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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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    Why Our Black Political Class is Paralyzed and Silent on Gaza Massacres and Israeli Apartheid

    by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

    Wed, 07/23/2014-  
    How did the NAACP wrap up its national conference this weekend without saying a mumbling word about the genocidal bombing of Gaza? Why did Moral Monday's Rev. Barber appear on HBO's Real Time with notorious Islamaphobe Bill Maher and not speak to the morality of apartheid in Israel? Why are the black political class and the black church, invisible on the invasion of Gaza and the fact of Israeli ethnocracy in general?

    by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

    Sometimes a silence can be the loudest sound in the room. The silence of our numerous and powerful US black political class, not just on the current massacres of civilians in Gaza but on the incontrovertible fact that Israel has become a full fledged racist ethnocracy is deafening.

    As Israeli troops massed around Gaza this weekend, the NAACP wrapped up its 2014 annual convention in Las Vegas this weekend without a mumbling word of solidarity with bleeding Palestinians. Moral Monday's Rev. Barber was a guest on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher Sunday night as well, but could not spare a single breath to discuss the morality of occupation, house demolitions, or Israeli apartheid to his notoriously Islamaphobic host. Al Sharpton is on MSNBC nightly, and can't find time to cover the murderous assault on Gaza in any meaningful way. You don't hear so much as a peep from the Congressional Black Caucus or the National Urban League, the National Action Network, Rainbow PUSH, big time black pastors and business people or the rest of that crowd.

    Our black political class of preachers, politicians, big time academics, pundits and aspirants have not been silenced by threats or fears of economic retailiation. Maybe you can say that about entertainers and athletes, but not our so-called leaders. People like black members of Congress, Al Sharpton and Rev. Barber are where they are because they don't need to be told what their masters require. What they fear is something deeper, something that threatens the very foundations of their careers and legitimacy.

    Their legitimacy depends on the hollow pretense that their black faces in high places somehow constitute the continuation of the struggle of our people against racism, Jim Crow and injustice in general. We've all heard it summed up with phrases like “Rosa Parks sat and Dr. King walked, so Barack Obama could run...” The name for hollow pretenses like this, when selling the pretense is a serious project, is branding. Their problem is the frank, vicious racism of Israeli apartheid which the black political class feels obliged to support, at least as long as a black president does so as well, is a threat to the black political class's brand as tribunes of the oppressed.

    For the most part, our black political class are not abject fools. They absolutely know that the Israeli state has become a full fledged ethnocracy, the 21st century's premiere apartheid state complete with Jewish-only roads and towns, frequent lynch mobs for Africans and Arabs, laws against recognizing mixed marriages, and completely different judicial systems, housing regulations, voting and property rights, depending on whether, as Max Blumenthal puts it, you've got J-positive blood. They know that for this and the last two Gaza invasions, Israeli civilians and grandmothers gathered on hillsides to eat ice cream, watch the fireworks of white phosphorus and shellfire, and cheer on the death of defenseless Palestinian civilians. They know the internet makes it trivially easy to find the words of prominent Israeli politicians in the Knesset and in government openly declaring that Palestinians ought to be moved or massacred, or justifying hundreds of atrocities from house demolitions and torture to acts of dispossession, mob and state terror. They know that more and more of their own constituents are learning these things every day.

    Our black political class knows that Israel is, to paraphrase Noam Chomsky, America's landlocked aircraft carrier, weapons research test bed and nuclear armed military base in the middle of a couple hundred million brown people and a good fraction of the world's most easily accessible oil. They know that unwavering support for whatever Israel does is part of the bipartisan zombie consensus, something that ruling Republicans and Democrats agree on, like privatizations, charter schools and bailing out the banksters. And by now, black leadership is deep in the slavish habit not just of agreeing with whatever the White House says, but of not speaking at all on policy matters till after the will of the Great Man and his administration have been made clear.

    If Bush and Cheney were still in the White House, some of the bravest among them might speak out just a little to remind us that Palestinians are human too. They might even say that occupation and dispossession are the real crimes. But a member of their own class, a black politician is in the Oval Office, a president who openly insulted and humiliated Muslim Americans at a White House Iftar dinner only last week. They don't need to be silenced, they silence themselves, not out of fear but out of craven opportunism.

    Still, daily occurrences like the shelling of 10 and 11 year old boys on a beach kicking a soccer ball make open support of Israel difficult more difficult for them than it used to be. So they do nothing, and they say nothing. Nothing on Al Sharpton's show. Nothing in their Moral Monday communiques and marches. Nothing from the Urban League, nothing from the black church, which is pretty much an appendage of the black political class these days. Apart from Cornel West, the sole recognizable black figure to a national TV audience, not a black face in a prominent face, not one, has stood up for the humanity of Palestinians and denounced the crimes of dispossession, occupation and invasion. To a man and a woman, it seems the rest of our glittering black leaders hope the stench of white phosphorus and genocide won't stick to them and tarnish their precious brand, even as they support it with their silence.

    There was a time, to hear them tell it at least, when our black political class opposed apartheid. That was here, and in South Africa. As US Palestinian activist Ali Abunimah, the editor at Electrnic Intifada reminds us

    ...Throughout the 1970s and 80s, when black Americans were leading the struggle against apartheid in this country, when they were the conscience of this country in terms of putting apartheid South Africa on the American political agenda, Israel was one of the key supporters of apartheid South Africa. Israel is the country that systematically violated the international arms embargo on South Africa. The weapons used to beat and kill black demonstrators and freedom fighters in South African townships were made in Israel, right down to the water cannon used in the townships... the fighter jets, the gunboats, all the heavy armament of the South African military used were in large part supplied by Israel.It's less well known, there is less hard evidence about it, although some information is in the public domain regarding Israeili-South African cooperation in their nuclear weapons programs.”
    Evidently apartheid and ethnocracy in back-in-the-day South Africa were bad things, but in today's Israel not so much. Our black political class has long forgotten a couple things called international solidarity and empathy, without which we are, well, a lot less human.
    When our people were struggling against Jim Crow and US apartheid fifty years ago, those suffering under colonialism in Asia and Africa looked to us for their inspiration. African governments, Cuba, and China too welcomed, educated and sheltered Malcolm X, Kwame Toure, and many others when they toured the African continent and the world.

    When the Vietnamese were under savage attack they used to call to US black soldiers in the night to ask and remind them, "Black man why are you here? Your fight is at home." It was their official policy until 66 or 67 to spare black soldiers they could have killed in close encounters when possible. Those brothers came back to inform youngsters like me who would have been drafted the next year so we could help organize in our black communities against the imperial war.

    When a nuclear armed South Africa invaded Angola repeatedly in the 70s and 80s, Cuba sent 60,000 troops, the majority of them of African descent and its entire air force to fight across the Atlantic to fight, and turned the South Africans around.

    In the global struggles against colonialism, capitalism, and injustice we are all inextricably connected. We're all obligated to carry a bit of each other's burden, to stand up for each other when required. It's a tradition. It's international solidarity. That's how this thing works.

    But our black misleadership class are not players. They are being played and playing themselves.

    Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a member of the state committee of the GA Green Party. Contact him via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)
    Israel and Palestine, an animated introduction 

    Easy to understand, historically accurate mini- primer about why Israelis and Palestinians are fighting, why the US-backed peace process has been an impediment to peace, and what you can do to make a difference. This conflict is essentially about land and human rights, not religion and culture. Endorsed by Palestinian, Israeli and American scholars and peace activists.

    Businesses Strike in Israel Over Gaza 

    Thousands of businesses across the country join strike in protest over the Israeli offensive on Gaza.

    Gregg Carlstrom
    July 21, 2014
    The strike drew an angry response from Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman
    Gregg Carlstrom/Al Jazeera
    Nazareth, Israel - The main commercial street in this majority-Palestinian city was shuttered on Monday, as residents joined a general strike and staged protests against the two-week-old Israeli offensive in Gaza.
    Thousands of businesses across Israel and the West Bank joined the strike, organised after a day of intense Israeli shelling in Gaza killed more than 100 people.

    Several thousand demonstrators held posters with the photos of children killed during the offensive, and chanted slogans calling the army "terrorists" and "war criminals".

    Protesters clashed briefly with police after the main rally, and at least a dozen people were arrested.There were scattered protests against the war last week, including a rally in Haifa at which several Knesset members were detained or beaten, but Monday's strike was the first large coordinated movement."The action itself is what is important, to show solidarity and to protest against the crimes," said Samir Haddad, a resident of Nazareth.

    "We need to show that we are one people."

    The call for a general strike drew an angry response from Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who urged his supporters to boycott businesses that joined.

    "I call on everyone not to buy anything more from the shops and businesses in the Arab community who are participating in today's general strike," he wrote on Facebook.

    Anger has been mounting for months among Israel's Palestinian citizens, who make up about 20 percent of the population.

    The government has pursued a number of initiatives seen as discriminatory, including a bill that could effectively drive Palestinian parties out of the Knesset, and a plan to draft more Christians into army service.

