NFL. Kaepernick completed just 59.2 percent of his passes while starting for a 2-14 team. He’s a back-up at this point. So here we are.
Yet he doesn’t seem to care … or at least care enough to change his behavior in an effort to ease fears from clearly skittish teams who tend to like quiet, compliant back-ups. The simplest advice for Kaepernick if he wants to play in the NFL next season is to just be quiet.
He won’t be quiet. He won’t back down.
Whether you agree with his stances, disagree with his stances or find some reasonable and some not, it’s worth offering at least a nod of respect for a guy willing to risk so much for what he believes in.
On this, he is putting his money where his mouth is.
(This is in addition to what his website claims is already $700,000 in donations – out of a pledged $1 million – to “organizations in oppressed communities.” Each donation, most to grassroots organizations, is carefully noted.)
If you look at the website kaepernick7.com, other than the jersey number in the domain name, there is very little acknowledgement that he is even a football player – it’s all about his foundation and its “Know Your Rights” campaign. There are links to pro-Kaepernick sports columns under “media,” but that’s about it.
And he’s yet to come out and complain or even comment about how his NFL job hunt is going.
“He is a starter in this league and I can’t imagine somebody won’t give him a chance to play,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said earlier this offseason.
Carlos A. Cooks: (June 23, 1913 - May 5, 1966) The Ideological Son of Marcus Mosiah Garvey
If, as the new saying goes, "truth is [really] on its way" then, perhaps, Black People can finally also be back on their way. Which way? The way out of all of the confusion, contradictions and cultural degeneration that has retarded the liberation of our people these last few years.
Truth is not an abstract, it refers to sincerity, honesty, conformity to fact, correctness, exactitude, et cetera. Carlos Cooks was truth personified. It is also the truth that, if one man can be singled out as, the individual personality, most responsible for the resurrection on Marcus Garvey's philosophy and program then that man is Carlos Cooks.
Carlos Cooks was to Black Nationalism what John Coltrane was to the so-called avant-grade "jazz", and what Aretha is to soul music; the prime progenitor among their respective peers.
The main difference was the fact that during his life time, Cooks never receive his proper recognition. This was mainly because he was denied national coverage -- by white and "Black" press -- and was bound by an oath (the sacri) not to seek publicity for himself.
But since programs are often personified within certain individuals, and either live beyond or die along with their respective advocates, AJASS believes that -- if we are really going to re-establish truth in our Liberation Struggle, then more of our people should know about the relevance of Carlos Cooks.
Carlos A. Cooks was born on June 23, 1913 in the Dominican Republic and died May 5th, 1966 in Harlem. During his 52 years on this planet, he passed through a phenomenal experience by spending his entire lifetime dedicated to the liberation of Africa, its universal communities, and all its peoples. This fact alone puts him among the ranks of the Hon. Marcus Garvey and the grand patriarch of the, movement, Hon. Edward Wilmot Blyden.
It was Carlos Cooks who administered the Advance Division of the UNIA after Garvey's deportation. He fought psychologically and physically -- to uplift Mr. Garvey's name from the gutters of ghetto minds. Brother Frank Rockwood of the Harlem UNIA branch can attest to this truth.
It was Carlos Cooks who coined the phrase "BUY BLACK" as an economic solvency in the various African Communities throughout America. Attorney Cora Walker, who successfully engineered the Harlem Co-op market can vouch for that.
It was Carlos Cooks who found the first so-titled African Nationalist organization. Check it out with Brothers and Sisters of the African Nationalist Pioneer Movement, they will tell you.
It was Carlos Cooks whom the late Malcolm X told many of us, that: "I respect Mr. Cooks because he is real Garveyite, a true Black Nationalist!" Since truth is supposed to be the only way, ask Sister Betty Shabazz about this.
It was Carlos Cooks who kept Garvey's UNIA Red, Black, and Green tricolors displayed daily and nightly. Go on over to the African Market at 125th Street near Lenox Avenue, ask for Brother Frank Jones 'cause he can tell you about it.
It was Carlos Cooks who maintained an African Nationalist Legion, mentally prepared and physically ready to join the African Liberation struggle. I don't know if the rest of the officials of the Republic of New Africa know this, but I'm sure that Brother Herman Ferguson does.
It was Cooks who continuously advocated armed retaliation against the cracker beasts who viciously murdered our Brothers and Sisters in the South. Truth is supposed to be on its way, so ask Brother Robert Williams.
