There will be a book fair at Laney College as part of the Black Arts Movement's 50th Anniversary, We are especially interested in authors with writings that express Black consciousness or radical themes such as the liberation of North American Africans from the addiction to white supremacy mythology. If you are an author interested in participating, let me hear from you at the earliest. The vendor fee is $50.00 for self published authors and a donation of five copies for give-away to the needy, including the incarcerated behind walls and those mentally incarcerated out here in the big yard. Institutional publishers fee $200.00 and donation of fifty books for the poor. Contact Marvin X at firstname.lastname@example.org. Call 510-200-4164. Our last book fair was the San Francisco Tenderloin Black Radical Book Fair, 2004.
Marvin X at his Academy of da Corner, 14th and Broadway, downtown Oakland--the most dangerous classroom in the world: the Oscar Grant rebellion, Occupy Oakland and protests against police murders under the color of law in Ferguson and New York City occurred in his classroom. Academy of da Corner will be part of the Black Arts Movement District the City of Oakland will declare in January, 2015. Noted author Ishmael Reed says, "If you want to learn about motivation and inspiration, don't spend all that money going to workshops and seminars, just go stand at 14th and Broadway and watch Marvin X at work. He's Plato teaching on the streets of Oakland." On February 7, Oakland's Laney College will hold the first Bay Area celebration of the Black Arts Movement's 50th Anniversary. A book fair will begin at Noon, Open Mike Poetry, 2pm, Panel on Black Arts/Black Power Babies, 4pm, 6pm Reception in the Art Gallery, 8pm, Performance in the Odell Johnson Theatre of Marvin X with the Black Arts Movement Poet's Choir & Arkestra, with special guests from the BAM. For more information, please go to www.blackbirdpressnews.blogspot.com or the Oakland Post News Group. The second leg of the BAM 27 City Tour will be at Merritt College, Feb 11-13, 2015. BAM is planning celebrations in Berkeley, Richmond, Palo Alto and San Jose. If you or your institution or venue would like BAM 27 to visit your city, please call 510-200-4164 or email a letter of invitation to email@example.com.
photo Adam Turner
Marvin X thanks the medical team of Dr. Soraya Rofagha and Dr. Leonardo Dacanay who removed a dislocated lens and implanted a new one in his left eye. We also thank the nurses for their kind treatment at Alta Bates Hospital, Berkeley CA. We thank all those who prayed for me to have a successful operation. Al Hamdulilah!
Peace and Love,
Marvin X, Project Director
Black Arts Movement 50th Anniversary
27 City Tour
Our rapper in Havana: USAID hijacked Cuban hip-hop scene trying to undermine govt
December 11, 2014- rt.com
from Black Anti-War
Young Cuban hip-hop musicians have been sucked into a USAID secret operation aiming at regime change in Havana. Rappers from underground circles were unwittingly supposed to promote anti-government sentiments, but the operation was haplessly executed.
A new AP investigation has exposed a secret program by America’s Agency for International Development (USAID) to infiltrate Cuba’s underground hip-hop scene to form a movement of “socially-conscious youth” opposing the Communist authorities. The operation lasted for over two years, in 2009-2011.
USAID has denied the allegations, claiming “Any assertions that our work is secret or covert are simply false,” in a statement on Wednesday. It stressed that its programs are aimed at strengthening civil society, “often in places where civic engagement is suppressed and where people are harassed, arrested, subjected to physical harm or worse.”
The agency’s principal contractor, Washington-based Creative Associates International, associated with a Serbian team to promote Cuban rappers and get the underground hip-hop subculture to stir political dissent in Cuba.
Previously, the same team headed by contractor Rajko Bozic was used to organize student protest concerts, attempting to influence Serbian youths to turn against the President Slobodan Milosevic and contribute to the overthrow of his government back in 2000.
