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A journal dedicated to truth, freedom of speech and radical spiritual consciousness. Our mission is the liberation of men and women from oppression, violence and abuse of any kind, interpersonal, political, religious, economic, psychosexual. We believe as Fidel Castro said, "The weapon of today is not guns but consciousness."

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    This is a bizarre collection. It seems that it has been pulled together as a relentless “anti” to one thing: the Black Arts Movement. Charles Henry Rowell’s introduction and many of the quotes he gleans are aimed at rendering the Black Arts Movement as old school, backward, fundamentally artless. He calls his poets “literary,” i.e., Black Literary poets.--Amiri Baraka

    We come from the school Mao talked about in Talks on Art and Literature at Yenan Forum--that all art reflects class interests, either the interests of the masses or the interests of the oppressor and/or bourgeoisie class. I speak the language of the masses because it is the language of truth, no other reason.--Marvin X, Black Arts West

    Amiri Baraka Critiques the Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry

    Amiri Baraka Critiques the Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry


    A Post-Racial Anthology?

    Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry

    Charles Henry Rowell
    Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry, ed. by Charles Henry Rowell.
 W.W. Norton. $24.95.

    This is a bizarre collection. It seems that it has been pulled together as a relentless “anti” to one thing: the Black Arts Movement. Charles Henry Rowell’s introduction and many of the quotes he gleans are aimed at rendering the Black Arts Movement as old school, backward, fundamentally artless. He calls his poets “literary,” i.e., Black Literary poets.

    The blurb from the publisher W.W. Norton says that the book
    is not just another poetry anthology. It is a gathering of poems that demonstrate what happens when writers in a marginalized community collectively turn from dedicating their writing to political, social, and economic struggles, and instead devote themselves, as artists, to the art of their poems and to the ideas they embody. These poets bear witness to the interior landscape of their own individual selves or examine the private or personal worlds of  invented personae and, therefore, of  human beings living in our modern and postmodern worlds.
    My God, what imbecilic garbage! You mean, forget the actual world, have nothing to do with the real world and real people    ...    invent it all! You can see how that would be some far-right instruction for “a marginalized community,” especially one with the history of the Afro-American people: We don’t want to hear all that stuff    ...    make up a pleasanter group of beings with pleasanter, more literary lives than yourselves and then we will perhaps consider it art!

    This embarrassing gobbledygook was probably a paraphrase of the editor’s personal gobble. But the copywriters might be given a temporary pass because they know nothing about Afro-American literature; 
it is the Norton “suits” that could be looked at askance because of their ignorant hiring practices.

    To get a closer view of where Rowell comes in, look at the quote that he gives from the poet he constantly cites as poetic mentor and as an example of what great poetry should be. The quote is where Rowell got the title of the book, Angles of Ascent:
    He strains, an awk-
    ward patsy, sweating strains
            leaping falling. Then — 

            silken rustling in the air,
    the angle of ascent
                             — From For a Young Artist, by Robert Hayden
    Amiri Baraka and Larry Neal ca 1967.
    Rowell says this is an image for the poet’s struggle and transcendence. But Lord, I never did see myself or the poets I admired and learned from as awkward patsies! In 1985, Rowell had Larry Neal on the cover of his literary magazine Callaloo, after Larry’s death from a heart attack at forty-three. You can look in the magazine and see that Larry Neal was no “awkward patsy.” Or that after leaping / falling we would not be glorified by some unidentified “silken rustling in the air, / the angle of ascent / achieved.” Actually it sounds like some kind of social climbing. Ascent to where, a tenured faculty position?

    Rowell’s attempt to analyze and even compartmentalize Afro-American poetry is flawed from the jump. He has long lived as the continuing would-be yelp of a Robert Hayden canonization. Back in 1966 I was invited to Fisk University, where Hayden and Rowell taught. I had been invited by Nikki Giovanni, who was still a student at Fisk. Gwen Brooks was there.

    Hayden and I got into it when he said he was first an artist and then he was Black. I challenged that with the newly-emerging ideas that we had raised at the Black Arts Repertory Theatre School in Harlem in 1965, just after Malcolm X’s assassination. We said the art we wanted to create should be identifiably, culturally Black — like Duke Ellington’s or Billie Holiday’s. We wanted it to be a mass art, not hidden away on university campuses. We wanted an art that could function in the ghettos where we lived. And we wanted an art that would help liberate Black people. 
I remember that was really a hot debate, and probably helped put an ideological chip on Rowell’s shoulder.

    I find the list of what Rowell calls “Precursors” quite flawed, but it predicts and even prefaces his explanations and choices. He lists Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Hayden, and Melvin B. Tolson. But how can one exclude Langston HughesSterling Brown, andMargaret Walker, who are the major poets of the period after the Harlem Renaissance? This kind of cherry-picking reveals all too clearly what Rowell means by “literary” poets.
    Brooks’s most penetrating works illuminate Black life and the “hood.” Langston, most people know, is the major voice of that period and what we mean when we talk about Afro-American poetry.

    AJASS and the Grandassa Models... part of the Harlem-based Black Arts Movement that was both national and international.
    What is distinctive about Rowell’s introduction is that just about every page mentions the “Black Arts Movement,” “the Black Aesthetic poets,” “the Black Power Movement” — all like some menacing 
political institutions. But that poetry was created in a different time, place, and condition from the verse that Rowell presents here as new 
    Rowell goes on:
    In other words, the works of these new poets are the direct results of what such poets as Yusef KomunyakaaAiCyrus CassellsRita DoveThylias MossToi DerricotteHarryette MullenNathaniel Mackey — the first wave — dared write, which is whatever they wanted and in whatever forms and styles they desired, as the influence of the Black Arts Movement was first entering its decline.
    But this is simply a list of poets Rowell likes. I cannot see any stylistic tendency that would render them a “movement” or a coherent aesthetic. Perhaps their only commonality is their “resistance” to the Black Arts Movement. Komunyakaa says:
    Growing up in the South, having closely observed what hatred does to the human spirit, how it corrupts and diminishes    ...    
I unconsciously disavowed any direct association with the Black Arts Movement.
    A young Nikki Giovanni.
    Are we being faulted for “hating” slavery, white supremacy, and racism? For trying to fight back, just as the Deacons for Defense and Justice did by routing the Klan in Komunyakaa’s own hometown of Bogalusa, Louisiana?

    (Ironically, one of Komunyakaa’s early books was sent to me by a university publisher to ask my opinion if should it be published. My colored patriotism bade me recommend it, though in truth I found it dull and academic.)
    But Rita Dove does go on to say something that seems true:
    By the time I started to write seriously, when I was I was eighteen or nineteen years old, the Black Arts Movement had gained momentum; notice had been taken. The time was ripe; all one had to do was walk up to the door they had been battering at and squeeze through the breech.

    Dove spells out her separation from the Black Arts Movement very honestly, in revealing class terms:
    As I wrote more and more    ...    I realized that the blighted urban world inhabited by the poems of the Black Arts Movement was not mine. I had grown up in Ohio    ...    I enjoyed the gamut of middle class experience, in a comfy house with picket fences and rose bushes on a tree-lined street in West Akron.
    But that is not the actual life of the Black majority, who have felt the direct torture and pain of national oppression, and that is what the Black Arts Movement was focusing on, transforming the lives of the Black majority! We wanted to aid in the liberation of the Afro-American people with our art, with our poetry. But the deeper we got into the reality of this task, the more overtly political we became.

    The lynching of Emmett Till, Rosa Parks’s resistance, Dr. King and the Montgomery Bus Boycott (the peoples’ resistance), the bombing of  Dr. King’s home in Montgomery. The sit-ins, sclc, the Civil Rights Movement. The emergence of Robert F. Williams and his direct attack on the Klan. The emergence of Malcolm X. I went to Cuba on the first anniversary of the Cuban revolution. The rise and murder of Patrice Lumumba, the African Liberation Movement. I met poets like Askia M. Touré and Larry Neal in front of the un screaming our condemnation of the us, the un, Belgium, Rockefeller for murdering Lumumba and our support for Maya Angelou, Louise Meriwether, Rosa Guy, Abbey Lincoln (all great artists), running up into the un to defy Ralph Bunche. The March on Washington, the bombing 0f 16th St. Baptist Church and the murder of four little girls. JFK’s assassination, Watts, Malcolm’s assassination, Dr. King’s 
assassination, rebellions across America!

    Barbara Jones-Hogu's Unite! 1971.
    All those major events we lived through. If we responded to them as conscious Black intellectuals, we had to try to become soldiers 
ourselves. That is why we wrote the way we did, because we wanted to. We wanted to get away from the faux English academic straitjackets 
passed down to us by the Anglo-American literary world.

    Rowell thinks the majority of Afro-American poets are MFA recipients or professors. Wrong again! Obviously the unity and struggle in the civil rights and Black Liberation movements have resulted in a slight wiggle of “integration” among the narrowest sector of the Afro-American people. Rowell gives us a generous helping of these 
university types, many co-sanctioned by the Cave Canem group, which has energized us poetry by claiming a space for Afro-American poetry, but at the same time presents a group portrait of Afro-American poets as mfa recipients.