It was Carlos Cooks who designated August 17th -- the birthday of Marcus Garvey -- as the first Black holiday, official or unofficial. And if you ask James Lawson (privately), the Brother will probably tell you the truth, too.
It was Carlos Cooks who first perfected an oratorical art of street speaking from his step-ladder, all over Harlem, but, especially on 125th Street and 7th Avenue. Brother Ed. "Porkchop" Davis and Brother Charles Kenyatta can verify that as the truth.
It was Carlos Cooks who first formed an independent school, complete with a course in Kiswahili at a time (1954) when many of our people didn't even know where Africa was, never mind what Swahili was. Brother Al Vann, of the African-American Teachers Association, can educate you to the truth about this.
It was Carlos Cooks who first defined the difference between the terms Black and/or African as opposed to "Negro" and fought to have the latter word abrogated as a racial classification. You can even ask Richard Moore (author of The Word Negro And Its Evil Use) about this. Or you can read the documentation of this in "BLACK NATIONALISM: A Search For Identity In America" by Prof. E. U. Essien-Udom of the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. He printed some truth about this particular issue.
It was Carlos Cooks who organized the Universal African Relief to send tons of cloths and medical supplies to our struggling fellow Africans in South West Africa and Angola -- over ten year ago. Ask Brother Hage Geingob of SWAPO or any of the other Brothers representing the liberation forces in Namibia (Southwest Africa). Their case is based on truth.
It was Carlos Cooks who first initiated the concept of natural hair as an issue of racial pride through his ANPM's MISS NATURAL STANDARD OF BEAUTY CONTEST. But just about everyone who comes in contact with AJASS knows this because our programs are based on truth and, so, we always let everyone know just where we're coming from. (Don't bother to ask the folks running the "Miss America Beauty Contest.)
This event is to honor and uplift our Black and African community. We will be showcasing the richness and diversity of the Black and African culture through food, dance, music, and fashion. We will be collaborating with Black and African businesses to help give them a platform in the community while encouraging people to purchase products and services from them. This event as a whole will unify and bring together communities who may feel that they are alone or marginalized in this era of gentrification. We will encourage standing together, standing tall, and working together to make our community flourish.
Donald Trump’s lynch party seeking the extradition of Assata Shakur from Cuba includes every U.S. president -- most especially Barack Obama, who doubled the bounty on her head and demanded “that a home-grown Black revolutionary and escaped political prisoner be returned to captivity.” As for the Congressional Black Caucus, there is “no chance that the CBC as a body will protest either Trump’s persecution of Shakur or his general policy on Cuba.”
If You Embrace Assata, You Must Fight the Black Misleadership Class
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
“It is truly obscene to hear Donald Trump -- and Barack Obama -- speak of Cuban political prisoners when the U.S. still holds at least 15 former Panthers.”
Donald Trump’s vicious demonization of exiled Black Panther Assata Shakur, spat out in the course of his partial reversal of his predecessor’s “opening” to Cuba, shows once again that imperialism is a system, not a face or a political party –- and that the U.S. version of imperialism is inseparable from the white settler origins of the State.
Near the end of his presidency, Barack Obama sought to ease the terms of Washington’s half-century long, self-defeating blockade of the socialist island, while simultaneously increasing U.S. regime change efforts against Cuba’s ally, the socialist government of Venezuela. But it was Obama’s FBI that, three years ago, doubled the state of New Jersey’s $1 million bounty on Shakur’s head -- an inducement to kidnap or assassination that Obama could have withdrawn with the stroke of a pen, but did not. Obama was prepared to adjust a policy that had resulted in the isolation of the U.S., rather than Cuba -- and which was opposed by major sectors of corporate America -- but would not yield an inch on Washington’s demand that a home-grown Black revolutionary and escaped political prisoner be returned to captivity.
“It was Obama’s FBI that, three years ago, doubled the state of New Jersey’s $1 million bounty on Shakur’s head.”
Assata represents the continuity of the centuries-long U.S. war against its Black population, a conflict that was taken to “a higher level,” as folks used to say, with the Black rebellions of the Sixties, the imposition of a mass Black incarceration regime, and the designation of the Black Panther Party as Public Enemy #1. Three generations and tens of millions of prisoners later, the Mass Black Incarceration State is more entrenched than ever; heavily armed, high tech-wired garrisons of cop-soldiers occupy cities that are rapidly ejecting their poor Black populations; and Assata Shakur is the only woman on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.