According to documents obtained by the AP, the Serbs operated under the guise of a Panama company financed via a Liechtenstein bank to cover the operation up. USAID's efforts were so classified that the money trail was successfully hidden from Cuban authorities. This effectively raised the suspicions of the US Treasury Department, which surmised a possible US embargo violation and froze a transaction.
Promoters of a political change in Cuba recruited a number of musicians, the most prominent of them Los Aldeanos, already restricted to performing at home for their anti-government lyrics.
Los Aldeanos got political training while doing a concert tour in Serbia, but allegedly never suspected that the US government had paid the bills during their tour.
Filmed with hidden cameras, the film was supposed to bring viewers to the streets of Havana and hear“the sound of struggle and the voice of a new revolution.”
The protest movement planned by the USAID contractors was organized as a social network based onTalentoCubano.net website promoting Cuban amateur musicians. The movement numbered about 200 “socially-conscious youth.”
USAID operated rather clumsily in Cuba, AP reports, as there were at least six incidents in which contractors or their Cuban associates were detained or interrogated. On a number of occasions Cuban authorities managed to seize computers with data linking the program to USAID. But despite those blatant failures, the contractors continued worming their way into the Cuban musical underground.
Yet instead of forging Cuban hip-hop into a revolutionary movement, the USAID contractors compromised the very musicians they tried to promote.
Los Aldeanos had to leave the country due to pressure from the Cuban government and moved to South Florida, where their lyrics became much softer.
“I never imagined that a program like this could exist ... When you find out you could be surrounded by a conspiracy, it's shocking,” legendary Cuban singer Silvio Rodriguez told AP.
Back in April, AP reported that the leaders of the Roots of Hope, the largest nonprofit organization for young Cuban-Americans, which explicitly refused to accept US government funds, in fact supported Washington’s secret ZunZuneo program. Also known as the ‘Cuban Twitter’, it was aimed at toppling Cuba’s government.
A further AP investigation revealed in August that the US secretly sent young Latinos to Cuba to trigger political unrest.
One month ago, the US government prohibited the Agency for International Development from acting in countries that reject its help, or from taking on dangerous or risky projects.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The head of the nation's global development agency said Wednesday he will step down from his post in February, following an announcement by the U.S. government that it would start talks toward restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba.
Rajiv Shah, the administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, gave no public reason for leaving the agency he's led since 2000. In a statement released Wednesday morning, he said he had "mixed emotions" but did not elaborate.
Shah's announcement also came hours before U.S. officials confirmed on Wednesday that USAID contractor Alan Gross was freed from a Cuban prison. He was arrested in December 2009 and later sentenced to 15 years after Cuban authorities said he tried to smuggle illegal technology into the country.
USAID, under Shah, drew intense criticism from some U.S. lawmakers and the Cuban government for its Cuba programs. An AP investigation this year revealed the agency — with the help of another Washington-based contractor — created a Twitter-like service, staged a health workshop to recruit activists and infiltrated the island's hip-hop community.
Shah was confirmed Dec. 24, 2009, three weeks after Gross' arrest. At the time, the AP found, a USAID-run program in Cuba continued despite internal warnings that travel was dangerous because of Gross' detention.
Following the AP's disclosures, the agency prepared internal rules that would effectively end risky undercover work in hostile countries. The AP found USAID and its contractor, Creative Associates International, concealed their involvement in the Cuban programs — setting up front companies, routing money through overseas bank transactions and fashioning elaborate cover stories.
That subterfuge put at risk the agency's cooperation with foreign governments to deliver aid to the world's poor. USAID recently pledged more than $140 million to fight Ebola in West Africa, part of its $425 million effort against the epidemic.
"For the past five years, Raj Shah has been at the center of my administration's efforts to advance our global development agenda," President Barack Obama said in a statement Wednesday. Obama said the administrator "embodied America's finest values by proactively advancing our development priorities, including ending global poverty, championing food security, promoting health and nutrition, expanding access to energy sources, and supporting political and economic reform in closed societies."