    Rowell organizes his view of Afro-American poetry like this:precursors, Modernists, 1940s–1960s; the black arts movement, The 1960s and Beyond. There’s me, Mari Evans, Nikki Giovanni, Bobb Hamilton, David Henderson, Calvin C. Hernton, Haki Madhubuti, Larry Neal, Carolyn RodgersSonia SanchezA.B. Spellman, and Edward S. Spriggs. Where is the great Henry Dumas or Amus Mor, who inspired a whole generation of us? Where are the Last Poets, whether the originals Gylan Kain, David Nelson, Felipe Luciano or the later incarnation Abiodun Oyewole, or Umar Bin Hassan? Most of the poets in the ground-shaking anthology that tried to sum up the Black Arts breakthrough, Black Fire, are nixed.

    Of the group “Outside the Black Arts Movement,” Bob Kaufman and LeRoi Jones (Rowell omits Ted Joans) were called “the Black Beats” and had already formed, under the influence of William Carlos Williams, Langston Hughes, and the surrealists, a united front against academic poetry with Allen Ginsberg and the Beats, the San Francisco school, O’Hara and the New York School, Charles Olson and the Black Mountain poets. It was the murder of Malcolm X that sent me and other Black artists screaming out of the various Greenwich Villages to a variety of Harlems!

    We saw poets like June Jordan as allies. Check her statement in this anthology: “Poetry is a political act because it involves telling the truth.” Lucille Clifton and I were classmates at Howard, taught by the great Sterling Brown, as were Toni Morrison and A.B. Spellman. Brown’s fundamental insight on America flows through our works.

    That Rowell can disconnect Etheridge Knight from the deep spirit of the Black Arts Movement is fraudulent. Sherley Anne Williams says in her blurb, “I remain, more firmly now than then, a proponent of Black consciousness, of ‘The Black Aesthetic’ and so I am a political writer.” You ever read Alice Walker’s marvelous poem “Each One Pull One”?
    Because when we show what we see,
    they will discern the inevitable:
    We do not worship them

    We do not worship them.
    We do not worship what they have made.
    We do not trust them
    we do not believe what they say.

    It is this spirit that aligns both of  them with the Black Arts Movement. And certainly it is this same spirit of self-conscious resistance to American racial or gender craziness that puts Ntozake Shange in that number. The Black Arts spirit is old, it is historical, psychological, 
intellectual, cultural. It is the same as Black Abolitionist Henry Highland Garnet’s call in 1843 in his “Address to the Slaves of the United States”: “resistance, resistance, resistance.”

    Jayne Cortez is obviously close to the spirit of the Black Arts Movement, in the content and force of her poetry, although Rowell stays away from her best known works. Lorenzo Thomas, who 
actually identified with the Black Arts Movement, is likewise dissed. It is the spirit of resistance, of unity and struggle that connects us. And where is the mighty Sekou Sundiata, whom I first met when he was sixteen at a meeting for those getting ready to go to the 6th Pan African Congress in Dar es Salaam? One of the finest poets of his generation, and not even a mention. Plus no mention of Marvin X, who founded Black Arts West in 1966 with Ed Bullins.

    Gaston Neal, criminally underknown, was also director of the New School for Afro-American Thought in dc. His work has yet to be published in its collected version. If you don’t know Sun Ra’s music, it’s doubtful you know his own powerful verse. Other missing significant: Arthur Pfister. Tom Mitchelson, Kalamu ya Salaam, Amina Baraka, Brian Gilmore, Mervyn Taylor, Lamont Steptoe, John Watusi Branch, Everett Hoagland, Devorah Major, Kenneth Carroll, DJ Renegade, Safiya Henderson-Holmes, Charlie Braxton. Where is Nikki Finney? Or the bard of  Trenton, Doc Long?

    Outside the Black Arts Movement” (italics mine)? What the Black Arts Movement did was to set a paradigm for the Black artist to be an artist and a soldier. This is what I said at Louis Reyes Rivera’s funeral:
    We must urge our artists and scholars    ...    our most advanced folks fighting for equal rights and self-determination    ...    to create 
an art and scholarship that is historically and culturally authentic, 
that is public and for the people, that is revolutionary.
    A Young Sonia Sanchez.
    A sharp class distinction has arisen, producing a mini-class of Blacks who benefited most by the civil rights and Black Liberation movements, thinking and acting as if our historic struggle has been won so that they can become as arrogant and ignorant as the worst examples of white America.

    It is obvious, as well, looking through this book, that it has been little touched by the last twenty years of Afro-American life, since it shows little evidence of the appearance of spoken word and rap. 
E.G. Bailey, Jessica Care Moore, Ras Baraka, Ewuare X. Osayande, Zayid Muhammad, Taalam Acey, Rasim Allah, Black Thought, Daniel Beatty, Saul Williams, and Staceyann Chin are all missing. This “new American poetry” is mostly dull as a stick.
    Rowell’s icy epilogue is too comic to be tragic, though it is both. It is a cold class dismissal by would-be mainstream Negroes on the path to mediocrity:
    Without the fetters of narrow political and social demands that have nothing to do with the production of artistic texts, black American poets, since the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power Movement, have created an extraordinary number of 
aesthetically deft poems that both challenge the concept of “the American poem” and extend the dimensions of American poetry.
    This is poppycock at its poppiest and cockiest. You mean the struggle for our humanity is a fetter (to whom? Negroes seeking tenure in these white schools who dare not mumble a cross word?). Why is the struggle for equal rights and self-determination narrow? To whom? Racists? You think Fred Douglass was not one of the greatest artists of the nineteenth century because he kept demanding an end to slavery? Bah, Humbug!

    As for the Black Power movement’s “death,” last I heard we have an Afro-American president who has taught the Republicans the value of community organizing twice. But what Rowell proves is that the old Black-White dichotomy is in the past, at least on the surface. The struggle, as my wife Amina always says, is about whose side you’re on. Romney and them lost because they don’t even know what country they’re in. Neither does Charles Rowell.
    Originally Published: May 1, 2013

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    1. baraka popup 2
      Ras Baraka
    2. Ras Baraka is a politician and activist from Newark, New Jersey. He currently serves on Newark's city council representing the South Ward and is also principal of the city's Central High School. Wikipedia

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    'Heart' Of Iranian Identity Reimagined For A New Generation

    Originally published on Sun August 25, 2013 3:34 pm
    A thousand years ago, a Persian poet named Abolqasem Ferdowsi of Tous obtained a royal commission to put the ancient legends and myths of Iran into a book of verse.
    He called this epic Shahnameh, or "Epic of the Persian Kings." It took him more than three decades and comprises 60,000 couplets — twice the length of The Iliad and TheOdyssey combined.
    Author Azar Nafisi, who wrote the memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran, says the importance of this foundational myth epic to Iranians can't really be overstated.
    "My father always told me that this country's very ancient, and so it has been invaded and changed so many times," Nafisi says. "He said what makes us Iranian, what gives us an identity is our poetry, and Shahnameh is at the heart of it. He said if people want to know what Iranian identity is, they have to read Shahnameh."
    Now comes a new, entirely English, gloriously illustrated edition of the Shahnameh, with alluring stories of the kings' dynasties.
    A Great Undertaking
    The brain trust behind this new effort is Hamid Rahmanian, a filmmaker and graphic artist who lives in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y.
    "There's four tragedies, there is three beautiful love stories, there is endless battles between nations — this is like ... Game of Thrones," Rahmanian says.
    His 600-page book includes a fresh English translation of the text, framed by Rahmanian's ornate recompositions of Persian miniature paintings — the kinds of small, detailed paintings that were collected by the wealthy in medieval times for private albums.
    But this Shahnameh edition is like a monk's gilt-edged tome for the digital age, with linked dynastic stories of fabled kings, queens, knights and magical beings. For Rahmanian, it was a labor of love.
    "I spent over 10,000 hours in the course of three and a half years," he says. "I literally locked myself in my studio. I detached from the society to make sure I finished this ... The way I built this book, I didn't draw anything from scratch."
    Rahmanian scoured websites for Persian and Mogul depictions of court life, some from medieval Shahnameh texts, ranging from the 14th to the 19th centuries. He would then scan, cut, recompose and retouch the images.
    Many pages have well over 100 elements — especially the riveting battle scenes, in which you can practically hear the whistling arrows of archers and the neighing of horses. Others tell of the dreams of the heroes and heroines, or depict love scenes.
    First, an image had to appeal to him.
    "And then based on that, I go ... to my books [to find] some visual elements, which is not necessarily from Shahnameh — it's from different stories or just sporadic folios," he says, "and pick, one by one, sometimes a head, you see the ear from one place, the face from another place, the headbands from another place ... That's how we put [it] together to become one human being."
    If a character had a face, he'd keep the face, working to stay true to stories in this new edition, which is published by Quantuck Lane Press.
    Finding Inspiration
    Rahmanian's collaborator and translator from Persian to English was Ahmad Sadri, chairman of the Islamic World Studies Department at Lake Forest College in Michigan. Sadri was persuaded not only by the art but his own childhood memory from Iran when he was 7.
    "It was a lazy afternoon, and I had strolled out of a family friend's house," Sadri remembers. "I and my twin brother, at that early age, we came across a public reciter ofShahnameh. ... This tradition of publicly reciting the Shahnameh is still alive in Iran. And this character, this guy, was walking around with a little cane, and he was telling the story of Rostam and Sohrab."
    Rostam and Sohrab are the main warrior-heroes out of dozens who come to life in theShahnameh. Rostam lives for 400 years; Sohrab is his son.
    But writer Nafisi says it's Rostam's mother who was her childhood heroine, a woman called Rudabeh. The story of Rudabeh and her star-crossed lover, Zal, is very like the story of Romeo and Juliet.
    "There is a scene where, you know, Rudabeh is in her castle from the window, and they have Zal climb up the window to come to her, and they live a night of debauchery together," Nafisi says. "They drink and they make love and they swear eternal love, and everybody says 'No, no, no.' But they finally, going through a lot of trials and tribulations, they get married."
    Passing On The Story
    The Shahnameh is seductive and alluring. Many Iranians are named for characters in the epic, which is credited with preserving the Persian Empire and language. And the boldness of the women, indeed, suggests the contradictions Iranians still live within.
    "Not only Iran has an amazing history of feminism, beginning with the 19th century," Nafisi says, "but look at how Iranian women were portrayed through the mind of a man, actually, a thousand years ago."
    Rahmanian, also born in Iran, wants Westerners to become as familiar with his childhood epic as they are with The Iliad and The Odyssey.
    "The thing is, I look at myself as a vessel to create this book," he says. "And the artists in old days also looked at themselves as a vessel, that the divinity comes within them and then creates these pages."
    He drew from the inspiration behind the original Persian miniatures, whose popularity reached their peak in the 17th century in the Persian Empire. The paintings were methodically constructed by teams of court artists who took their work as sacred.
    "Most of these pages you see in the Shahnameh is actually composed by many artists. No single person would make the whole page," he says. "One person does the color, one person does the paint, drawing, one person does the greeting. That's why most of these paintings don't have signatures, because they're the works of many people."
    Iranians have been reading the Shahnameh in good times and bad, using the epic to bind them together in the chaotic political life that is today's Iran.
    But the Shahnameh is refreshment and oasis — the hope by these collaborators is that we will all draw from its glorious pages a tale of moral heroes who struggle against their own foibles to do the right thing.
    These are not merely fairy tales, but stories of character, passion and perseverance in sumptuous color and detail.