She was placed there by the nation’s First Black President, with “not a peep” from “a single black mayor or member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Not Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, and certainly not the presidential lap dog Al Sharpton,” as BAR managing editor Bruce Dixon wrote, in 2013.
A year later, in June of 2014 -- just two months before Michael Brown was gunned down by a Ferguson, Missouri, policeman -- four out of five Black Caucus members voted to continue massive transfers of Pentagon weapons and equipment to local police. As (white) Florida Congressman Alan Grayson, sponsor of the bill to outlaw the arms transfers, stated:
“These weapons are not being used to defeat terrorism on our streets. Where is the terrorism on our streets? Instead, these weapons are being used to arrest barbers and to terrorize the general population. In fact, one may venture to say that the weapons are often used by a majority to terrorize a minority.”
“Heavily armed, high tech-wired garrisons of cop-soldiers occupy cities that are rapidly ejecting their poor Black populations.”
Among the 80 percent of the Black Caucus that voted to continue the Pentagon-to-local-police arms pipeline, was Michael Brown’s “mis-representative” in Congress, William Lacy Clay.
A study conducted two years later, in 2016, revealed that Barack Obama had used the 1033 Pentagon transfers program to oversee “the biggest escalation in the history of the one-sided war against Black America." As we wrote:
“The value of military weapons, gear and equipment transferred to local cops did not exceed $34 million annually until 2010, the second year of the Obama administration, when it nearly tripled to more than $91 million. By 2014...Obama was sending three quarters of a billion dollars, more than $787 million a year, in battlefield weaponry to local police departments. In other words, President Obama oversaw a 24-fold (2,400%) increase in the militarization of local police between 2008 and 2014. Even with the scale-back announced in 2015, Obama still managed to transfer a $459 million arsenal to the cops -- 14 times as much weapons of terror and death than President Bush gifted to the local police at his high point year of 2008.”
By the numbers, Obama qualifies as “the biggest domestic war hawk in the history of the United States -- bigger than Bush, Clinton and all his predecessors since the genesis of the Black mass incarceration regime in the late Sixties.”
The 1033 program was enacted in 1997. A year later, the U.S. House unanimously passed a resolution requesting that Cuban leader Fidel Castro extradite Joanne Chesimard, aka Assata Shakur, to the United States. Two Black California congresswomen, Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters, claimed they voted for the resolution by mistake, not recognizing that Chesimard and Shakur were the same person. Waters then released a statement opposing the extradition:
“I support the right of all nations to grant political asylum to individuals fleeing political persecution. The United States grants political asylum to individuals from all over the world who successfully prove they are fleeing political persecution. Other sovereign nations have the same right, including the sovereign nation of Cuba....
“The second reason I oppose this measure, is because I respect the right of Assata Shakur to seek political asylum. Assata Shakur has maintained that she was persecuted as a result of her political beliefs and political affiliations. As a result, she left the United States and sought political asylum in Cuba, where she still resides.
“In a sad and shameful chapter of our history, during the 1960s and 1970s, many civil rights, Black Power and other politically active groups were secretly targeted by the FBI for prosecution based on their political beliefs.”
If Waters can break away from her 24-7 tirades against imaginary Russian subversion of U.S. “democracy,” she should compose a similar letter to Trump. But no such statement can yet be found on the Internet.
“Obama qualifies as ‘the biggest domestic war hawk in the history of the United States.’”
In December of 2014, attorney Martin Garbus told Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman that he was sure Shakur “will not be returned. Fidel Castro, when she came there, said that she would be allowed to stay in Cuba indefinitely. I had a meeting about a month ago with five congresspeople, including Representative Barbara Lee, and they were also absolutely clear that they would oppose any attempts on the United States to succeed that would get Assata Shakur back. So, to me, it’s absolutely clear she’s not coming back.”
We have yet to hear from the five Congressional Black Caucus members in the wake of Trump’s Miami announcement in Miami, and there is no chance that the CBC as a body will protest either Trump’s persecution of Shakur or his general policy on Cuba – despite their hatred of the Orange Menace in the White House. As a Caucus, they are easy to rile against phantom Russians, but worthless -- or worse -- when it comes to opposing U.S. wars at home and abroad. The Congressional Black Caucus voted overwhelmingly in favor of Bill Clinton’s 1994 anti-crime (pro-mass Black incarceration) bill, and all but a few CBC members supported the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act with its 100-to-1 penalties for crack cocaine.
The Black Misleadership Class has proven, over the 40 years of its political hegemony in Black America, that its loyalty is to the Democratic Party and its corporate sponsors, and to the imperial system.