USAID describes itself as the lead U.S. government agency working to fight poverty and promote democracy around the world. Shah said Wednesday he was "more confident than ever in the lasting effect of our work."
If you are interested in having your work in a special Black Arts Movement edition of the Journal of PAN African Studies, please send your article, poem, photos to me by January 3, 2015. I apologize for taking so long to get this special edition out. Dr. Itibari Zulu said that all work must be new scholarship, and never been printed articles, poems, etc.
Some of you have already sent me your articles, which I will send back to you with possible edits by January 10.
I'm currently working on a New Orleans Black Arts Movement Conference, which will take place at Dillard University, September 11-13. I'm hopeful that some of the participants will also include articles in our special edition of JPAS. The New Orleans Conference will emphasize scholarship on Black Arts Movement Southern authors, the Free Southern Theatre, music, and food. We will have an article about the conference in the special edition of JPAS.
If you have any questions or need more time with regards to your work, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I just wanted to re-state that we need:
1. Names and images of Artists Participating from San Quentin.
2. Names and images of other participating artists from the community.
3. Photographs (copy of image) from the Black Panther Party (?)
Dr. Leslee Stradford
900 Fallon Street
Oakland, Ca. 94607
Cover art by Emory Douglas, Black Panther Party Minister of Culture
President of Laney College, Dr. Elnora Webb and Marvin X. President Webb
intends to involve her full faculty in the Black Arts Movement Celebration
Would you like to have Bobby Seale speak at your university, college..
Would you like to have Bobby Seale speak at your university, college, service group, community gathering or event?
Taking to the stage with his lively charismatic and activist eloquence Mr. Seale illuminates the true sixties birth and youthful intelligentsia of the Black Panther Party. Unfolding the pragmatic unknown philosophical range of the sixties protest movement, ["…which grew out of student activism, historical class analysis, scientific research, and programmatic grass-roots community organizing. NOT street life hooliganism as COINTELPRO political conservatism continues to distort…"].
Mr. Seale transports the audience back to the turbulence of the late sixties and early seventies. A time when the activism of hundreds of thousands of protesters of many different ethnic groups created coalitions, which included young Black men and women selling hundreds of thousands of "THE BLACK PANTHER" weekly newspaper. Who created numerous community programs and registered thousands to vote, complete with law books in their hands and "legal" guns handy for self defense against racist and fascist police and FBI's planned COINTELPRO vicious overt racist attacks at the time. Today our right to self-defense stance is unheard of.
Within the last three decades plus, the demise of several sixties left radical icons [including Huey P. Newton's death in August of 1989; Abbie Hoffman 1991; Jerry Reubin 1993 & Eldridge Cleaver & Quame Turea in 1998], Bobby Seale, (the original 1966 Founding Chairman & National Organizer of the Black Panther Party & “The Eighth Defendant: of the Great Chicago ‘7’ Conspiracy Trial.) in effect, has become one of the last surviving architects of the most important social change movements in American and African American history, complete with his historic political court room trials of that era.
Defining himself as "revolutionary humanist" Seale brings the BPP/Sixties protest movement era full circle showing how times have changed. How we must reach for the future: Demonstrate, Protest, organize real peoples' programs and evolve a greater direct [participatory] community control democracy, void of racist, bigoted or chauvinistic practices. Void of all the extremes of global corporate exploitation and complete with a profound cyberspace activism, science-based civil-human rights, and all people's ecological rights activism. Understanding how all civil-human rights issues today are interconnected intertwined, interdependent, and interrelated with ecological environmental problems, new-millennium political issues, and global economics.
If you are interested in having Bobby Seale speak at your university, college, service group, community gathering or event you may be holding send an e-mail request to email@example.com.