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    FENCES: Art Without Borders–Wilson the Universalist

    FENCESArt Without Borders–Wilson the Universalist
    FENCES was inspired by the Romare Bearden collage, Continuities.
    FENCES was inspired by the Romare Bearden collage, Continuities.
    The Lower Bottom Playaz, the oldest NorthAmerican African theater troupe in Oakland CA is presenting FENCES as a part of its commitment to August Wilson’s Century Cycle. 
    FENCES is perhaps the most familiar of the 10-play cycle written by America’s Shakespeare, August Wilson. The play which puts The Lower Bottom Playaz over the half-way mark in their history making march through the Century Cycle in order of decades presented in this historically inspired theatrical Cycle (also known as The Pittsburgh Cycle), also literally crosses the bridge from the first half of the twentieth century to the second half, while in characteristic Wilson style offers us a lens to examine the current moment in the history ofNorth America.
    The themes in Wilson’s Fences while focused on the North American African narrative gives voice to universal issues, those of fathers and sons, husbands and wives, and the force of the outside world on our inner lives. Although the play is nuanced through the lens of the North American African the work has universal appeal that is as enduring as the details of the specifics of the North American African experience of Post World War II America.
    Wilson gives us a picture of America 6 years before Martin’s I have a Dream speech, he offers us a portrait of America on the verge of the Civil Rights era, through the eyes of a people caught between the history and dreams of the past and the yearnings of a present generation straining to write its own page in history. We are given a space to consider the dreams of fathers and sons as we consider the dance of future optimism along side the wisdom of stories of lived realities.    Must the past stand in the way of the future, can the future ignore the past, what does responsibility to self and community look like in spaces of shifting lived realities. What does the path to success in American society look like for North American African men who have had investment in institutions such as the military, organized sports, or entertainment as the paths offered to enfranchisement in the American public sphere? Do these remain the avenues to 21st Century success? In reality none of these institutions or enterprises has allowed more than a few individuals to prosper while the great majority continue to struggle to find equity in the receding shadow of the American Dream. There are examples to be cited that instruct us that investment in these institutions has failed to provide entry into the public sphere and that unsuccessful attempts at assimilation by any means often leads to bitter disappointment in the face of systemic safeguards to successful assimilation into a system has demonstrated the intention by letter of law and repetitive deeds to thwart your thriving.
    In FENCES as in the reality of life today in the 21st Century the world is on the precipice of radical change, it is a time of great invention and great inequity, and yet for many the only measurable markers of change are the music and fashion inspired by youth who want to find a way on to a front page of American history from a vantage point of a present day that we could not have conceived of a few decades ago.
    The central character in FENCES, Troy Maxson, has been compared to Willie Loman from Death of a Sales Man. Here is another American everyman, responsible to the things and people who shape his life in spite of life’s ups and downs, he is the best man he knows how to be, he is dutiful to life and the debts he created by living, yet he longs for something bigger than the narrow confines allotted him for his song of himself.  His flaws find purchase in his human desire to be the hero in his own life if nowhere else.   Troy is everyman affected by the same things that affect all men – love, honor, beauty, betrayal, and duty.
     A great beauty in Wilson’s work besides his ability to consider the past in a way that consistently illuminates the persistent issues of the present moment, are the ways the simple stories of ordinary people are amplified to lend the way to the creation of space for the consideration of humanness in a universal manner. His work, situated largely in the Hill District of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania holds great significance for urban audiences nation wide as his chronicles of the Hill District intersects with stories of industrialization, modernity, migration, identity formation/reformation and gentrification across 20th “Century America.
    West Oakland CA shares some of the circumstances that shaped the creation, lived reality, and eventual gentrification of Wilson’s Hill District. His work offers a wide-angle look at the history inside the history of North America from the lens of the invisible. Troy is a garbage man who settled for what was offered him and attempted to build a life by burying his dreams of something bigger. His struggle to do his duty to his family and especially to his sons is the struggle of the past to clear a path for the future. The imperative to survive along with instructive history has lead us to the dilemma of how one imparts the skills necessary to survive to the next generation when one suffers from systemic containment. That is Troy’s dilemma in FENCES and the problem of the 21stCentury inner city parent where we teach the tone test to young black men in order to help them survive inevitable interactions with the police.  We struggle to define what manhood means in a system that has made access to the things we define masculinity by problematized by unequal access to suitable education, disproportionate involvement in the carceral system, and the lack of employment opportunities in the ghettos created by the American way of life. In these respects FENCES and indeed the entire Century Cycle hold a topical relevance for West Oakland CA and other spaces that hosted North American African migrations and experienced the process of gentrification of those spaces.

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    S.O.S.--Calling All Black People

    A Black Arts Movement Reader

    A major anthology of readings from the 

    Black Arts Movement

    This volume brings together a broad range of key writings from the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, among the most significant cultural movements in American history. The aesthetic counterpart of the Black Power movement, it burst onto the scene in the form of artists’ circles, writers’ workshops, drama groups, dance troupes, new publishing ventures, bookstores, and cultural centers and had a presence in practically every community and college campus with an appreciable African American population. Black Arts activists extended its reach even further through magazines such as Ebony and Jet, on television shows such as Soul! and Like It Is, and on radio programs.

    Many of the movement’s leading artists, including Amiri Baraka, Ed Bullins, Nikki Giovanni, Woodie King, Haki Madhubuti, Sonia Sanchez, Askia Touré, Marvin X and Val Gray Ward remain artistically productive today. Its influence can also be seen in the work of later artists, from the writers Toni Morrison, John Edgar Wideman, and August Wilson to actors Avery Brooks, Danny Glover, and Samuel L. Jackson, to hip hop artists Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and Chuck D.

    S.O.S—Calling All Black People includes works of fiction, poetry, and drama in addition to critical writings on issues of politics, aesthetics, and gender. It covers topics ranging from the legacy of Malcolm X and the impact of John Coltrane’s jazz to the tenets of the Black Panther Party and the music of Motown. The editors have provided a substantial introduction outlining the nature, history, and legacy of the Black Arts Movement as well as the principles by which the anthology was assembled.

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    After the great Massacre committed by the Syrian regime and the 1,800 killed by Chemical Weapons in Damascus city, Washington says it is "unable to determine"whether chemical weapons were used in Syria or not ... This comes with the confession of Mr. AlMuallem [The Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs] of the use of chemical weapons in the surrounding area of Damascus city, but he accused the rebels!!!

    However, with hundreds of videos and satellites, which some of them are most recent, well advanced and developed they are capable to see a grain of rice in a level courtyard on earth.

    Samuel Kounaves of NASA, said: 'We discovered by the Phoenix space probe that [planet] Mars soil is slightly alkaline and contains materials such as magnesium, sodium, potassium and chlorine, and that Mars soil also has hydrogen concentration of %8.3 and may contain the effects of NaCIO4...Etc.

    NASA has identified the quality of gases in Magellan Cloud, and the highest rate which is hydrogen - and traces of the Saran gas, CF.

    Magellan Cloud is 200 thousand light-years away from the edge of our galaxy "Milky Way", and not from the earth.