    The tensions reached a peak earlier this month, when a 16-year-old boy from East Jerusalem was kidnapped and brutally murdered, an apparent revenge attack for the murder of three teenage Jewish settlers in June.

    Residents of his neighbourhood fought with police for three days, and the clashes spread to Palestinian towns in central and northern Israel.

    Nearly 700 people were arrested after those protests, rights groups say, including 224 from East Jerusalem.

    The majority have been released, but dozens face charges for throwing stones and blocking roads, the latter of which carries up to a 15-year jail term.

    "Some of them were charged, or at least investigated, just because of using Facebook," said Salah Mohsen, from Adalah, a local rights group.

    "The leaders of this movement who called [online] for demonstrations, we know a few of them who were investigated and detained."

    ALA Resolutions and Executive Letters

    African Literature Association Resolution
    At the 2014 ALA Meetings in Johannesburg, the following resolution was passed by the membership:

     BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions)

    The ALA supports the Academic Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions.
    Whereas the African Literature Association is committed to the pursuit of social justice, to the struggle against all forms of racism, including anti-semitism, discrimination, and xenophobia, and to solidarity with aggrieved peoples in Africa and in the world; Whereas Israel’s occupation of Palestine and the expansion of illegal settlements and the Wall in violation of international law, as well as in supporting the systematic discrimination against Palestinians, has had documented devastating impact on the overall well-being, the exercise of political and human rights, the freedom of movement, and the educational opportunities of Palestinians; Whereas there is no effective or substantive academic freedom for Palestinian students and scholars under conditions of Israeli occupation, and Israeli institutions of higher learning are a party to Israeli state policies that violate human rights and negatively impact the working conditions of Palestinian scholars and students; Whereas the African Literature Association is dedicated to the right of students and scholars to pursue education and research without undue state interference, repression, and military violence, and in keeping with the spirit of its previous statements supports the right of students and scholars to intellectual freedom and to political dissent as citizens and scholars; it is resolved that the African Literature Association (ALA) endorses and will honor the call of Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. It is also resolved that the ALA supports the protected rights of students and scholars everywhere to engage in research and public speaking about Israel-Palestine and in support of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement.

    Rationale: The resolution is offered in the spirit of the past boycott of Apartheid South Africa, one of the ALA’s earliest efforts at political coalition politics. This boycott has been endorsed by Bishop Desmond Tutu. ln the spirit of his endorsement, and of our commitment to the liberation of dominated people everywhere, we are resolving to act against a state that has taken actions that have resulted in the dispersal of millions of Palestinian people around the Middle East and North Africa (including Egypt and Tunisia), that has targeted African refugees by placing them in internment camps indefinitely, and that has collaborated with authoritarian regimes in Africa, either by their work in extractive industries, or in the shipment of arms to repressive regimes. The resolution, like the long boycott of South Africa and of Southern Rhodesia, is intended to awaken the world’s conscience to a situation that must change.

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    Black Bird Press News & Review: The Public Career of Marvin X:

     please go to the above link

     Marvin X appears in the forthcoming anthology edited by Ishmael Reed

    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....."

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    The uprisings over Oscar Grant, Occupy Oakland and now Ferguson occurred literally in my classroom at Oakland's 14th and Broadway. But I am in favor of construction not destruction. We have the green light to establish the Black Arts Movement District on 14th Street. Let us take advantage of this opportunity to do something for self. If the students at Howard University can fly the Red, Black and Green, let us do the same up and down 14th to let the world know we are the Nation of North American Africans and will except nothing less than first class status.--Marvin X

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  • 11/27/14--12:14: Black Friday ain't Black

  • Black Friday ain't Black
    Black Friday ain't Black
    Black Friday ain't white
    Black Friday is
    Made in China
    You speak Chinese
    My granddaughter speaks Chinese
    3 years old
    she say Gpa
    Don't be so dramatic!
    Black Friday ain't black
    you in rebellion over Ferguson
    But won't buy Black on Black Friday
    won't buy white
    buy made in China
    You at the Mall
    If you didn't burn in down
    Burn, baby, burn
    Buy Black on Black Friday
    buy black
    or shut yo black ass up
    live black
    love black
    die black!
    --Marvin X
     Marvin X is planning a Black Arts Movement District for Oakland's 14th Street. He has the support of Mayor elect Libby Shaaf, Councilwomen Lynette Gibson McElhaney and Desley Brooks. Paul Cobb and the Post News Group is in partnership with BAM.

    Boycott Walmart on Black Friday


    I'm working 40 hours a week for a company owned by America's wealthiest family, and I still make so little that I have to skip meals to pay my bills. On the toughest weeks, I go whole days without a meal. Sometimes I have to rely on friends in the neighborhood who share food with me. And I'm far from the only one of my coworkers falling back on donations: Walmart even organizes canned food drives for its own employees!
    If Walmart wants to help struggling workers, it can start by paying us enough to eat. But when workers like me speak out about the company's hypocrisy, we're met with bullying, threats, and illegal retaliation. Now we're going on strike to stand up to Walmart's attempt to silence us on Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, and we want you there with us.
    Walmart rakes in $16 billion a year in profits. The Walton heirs are worth more than $150 billion, making them the wealthiest single family in the country. It's ridiculous and offensive for their company to tell us to turn to our coworkers for donated food. Walmart can easily pay all of us $15 an hour, enough to live with dignity and raise a family.
    Last week, workers went on strike in Ohio, where Walmart was caught telling associates to donate food to their coworkers last year. Meanwhile, community supporters are holding their own food drive to shame Walmart and the Walton family for leaving their workers struggling to survive. And this is just the beginning: workers and our community allies are planning even bigger actions for Black Friday. Will you be there?
    Thanks for standing with us!
    Diana Tigon, Walmart worker and OUR Walmart member

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    Mayor Elect Libby Schaaf endorses 

    The Black Arts Movement

      BAM Executive Board Member Conway Jones with Mayor Elect Libby Schaaf

    “Oakland is lucky to have an incredibly talented and diverse art community. 
    The African American Arts Movement is a vital, historically significant part 
    of the Oakland Arts Community.  With its focus on justice, equality, and 
    self-realization, the message of black artists is crucial to support.  From 
    rage to celebration, art allows expression, and expression is essential to 
    a community as varied as Oakland.  The recent 1% for Public Art that I 
    authored ensures that new art will be a priority in Oakland in the future. 
    I agree with Post Publisher Paul Cobb that BAM 50th Anniversary 
    celebration should encompass all cultural genres: visual, literary, and 
    performance.  Age-appropriate books for African American students 
    about the Black Arts Movement will literally bring the lesson home for 
    families to share and aspire to.”
      Marvin X Jackmon has sent you a message via Indiegogo about the Black Arts Movement 27 City National Tour campaign. 

    Don't stop here... share with your friends.

    Help the "Black Arts Movement 27 City National Tour" campaign reach its goal today!

    Please take a moment to join in and helping the "Black Arts Movement 27 City National Tour" campaign reach its funding goal. Thank you! 
     You can drive further support and success of this campaign by telling friends and helping the team build their audience. Every person counts!
    This email was sent to
    Indiegogo · 965 Mission Street, 6th Floor · San Francisco, CA 94103 · USA

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     Ancestor Oba Serjiman Olatunji, chief dispenser of Yoruba culture in the United States, founded Olatunji Village, Sheldon, South Carolina. Marvin X looks forward to meeting with the new Oba (King) who is visiting the Bay Area. Marvin would like him present at the Black Arts Movement 50th Anniversary celebration planned for the Bay Area next year. His father was crucial in spreading Yoruba culture in Harlem during the 60s. One cannot talk about BAM without including Yoruba influence on the BAM artists and North American Africans in general regaining African consciousness and culture.

     Oba with official. Oba holds symbol of his royal authority.

     Women at Yoruba Village, Sheldon, South Carolina

     Audience at Black Power Babies event, Brooklyn, New York. Marvin X will hold discussion with BAM Babies 2.0 at the Bay Area Black Arts Movement celebration.

    Black Power Babies and parents, Left to Right: Michael Simmons, Aishah Shahidah Simmons,
    Amiri Middy Baraka, Jr., Bunmi Samuels, Muhammida El Muhajir, Marvin X, Oba Adefunmi II,
    Mrs. Amina Baraka, Nisa Ra, Aaliyah Madyun, Malika Iman, Barbara Rivera and daughter

     Yoruba official announces entrance of Oba Adefunmi Adejuyigbe at the Black Power Babies discussion, in Brooklyn, New York. Event produced by Muhammida El Muhajir.

    Alase Oba Adefunmi Adejuyige speaking at Black Power Babies Discussion in Brooklyn, New York. Marvin X on right. Parents and children held dialogue on role in Black Arts/Black Power movement of the 60. The Oba's father, Serjiman Olatunji, was the main personality who spread Yoruba culture in America. He officiated the wedding of Amina and Amiri Baraka. Many BAM poets were influenced by Islam and Yoruba culture and religion. See Amiri Baraka's play A Black Mass which utilized Islamic and Yoruba mythology is his interpretation of the Nation of Islam's myth of Yakub.