Shakur was more likely to reach a sympathetic ear with the Pope, whom she wrote in 1998:
“To make a long story short, I was captured in New Jersey in 1973, after being shot with both arms held in the air, and then shot again from the back. I was left on the ground to die and when I did not, I was taken to a local hospital where I was threatened, beaten and tortured. In 1977 I was convicted in a trial that can only be described as a legal lynching.
“In 1979 I was able to escape with the aid of some of my fellow comrades. I saw this as a necessary step, not only because I was innocent of the charges against me, but because I knew that in the racist legal system in the United States I would receive no justice. I was also afraid that I would be murdered in prison. I later arrived in Cuba where I am currently living in exile as a political refugee.
“The New Jersey State Police and other law enforcement officials say they want to see me brought to ‘justice.’ But I would like to know what they mean by ‘justice.’ Is torture justice? I was kept in solitary confinement for more than two years, mostly in men’s prisons. Is that justice? My lawyers were threatened with imprisonment and imprisoned. Is that justice? I was tried by an all-white jury, without even the pretext of impartiality, and then sentenced to life in prison plus 33 years. Is that justice?”
“Release of political prisoners is not visibly a high priority, even among most grassroots Black formations.”
It is correct and commendable to point out the hypocrisy of the United States, which offers a bounty on Shakur while harboring scores of real terrorists that have committed ghastly crimes against Cuba as agents of the U.S. It is truly obscene to hear Donald Trump -- and Barack Obama -- speak of Cuban political prisoners when the U.S. still holds at least 15 former Panthers, including Shakur co-defendant Sundiata Acoli, now 80 years old. (Sekou Odinga, who was charged with helping Shakur escape, spent 33 years in prison before his release in 2014.) Moreover, since the Mass Black Incarceration State was created to crush the Black Liberation Movement, it is a political weapon, conveying a political character to all of its Black prisoners. The Black Misleadership Class has been complicit in the rise of this Black Incarceration State, as recently explored in James Foreman Jr.’s book, Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America.
Many in the broad Black Lives Matter movement express great love and admiration for Assata Shakur. Yet, release of political prisoners is not visibly a high priority, even among most grassroots Black formations -- which tends to indicate that most participants don’t anticipate that they might wind up becoming long term political prisoners, themselves.
The political activist’s only real defense lies with the people for whom she risks her life and freedom. In the end, it’s all on us.
Elaine Brown is the CEO of Oakland and the World Enterprises, and also a staff member in Supervisor Keith Carson's office.
The Oakland City Council is scheduled to vote tonight on a deal to sell city-owned land near West Oakland's BART station to a nonprofit that improperly obtained hundreds of thousands in county tax dollars, according to the Alameda County Grand Jury. The city would sell the land for a nominal price, even though it's worth $1.4 million, in order to subsidize an affordable housing project on site.
Further complicating the deal is the fact that the nonprofit's leader sued the City of Oakland last year, alleging that councilmember Desley Brooks attacked her at a barbecue restaurant. The lawsuit is ongoing, and Brown is seeking millions in damages from the city.
The nonprofit, Oakland and the World Enterprises, was set up by former Black Panther Elaine Brown to build affordable housing and operate an urban farm in West Oakland. It also plans to build a grocery store, restaurant, fitness center, and technology center at the location.
But according to the Grand Jury, Brown's group was given $710,000 by Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson at the same time Brown was a paid staff member in Carson's office. "[T]he dual role of the county employee in these transactions constituted both a failure of good governance practices by the county of Alameda and a conflict of interest," concluded the Grand Jury in their investigation, which was published yesterday.
Brown is currently listed as a staff member in charge of job creation and West Oakland constituent services on Carson's supervisor web site.
According to tax records and other documents, Brown incorporated Oakland and the World Enterprises in 2014. The organization's 2015 tax return states that she received no salary or other pay.
In 2015, the organization received $290,000 in government grants. According to the grand jury, this was money allocated to the group by Alameda County's Housing and Community Development program through the proper channels and procedures.
But according to the grand jury, the organization's invoices sent to the county seeking payment of these funds "insufficiently explained" the reasons for certain expenditures.
Then, according to the grand jury, "over the ensuing months, there were multiple communications between HCD (including a contractor retained by HCD) and [Brown] about OAW’s request for funds under the contract," which ultimately resulted in $102,527 paid to Oakland and the World on May 2, 2016.
No other funds under the county's contract with the group were dispersed.