    It is a known fact that the light travels 9,460,800,000,000 kilometers a year. This means that the distance from where America determined the presence of the gases in America in Magellan Cloud is 18,921,600,000,000,000 km,

    Moreover, NASA also stated that they cited the emergence of three pits/holes on the surface of the moon. They followed their formation directly in few minutes. They identified the intervals between the appearance of the first, the second and the third hole on the surface of the moon, consecutively. NASA explained that the three holes showed deep penetration that reached 200 meters, 200 meters, and 250 meters, respectively. Each one forms debris that extends nearly a full kilometer. The first hole is 180 meters south-west away from the second and the second is the same from the third hole, however, they still can’t determine that chemical weapons were used in Damascus City or not!

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    National Prisoner Book Day

    Malcolm X (El Hajj Malik El Shabazz

    George Jackson,

    Soledad Brother

    Eldridge Cleaver,
    author Soul on Ice

    National Prisoner Book Day

    Bay Area Black Authors and the Post Newspaper Group are calling for a National Prisoner Book Day to bring awareness to the 2.4 million incarcerated men and women in American prisons, the largest prison system in the world. BABA organizer Marvin X and PNG publisher Paul Cobb say the National Prisoner Book Day should be declared ASAP to assist in the transformation of the incarcerated. Pending a General Amnesty, we must work to increase the literacy and appreciation of literature among our brothers and sisters locked down in the American Gulags.

    We know the majority of the incarcerated include persons with minimum education. Most suffered drug abuse at the time of arrests and many qualify as dual diagnosed, i.e., suffering drug addiction and mental illness. The jails and prisons are now serving as mental wards without proper mental health treatment.

    The February 16-22, 2011, edition of the Post Newspapers featured a front page article entitled
    Men Who Read Books in Prison and Transformed Their Lives. Since Malcolm X or El Hajj Malik El Shabazz is the best known example of a man transformed by reading, we suggest National Prisoner Book Day be established May 20, the day after his birthday.

    Stanley Tookie Williams

    We call upon all writers, publishers, educators, media persons, religious leaders to help in the designation of May 20 as National Prisoner Book Day by disseminating books into jails and prisons on this day throughout the United States.

    If needed, we should gather signatures, especially from authors, to have President Obama make the declaration.

    Until we are able to liberate the captives, we can at least help them liberate their minds with conscious literature.
    --Marvin X,
    Bay Area Black Authors
    Views: 39

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    Dr. Yacoub's America

    Dr. Yacoub's America

    In the populist black studies of Elijah Muhammad, we are taught a big-head scientist genetically engineered the white man by separating the dominant and recessive genes from the aboriginal Asiatic black man. Yacoub's bio tech lab was not much different from the bio-tech labs operating in Berkeley and Emeryville, a few blocks from my house. We have no doubt they have cloned a man in these labs, but are simply delaying the announcement.

    According to Elijah's Myth of Yacoub, the young scientist found the magnetic attraction between two pieces of steel. We maintain America is the land of Yacoub's children who love playing with steel. America spends a trillion dollars making weapons of steel, making her the number one arms merchant of the world. Children in the hood are addicted to steel as well, whether guns to mainly kill each other or cars they turn into weapons of destruction, using cars in "side shows" where people are needlessly injured or killed. The children will stand in the street or walk directly into a two thousand pound piece of steel and plastic, fearing nothing. If you stop before hitting them, they will curse you and/or pull out a piece of steel to shoot you. They use steel to resolve all disputes, sometimes before a discussion or conflict resolution.

    Yocoub utilized three workers on his bio-tech project: the doctor, nurse and undertaker. These workers conspired to create the man of steel or devil. They practiced a form of selective breeding, allowing the black to mate with a brown and a brown with a lighter person until the white devil was created after hundreds of years, 600 to be exact. Two blacks were not allowed to mate in this experiment. Even today, there are some blacks who demand their children not marry another black skinned person, only someone lighter. This is no doubt residue from the Yacoubian psychopathology. If two blacks produced a baby, the doctor, nurse and undertaker would conspire to murder the baby to keep the experiment on track.

    In modern America, we must note the three workers, doctor, nurse and undertaker, are aided and abetted by workers from the petrochemical and pharmaceutical industry, who are determined to fulfill their wish, "let us make a man." The petrochemical workers produce the food in oil, not earth. As much as possible the crops are genetically engineered. If not, they are created by a healthy dose of insecticides, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers and dyes.

    Naturally, the oil based rather than soil based food leads Yacoub's children directly from the fruit of petrochemical workers into the hands of pharmaceutical workers in league with the doctor, nurse and undertaker. The prescription drug dealers connect with insurance companies to guide the patient into the hands of the doctor, nurse and undertaker.

    When poor Michael Jackson was found dead at the hands of his doctor, we knew the Myth of Yacoub was alive and well. Michael was so addicted to the Myth of Yacoub that he exceeded the limit of propriety in attempting to alter his blackness in favor of the Yacoubian ideal of whiteness. But note his doctor administered the hemlock that took him into oblivion.

    There is almost no way to avoid the scheme or conspiracy of the Yacoubian team of workers, the petrochemical, pharmaceutical, medical and funeral agents.

    When a man entered prison, the inmates warned him, "Don't get sick. Whatever you do, don't get sick up in here. There's a prison graveyard full of nigguhs who got sick." And so it is the same in America, don't get sick. Yacoub's team of workers are eagerly awaiting you, sharpening their knives until you get to the doctor and nurse, and finally the undertaker.

    The only solution is to avoid stress, for dis-ease is brought about from stress, thus the food (petrochemical) is useless and dangerous; the medicine (pharmaceutical) is useless and dangerous as it is not designed to heal only prolong the illness unto death. Part of the last rites administered to the victim of Yacoub is that ride in a steel hearse.
    --Marvin X

    See Message to the Black Man, Elijah Muhammad, The Myth of Yacoub.

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    Firstly, we ask did not the US support Iraq in its use of chemical weapons in the Iraq/Iran war? Did not the US use chemical weapons in the battle of Fallujah? Did not The US's client state Israel use chemical weapons in Gaza? How then can the US and her allies decry the use of such weapons by the Syrian regime?

    If true be told, there are no good guys in Syria, except for the suffering masses. Most of the forces fighting there are of the most dubious character, whether Sunni, Shia, Alawite, et al. This is a geo-political battle for shaping the future of the Middle East, and America is in the middle, yes, in bed with the most despicable elements in the Syrian battle, especially Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf states, who are in an ancient war between Sunni and Shia, an animosity that has roots going back to the death of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the struggle for succession. Would the people select the successor (Sunni) or would the successor be from the prophet's bloodline (Shia).

    The Sunni won out and the Shia have been anathema ever since, not considered real Muslims (Shirk) and thus can be eliminated as infidels. In America, Sunnis consider Nation of Islam members in the same light. The only real Muslims are Sunnis, all other sects must be eliminated by any means necessary.

    So the Syrian quagmire is multifaceted and complex, a geo-political race to stop Shia expansion from the Tigris and Euphrates to the Mediterranean. Israel is in tandem with the US and her allies in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf states that Shia expansion must be aborted. The Sunnis are destabilizing
    Iraq as we speak, including Al Quida, ironically, with US support. Alas, the US is supporting Al Quida in Syria. Remember, in politics there are no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests.

    Surely, we are about to witness the War of Armageddon, that last battle before the return of the Messiah or Mahdi. Christians and Muslims await this battle with great anticipation. The fire this time has arrived.

    Look at the map of the Middle East, look at the flash points, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Occupied Palestine, Bahrain. As Ray Charles told us about the Danger Zone, "The world is in an uproar, the Danger Zone is everywhere...."

    Finally, it appears these events are inevitable and must play out according to the Divine Plan. Let the actors take their roles to perform this tragicomedy. Just be clear who the villains are, the victims and who the victors shall be. Don't be deceived by appearances, look into the deep structure where ultimate truth lies hidden under half truths and fiction perpetuated by the Monkey Mind Media as it creates the world of make believe.
    --Marvin X (El Muhajir)
    Aug 26, 2013

    Two Poems for the People of Syria

    Oh, Mohja
    how much water can run from rivers to sea
    how much blood can soak the earth
    the guns of tyrants know no end
    a people awakened are bigger than bullets
    there is no sleep in their eyes
    no more stunted backs and fear of broken limbs
    even men, women and children are humble with sacrifice
    the old the young play their roles
    with smiles they endure torture chambers
    with laughs they submit to rape and mutilations
    there is no victory for oppressors
    whose days are numbered
    as the clock ticks as the sun rises
    let the people continue til victory
    surely they smell it on their hands
    taste it on lips
    believe it in their hearts
    know it in their minds
    no more backwardness no fear
    let there be resistance til victory.
    --Marvin X/El Muhajir

    Syrian poet/professor Dr. Mohja Kahf

    Oh Marvin, how much blood can soak the earth?

    The angels asked, “will you create a species who will shed blood

    and overrun the earth with evil?” 

    And it turns out “rivers of blood” is no metaphor: 

    see the stones of narrow alleys in Duma

    shiny with blood hissing from humans? Dark

    and dazzling, it keeps pouring and pumping

    from the inexhaustible soft flesh of Syrians,

    and neither regime cluster bombs from the air,

    nor rebel car bombs on the ground,

    ask them their names before they die. 

    They are mowed down like wheat harvested by machine,

    and every stalk has seven ears, and every ear a hundred grains.

    They bleed like irrigation canals into the earth.