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    Press Release
    The Institute of the Black World 21st Century decries the decision of the Grand Jury in Ferguson not to indict Officer Darren Wilson as yet another in a tragic litany of injustices that is fueling a spirit of resistance, righteous rebellion and movement building across this country; a movement primarily led by young people. We applaud the weeks and months of disciplined training, organizing, demonstrations and protests by young leaders that may well mark the birth of a new movement for social justice and social change in this country. It is their “Selma moment!” The leadership of IBW remains willing to assist with the development of this movement as young leaders deem appropriate.
    The police killing of Michael Brown with impunity is a metaphor for the structural-systemic oppression of our people, the State of Emergency afflicting Black America. We reiterate, racially-biased policing policies and practices that lead to the occupation, terrorizing and killing of Black people is now a substitute for social, racial and economic justice. Nothing short of finishing the unfinished civil rights/human rights agenda will end the State of Emergency in Black America and create safe and wholesome communities.
    While we agree with the excellent proposals for police reform put forth by various organizations, IBW continues to call for the elevation of this issue to the level of a moral and political crisis that demands far-ranging change. Therefore, we reiterate an agenda we believe will meet that objective:
    ■ President Obama and the Attorney General must vigorously continue dismantling the “War on Drugs” and all the damaging policies and practices related to this longstanding, racially-biased strategy.
    ■ President Obama should also seize this moment to convene an Emergency Summit on Policing Policy and Public Safety to identify and share best practices for building effective police/community relations. Such a Summit would have the effect of providing the President with a high profile platform to articulate principles for more just and humane models of policing in this country.
    ■The damages to Black families and communities resulting from decades of racially-biased policing policies and practices and massive disinvestment in our communities must be repaired. We must demand the equivalent of a Domestic Marshall Plan with massive investment in jobs, economic development, housing, health and education to create safe and wholesome communities.
    ■ Finally, the enormity of the State of Emergency as evidenced by chronic joblessness, the persistent wealth gap, economic underdevelopment, recurrent police killings and the violence and fratricide in Black communities cries out for President Obama to convene a Kerner Commission type body to examine the root causes of the persistent crises afflicting major sectors of Black America. The appointment of such a Commission will elevate the State of Emergency in Black America to the level of moral and political urgency it deserves.
    It may be a new moment and a new movement, but IBW believes that the 60’s Civil Rights Freedom Song captures the essence of the spirit with which we must collectively move forward: “We ain’t gonna let nobody turn us around!”
    Note: The National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, known as the Kerner Commission after its chair, Governor Otto Kerner, Jr. of Illinois, was an 11-member commission established by President Lyndon B. Johnson to investigate the causes of the 1967 race riots in the United States and to provide recommendations for the future.
    For Further Information Contact:
    Don Rojas, Director of Communications,
    Ph: 410-844-1031

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  • 11/29/14--01:27: Ferguson, Riot or Revolution

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    blacktitle.jpg (12329 bytes)
    Historical Overviews of The Black Arts Movement

    Kaluma ya Salaam
    Both inherently and overtly political in content, the Black Arts movement was the only American literary movement to advance "social engagement" as a sine qua non of its aesthetic. The movement broke from the immediate past of protest and petition (civil rights) literature and dashed forward toward an alternative that initially seemed unthinkable and unobtainable: Black Power.
    In a 1968 essay, "The Black Arts Movement," Larry Neal proclaimed Black Arts the "aesthetic and spiritual sister of the Black Power concept." As a political phrase, Black Power had earlier been used by Richard Wright to describe the mid-1950s emergence of independent African nations. The 1960s' use of the term originated in 1966 with Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee civil rights workers Stokely Carmichael and Willie Ricks. Quickly adopted in the North, Black Power was associated with a militant advocacy of armed self-defense, separation from "racist American domination," and pride in and assertion of the goodness and beauty of Blackness.
    Although often criticized as sexist, homophobic, and racially exclusive (i.e., reverse racist), Black Arts was much broader than any of its limitations. Ishmael Reed, who is considered neither a movement apologist nor advocate ("I wasn't invited to participate because I was considered an integrationist"), notes in a 1995 interview,
    I think what Black Arts did was inspire a whole lot of Black people to write. Moreover, there would be no multiculturalism movement without Black Arts. Latinos, Asian Americans, and others all say they began writing as a result of the example of the 1960s. Blacks gave the example that you don't have to assimilate. You could do your own thing, get into your own background, your own history, your own tradition and your own culture. I think the challenge is for cultural sovereignty and Black Arts struck a blow for that.
    History and Context. The Black Arts movement, usually referred to as a "sixties" movement, coalesced in 1965 and broke apart around 1975/1976. In March 1965 following the 21 February assassination of Malcolm X, LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) moved from Manhattan's Lower East Side (he had already moved away from Greenwich Village) uptown to Harlem, an exodus considered the symbolic birth of the Black Arts movement. Jones was a highly visible publisher (Yugen and Floating Bear magazines, Totem Press), a celebrated poet (Preface to a Twenty-Volume Suicide Note, 1961, and The Dead Lecturer, 1964), a major music critic (Blues People, 1963), and an Obie Award-winning playwright (Dutchman, 1964) who, up until that fateful split, had functioned in an integrated world. Other than James Baldwin, who at that time had been closely associated with the civil rights movement, Jones was the most respected and most widely published Black writer of his generation.
    While Jones's 1965 move uptown to found the Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School (BARTS) is the formal beginning (it was Jones who came up with the name "Black Arts"), Black Arts, as a literary movement, had its roots in groups such as the Umbra Workshop. Umbra (1962) was a collective of young Black writers based in Manhattan's Lower East Side; major members were writers Steve Cannon, Tom Dent, Al Haynes, David Henderson, Calvin C. Hernton, Joe Johnson, Norman Pritchard, Lenox Raphael, Ishmael Reed, Lorenzo Thomas, James Thompson, Askia M. Touré (Roland Snellings; also a visual artist), Brenda Walcott, and musician-writer Archie Shepp. Touré, a major shaper of "cultural nationalism," directly influenced Jones. Along with Umbra writer Charles Patterson and Charles's brother, William Patterson, Touré joined Jones, Steve Young, and others at BARTS.
    Umbra, which produced Umbra Magazine, was the first post-civil rights Black literary group to make an impact as radical in the sense of establishing their own voice distinct from, and sometimes at odds with, the prevailing white literary establishment. The attempt to merge a Black-oriented activist thrust with a primarily artistic orientation produced a classic split in Umbra between those who wanted to be activists and those who thought of themselves as primarily writers, though to some extent all members shared both views. Black writers have always had to face the issue of whether their work was primarily political or aesthetic. Moreover, Umbra itself had evolved out of similar circumstances: In 1960 a Black nationalist literary organization, On Guard for Freedom, had been founded on the Lower East Side by Calvin Hicks. Its members included Nannie and Walter Bowe, Harold Cruse (who was then working on Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, 1967), Tom Dent, Rosa Guy, Joe Johnson, LeRoi Jones, and Sarah Wright, among others. On Guard was active in a famous protest at the United Nations of the American-sponsored Bay of Pigs Cuban invasion and was active in support of the Congolese liberation leader Patrice Lumumba. From On Guard, Dent, Johnson, and Walcott along with Hernton, Henderson, and Touré established Umbra.

    Another formation of Black writers at that time was the Harlem Writers Guild, led by John O. Killens, which included Maya Angelou, Jean Carey Bond, Rosa Guy, and Sarah Wright among others. But the Harlem Writers Guild focused on prose, primarily fiction, which did not have the mass appeal of poetry performed in the dynamic vernacular of the time. Poems could be built around anthems, chants, and political slogans, and thereby used in organizing work, which was not generally the case with novels and short stories. Moreover, the poets could and did publish themselves, whereas greater resources were needed to publish fiction. That Umbra was primarily poetry- and performance-oriented established a significant and classic characteristic of the movement's aesthetics.
    When Umbra split up, some members, led by Askia Touré and Al Haynes, moved to Harlem in late 1964 and formed the nationalist-oriented "Uptown Writers Movement," which included poets Yusef Rahman, Keorapetse "Willie" Kgositsile from South Africa, and Larry Neal. Accompanied by young "New Music" musicians, they performed poetry all over Harlem. Members of this group joined LeRoi Jones in founding BARTS.