Over the same period of time, Supervisor Carson's office used its own funds that were available under the county's Fiscal Management Reward Program, to pay Oakland and the World a total of $710,000. The largest payments were made in April 2015 (for $290,000) and March 2016 (for $300,000). These payments don't appear in any publicly available tax forms filed by the organizations.
The grand jury found that there are not sufficient oversight rules to limit the ways the supervisors can use their FMRP funds, which add up to millions each year.
There isn't a 2016 tax return available for Oakland and the World Enterprises, according to the grand jury. The Express searched for the group's 2016 tax return through Guidestar.org and the California Attorney General's Office and confirmed that a copy isn't yet available.
Furthermore, the organization's 2015 tax return doesn't explain how it spent the $290,000 grant from the county HCD program. Instead, there is a $181,733 expenditure for "other" types of "fees for services" to non-employees. The attached schedule that is supposed to detail the spending is incomplete.
On March 24, the California Attorney General's office sent Oakland and the World Enterprises a letter warning the group that it's ability to operate as a nonprofit is in jeopardy because it hasn't provided its 2014 and 2015 tax returns along with other disclosure reports.
The Oakland City Council is currently considering whether to sell the West Oakland land, located at the corner of 7th Street and Campbell Street to the nonprofit.
The proposal to sell the land cleared a council subcommittee last week with councilmembers Larry Reid, Noel Gallo, Annie Campbell Washington, and Lynette Gibson McElhaney all voting yes.
According to a city staff report, Oakland and the World Enterprises first approached the city about the land in 2014. Under the proposed deal, the nonprofit would acquire the real estate, which is worth $1.4 million, at virtually no cost. The city would also provide a $2.6 million loan for the affordable housing project.
Brown sued the City of Oakland last year claiming that she was assaulted by Councilmember Desley Brooks in the Everett and Jones restaurant in October 2015. The district attorney never pressed charges, but Brown is seeking $7 million in damages from the city and Brooks.
Marvin X, Black Educational Theatre, 1972, San Francisco
...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....
Black Dialogue editors/writers: left to right: Aubrey Labrie, Marvin X, Abdul Karim, Al Young, Arthur Sheridan, Duke Williams .The first major Black Arts literary publication was the California-based Black Dialogue (1964), edited by Arthur A. Sheridan, Abdul Karim, Edward Spriggs, Aubrey Labrie, and Marvin Jackmon (Marvin X). Black Dialogue was paralleled by Soulbook (1964), edited by Mamadou Lumumba (Kenn Freeman) and Bobb Hamilton. Oakland-based Soulbook was mainly political but included poetry in a section ironically titled "Reject Notes."
Dingane Joe Goncalves became Black Dialogue'spoetry editor and, as more and more poetry poured in, he conceived of starting the Journal of Black Poetry. Founded in San Francisco, the first issue was a small magazine with mimeographed pages and a lithographed cover. Up through the summer of 1975, the Journal published nineteen issues and grew to over one hundred pages. Publishing a broad range of more than five hundred poets, its editorial policy was eclectic. Special issues were given to guest editors who included Ahmed Alhamisi, Don L. Lee (Haki R. Madhubuti), Clarence Major, Larry Neal, Marvin X, Dudley Randall, Ed Spriggs, and Askia Touré. In addition to African Americans, African, Caribbean, Asian, and other international revolutionary poets were presented.... --kalamu ya salaam
The Public Career of Marvin X by James G. Spady
30 Years of Teaching and Writing: The Public Career of Marvin X
James G. Spady
Copyright James G. Spady, 1997, Philadelphia New Observer
Marvin X has been teaching for a long time. He has established his tenacity. As one of the founders of the Black Arts Movement (BAM), he became a teacher in an emerging field called Black Studies. Like Sonia Sanchez, Amiri Baraka, Larry Neal, Askia Toure and others, Marvin X both contributed to and later taught those pivotal courses that constituted a new discipline.
For the last thirty years, this gifted poet, journalist, dramatist, oral historian (he appears to be the only participant in the Black Arts Movement that conducted intensive and extensive oral interviews with the key participants, as well as international political, cultural and educational leaders)and teacher, has established an unusual record. Marvin X has taught at the University of California at San Diego, Mills College, San Francisco State University, Fresno State University, Laney and Merritt Colleges in Oakland, University of Nevada,Reno, and the University of California at Berkeley.