    Even one little girl in Idlib with a carotid artery cut

    becomes a river of blood. Who knew she could be a river 

    running all the way over the ocean, to you,

    draining me of my heart? And God said to the angels, 

    “I know what you know not.” But right now,

    the angels seem right. Cut the coyness, God;

    learn the names of all the Syrians.

    See what your species has done.

    --Mohja Kahf

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    photo of Marvin X and Akhbar Muhammad (Larry X. Prescott) in St. Louis, MO
    Marvin participated in Muhammad's Book fair

    How to live in the No Stress Zone 

    It is what it is, they say in the hood. When people greet me and ask how I'm doing, I reply, "I'm thankful to be alive. And I'm trying to stay in the no stress zone." When I say stay in the no stress zone, I see they have a delayed response, perhaps, to allow the words to flow across their brain cells. I can see they have been hit in the head with a new thought, a new possibility and they like the concept. No stress? Hell, my life is nothing but stress, I see them saying in the deep structure of their mind, in their momentary silence. 

    I've just given them an answer to the conundrum of their lives, that maze of propositions that hit them at every turn of their daily round: stress from their own insecurities, stress from their mate, children, siblings, friends, job, social life or the lack thereof, stress from world events they can't possibly comprehend until they unravel the infinite contradictions in reality that are most vexing even to the rocket scientist.

    I must then explain to my friends how I maneuver the mine field called life. It is a process of how one perceives reality, of understanding that most of reality is simple illusion, a figment of imagination that isn't worth the time of day. Most of what we concern ourselves with is of no importance whatsoever. Aristotle told us there are very few things in life really important.

    While I was in prison a few months for refusing to fight in Vietnam, there was an inmate who upset the whole prison population although he only had six months to serve. Now there were men who had ten years and more, and they went about their daily round calmly in a state of peace, aggressively working on their case to get time reduced. But this man with six months was a nervous wreck , bugging everybody about his little time, pacing up and down the big yard like a mad fool with little understanding how fortunate he was to have such a light sentence.

    And so it is what it is, sometimes we yet pray when God has already answered. We disturb God and ourselves when He has answered us and blessed us with our request, yet we cannot see in our spiritual blindness. We stress ourselves and then extend it to our mates, children, friends, neighbors even.

    In recovery they teach us to let go and let God! If your woman or man leaves you, be happy! Why would you want someone to stay with you who wants to go? It may be the will of God that they go, no matter if you love them or not, no matter how heart broken you are, let them go: vaya con dios! Don't kill them because they want to leave, God may have something better for you and them, so why are you blocking your good, stressing yourself to the max, threatening to take your life or the life of your mate. Then what are you going to do with a homicide case?

    A man with great talent, a great voice like Paul Robeson and William Warfield, came to me so he could learn the art of drama and public speaking. Although he had a great voice, he had problems reading, but I put him in the studio to record some of my writings. He let me know he was having problems with his woman since I could see he was under stress for some reason. I went on a national book tour, and when I returned a mutual friend informed me that he had stabbed his woman 16 times and threw her out on the freeway. His friend told me he'd caught her cheating on him, although he had a long history of cheating on her, that he had been a real snoop doggy dog, but finally had his day and couldn't accept it. So he killed her and now has a life sentence. If you a dog, why you think somebody else can't be a dog? Why you think your funk ain't gonna catch up with you? Surely you heard what goes around comes around!

    Stress is thus internal and external, though most of the time we bring stress to ourselves. We are not at peace with ourselves. We are not confident and secure in what we do of righteousness, if we do any righteousness at all! A friend said everything we do is wrong! We haven't had a righteous thought and right action our entire lives. Mistake after mistake after mistake.

    At my Academy of da Corner, the young girls come to me crying about the men who mess over them time and time again. I don't think they realize how many times they tell me the same story about the same man except he has a different name. But it's the same dude! Sometimes I hate to see the young girl coming because I know she got another story that's the same story she had the last time I saw her. And yes she's stressing, swearing she's gonna leave them no good nigguhs alone, but she ain't because she's addicted to the drama. She addicted to doing the wrong thing but expecting good results.

    In other words, she's acting out a prescription for insanity. Actually she's manic depressive and in therapy. At least she does go to her therapist on a regular basis, though we doubt any positive results are achieved, since white supremacy psychotherapy can do us little good. Is it going to help liberate us from oppression. Dr. Fanon said only by joining the revolution can the oppressed man and woman regain their mental health. Only us can heal us, and at this point Dr. Hare is calling for mental health peer groups to meet on their own since there are not enough certified mental health specialists, especially those certified in African holistic healing. See my book How to Recover from the Addiction to White Supremacy, foreword by Dr. Nathan Hare, afterword by Ptah Allah El.

    How shall we escape to the No Stress Zone? Have no attachments but to God! Understand, our mate may be our friend and she may be our enemy, depending on the time of day or the time of month. Don't worry, don't stress, enjoy her while it lasts and when it's over, let it go and let God.

    Don't stress about children, for Gibran told us they come through us but are not us, they have their own lives, missions to accomplish. Help them, love them, guide them, but don't control them, let them find their voice, their bliss Joseph Campbell told us we all must discover.

    Much stress is over this matter of bliss. We haven't figured out the reason for our existence. For a long time, maybe half our life, we thought it was about a mate, children, a job, the Jones next door, drugs, more sex, money, lots of money, things and things and things, and yet none of the above satisfied us, only caused us great stress, trauma and unresolved grief.

    But one day, maybe after enduring that mid-life crisis, we suddenly realized our bliss, our purpose for existence, something that gave us infinite joy and pleasure. Now we're focused and absolutely refuse to allow anyone or anything to take us off course. Don't matter how long it took to achieve our bliss, but we made it, finally, the stress is gone and the thrill is on! We're like a child in Toys R Us. We can't believe life can be so beautiful. We have truly entered the No Stress Zone. We are in harmony with the universe, with humanity, with all that was, is, and shall be. We can see clearly now, the fog has lifted. Joy. Joy. Joy.

    We worry about nothing because nothing is worth worrying about. We stay prayed up as the Christians say. I pray leaving from and returning to my house. I did this as a dope fiend because the most dangerous moment of the dope fiend's life is going to cop the dope. Something told me to put on the amour of God before I left my house because I didn't know what might be outside my door, especially in those seedy hotels in San Francisco's Tenderloin, or anywhere else for that matter. And then I prayed when I made it back safely, thankful God had protected me.

    I do the same now, everyday, to put myself is a spiritual mode, to be thankful and thoughtful, as Sly Stone used to sing, and to make sure I am in the No Stress Zone! Even while I am at the Academy of da Corner, I must check myself to the fact that I am not there to make money, money is not the real reason God sent me to that corner at 14th and Broadway, but to serve somebody, to say a kind word to somebody, to reach out to somebody by being silent and letting them vent, even when I don't want to hear it. God says shut up and listen to my people, you are my ears, servant, so listen and shut up, and don't worry bout no damn money. And you think God don't bless me. Sometimes the people line up to give me donations. You better ax somebody! I just go there and stand or sit down and people come by and put money in my hand. Sometimes the people watching can't believe what they're seeing. My brother, a former loan shark, watched people bring me donations and couldn't believe his eyes. Better ax somebody!

    Even when your bills are due, don't stress, simply call the white man and tell him when you will be able to pay him or give him something on your bill. Stress gone!

    A friend told me years ago not to worry about the Middle East, what's happening in Jerusalem with the Jews and Palestinians. He said, Marvin, they've been fighting there for thousands of years, and they've been living together in peace many years, so don't worry about it. The Jews, Muslims and Christians all claim Abraham as their father. Do you think Abraham is stressing over the antics of his children. He's probably saying, "These some damn fools!"

    Solomon told you the same thing about his children. After all his labor under the sun, he cried I still might leave my kingdom in the hands of a damn fool son or daughter! All is vanity and vexation of spirit!

    Stay in the No Stress Zone!

    It might be another two hundred years before we see true freedom, justice and equality in America. We've been here 400 years, so-called freedom 150 years. So give yourself another 100 or 200 years. Ancestor John Henry Clark said this is not a sprint but a long distance run. So pace yourselves and plan for the next 100 and/or 200 years. And stick to the plan, don't let politricks take you off course, don't let the world of make believe convince you to go for illusions of the monkey mind.

    In recovery, we are taught don't get too happy and don't get too sad. Understand that life is joy and pain, sun and rain. Don't think the sun's going to shine all the time, or that it's going to rain forever--unless you live in Seattle, Washington!

    Put signs in your house: This is a No Stress Zone. Don't allow stress in your house. A girlfriend came over and when I got a call that took some time to finish, she got an attitude and told me to get off the phone. I told her, "Girlfriend, you can leave, good bye. As-Salaam-Alaikum!" No, you ain't coming in my house giving me orders. It ain't that kinna party up in here!