    Jones's move to Harlem was short-lived. In December 1965 he returned to his home, Newark (N.J.), and left BARTS in serious disarray. BARTS failed but the Black Arts center concept was irrepressible mainly because the Black Arts movement was so closely aligned with the then-burgeoning Black Power movement.
    The mid- to late 1960s was a period of intense revolutionary ferment. Beginning in 1964, rebellions in Harlem and Rochester, New York, initiated four years of long hot summers. Watts, Detroit, Newark, Cleveland, and many other cities went up in flames, culminating in nationwide explosions of resentment and anger following Martin Luther King, Jr.'s April 1968 assassination.
    In his seminal 1965 poem "Black Art," which quickly became the major poetic manifesto of the Black Arts literary movement, Jones declaimed "we want poems that kill." He was not simply speaking metaphorically. During that period armed self-defense and slogans such as "Arm yourself or harm yourself' established a social climate that promoted confrontation with the white power structure, especially the police (e.g., "Off the pigs"). Indeed, Amiri Baraka (Jones changed his name in 1967) had been arrested and convicted (later overturned on appeal) on a gun possession charge during the 1967 Newark rebellion. Additionally, armed struggle was widely viewed as not only a legitimate, but often as the only effective means of liberation. Black Arts' dynamism, impact, and effectiveness are a direct result of its partisan nature and advocacy of artistic and political freedom "by any means necessary." America had never experienced such a militant artistic movement.
    Nathan Hare, the author of The Black Anglo-Saxons (1965), was the founder of 1960s Black Studies. Expelled from Howard University, Hare moved to San Francisco State University where the battle to establish a Black Studies department was waged during a five-month strike during the 1968-1969 school year. As with the establishment of Black Arts, which included a range of forces, there was broad activity in the Bay Area around Black Studies, including efforts led by poet and professor Sarah Webster Fabio at Merrit College.

    The initial thrust of Black Arts ideological development came from the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM), a national organization with a strong presence in New York City. Both Touré and Neal were members of RAM. After RAM, the major ideological force shaping the Black Arts movement was the US (as opposed to "them') organization led by Maulana Karenga. Also ideologically important was Elijah Muhammad's Chicago-based Nation of Islam.
    These three formations provided both style and ideological direction for Black Arts artists, including those who were not members of these or any other political organization. Although the Black Arts movement is often considered a New York-based movement, two of its three major forces were located outside New York City.

    As the movement matured, the two major locations of Black Arts' ideological leadership, particularly for literary work, were California's Bay Area because of the Journal of Black Poetry and the Black Scholar, and the Chicago-Detroit axis because of Negro Digest/Black World and Third World Press in Chicago, and Broadside Press and Naomi Long Madgett's Lotus Press in Detroit. The only major Black Arts literary publications to come out of New York were the short-lived (six issues between 1969 and 1972) Black Theatre magazine published by the New Lafayette Theatre and Black Dialogue, which had actually started in San Francisco (1964-1968) and relocated to New York (1969-1972).

    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.

    Theory and Practice. The two hallmarks of Black Arts activity were the development of Black theater groups and Black poetry performances and journals, and both had close ties to community organizations and issues. Black theaters served as the focus of poetry, dance, and music performances in addition to formal and ritual drama. Black theaters were also venues for community meetings, lectures, study groups, and film screenings. The summer of 1968 issue of Drama Review, a special on Black theater edited by Ed Bullins, literally became a Black Arts textbook that featured essays and plays by most of the major movers: Larry Neal, Ben Caldwell, LeRoi Jones, Jimmy Garrett, John O'Neal, Sonia Sanchez, Marvin X, Ron Milner, Woodie King, Jr., Bill Gunn, Ed Bullins, and Adam David Miller. Black Arts theater proudly emphasized its activist roots and orientations in distinct, and often antagonistic, contradiction to traditional theaters, both Black and white, which were either commercial or strictly artistic in focus.

    By 1970 Black Arts theaters and cultural centers were active throughout America. The New Lafayette Theatre (Bob Macbeth, executive director, and Ed Bullins, writer in residence) and Barbara Ann Teer's National Black Theatre led the way in New York, Baraka's Spirit House Movers held forth in Newark and traveled up and down the East Coast. The Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC) and Val Grey Ward's Kuumba Theatre Company were leading forces in Chicago, from where emerged a host of writers, artists, and musicians including the OBAC visual artist collective whose "Wall of Respect" inspired the national community-based public murals movement and led to the formation of Afri-Cobra (the African Commune of Bad, Revolutionary Artists). There was David Rambeau's Concept East and Ron Milner and Woodie King’s Black Arts Midwest, both based in Detroit. Ron Milner became the Black Arts movement's most enduring playwright and Woodie King became its leading theater impresario when he moved to New York City. In Los Angeles there was the Ebony Showcase, Inner City Repertory Company, and the Performing Arts Society of Los Angeles (PALSA) led by Vantile Whitfield. In San Francisco was the aforementioned Black Arts West. BLKARTSOUTH (led by Tom Dent and Kalamu ya Salaam) was an outgrowth of the Free Southern Theatre in New Orleans and was instrumental in encouraging Black theater development across the south from the Theatre of Afro Arts in Miami, Florida, to Sudan Arts Southwest in Houston, Texas, through an organization called the Southern Black Cultural Alliance. In addition to formal Black theater repertory companies in numerous other cities, there were literally hundreds of Black Arts community and campus theater groups.

    A major reason for the widespread dissemination and adoption of Black Arts was the development of nationally distributed magazines that printed manifestos and critiques in addition to offering publishing opportunities for a proliferation of young writers. Whether establishment or independent, Black or white, most literary publications rejected Black Arts writers. The movement's first literary expressions in the early 1960s came through two New York-based, nationally distributed magazines, Freedomways and Liberator.Freedomways, "a journal of the Freedom Movement," backed by leftists, was receptive to young Black writers. The more important magazine was Dan Watts's Liberator, which openly aligned itself with both domestic and international revolutionary movements. Many of the early writings of critical Black Arts voices are found in Liberator. Neither of these were primarily literary journals.

    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 Soulbookwas 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, Dudley Randall, Ed Spriggs, and Askia Touré. In addition to African Americans, African, Caribbean, Asian, and other international revolutionary poets were presented.

    Founded in 1969 by Nathan Hare and Robert Chrisman, the Black Scholar, "the first journal of black studies and research in this country," was theoretically critical. Major African-disasporan and African theorists were represented in its pages. In a 1995 interview Chrisman attributed much of what exists today to the groundwork laid by the Black Arts movement:
    If we had not had a Black Arts movement in the sixties we certainly wouldn't have had national Black literary figures like Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alice Walker, or Toni Morrison because much more so than the Harlem Renaissance, in which Black artists were always on the leash of white patrons and publishing houses, the Black Arts movement did it for itself. What you had was Black people going out nationally, in mass, saving that we are an independent Black people and this is what we produce.
    For the publication of Black Arts creative literature, no magazine was more important than the Chicago-based Johnson publication Negro Digest / Black World. Johnson published America's most popular Black magazines, Jet and Ebony. Hoyt Fuller, who became the editor in 1961, was a Black intellectual with near-encyclopedic knowledge of Black literature and seemingly inexhaustible contacts. Because Negro Digest, a monthly, ninety-eight-page journal, was a Johnson publication, it was sold on newsstands nationwide. Originally patterned on Reader’s Digest, Negro Digest changed its name to Black World in 1970, indicative of Fuller’s view that the magazine ought to be a voice for Black people everywhere. The name change also reflected the widespread rejection of "Negro" and the adoption of "Black" as the designation of choice for people of African descent and to indicate identification with both the diaspora and Africa. The legitimation of "Black" and "African" is another enduring legacy of the Black Arts movement.

    Negro Digest / Black World published both a high volume and an impressive range of poetry, fiction, criticism, drama, reviews, reportage, and theoretical articles. A consistent highlight was Fuller's perceptive column Perspectives ("Notes on books, writers, artists and the arts") which informed readers of new publications, upcoming cultural events and conferences, and also provided succinct coverage of major literary developments. Fuller produced annual poetry, drama, and fiction issues, sponsored literary contests, and gave out literary awards. Fuller published a variety of viewpoints but always insisted on editorial excellence and thus made Negro Digest / Black World a first-rate literary publication. Johnson decided to cease publication of Black World in April 1976: allegedly in response to a threatened withdrawal of advertisement from all of Johnson's publications because of pro-Palestinian/anti-Zionist articles in Black World.

    The two major Black Arts presses were poet Dudley Randall's Broadside Press in Detroit and Haki Madhubuti's Third World Press in Chicago. From a literary standpoint, Broadside Press, which concentrated almost exclusively on poetry, was by far the more important. Founded in 1965, Broadside published more than four hundred poets in more than one hundred books or recordings and was singularly responsible for presenting older Black poets (Gwendolyn Brooks, Sterling A. Brown, and Margaret Walker) to a new audience and introducing emerging poets (Nikki Giovanni, Etheridge Knight, Don L. Lee/Haki Madhubuti, and Sonia Sanchez) who would go on to become major voices for the movement. In 1976, strapped by economic restrictions and with a severely overworked and overwhelmed three-person staff, Broadside Press went into serious decline. Although it functions mainly on its back catalog, Broadside Press is still alive.