His peers were among the first to recognize his ability. The well-known African American man of the Arts and Letters, Amiri Baraka, refers to Marvin X as "one of the outstanding African writers and teachers in America. He has always been in the forefront of Pan African writing. Indeed, he is one of the founders and innovators of the new revolutionary school of African writing."
One of the best known playwrights in America is Ed Bullins. He refers to X as "one of the founders of the modern day Black theatre movement. He is a Black artist par excellence." The editor of Black Scholar magazine, Robert Chrisman, spoke of Marvin as "an extraordinary distinguished poet who has a powerful sense of meaningful drama"....
After high school (1962), Marvin enrolled in Oakland City College, aka Merritt College. There he met Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, who went on to found the Black Panther Party. It was at OCC that Marvin began to undergo a vital change. He listened intently as speaker after speaker addressed the ever-growing members of the cognoscente at Oakland City College. They, like many area colleges, benefited from the organizing and conscious-raising activities of the Afro American Association under the leadership of a young black lawyer, Donald Warden (now Khalid Abdullah Al Mansour). Marvin's early writings appeared in the Merritt College literary magazine.
Upon receiving the A.A. degree, Marvin went on to San Francisco State University, 1964. Marvin wrote a play for one of his English classes. The professor, legendary novelist John Gardner, was sufficiently impressed to carry it over to the theatre department. In the Spring of 1965, Marvin X's one-act play "Flowers for the Trashman" was produced at San Francisco State, a novel experience for an African American. It is even more exceptional in that it was his first play. (Published initially in Black Dialogue, Winter, 1966 and later in Black Fire, edited by Larry Neal and LeRoi Jones).
Marvin X soon met Philly playwright Ed Bullins, introduced to him by Art Sheridan, founding editor of Black Dialogue magazine. Ed and Marvin founded Black Arts West Thetre in the Fillmore. Black Arts West was certainly influenced by the Black Arts Movement in the East, mainly New York and Philadelphia.
The role of Amiri Baraka in shaping national Black consciousness can not be overemphasized. However, Marvin X, Hillary X, Ethna X, Duncan X (as they would become in a few months after joining the Nation of Islam, circa 1967), along with Ed Bullins and Farouk (Carl Bossiere, rip)were part of an indigenous Black Arts Movement....
Part Two: 30 Years of Teaching and Writing: The Public Career of Marvin X
by James G. Spady, Philadelphia New Observer,1997
copyright (c) 1997 by James G. Spady
...The poetry of Marvin X is deeply rooted in the cosmological convictions of his ancestors and his community. His individual identity is inextricably linked to his communal identity. That is why it functions as a source of power and inspiration. Because he is open to the magico-realist perception or reality and has the authentic experiences of the streets, Marvin's works strike a chord. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in a recent collection, Love and War, 1995. "Read Love and War for Ramadan!"--Dr. Mohja Kahf, University of Arkansas, Department of English and Islamic Literature
cover art by Emory Douglas,Black Panther Minister of Culture
He introduces the work with these words, "Love and War is my poetic story of rediscovering self love and the internal war (Jihad) to reconquer my soul from the devil who whispers into the hearts of men, Al Qur'an. But I am also mindful of socio political conditions of my people. And this reality fills me with compassion and love, forcing me once again (now that I am clean and sober) to put on the armor of God and return to the battlefield. This collection is a signal of my return to the struggle of African American liberation after an absence of nearly a decade, caused by disillusionment and drug abuse. I return with the spirit of my friend, Huey P. Newton, rip, shaking my bones. He and I were often in the same drug territory and but for the grace of God, I chould have easily suffered a fate similar to his. I came close many times. Praise be to Allah."
"Marvin X was my teacher, many of our comradescame through his black theatre: Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver,Emory Douglas, George Murray and Sam Napier." --Dr. Huey P. Newton,co-founder of the Black Panther Party
...Craft is essential to Marvin X's poetry and drama. He knows the possibilities and constraints of the form. And he also knows how to expand. He credits Sun Ra with having helped him to realize the full possibilities of theatre. Marvin read his poetry in San Ra's grand musical energy field and he closely observed Sonny's skillful exploration of our Omniverse and all of its real possibilities. Was it not Sun Ra who told Marvin X that he would be teaching at U.C. Berkeley before it happened?
Marvin X and Sun Ra. Sun Ra was Marvin's mentor and artistic associate.
They performed together from coast to coast. This pic is outside Marvin's Black Educational Theatre in San Francisco's Fillmore, 1972. Sun Ra wrote the music
for Marvin's play Take Care of Business,
the musical version of Flowers for the Trashman.