    Ladies and gentlemen, stress is killing us, in the night and in the day. We live in a hostile environment for starters. For most of us, the job is negative, our families ungrateful, our friends hypocritical, the police unpredictable. Jesus told you to be in this world but not of this world, so we must transcend all the stress from the hostile environment until we can change it into that wonderful world Armstrong sang about. 
    Stay in the No Stress Zone!
    Marvin X

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    How can violence stop with a trillion dollar war budget by the American military-corporate killing machine? While Charlie is killing around the world, why should little Johnny stop killing in the hood?
    Violence is an addiction, the more you do, the more you want to do--it's a high. Ask killers. Ask Obama with his list of people to kill around the world. --Marvin X

    Dear Friends,
    Our government has war-fever again. I have lived it all my life, all 65 years. We never learn our lessons. Our neo-con press push us again toward blood spilling.
    So we have violence at home and abroad. We cannot carry on decades of wars abroad without the virus spreading among our own citizens and brothers.
    Let us give national awards to the peacemakers, rather than the blood-spillers. Let us shout down the hypocrites whether they are high or low, private citizen or politician.
    I invite you to read Wanda Coleman's poem below about Madness. My critique is that she does not connect the dots to violence abroad and violence at home.
    But that is not only a shortcoming of Ms. Coleman'pem, it was also a shortcoming of Al Sharpton's March on Washington. That man needs a lot of criticism.
    Loving you madly, Rudy
    Rudolph Lewis, Editor
    ChickenBones: A Journal

    Please Please Stop the Madness-Driven Violence
    By Wanda Coleman
    August 25, 2013

    In the name of Trayvon Martin, just Americans
    must rise up and stop this monstrous domestic brutality
    motivated by bias and bigotry, justified by fear,
    a vigilante violence that has claimed too many lives to count:

    Like 19-year-old Michael Donald, kidnapped at
    random and beaten to death in Mobile , Alabama ,
    on March 20th 1981, courtesy of the Ku Klux Klan.

    Like 20-year-old, mentally disabled Melvin Eugene Hair
    who succumbed to a carotid chokehold by a
    Tampa , Florida police officer on February 20th 1987.

    Like 19-year-old Jerrold Hall, accused of stealing a $60
    Walkman, felled by a shotgun blast to the back of his head,
    issued by a BART transit cop on November 15th 1992.

    Like 16-year-old exchange student Yoshihiro Hattori, shot
    dead for trespassing by an irate property owner in Baton Rouge ,
    while on his way to a Halloween party on October 17th 1992.

    Like 21-year-old Matthew Wayne Shepard, mistaken for a
    scarecrow after being tortured and tied to a fence outside
    Laramie , Wyoming , October 12th 1998, because he was gay.

    Like 19-year-old Tyisha Miller bullet-riddled 12 times by
    Riverside , California officers during a brain seizure, a semi-
    automatic allegedly in her lap, that December 28th, 1998.

    O Trayvon, Trayvon! Far too many were martyred decades before you.
    Too many to name, too many to remember:

    Who says they got what they deserved?
    What kind of justice was served?
    Where is empathy and respect for human life?
    When will there be an end to this God-ugly strife?
    Why the shoot-first-and-ask-questions-too-late?
    How many unarmed or incapacitated victims of hate?

    These names in the name of Trayvon demand we defend The Dream

    with unrelenting commitment,
    with protests against and repeals of unjust laws,
    with hearts and eyes that refuse to be blinded by lies.

    In the names of innocents slain, the compassionate must rise.
    The author is a widely published Los Angeles poet and fiction writer.

    Visit &  for more on this Guggenheim fellow and recipient of The Shelley Memorial Award by the Poetry Society of America (2012).

    The Atrocities and Allure of America’s Perpetual War Machine…

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    According to Wikipedia, perpetual war refers to a lasting state of war with no clear ending conditions.  The United States is in this particular state and has been for a very long time.   There also appears to be no end in sight as tensions mount with Iran.  So, why is America always at war?
    The economic costs associated with perpetual war are staggering.  Getting a firm dollar amount is very difficult, but according to the Pentagon’s total allocation for war from 2001-2011 in current dollars was $1.2 trillion dollars.   So, what does America have to show for that $1.2 trillion dollar investment?   There are several companies making annual profits from this never-ending war.  You can see the top ten profiteers here.
    So everybody knows that big business makes big money from war, but what about the non-economic costs?  What toll is being paid by our troops fighting this war?  Chris Hedges, in an excellent article titled “A Culture of Atrocity“, writes,
    All troops, when they occupy and battle insurgent forces, as in Iraq, or Gaza or Vietnam, are swiftly placed in what the psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton terms “atrocity-producing situations.”
    He continues about the betrayal of war,
    War is always about betrayal, betrayal of the young by the old, of idealists by cynics and of troops by politicians.  This bitter knowledge of betrayal is seeping into the ranks of the American military.  It is bringing us a new wave of enraged and disenfranchised veterans who will never again trust the country that sent them to war.
    So what about the betrayed veterans of war.  The U.S. and other NATO countries have this mythical love affair with the heroism of our soldiers fighting for our freedom overseas.  You see the yellow ribbons claiming support for our troops.  So what, exactly, do we support?  Hedges continues,
    We make our heroes out of clay.  We laud their gallant deeds.  We give them uniforms with colored ribbons for the acts of violence they committed or endured.  They are our false repositories of glory and honor, of power, of self-righteousness, of patriotism and self-worship, all that we want to believe about ourselves.  They are our plaster saints, the icons we cheer to defend us and make us and our nation great.  They are the props of our demented civic religion, our love of power and force, our belief in our right as a chosen nation to wield this force against the weak.  This is our nation’s idolatry of itself.
    Prophets are not those who speak of piety and duty from pulpits—there are few people in pulpits worth listening to.  The prophets are the battered wrecks of men and women who return from Iraq and find the courage to speak the halting words we do not want to hear, words that we must hear and digest in order to know ourselves.  These veterans, the ones who dare to tell the truth, have seen and tasted how war plunges us into barbarity, perversion, pain and an unchecked orgy of death.  And it is their testimonies, if we take the time to listen, which alone can save us.
    By no means am I saying that I do not support our troops.  I have many friends who are or have served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.  I do support them, however I feel that they are pawns in this endless game of chess.  The atrocities of war are taking a huge toll on our troops.  Last month, anarticle in the New York Times discusses the very high rate of soldier suicides.  The article, from June 8 of last month states,
    The suicide rate among the nation’s active-duty military personnel has spiked this year, eclipsing the number of troops dying in battle and on pace to set a record annual high since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan more than a decade ago, the Pentagon said Friday.
    Seeing data like this makes you wonder if our troops truly believe in what they are doing.  Do our soldiers, having been in some of the worst situations imaginable, really believe in the cause?  They have been betrayed.  In Hedges’ article “War is Betrayal “, written yesterday, he says,
    The disillusionment comes swiftly. It is not the war of the movies. It is not the glory promised by the recruiters. The mythology fed to you by the church, the press, the school, the state, and the entertainment industry is exposed as a lie. We are not a virtuous nation. God has not blessed America. Victory is not assured. And we can be as evil, even more evil, than those we oppose. War is venal, noisy, frightening, and dirty. The military is a vast bureaucratic machine fueled by hyper-masculine fantasies and arcane and mind-numbing rules. War is always about betrayal—betrayal of the young by the old, of idealists by cynics, and of soldiers and Marines by politicians.
    So please, by every means possible, support the men and women who serve the country, they truly deserve as much support as we can give them.  You don’t, however, have to support the cause.  Don’t be fooled with the mantra of “fighting for our freedoms”.  The U.S. government is fighting against its own citizens in an attempt to strip freedoms away.  The threat is not external, but rather internal.  Don’t be sucked in by main stream media who will attempt to rationalize another reason to go to war.  Do your homework, figure out who the real enemies are…and you will find that they are right here.

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    Old Happens!
    Dinner Show 
    "Old happens. If you think I'm lying, just keep on breathing."

     Written and Performed By David Glover
    Directed By Phillip Walker--
    Old Happens is a solo performance play--about growing old and finding total acceptance in the process, with pride and dignity for all life in all its forms and dimensions from young to old to finale.  
    Old Happens! 
    Old Happens!
    THURSDAY AUGUST 29, 2013 7PM
    408 14th STREET, OAKLAND,CA 94612
    Doors open 6pm
    Show starts 7pm

    $20.00 per person (Including show & dinner) 
    Tickets are available online at

    Or by phone:  (800) 746-4027

    You may also email us at for questions or comments

    People are talking-Testimonials

    See What The Critics Are Saying Click HERE & HERE

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    Askia is not all wrong. I have heard many black intellectuals give revisionist black history talks, skipping from Marcus Garvey to Malcolm X, leaving out any mention of Elijah Muhammad. This is sick and reveals some black intellectuals are still grieving over Malcolm so much they can't think straight, their understanding of history is clouded by emotionalism. Who will deny Elijah took Marcus Garvey's work to another level and Malcolm took it even further, albeit under the guidance of Elijah Muhammad.--Marvin X, Editor, Black Bird Press News and Review

    by Askia Muhammad

    March 30, 2006

    First, there are some sour grapes in these upcoming observations…might even be a case of Playa Hatin’. That said, I proceed in behalf of the countless others with similar experiences who never bother to footnote their experiences or keep a paper trail of their slanders…

    I am sick and tired of the shallow prevailing Black intellectual view of the Nation of Islam. It’s not just the Neo-Cons and the White Evangelicals of the World who have problems with Muslims, our own Black intelligentsia have issues with the Islamic influence—particularly the Nation of Islam—on Black literature and culture in the United States and they refuse to admit it.