    While a number of poets (e.g., Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni, Haki Madhubuti, Marvin X and Sonia Sanchez), playwrights (e.g., Ed Bullins and Ron Milner), and spoken-word artists (e.g., the Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron, both of whom were extremely popular and influential although often overlooked by literary critics) are indelibly associated with the Black Arts movement, rather than focusing on their individual work, one gets a much stronger and much more accurate impression of the movement by reading seven anthologies focusing on the 1960s and the 1970s.

    Black Fire (1968), edited by Baraka and Neal, is a massive collection of essays, poetry, fiction, and drama featuring the first wave of Black Arts writers and thinkers. Because of its impressive breadth, Black Fire stands as a definitive movement anthology.

    ForMalcolm X, Poems on the Life and the Death of Malcolm X (1969), edited by Dudley Randall and Margaret Taylor Goss Burroughs, demonstrates the political thrust of the movement and the specific influence of Malcolm X. There is no comparable anthology in American poetry that focuses on a political figure as poetic inspiration.

    The Black Woman (1970), edited by ToniCade Bambara, is the first major Black feminist anthology and features work by Jean Bond, Nikki Giovanni, Abbey Lincoln, Audre Lorde, Paule Marshall, Gwen Patton, Pat Robinson, Alice Walker, Shirley Williams, and others.

    Edited by Addison Gayle, Jr., The Black Aesthetic (1971) is significant because it both articulates and contextualizes Black Arts theory. The work of writers such as Alain Locke, W. E. B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, and J. A. Rogers showcases the movement's roots in an earlier era into sections on theory, music, fiction, poetry, and drama, Gayle's seminal anthology features a broad array of writers who are regarded as the chief Black Arts theorists-practitioners.

    Stephen Henderson's Understanding the New Black Poetry (1972) is important not only because of the poets included but also because of Henderson's insightful and unparalleled sixty-seven page overview. This is the movement's most thorough exposition of a Black poetic aesthetic. Insights and lines of thought now taken for granted were first articulated in a critical and formal context by Stephen Henderson, who proposed a totally innovative reading of Black poetics.

    New Black Voices (1972), edited by Abraham Chapman, is significant because its focus is specifically on the emerging voices in addition to new work by established voices who were active in the Black Arts movement. Unlike most anthologies, which overlook the South, New Black Voices is geographically representative and includes lively pro and con articles side by side debating aesthetic and political theory.

    The seventh book, Eugene Redmond's Drumvoices, The Mission ofAfro-American Poetry: A Critical History (1976), is a surprisingly thorough survey that has been unjustly neglected. Although some of his opinions are controversial (note that in the movement controversy was normal), Redmond's era by era and city by city cataloging of literary collectives as well as individual writers offers an invaluable service in detailing the movement's national scope.

    The Movement's Breakup. The decline of the Black Arts movement began in 1974 when the Black Power movement was disrupted and co-opted. Black political organizations were hounded, disrupted, and defeated by repressive government measures, such as Cointelpro and IRS probes. Black Studies activist leadership was gutted and replaced by academicians and trained administrators who were unreceptive, if not outright opposed, to the movements political orientation.

    Key internal events in the disruption were the split between nationalists and Marxists in the African Liberation Support Committee (May 1974), the Sixth Pan African Congress in Tanzania where race-based struggle was repudiated/denounced by most of the strongest forces in Africa (Aug. 1974), and Baraka’s national organization, the Congress of Afrikan People (CAP), officially changing from a "Pan Afrikan Nationalist" to a "Marxist Leninist" organization (Oct. 1974).

    As the movement reeled from the combination of external and internal disruption, commercialization and capitalist co-option delivered the coup de grace. President Richard Nixon's strategy of pushing Black capitalism as a response to Black Power epitomized mainstream co-option. As major film, record, book, and magazine publishers identified the most salable artists, the Black Arts movement's already fragile independent economic base was totally undermined.

    In an overwhelmingly successful effort to capitalize on the upsurge of interest in the feminist movement, establishment presses focused particular attention on the work of Black women writers. Although issues of sexism had been widely and hotly debated within movement publications and organizations, the initiative passed from Black Arts back to the establishment. Emblematic of the establishment overtaking (some would argue "co-opting") Black Arts activity is Ntozake Shange's for colored girls, which in 1976 ended up on Broadway produced by Joseph Papp even though it had been workshopped at Woodie King's New Federal Theatre of the Henry Street Settlement on the Lower East Side. Black Arts was not able to match the economic and publicity offers tendered by establishment concerns.

    Corporate America (both the commercial sector and the academic sector) once again selected and propagated one or two handpicked Black writers. During the height of Black Arts activity, each community had a coterie of writers and there were publishing outlets for hundreds, but once the mainstream regained control, Black artists were tokenized. Although Black Arts activity continued into the early 1980s, by 1976, the year of what Gil Scott-Heron called the "Buy-Centennial," the movement was without any sustainable and effective political or economic bases in an economically strapped Black community. An additional complicating factor was the economic recession, resulting from the oil crisis, which the Black community experienced as a depression. Simultaneously, philanthropic foundations only funded non-threatening, "arts oriented" groups. Neither the Black Arts nor the Black Power movements ever recovered.

    The Legacy. In addition to advocating political engagement and independent publishing, the Black Arts movement was innovative in its use of language. Speech (particularly, but not exclusively, Black English), music, and performance were major elements of Black Arts literature. Black Arts aesthetics emphasized orality, which includes the ritual use of call and response both within the body of the work itself as well as between artist and audience. This same orientation is apparent in rap music and 1990s "performance poetry" (e.g., Nuyorican Poets and poetry slams).
    While right-wing trends attempt to push America's cultural clock back to the 1950s, Black Arts continues to evidence resiliency in the Black community and among other marginalized sectors. When people encounter the Black Arts movement, they are delighted and inspired by the most audacious, prolific, and socially engaged literary movement in America's history.
    From The Oxford Companion to African American Literature. New York: Oxford UP, 1997. Copyright © 1997 by Oxford UP.

    Reginald Martin
    Background. A central problem in the paradigmatic development of art and literary "history" has always been whose ideas of art and literature will be empowered and, thus, whose ideas will be used to judge what is "good" or "bad" art. The question of who empowers and validates certain literary critical trends is beyond the scope of my inquiry here. But such battles are historically frequent in the sometimes purposely stagnated progression of art "theory." The problems that the progenitors of the Black Arts Movement faced were merely synecdochal of the many traditional and frequent battles in art and literary history fought to decide whose ideas will be censored and whose ideas will be validated and propagated. In other words, stipulative skirmishes have always been fought within the larger battleground of general censorship to decide whose ideas will be codified as a part of the taught canon of art history and criticism. The trials of museum director Dennis Barrie in Cincinnati in the Mapplethorpe controversy and the rap group 2 Live Crew (Luther Campbell, Mark Ross, Christopher Wongwon) in Florida are other similar and related skirmishes. Those whose art triumphs over others' art know that the spoils of that war are certificates of deposit and cold hard cash, not whether one songwriter's love-making lyrics are more acceptable than another's, nor whether nude heterosexual images should preclude nude homosexual images.

    History and Development. The precursors to what is now called the Black Arts Movement (ca. 1962-1971) are many and interwoven. One could reasonably argue that there had been a call for a separate black letters in the American literary mainstream since Frederick Douglass's "What the Negro Wants" (1868). But the literary events that took place in the 1960s, influenced by social events from the 1950s and 1960s, overshadowed all work in black letters that had gone on before.
    During this volatile period, LeRoi Jones (later Amiri Baraka) wrote in his essay "The Myth of a 'Negro Literature’" (1962) that "a Negro literature, to be a legitimate product of the Negro experience in America, must get at that experience in exactly the terms America has proposed for it in its most ruthless identity," and that the Negro, as an element of American culture, was "completely misunderstood by Americans." In discussing why, in his opinion, there was so little black literature of merit, Jones wrote,
    ... in most cases the Negroes who found themselves in a position to pursue some art, especially the art of literature, have been members of the Negro middle class, a group that has always gone out of its way to cultivate any mediocrity, as long as that mediocrity was guaranteed to prove to America, and recently to the world at large, that they were not really who they were, ie., Negroes.
    Further, Jones wrote that as long as the Negro writer was obsessed with being accepted, middle class, he would never be able to "tell it like it is," and, thus, would always be a failure, because America made room only for white obfuscators, not black ones. It was from such thoughts by Jones and the thoughts of many like-minded theoreticians such as Hoyt Fuller, that the Black Arts Movement (BAM) took its origins.
    In 1969, during his black nationalist period, Baraka laid concrete boundaries for a "nationalistic art." Baraka wrote in "nationalism vs. Pimpart":
    The Art is the National Spirit. That manifestation of it. Black Art must be the Nationalist's vision given more form and feeling, as a razor to cut away what is not central to National Liberation. To show that which is. As a humanistic expression it is itself raised. And these are the poles, out of which we create, to raise, or as raised.
    In this difficult passage, Baraka was proposing (in typical 1960s rhetoric) specific and limited boundaries for acceptable art. Though a writer on all aspects of the BAM, Baraka's areas of greatest interest were the related arts of literatures and literary criticism, and it was, indeed, the debate on the content of black letters that would fuel the heat of the BAM from 1969 to its last official flickerings in 1974, when Baraka wrote his amazing essay "Why I Changed My Ideology." After Baraka formally announced that he was a socialist, no longer a black nationalist, his guidelines for "valid" black writing changed, but his new requirements, with slightly different emphases (liberation of an classes, races, genders) and a slightly different First Cause (Monopoly Capitalism), were as rigid as his prior requirements. And at this time, Baraka was powerful enough to influence others to codify his vision of acceptable art.