...Nearly 30 years ago, Marvin sought to teach the relationship of Islam and Black Art. In his published conversation with Amiri Baraka, he attempted to reconcile and provide voices and faces for the different expressions of Islam in the West.
As a skilled interviewer, he allows Askia Toure and Baraka's divergent views of Islam to be placed into the record. In the afterword he states, "I believe the Honorable Elijah Muhammad is at least ten years ahead of any Black group working for freedom, justice and equality in the hells of North America. The Islamic ideology, discipline and organizational structure permits the masses of our people to fully develop their self-identity, self defense and self-government."
Again, X is out front. He recognized the tremendous influence Islam had on the Black Arts Movement. He is a case study in that type of influence....
Elijah and Malcolm, major influences on Marvin X. He honors both men.
....Marvin X is credited with convincing Eldridge Cleaver to use his advance against royalties from the popular book Soul on Ice, to help set up Black House. The building became "the mecca of political, cultural activity in The Bay Area. Among artists featured were: Sonia Sanchez,Vonetta McGee, Amiri and Amina Baraka, Chicago Art Ensemble, Avoctja, Emory Douglas, Sarah Webster Fabio, et al. Playwright Ed Bullins joined Marvin and Eldrdige at the Black House, along with Marvin's partner, Ethna X (Hurriyah Asar), and singer Willie Dale, Cleaver's buddy from San Quentin.
Eldridge Cleaver, see Marvin X's memoir,Eldridge Cleaver, My friend the Devil, 2009Upon his release from Soledad prison,Marvin X was the first person he hookedup with. Later Marvin introduced himto Huey Newton and Bobby Seale.
....Marvin X is a teacher of primeval knowledge, a knower of both street poetry and book poetry. In fact, he combines the two in a powerful way. Each verse is a teach act, each stanza--a class. His use of alliteration, rhymes, assonance, dissonance and free rhymes indicates he has absorbed the teachings of the academy. Yet, the street consciousness lying in the cut of its content links him directly to the poets of the new idiom called Rap.
Amiri Baraka (RIP), Bobby Seale, Dr. Ayodele Nzinga, Ahi Baraka, Marvin X at his Academy of da Corner, 14th and Broadway, Oakland, Black Arts Movement Business District.
His experimental verses are wholistic, historical and yet dialogical. The dynamic complexities of the situation creates in the reader an urgent need to know more. Can we expect anything else from a good teacher?
This second encounter in the Psychedelic Soul series examines the explosion of activity - cultural, social, and political - that took place in this historical moment in 1967. The many social strands of society that were being transformed and confronted could be thought of as a singular force of its own, a wave of consciousness and a sense that people collectively were creating something entirely new. The series “Psychedelic Soul” is presented by the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) and the California Historical Society.
Avotcja Jiltonilro: The award winning poet and multi-instrumentalist, writer, teacher and radio host Avotcja Jiltonilro has been engaging in the music and culture of the African Diaspora since the 1960s. Avotcja and her band Modupue have opened for the likes of Betty Carter, John Handy, Susanna Baca, Rashsaan Roland Kirk, Bobi and Luis Cespedes, Michael Franti and many others. Avotcja is a proud member of DAMO (Disability Advocates Of Minorities Organization), and PEN Oakland, California Poets In The Schools. The Berkeley City Council proclaimed May 10th 2014 as Avotcja Jiltonilro Day. Her band was twice named Bay Blues Society Hall Of Fame Jazz Group Of The Year (2005 & 2010). She continues to perform and host radio shows on KPOO and KPFA radio.
Rosa Lee BrooksThe Louisiana born, Los Angeles raised Rosa Lee Brooks is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist musician and performer, who took to a young Seattle born guitarist named Jimi Hendrix in 1964, and sang on one of Jimi's first recorded tracks, the 45rpm single "My Diary" / "The U-Tee" shortly after meeting him. She has been telling her story for years and now is being universally recognized as participating in one of the key moments in Jimi's life.
Archbishop F.W. (Franzo Wayne) King (Co-founder of the St. John Coltrane Church) Archbishop King is the leader of the Saint John Will-I-Am Coltrane African Orthodox Church, which has been combining music and spirituality in San Francisco since 1967. First organized after the ascension of master jazz saxophonist Coltrane in 1967, the group established itself as a place of worship, first called the Yardbird Temple, then the One Mind Temple Evolutionary Transitional Body of Christ, and finally, the Saint John Will-I-Am Coltrane African Orthodox Church, where it has continued to evolve as a religious, cultural, and political force in the community. We are honored to have Archbishop King on our panel.