    Black literature and academia lionizes Brother Malcolm X, highlighting only the 14 months or so of his life after he broke with the Nation of Islam, while trying to wipe out his 12 years of steadfast service and leadership within the Nation, his platform for earning national attention in the first place. We’ve done the same with Muhammad Ali.

    Howard University’s English Department concluded an elaborately produced yet faintly publicized conference celebrating the Black Arts Movement March 24, and when I saw the program, I went bonkers! “They’ve done it again,” I thought. “They’ve kicked the Nation of Islam’s contribution to Black intellectual development to the curb.”

    They had a truckload of Ph.D. candidates chaperoned by real professors, presenting papers and performances for two whole days at Howard, talking about the Black intellectual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s—the Black Arts Movement.

    The topics genuinely reflected the prevailing mood of that period: “It’s Nation Time.”
    The panels and paper topics ranged from “Black Fire” to “Nation Building,” to The Last Poets, to Sonia Sanchez, Ed Bullins, Amiri Baraka, Marvin X, Haki Madhubuti, to Women Writers, to “New Frontiers: Black Publications of the 1960s and 1970s,” to “Black Panther Party Contributions to the Revolutionary Aesthetic,” all the way to “Organic Intellectuality.”

    Naturally the assembled educators referred anecdotally to the NOI or its products often, but they never really talked about the Nation’s impact, nor did they have any intellectuals from the Nation to talk about its role.

    After the final speaker had spoken, I indelicately raised the subject and at the same time expressed my vexation over this omission. I was told that my friend Marvin X had spoken for Muslims. Now, I love Brother Marvin like a Play-Cousin, but with all due respect: his scholarship concerning the Nation of Islam is badly flawed and unreliable.

    Prime example. In a July 2005 essay called “Marvin X: A Critical Look at the Father of Muslim American Literature,” El Muhajir (Marvin X) wrote that he was the “Foreign Editor” ofMuhammad Speaks in 1970, and: “Note: a few months later, Marvin X was selected to be editor of Muhammad Speaks until it was decided he was too militant. Askia Muhammad (Charles 37X [sic]) was selected instead.” That is pure bogus history, riddled with inaccuracies. That is also indicative of the shallow scholarship at the root of Howard’s English Department’s conference.*

    I’m not angry at the panelists, they did not organize the event and call it an academic exercise. But I was so angry when I saw that someone had presented a paper: “Voice of the Black Arts Movement The Legacy of Negro Digest/Black World,” that I went and dug out copies of both Negro Digest and Black World, in which poems I had written were published, and one Fiction Edition which featured my picture on the cover and a short story I wrote inside. “Am I not a writer, thinker, poet, intellectual?” I wondered to myself.

    Howard English Professor Eleanor Traylor even publicly commended a student for writing a paper about writer Leon Forrest. For many years Leon Forrest was the Associate Editor and then Editor of Muhammad Speaks. He in fact hired me in 1972 and prepared me to edit the newspaper after him in 1973. So, let me get this straight. Leon Forrest made a contribution to the Black Arts Movement that is worthy of scholastic attention (of course he did), but Muhammad Speaks did not? Excuse me! Something’s wrong with that picture!

    While I was looking through my files, I discovered my original manuscript—sent by Western Union Telegram—of the article I wrote for Muhammad Speaks when Angela Davis was acquitted in San Jose California, June 4, 1972. I found my manuscripts from the funeral of Jonathan Jackson in 1970 and the murder of George Jackson in 1971.

    By the time I had reminded myself of my own role in the struggle, and of my own fitness to recount it for a new generation of thinkers and writers, I was not just intellectually perturbed, I was personally offended. “What am I supposed to be? Some kind of Fake Writer?” I thought again to myself.
    Granted I wrote using the names Charles K. Moreland Jr. in poetry anthologies and magazines, and Charles 20X and Charles 67X before I was named Askia Muhammad. But we translated LeRoi Jones into Amiri Baraka, didn’t we? We know that Haki Madhubuti was Don L. Lee, don’t we? The contradiction is, that the Black—just like the White—intellectual establishment does not want to know about Muslim writers, accept when they go against the Nation of Islam.

    Maybe I should recognize that the Nation of Islam was simply a “change agent,” a catalyst like the War in Vietnam, like the Civil Rights movement—a completely unstudied change agent, I would complain—which helped make the climate in the Black community receptive to the Black Arts Movement and its new way of thinking. Maybe, I should concede that the Nation of Islam was a change agent and not the object of the change.

    No. The object remains the same, and it is independent of a religious label. It is to change the minds of Black people to realize that the six most important words for us in the English language today are: “Accept your own and be yourself.”

    That is intellectually and artistically distinct. Name. Culture. Religion. Language. Diet. That is the new paradigm injected into our culture by the Nation of Islam. That is the thinking which the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s reflects. That is the 800 lb gorilla in the Black intellectual meeting room, which most scholars, even Black scholars, overlook, or try to ignore.
    * Contrary to Askia Muhammad, Marvin X did  indeed serve as Foreign Editor of Muhammad Speaks, appointed by Herbert Muhammad, while exiled in Mexico City and Belize during 1970. Marvin met and befriended Herbert's sons in Mexico City, Sultan and Elijah. Marvin provided them with copies of Muhammad Speaks.

    One need only go to the editions of MS during that time to see his articles on Afro-Mexicans, including artist Elizabeth Catlett Mora, also he covered the trial in Belize of Black Power Movement brothers Evan X. Hyde and Ishmael Shabazz, for which he was ultimately deported back to the USA.

    Marvin X was indeed offered and accepted the position of Muhammad Speaks editor. He was told to go home to pack, but later was told Askia Muhammad got the position. Most people consider Marvin X a loose cannon with an uncontrollable pen, Askia was definitely a more passive personality but a good journalist.

    As per the conference, Marvin X spoke on the role of the NOI in the Black Arts Movement on both days of the conference. Although Askia is a DC journalist, he did not arrive at the conference until the afternoon of the last day. His remarks seemed out of place since the audience was aware that Marvin X had discussed the NOI for two days.

    For the role of the NOI in BAM, see the paper below by Dr. Mohja Kahf who refers to Marvin X as the father of Muslim American literature. She gives credit to the NOI for being the foundation of Muslim American literature and influencing the Black Arts Movement poets such as Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Askia Muhammad Toure (Roland Snellings), Marvin X, et al. My brother Askia Muhammad was himself guilty of shallow scholarship and pettiness. His remarks upset the audience and he was booed for being disruptive. Askia is still my brother!

    Teaching Diaspora Literature: Muslim American Literature as an Emerging Field

    Dr. Mohja Kahf∗

    Is there such a thing as Muslim American literature (MAL)? I argue that there is: It begins with the Muslims of the Black Arts Movement (1965–75). The Autobiography of Malcolm X is one of its iconic texts; it includes American Sufi writing, secular ethnic novels, writing by immigrant and second-generation Muslims, and religious American Muslim literature. Many of the works I would put into this category can and do also get read in other categories, such as African American, Arab American, and South Asian literature, “Third World” women’s writing, diasporic Muslim literature in English, and so forth. While the place of these works in other categories cannot be denied, something is gained in reading them together as part of an American Muslim cultural landscape. Like Jewish American literature by the 1930s, Muslim American literature is in a formative stage. It will be interesting to see how it develops (and who will be its Philip Roth!)

    I suggest the following typology of MAL only as a foothold, a means of bringing a tentative order to the many texts, one that should be challenged, and maybe ultimately dropped altogether. My first grouping, the “Prophets of Dissent,” suggests that Muslim works in the Black Arts Movement (BAM) are the first set of writings in American literature to voice a cultural position identifiable as Muslim. 

    Contemporary Muslim writing that takes the achievements of the BAM as an important literary influence also belongs here, and is characterized similarly by its “outsider” status, moral critique of mainstream American values, and often prophetic, visionary tone. In contrast, the writers of what I call “the Multi-Ethnic Multitudes” tend to enjoy “insider” status in American letters, often entering through MFA programs and the literary establishment, getting published through trade and university book industries, garnering reviews in the mainstream press. They do not share an overall aesthetic but are individual writers of various ethnicities and a wide range of secularisms and spiritualities, and indeed I question my placing them all in one group, and do so temporarily only for the sake of convenience.

    On the other hand, my third group, the “New American Transcendentalists,” appears to cohere, in aesthetic terms, as writers who share a broad Sufi cultural foundation undergirding their literary work. Their writings often show familiarity with the Sufi poets of several classical Muslim literatures (e.g., in Turkish, Farsi, Arabic, Urdu), as well as with American Transcendentalists of the nineteenth century, and that which tends toward the spiritual and the ecstatic in modern American poetry. Finally, the “New Pilgrims” is my term for a loose grouping of writers for whom Islam is not merely a mode of dissent, cultural background, or spiritual foundation for their writing, but its aim and explicit topic. Of the four groups, the New Pilgrims are the ones who write in an overtly religious mode and motivation, like Ann Bradstreet, Cotton Mather, and the Puritans of early American history. This does not prevent them from being capable of producing great literature, any more than it prevented the great Puritan writers.
    Here is an example of just a few writers in each category, by no means a comprehensive list: 

    Prophets of Dissent
    From the Black Arts Movement:

    • Marvin X, whose Fly to Allah (1969) is possibly the first book of poems published in English by a Muslim American author.
    • Sonia Sanchez, whose A Blues Book for Blue Black Magical Women (1974) is the work of her Muslim period.
    • Amiri Baraka, whose A Black Mass (2002) renders the Nation of Islam’s Yacoub genesis theology into drama. As with Sanchez, the author was Muslim only briefly but the influence of the Islamic period stretches over a significant part of his overall production.