    Baraka saw certain black writers as disrupting the essential and beautiful Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and early 1970s. Baraka called these writers "capitulationists," and says their movement was simultaneous with and counter to the Black Arts Movement. Baraka felt that the simultaneity was no accident. In his long essay "Afro-American Literature and the Class Struggle" in Black American Literature Forum (Summer 1980), Baraka, for the first time, made several strong, personal attacks on Ishmael Reed, the fiction writer and poet, and also attacked several black female writers whom he felt fit into the capitulationist mold. And, again, Baraka reiterated that he believes that the groundbreakers in the Black Arts Movement (among them, the new black aesthetic literary wing, including Addison Gayle, Houston Baker, and Clarence Major) were doing something that was new, needed, useful, and black, and those who did not want to see such a flourishing of black expression were "appointed" to the scene to damage the movement.

    Naming Reed and Calvin Hernton as "conservatives," Baraka wrote:
    Yes, the tide was so strong that even some of the "conservatives" wrote work that took the people's side. (The metaphysical slide [sic] of the BAM [Black Arts Movement] even allowed Reed to adopt a rebellious tone with his "Black power poem" and "sermonette" in catechism of d neoamerican hoodoo church, 1970, in which he saw the struggle of Blacks against national oppression as a struggle between two churches: e.g., "may the best church win. shake hands now and come/out-conjuring." But even during the heat and heart of the DAM, Reed would call that very upsurge and the BAM "a goon squad aesthetic" and say that the revolutionary writers were "fascists" or that the taking up of African culture by Black artists indicated such artists were "tribalists."
    Much of the labeling of Reed as a conservative and a "house nigger" began with the publication of The Last Days of Louisiana Red, in which a group of characters Reed labeled as "moochers" loiter around Ed Yellings, a small black business owner who is making active efforts to earn a living and who, through practicing voodoo, finds a cure for cancer. Critics interpreted "the moochers" as being stipulative of some of the BAM group. Supposedly, The Last Days of Louisiana Red contains autocratic figures who do little more than emphasize Reed's definition of moochers, and who continually reenact negative, black stereotypes. Ed Yellings, the industrious black, is killed by black moocher conspirators. Does this mean blacks will turn against what Reed believes to be the good in their own communities? Ed Yellings is a business and property owner. Baraka wrote,
    Ishmael Reed and Stanley Crouch both make the same kind of rah-rah speeches for the Black middle class. Reed, in fact, says that those of us who uphold Black working people are backwards ... Focus on the middle class, the property owners and music teachers, not the black masses (Ralph) Ellison tells us. This is the Roots crowd giving us a history of the BLM [Black Liberation Movement] as a rags-to-riches, Horatio Alger tale in brownface, going off into the sunset and straight for Carter's cabinet or the National Book Award....
    Baraka also set up a dichotomy for a "white arts movement" and a "black arts movement," but while defining the two--one would assume toward the end of endorsing one or the other--Baraka shows only the failings of each and discusses his points of divergence from the "Black Aesthetic Crowd."
    In Baraka's dichotomy, the "white aesthetic is bourgeois art--like the 'national interests' of the U.S. at this late date when the U.S. is an imperialistic superpower." Immediately following this passage, Baraka seemed to defend the black aesthetic group over Ellison's negative criticism of them. Baraka wrote that Ellison said of the black aesthetic crowd that they "buy the idea of total cultural separation between blacks and whites, suggesting that we've been left out of the mainstream. But when we examine American music and literature in terms of its themes, symbolism, rhythms, tonalities, idioms, and images it is obvious that those rejected 'Negroes' have been a vital part of the mainstream and were from the beginning." Baraka responded, "We know we have been exploited, Mr. Ralph, sir; what we's arguing about is that we's been exploited! To use us is the term of stay in this joint. . . ." Baraka's point is that it makes no difference if the corrupt personage is black; the issue is still corruption, and it is a double insult to the oppressed when that corrupt person turns out to be black. But it is at that point that Baraka separated himself from others in the new black aesthetic movement:
    Where I differ with the bourgeois nationalists who are identified with the "Black Aesthetic" is illuminated by a statement of Addison Gayle's: "An aesthetic based upon economic and class determinism is one which has minimal value for Black people. For Black writers and critics the starting point must be the proposition that the history of Black people in America is the history of the struggle against racism" ("Blueprint for Black Criticism,"First World, Jan.-Feb. 1977, p. 43). But what is the basis for racism; ie., exploitation because of one's physical characteristics? Does it drop out of the sky? ... Black people suffer from national oppression: We are an oppressed nation, a nation oppressed by U.S. imperialism. Racism is an even more demonic aspect of this national oppression, since the oppressed nationality is identifiable anywhere as that regardless of class.
    Baraka reminded the reader that his disagreement with the new black aesthetic elite was not to say that there was no such thing as a black aesthetic, but that his conception of a black aesthetic manifested itself in his definition of it differently than it did for others. For him it was "a nation within a nation" that was brought about by the "big bourgeoisie on Wall Street, who after the Civil War completely dominated U.S. politics and economics, controlled the ex-planters, and turned them into their compradors." Further, black aesthetic ideas had to be subsumed under the larger category of the Black Arts Movement so that its ideas would be in concert with those black ideas from drama, dance, and graphic arts.
    Baraka claimed that several women writers, among them Michelle Wallace and Ntozake Shange, like Reed, had their own "Hollywood" aesthetic, one of "capitulation" and "garbage." Toward the end of his article, Baraka said that the "main line" of his argument bad been that "class struggle is as much a part of the arts as it is any place else." His pleas and support were reserved for those artists who were "struggle oriented," those who were trying to "get even clearer on the meaning of class stand, attitude, audience, and study, and their relationship to our work."
    And, thus, Baraka's argument is epanaleptic, as it turns back for support upon the same core of arguments of the other black aestheticians with whom he has said he is in disagreement; those arguments form a complete circle with Baraka's stated premise that black literature, black art must do something materially positive to help black people. Art must be socially functional.
    The heat and heart really left the BAM after Baraka changed from black nationalist to Leninist/Socialist (1974) and after the death of Hoyt Fuller (1971). Baraka was by far the strongest voice in the movement, and when he changed his ideas and said that before he had been absolutely wrong about his views on black art and that now his Leninist/Marxist vision was absolutely correct, many of his adherents lost faith. The basic tenets of the movement included the ideas that art by black Americans could never be accepted by white Americans, and separate criteria needed to be developed by black artists to appraise properly the talent of black artists. Also, all art should be toward a political/humanistic end that would elevate all people--but especially black people--to a higher consciousness and a better life. In a retrospective on this artist/censor exchange, W. Lawrence Hogue wrote in "Literary Production: A Silence in Afro-American Critical Practice" from his book Discourse and the Other: The Production of the Afro-American Literary Text (1986) that the writers of the BAM:
    in using literature to further their political ends ... understand the political function of literature. Their strategy is to promote those Afro-American texts that present an aesthetic theory of literature. But that strategy is silent completely on how established literary institutions and apparatuses, throughout American literary history, have affected the production of Afro-American literature. . . . Of course, such a discussion would cause these black aestheticians to confront openly the ideological nature and function, and therefore the constraints and exclusions, of their own cultural nationalist critical practices.
    Thus, at least in theoretical discussion, an expansive, stylistically, thematically, and racially absorptive and syncretic "aesthetic" would put itself arguably above what Hogue calls the "nationalistic criteria" of the BAM regimen. In theory, a racially syncretic aesthetic would even absorb any facets of the BAM platform it could find useful, transform them, an produce new "discursive formations" (Foucault) that helped to explain itself or explain any kind of art text it chose. It is partly the syncretic idea that the proponents of the BAM fought against. For them, the only way to artistic purity was through separation from the mainstream.

    Most recently, Baraka has reassessed Leninist/Marxist theory as an applicable filter for African-American literature. He now finds that, while perhaps a Leninist/Marxist grid is not the best way to assess and form the black arts, he still feels that at the root of any authentic black art endeavor must be the love of black people and the love of self-affirmation.
    From The Oxford Companion to Women’s Writing in the United States. New York: Oxford UP, 1995. Copyright © 1995 by Oxford UP

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    Dear Visual artists,

    In preparation of an official declaration of The Black Arts Movement District along 14th Street, downtown Oakland, we would like to see rough sketches of what such an African oriented district would look like. Sketch might include an African facade on buildings, flags of African nations, banners flying portraits of BAM artists, the Red, Black and Green flag and color scheme, North American African heroes and sheroes, especially Bay Area freedom workers, business people, political and spiritual leaders, youth leaders, vendors on the street, street musicians, street teachers, couples strolling, etc.