Moderated by Rickey Vincent, Author of Party Music and lecturer at UC Berkeley and California College of the Arts. Learn more about Rickey Vincent on his website
MoAD Members: Remember to use the Promo Code Psychedelic Soul at check out. When you on the Check Out page you will see the Promo Code box at the top right corner. Type in the code, press submit, and see your updated pricing!
About the series:
Psychedelic Soul will engage with the community over three encounters. These panel discussions examine the scope and breadth of the influence of the Summer of Love on the African American community.
The third event in the series, Encounter 3: Outcomes, will be held August 10 at 6:30PM at the Museum of African Diaspora on 680 Mission Street. To RSVP Go Here (Link to be added later)
CHS and MoAD believe in the radical reframing of the Summer of Love to ensure that it encompasses the multitude of voices involved and inherent movements that shaped it. Some are well known, others are not. Our duty is to all histories and to ensure a deep, critical examination of the Summer of Love.
Afrocentricity International condamne les actions racistes du gouvernement colombien contre le peuple africain de Buenaventura en Colombie
AFROCENTRICITY INTERNATIONAL SOUTIEN LE PEUPLE DE BUENAVENTURA EN COLOMBIE
Continued after the jump ....
Afrocentricity International condamne les actions racistes du gouvernement colombien contre le peuple africain de Buenaventura en Colombie. L'accord historique imposé au gouvernement de la ville, le lundi 5 juin 2017, marque une page importante de notre histoire. Nous soutenons les revendications légitimes d'un peuple longtemps opprimé par les élites dirigeantes qui ont ignoré jusqu'à récemment la culture, l'histoire et la lutte de personnes dont le travail a été volé de façon brutale pour accroître la richesse des blancs dans l'industrie minière, l'industrie de la canne à sucre, et l'import-export. Buenaventura compte près de 800 000 personnes, dont près de 90% sont noirs. Cette ville est au coeur du combat pour l'égalité et la justice en Colombie. Comment une ville et un peuple qui contribuent autant à l’economie du pays peuvent ne pas avoir d’eau potable, d’ écoles en état de fonctionnement, des centres de santé et une université correctement financés? Il ne devrait pas être possible pour les dirigeants africains au Nigéria, en Afrique du Sud, au Ghana, en Éthiopie ou à toute autre nation africaine ou au Caucus noir du Congrès américain de permettre aux Colombiens de persécuter en toute impunité les Noirs sans interroger les autorités colombiennes.
Notre organisateur international, le Dr Molefi Kete Asante, s’est rendu à deux reprises en Colombie et est toujours revenu avec la conviction que les profondes injustices raciales observables en Colombie, qui a la troisième plus grande population noire des Amériques après le Brésil et les États-Unis, devraient faire l’objet d’une campagne de sensibilisation. Les protestations de notre peuple à Buenaventura continuent à nous pousser à agir pour la liberté, la justice et l'égalité.
Afrocentricity International pose la question suivante: «Comment les dirigeants africains américains et africains ont-ils pu ignorer la longue oppression de nos frères et sœurs en Colombie et ne rien faire?”
Nous appelons le gouvernement colombien qui a conclu un accord avec le peuple courageux et héroïque de Buenaventura, le plus grand port de la Colombie et l'une des villes les plus noires de l'Amérique du Sud, à instituer des programmes d'action positive afin d’alléger la poigne de fer de la superstructure raciste. Non seulement le government colombien a opprimé les Africains, mais il a aussi cherchéà supprimer notre histoire et notre culture afin que la masse ne connaisse pas notre belle histoire. Nous affirmons donc notre total soutien aux héros de Buenaventura et appelons les Africains du monde entier à en faire de même. Nous demandons tout particulièrement aux frères et sœurs brésiliens en Amérique du Sud d’observer de près la situation en Colombie. Nous demandons en outre à tous les Africains qui parlent anglais de se pencher aussi sur ce problème. Nos chapitres et membres au Costa Rica, au Mexique et à Porto Rico devraient être attentifs aux problèmes en Colombie.
AI travaillera pour les intérêts des habitants de Buenaventura et d'autres régions, en particulier de Choco, où nos populations ont déjà trop souffert dans les plantations de canne à sucre. O Africains Tout-Puissants, levez-vous, et battez les racistes partout où ils se trouvent!
L’Unité est notre But, la Victoire est notre Destinée!