      Later Prophets of Dissent include:
    • Calligraphy of Thought, the Bay area poetry venue for young “Generation M” Muslim American spoken word artists who today continue in the visionary and dissenting mode of the BAM.
    • Suheir Hammad, Palestinian New Yorker, diva of Def Poetry Jam (on Broadway and HBO), whose tribute to June Jordan in her first book of poetry, Born Palestinian, Born Black

    (1996), establishes her line of descent from the BAM, at least as one (major) influence on her work.

    El Hajj Malik El Shabazz (Malcolm X) is an iconic figure for this mode of Muslim American writing and, indeed, for many writers in all four categories.
    Multi-Ethnic Multitudes
    • Kashmiri American poet Agha Shahid Ali, an influential figure in the mainstream American poetry scene, with a literary prize named after him at the University of Utah, brought the ghazal into fashion in English so that it is now taught among other forms in MFA programs.
    • Naomi Shihab Nye, Palestinian American, likewise a “crossover” poet whose work enjoys prominence in American letters, takes on Muslim content in a significant amount of her work.
    • Sam Hamod, an Arab midwesterner who was publishing poetry in journals at the same time as Marvin X.
    • Nahid Rachlin’s fiction has been published since well before the recent wave of literature by others who, like her, are Iranian immigrants.
    • Mustafa Mutabaruka, an African American Muslim, debut novel Seed (2002).
    • Samina Ali, midwesterner of Indian parentage, debut novel Madras on Rainy Days (2004),
      was featured on the June 2004 cover of Poets & Writers.
    • Khaled Hosseini, debut novel The Kite Runner (2003).
      •Michael Muhammad Knight, a Muslim of New York Irish Catholic background, whose punk rock novel The Taqwacores (2004) delves deeply into Muslim identity issues.
      There are a number of journals where Muslim American literature of various ethnicities can be found today, among them Chowrangi, a Pakistani American magazine out of New Jersey, and Mizna, an Arab American poetry magazine out of Minneapolis.
      New American Transcendentalists

    • Daniel (Abd al-Hayy) Moore is an excellent example of this mode of Muslim American writing. California-born, he published as a Beat poet in the early sixties, became a Sufi Muslim, renounced poetry for a decade, then renounced his renouncement and began publishing again, prolifically and with a rare talent. His Ramadan Sonnets (City Lights, 1986) is a marriage of content and form that exemplifies the “Muslim/American” simultaneity of Muslim American art.
    • The Rumi phenomenon: apparently the most read poet in America is a Muslim. He merits mention for that, although technically I am not including literature in translation. Then again, why not? As with so many other of my limits, this is arbitrary and only awaits someone to make a case against it.
    • Journals publishing poetry in this mode include The American Muslim, Sufi, Qalbi, and others.
      New American Pilgrims
      •Pamela Taylor writes Muslim American science fiction. Iman Yusuf writes “Islamic romance.” This group of writers is not limited to genre writers, however. Dasham Brookins writes and performs poetry and maintains a website,, where poets such as Samantha Sanchez post. Umm Zakiyya (pseud.) has written a novel, If I Should Speak (2001), about a young Muslim American and her roommates in college. Writers in this group also come from many ethnicities but, unlike those in my second category, come together around a more or less coherent, more or less conservative Muslim identity. Websites tend to ban erotica and blasphemy, for example. The Islamic Writers Alliance, a group formed by Muslim American women, has just put out its first anthology. Major published authors have yet to emerge in this grouping, but there is no reason to think they will not eventually do so.
      My criteria for Muslim American literature are a flexible combination of three factors:
      Muslim authorship. Including this factor, however vague or tenuous, prevents widening the scope to the point of meaninglessness, rather than simply including any work about Muslims by an author with no biographical connection to the slightest sliver of Muslim identity (such as Robert Ferrigno with his recent dystopian novel about a fanatical Muslim takeover of America). It is a cultural, not religious, notion of Muslim that is relevant. A “lapsed Muslim” author, as one poet on my roster called himself, is still a Muslim author for my purposes. I am not interested in levels of commitment or practice, but in literary Muslimness.
    Language and aesthetic of the writing. In a few cases, there is a deliberate espousal of an aesthetic that has Islamic roots, such as the Afrocentric Islamic aesthetic of the Muslim authors in the Black Arts Movement.

    Relevance of themes or content. If the Muslim identity of the author is vague or not explicitly professed, which is often the case with authors in the “Multi-Ethnic Multitudes,” but the content itself is relevant to Muslim American experience, I take that as a signal that the text is choosing to enter the conversation of Muslim American literature and ought to be included.
    In defining boundaries for research that could become impossibly diffuse, I choose to look mainly at fiction and poetry, with autobiography and memoir writings selectively included. I have not included writings in languages other than English, although there are Muslims in America who write in Arabic, Urdu, and other languages. I have looked at the twentieth century onward, and there is archival digging to be done in earlier periods: the Spanish colonial era may yield Muslim writing, and we already know that some enslaved Muslims in the nineteenth century have left narratives. More research is needed. If one expands the field from “literature” to “Muslim American culture,” one can also include Motown, rap, and hip-hop lyrics by Muslim artists, screenplays such as the Muslim American classic The Message by the late Syrian American producer Mustapha Aqqad, books written for children, sermons, essays, and other genres.
    There are pleasures and patterns that emerge from reading this profusion of disparate texts under the rubric of Muslim American cultural narrative. It is time! I hope, as this field emerges, that others will do work in areas I have left aside in this brief initial exploration. 

    ∗ Mohja Kahf (Comparative Literature, University of Arkansas) is the author of Western Representations of the Muslim Woman: From Termagant to Odalisque (1999), E-mails from Scheherazad (poetry, 2003), and The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf (novel, 2006).

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    As prisoners mark day 51 of their hunger strike, lawyers and advocates continue to express outrage at the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation’s (CDCR) attacks on prisoners’ peaceful protest. After being internationally lambasted in the media last week for threatening prisoners with force feeding as well as ignoring their medical wishes, the CDCR continued to punish strikers by moving as many as 50 prisoners from Pelican Bay to other prisons. The CDCR issued a confusing press release on Monday evening, claiming it had met the demands of the strikers, while also maintaining it did not recognize the legitimacy of their protest, nor would it negotiate with them. Attempts by the strikers’ mediation team to keep open dialogue with the strikers and prison officials have been rebuffed by CDCR.

    Lawyers and advocates have just learned that, in an attempt to break prisoners’ hunger strike, prison officials abruptly awakened more than 50 long-term Pelican Bay hunger strikers between 4:00 – 5:00 a.m. last Friday morning and moved them to various prisons around the state.

    Anne Weills, attorney for the strikers responded to this news: “Just think of the state of these men, psychologically, physically and medically. The CDCR chose to arbitrarily move these men—many of whom may already be on the a verge of a cardiac arrest—making them get out of bed, chaining them up by the legs, waist and wrists, performing invasive cavity checks, making them march to a van, and then taking them wherever. And then isolating the four representatives who remain in the Stand Alone Administration Building at Pelican Bay.”

    “These people are starving for a cause bigger than themselves. They have been very clear that they are fighting so that new prisoners, particularly younger men and women, do not have to suffer what they have had to suffer.” Said Azadeh Zohrabi, spokesperson for the Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition. “Instead of going to meet with the prisoners at Pelican Bay, CDCR is governing by fiat–responding in a public statement to prisoners’ demands rather than negotiating with them as human beings. The public should be disturbed by this, to say the least.”
    Late last week, as the CDCR was likely planning its early morning raid, strike mediators attempted to meet with both the Department and with strike representatives as a way of exploring options for resolving the crisis. The CDCR refused both attempts. “Regular dialogue was a common practice during the 2011 strike that led to some moderately constructive discussions between strikers and the CDCR,” said Marilyn McMahon, of the strike mediation team. “Why would the CDCR foreclose on these completely reasonable options? They can either be open to change or continue to cause suffering. They can’t do both.”
    “Governor Brown and the CDCR are playing with peoples’ lives to make a point – that they are in control,” said Donna Willmott of the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition. “They are using their emergency motion for force-feeding as justification to move against the strikers without restraint. Against all human decency, they have used every means at their disposal to destroy this peaceful protest: character assassination, coercion, isolation, and intimidation. And yet the strikers have not been broken.”
    Despite CDCR’s apparent attempts to close the issue with its muddled press release Monday, mediators and lawyers continue to try open negotiations between the Department and the prisoners. Supporters continue to urgently request the California Legislature’s Public Safety Committee to convene a special session. Speaking to the strength and resolve of prisoners still on strike, family member and mediator Dolores Canales said yesterday, “I am filled with absolute awe at the strength and character of these individuals who have endured decades-long isolation. And I think it must be hope that fills them with such a determination… hope for long overdue change, hope within a system that has kept them in isolation for decades. And I think of great changes in history that only took place when people did not give up and when the awakening of a moral consciousness was stirred within the heart and soul of the public.”

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