    Please submit your sketches to and/or Paul Cobb at
    Call Marvin X at 510- 200 4164.

    Bay Area artists in all genres  please plan to attend the gala celebration of BAM at the Laney College art gallery on Feb. 7, 2015. BAM Poets Choir and Arkestra will perform. The BAM Isaiah 61 Project will exhibit the work of San Quentin inmates.


    Marvin X,
    Project Director
    BAM 27 Tour, 2015

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    in SOLIDARITY with 
    the People of Ferguson, St. Louis and Beyond

    The Peace and Justice Studies Association, Center for Education Equity, The Sophia Project, Code Pink, Hands Up Coalition - D.C., and Why We Can't Wait-D.C.,  call on all people of conscience to participate in a week of action to bring and continue awareness around ending police violence against all people, especially people of color. This week of action begins Monday, December 1, 2014 and continues until December 5, 2014.
    We do this to stand in solidarity with the people of Ferguson and the larger St. Louis area.

    The National Week of Action can involve any or all of the following:

    1) Observing 4.5 minutes of silence in high-schools, college campus buildings, businesses, government offices, and places of worship.  This length of time is symbolic of the 4.5 hours Michael Brown's body lay in the street after he was killed on August 9th, 2014.  His parents have asked for such an observance; beginning at 12:00pm each day

    2) Conducting human rights teach-ins about police brutality, racism and racial profiling, civic responsibility, and nonviolent action

    3) Organizing dialogues in your community on race, legal reforms, and methods of citizen oversight of law enforcement

    4) Organize vigils, reflections and prayers in communities around police violence, the targeting of minority communities, and the militarization of our society.

    If you would like to facilitate a teach-in ordialogueand need resources and/or contacts, please see the attached document titled "Learning from Ferguson & Beyond".

    This conversation cannot end! We cannot conduct business as usual!  Black lives matter! All lives matter!
    We encourage all to act at whatever level appropriate and comfortable for your setting, but please do something
    Every act helps, no matter how small. We can stop the violence. Thank you for your participation to end police brutality.

    It would be wonderful if you record your event and upload to

    Please forward this email, facebook and tweet this message using hashtags:


    Visit the facebook event and spread here.


    Dave Ragland:845-475-8205, Visiting Professor, Bucknell University, Lewisburg PA, and a native of St. Louis, MO,and Co-Director;The Truth Telling Project :

    Cris Toffolo: Professor & Chair, Justice Studies Department, Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago IL.
    Barbara Wien: Faculty Member, American University, Washington, D.C.
    Alex Bodkin: The Truth Telling Project,

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    Dear Mayor elect Libby Shaaf and Oakland
    City Councilwomen Desley Brooks and Lynette Gibson McElhaney

    On behalf of the Black Arts Movement, we congratulate you all for declaring support of the Black Arts Movement 50th Anniversary. Because of our role as artistic freedom fighters (Paul Robeson) we have often been marginalized, books banned, language censored, denied employment, especially by those in academia and other sectors of society who have taken on the role of culture police.

    Your letters of support indicates a level of understanding that we appreciate. We are confident the City of Oakland will provide us with the necessary funding to make our Oakland celebration a success. We especially appreciate your call for age-appropriate Black Arts Movement literature in the schools.  I must add, BAM literature must reach parents as well.

    While we have the BAM Isaiah 61 Project in partnership with Paul Cobb and the Post News Group, and will make every effort to provide literature to the incarcerated, we agree with Paul, "Crack a book before you are booked for Crack!" We know BAM literature can inspire our children with cultural consciousness, purpose and direction as they navigate their perilous mental landscape, not to mention this world full of pitfalls and land mines they must overcome.

    Your endorsement of the Black Arts Movement District along 14th Street is outstanding. Growing up on 7th Street in West Oakland, along with Paul Cobb, we feel the creation of a BAM District would allow Oakland's North American Africans to experience the culture and art we enjoyed on 7th Street, Harlem of the West.

    Trust me, your letters of support should silence the doubters that such a project will be realized in their lifetime.


    Marvin X. Jackmon, M.A.
    Project Director
    BAM 27 City Tour

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    Image: NFL: Oakland Raiders at St. Louis Rams
    St. Louis Rams players put their hands up to show support for Michael Brown before a game against the Oakland Raiders at the Edward Jones Dome on Nov. 30, 2014.
    Jeff Curry/USA Today Sports/Reuters

    St. Louis Rams players show solidarity with Ferguson protesters

    The most memorable thing about the St. Louis Rams on Sunday may not be their brutal 52-to-0 shellacking of the Oakland Raiders.
    When the Missouri-based NFL team entered Sunday’s game some players symbolically recreated the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” rallying cry of Ferguson protesters who have been active in that city since the police shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen, on August 9.
    Supporters of Brown have maintained that he had his hands up and was surrendering when Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed him. Wilson and Ferguson authorities dispute that account, claiming that Brown attacked police and posed a deadly threat that day. A grand jury chose not to indict Wilson in the death of Brown last week and the officer has since decided to resign from the police department.

    On Sunday, Rams stars Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens, and Kenny Britt all participated in the action, as they exited their home field tunnel to start the game. This is not the first time a Rams home game has been the site for activism on behalf of Brown. At a Rams-49ers Monday Night Football game in October protesters unfurling signs which read: “Black Lives Matter”
    These Rams players’ show of solidarity was reminiscent of when Miami Heat players posed in hoodies to honor Trayvon Martin back in 2012. When the Los Angeles Clippers wanted to display their displeasure with their owner, Donald Sterling, after racist remarks he’d made privately went viral earlier this year, they purposely wore their warm-up shirts inside out and discarded their team jackets in the center of the court.

    In the wake of the grand jury decision in the Brown case, a number of professional athletes have expressed their outrage via social media. New Orleans Saints’ tight end Benjamin Watson penned an open letter this week on the topic which was posted to Facebook and quickly went viral. 

    “I’M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes,” Watson wrote. He added that he was frustrated by pop culture’s glorification of confrontations between police and citizens,” he wrote. “I’M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I’m a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a ‘threat’ to those who don’t know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.”

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     We are honored the great John Santos has agreed to participate in the 50th anniversary celebration of the Black Arts Movement. --Marvin X


     John Santos: Keeper of the Culture

    John Santos: Keeper of the Culture
    In a career spanning almost 40 years, percussionist John Santos has gained world-wide renown and acclaim as one of the great composers and bandleaders in the Afro-Cuban jazz idiom. The four-time Grammy nominee is one of the foremost proponents of Afro-Latin music in the world today, known for his innovative use of its traditional musical forms and instruments. Santos has performed, recorded and studied with acknowledged Afro-Latin and Jazz masters such as Israel "Cachao" Lopez,Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Bebo Valdes, Armando Peraza, Eddie Palmieri, Carlos "Patato" Valdes, Francisco Aguabella, Max Roach, Steve Turre and Alfredo "Chocolate" Armenteros.

    Born in San Francisco to Cape Verdean and Puerto Rican parents, Santos was exposed to a fertile musical environment which shaped his career in a unique way. As director of Orquesta Tipica Cienfuego and the award-winning Orquesta Batachanga, he was of the pioneers of salsa to the San Francisco Bay Area. As leader of the seminal jazz group Machete Ensemble, Santos was also instrumental in bringing traditional Afro-Cuban and other Latin American music to the area. Santos is also respected as one of the top writers, teachers and historians in the field, having conducted numerous lectures, workshops and clinics in the Americas and Europe, as well as writing about the music for numerous publications.

    Santos also has a prolific career as a distinguished and creative multi-percussionist and recording artist, mainly with Machete Ensemble. His diverse credits also include working with Israel "Cachao" Lopez, Tito Puente, Bobby Hutcherson, the Cuban band Grupo Mezcla, Lalo Schifrin, Irakere, Santana, Cal Tjader, Danilo Perez, Ignacio Berroa, Omar Sosa and Jon Jang. In 2006, after a 20-year run, Santos disbanded the Machete Ensemble and is now playing with a jazz sextet which. comprised of some of his old comrades from that group, has released Filosofia Caribena, Vol.1 (2011) and Filosfofia Caribena, Vol. 2. (2013). Both of these recordings, released on Santos' Machete Records, are an homage to the richness of the Caribbean and Latin American cultures, to which Santos refers as Creole culture.

    Santos was also named Resident Artistic Director of the SFJAZZ Center for the year 2012-2013, an honor shared with Bill Frisell, Jason Moran, and Regina Carter.

    All About Jazz: What made you decide to be a musician?

    John Santos: My dad, from Cape Verde, was a musician who played guitar and accordion; In addition, both of my grandfathers, from Cape Verdean and Puerto Rican, were musicians. So, I kinda fell into the family business.

    AAJ: What led you to playing congas and other percussion?

    JS: In African and Caribbean cultures the drums lead you into a spiritual path as they are used not only for playing for entertainment purposes but also for religious and spiritual ceremonies. In addition to playing congas and other drums, I am also trained to perform on the Nigerian bata drums for religious services.

    AAJ: Your first band, Orchestra Tipica Cienfuegos, was considered to be the top Latin dance band during the'70s, What set it apart from other Latin groups?

    JS: Tipica Cienfuegos was structured as a charanga orchestra, a traditional Afro-Cuban setup which is comprised of violinists and a flutist instead of horns. However, instead of playing the traditional danzones, we played more modern dance music like Los Van Van. Now, with Orchestra Batachanga I mixed the rhythms of the bata with modern Latin dance music.

    AAJ: You have performed with practically every master Afro-Cuban drummer who has roamed the earth during the last 40 years. Who were the ones who had the deepest influence on your music?

    JS: It is hard to say, because all of them were great. In the Bay Area, we were blessed to have Armando Peraza and Francisco Aguabella living here. I also count Mongo Santamaria, Candido, Carlos "Patato" Valdés and Julito Collazo among my major influences. Other musicians whom I count as influences as well as mentors include the great Afro-Cuban bassist Israel "Cachao" Lopez, trumpeter Alfredo "Chocolate" Armenteros and the great timbalero, Orestes Vilato, with whom I was blessed to have played for many years. In the jazz idiom, I was blessed to have Dizzy Gillespies a mentor, as well as having the opportunity to play with him. I also had admiration for Max Roach, Steve Turré, John Handy, McCoy Tyner and Joe Henderson.

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    Here’s an update for you from the ‘Black Arts Movement 27 City National Tour’ team:

    Dear Mayor elect Libby Shaaf and Oakland
    City Councilwomen Desley Brooks and Lynette Gibson McElhaney
    On behalf of the Black Arts Movement, we congratulate you all for
     declaring support of the Black Arts Movement 50th Anniversary.
    Because of our role as artistic freedom fighters (Paul Robeson)
    we have often been marginalized, books banned, language
    censored, denied employment, especially by those in academia
    and other sectors of society who have taken on the role of culture
    Your letters of support indicates a level of understanding that we
    appreciate. We are confident the City of Oakland will provide us
    with the necessary funding to make our Oakland celebration a
    success. We especially appreciate your call for age-appropriate
    Black Arts Movement literature in the schools.  I must add,
    BAM literature must reach parents as well.
    While we have the BAM Isaiah 61 Project in partnership with
    Paul Cobb and the Post News Group, and will make every
    effort to provide literature to the incarcerated, we agree with
    Paul, "Crack a book before you are booked for Crack!" We
    know BAM literature can inspire our children with cultural
    consciousness, purpose and direction as they navigate
    their perilous mental landscape, not to mention this world
    full of pitfalls and land mines they must overcome.
    Your endorsement of the Black Arts Movement District
    along 14th Street is outstanding. Growing up on 7th Street
    in West Oakland, along with Paul Cobb, we feel the creation
    of a BAM District would allow Oakland's North American
    Africans to experience the culture and art we enjoyed on
    7th Street, Harlem of the West.
    Trust me, your letters of support should silence the doubters
    that such a project will be realized in their lifetime.
    Marvin X. Jackmon, M.A.
    Project Director
    BAM 27 City Tour

    Mayor Elect Libby Schaaf endorses 

    The Black Arts Movement

      BAM Executive Board Member Conway Jones with Mayor Elect Libby Schaaf

    “Oakland is lucky to have an incredibly talented and diverse art community. 
    The African American Arts Movement is a vital, historically significant part 
    of the Oakland Arts Community.  With its focus on justice, equality, and 
    self-realization, the message of black artists is crucial to support.  From 
    rage to celebration, art allows expression, and expression is essential to 
    a community as varied as Oakland.  The recent 1% for Public Art that I 
    authored ensures that new art will be a priority in Oakland in the future. 
    I agree with Post Publisher Paul Cobb that BAM 50th Anniversary 
    celebration should encompass all cultural genres: visual, literary, and 
    performance.  Age-appropriate books for African American students 
    about the Black Arts Movement will literally bring the lesson home for 
    families to share and aspire to.”

    Comment on or view this announcement here.
    Respond directly to the campaign owner here.
    Help spread the word about the campaign!
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    The Indiegogo Team

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    You’ve Received a Campaign Update!

     Dear Friends and Supporters,
    Here’s an update for you from the ‘Black Arts Movement 27 City National Tour’ team:
    For your donation of $500.00 or more, a five book collection of writings by Black Arts Movement co-founder Marvin X

    "He's the USA's Rumi! The wisdom of Saadi, the ecstasy of Hafiz."--Bob Holman.
    "He is Plato teaching on the streets of Oakland."--Ishmael Reed
    "One of the founders and innovators of the revolutionary school of African writing."--Amiri Baraka
    "One of the best story tellers in America. I'd put him ahead of Mark Twain!"--Rudolph Lewis

    Comment on or view this announcement here.
    Respond directly to the campaign owner here.
    Help spread the word about the campaign!
    Note: To stop receiving updates from Black Arts Movement 27 City National Tour, click here.
    You can also unsubscribe from all recurring Indiegogo emails in your account settings.
    The Indiegogo Team

    Respond directly to the campaign owner here.
    Help spread the word about the campaign!
    Note: To stop receiving updates from Black Arts Movement 27 City National Tour, click here.
    You can also unsubscribe from all recurring Indiegogo emails in your account settings.
    The Indiegogo Team

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    The history of America is the crucifixion of the Black man, from the beginning until now, from the highest brother to the lowest. In the words of Rev. Cone, it is about the cross and the lynching tree. It is sad to see Bill Cosby go down the road of perdition, but sometimes we shoot ourselves in the foot. If any of these allegations are true, he has been a hypocritical devil, especially in his role as chief culture police of North American Africans. I am not a Cosby hater, he once used my writings in a concert and paid me for the use of my material. I would love to have use of his art collection now on exhibit at the Smithsonian, especially the pieces by Black Arts Movement icon Elizabeth Catlett Mora. The song says, "Don't mess wit Bill, leave my Billy alone...."

    --Marvin X

    Bill Cosby Resigns From Temple University Board of Trustees

    Bill Cosby Resigns From Temple University Board of Trustees (ABC News)
    Days after resigning as fundraising co-chair at the University of Massachusetts, Bill Cosby has now resigned from the Board of Trustees at Temple University. 
    Cosby attended Temple from 1961 to 1962, where he was a track and football star.
    "I have always been proud of my association with Temple University. I have always wanted to do what would be in the best interests of the university and its students. As a result, I have tendered my resignation from the Temple University Board of Trustees," Cosby said Monday in an official statement. 

    Temple University added, "The Board of Trustees accepts Dr. Cosby's resignation from the board and thanks him for his service to the university.” 

    Read: Number of Bill Cosby Accusers Continues to Grow: Where Things Stand 
    The 77-year-old comedian had been on the Temple board since 1982.
    With the number of sexual abuse accusers well above a dozen in recent weeks, Temple Board Chairman Patrick O'Connor told The Associated Press that Cosby does not want to be a distraction to the board. 

    Temple University was actually at the center of the first abuse claim in 2004, when university employee Andrea Constand claimed the comedian drugged and assaulted her. Along with several women coming forward in the last month, a former NBC employee Frank Scotti told the New York Daily News that he paid off eight women on Cosby's behalf, allegedly sending thousands of dollars in money orders to the women to keep them quiet. 

    With all the media buzz around the comedic legend, he's cancelled a number of stand-up shows and networks like TV Land have pulled reruns of "The Cosby Show." 

    Last week, Cosby, who has vehemently denied the allegations all along, finally commented, saying, "I know people are tired of me not saying anything, but a guy doesn't have to answer to innuendos. People should fact check. People shouldn't have to go through that and shouldn't answer to innuendos." 

    Cosby's lawyer Martin Singer has also spoken up for the comedian: "The new, never-before-heard claims from women who have come forward in the past two weeks with unsubstantiated, fantastical stories about things they say occurred 30, 40, or even 50 years ago have escalated far past the point of absurdity. 

    "These brand new claims about alleged decades-old events are becoming increasingly ridiculous, and it is completely illogical that so many people would have said nothing, done nothing, and made no reports to law enforcement or asserted civil claims if they thought they had been assaulted over a span of so many years."

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    August Wilson portrait by Iconic artist James Gayles is for sale by auction.

    by Ayodele Nzinga, MFA, PhD
    Wilson by Gayle
    Iconic artist James Gayles of Oakland CA has generously donated this portrait of America's Shakespeare, August Wilson, to Oakland's premiere North American African Theater Troupe to help fund their historic production of his seminal work The American Century Cycle. The work is for sale by auction with an opening bid of $1800.00. Please send all inquires to

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