Be sure to include all your contact info. Bobby Seale will contact you to go over the speaking event arrangements.Power To All The People!Bobby Seale
1966 Founding Chairman & National organizer of the Black Panther Partyhttp://bobbyseale.com/
Reading a Poem by Rudolph Lewis at Winter Solstice
Good readings are sometimes governed by iconoclasm, the smashing of established gestures of decoding. A reader just walks out of the prison built by guardians of culture; she or he discards mindcuffs and explores; he or she discovers the wilderness is more intellectual than the glacial chambers in palaces of wisdom, the prisons of correctness. Despite probable errors of misreading, the reader’s sense of being independent is rewarding.
When I first read the typescript of Rudolph Lewis’s Mockingbirds at Jerusalem , I felt that I was discovering traces of unbridled creativity. The most important features of his craft and craftsmanship were derived from paying more attention to life rhythms than to treatises on prosody and monographs on how to write a poem. The bane of much contemporary poetry is disingenuous professionalism. What does it profit a poet to achieve technical brilliance without fire? Lewis has mastered fire and artistry.
After reading the published version of Mockingbirds at Jerusalem ( Pikesville , MD : Black Academy Press, 2014), I have rediscovered “Defying Raging Night,” one of several touchstones in the book. Lewis has the discipline needed to write such fresh, engaging villanelles as “The Thrill Is Gone: A Blues Villanelle” and “Get Up Dead Man: Blues Villanelle #2.” I am attracted more, however, his playing a riff on the formality of the villanelle by invoking the blues in “Defying Raging Night.” The poem is a defiant tribute to Dylan Thomas’s masterpiece “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,” a tribute that confirms the rightness of Thomas’s general imperatives to resist the inevitable by displacing them with specific, burning recognitions from African American blues ethos. Thomas inspires. Lewis empowers. Lewis demonstrates that fixed poetic structures can be unfixed to one’s advantage.
Lewis’s achievement in this poem depends on cultural literacy, a reader’s ability to grasp allusions: “in ancient cypress swamps” ---James Weldon Johnson; “ringing insect sounds affirmed” ---Richard Wright; “I’ve known black wonders”---Langston Hughes. Place names evoke knowledge of African geography and scenes of ethnic language creation as well as genocide—Bukavu, Lake Kivu , Goma, Grand Marché, and Kongo. A genuine reading of “Defying Raging Night” absorbs a reader, uniting her or him with the lyric persona as a Middle Passage survivor who can know “black wonder soothing enough to/write letters in hope of a Mockingbird spring.”
The poems in Mockingbirds at Jerusalem are aesthetic tools for building something positive and as yet unknown during winter in America . Read. Use the tools Rudolph Lewis has given us to increase our collective ability to resist ignorant armies that clash in raging night. Read. Build critical independence.
Jerry W. Ward, Jr. December 21, 2014
Available contact Augusta @ 510.695.9339
Augusta Lee Collins
As Black Lives Matter protests have captivated the nation over the past month, artists in Chicago used a different kind of medium to shed light on America’s racial divide.
And they took over a whole train line on Friday to do it. A group of more than 100 artists gathered at a downtown train station just before the 5 p.m. rush hour commute, boarding every Red Line train in both directions to demonstrate with signs, chants, and performances.
According to spoken word artist and activist Ayinde Cartman, the protesters were met with a range of responses. Some train riders simply put in their headphones or avoided eye contact, while others took part in chants and a few even asked how they could be a part of future demonstrations.
The goal of organizers, according to a news release, was to “creatively and peacefully engage train riders who may otherwise be distracted our checked out, particularly as many move onto their holiday break.”
“The intention was to disrupt, and in the most productive and constructive way possible,” Cartman told HuffPost. “We were trying to include you, rather than separate you from the movement. On the train, folks didn’t have a choice but to experience it.”
"The voice of the intelligence...is drowned out by the roar of fear. It is ignored by the voice of desire. It is contradicted by the voice of shame. It is biased by hate and extinguished by anger. Most of all, it is silenced by ignorance."|
--Dr. Karl Menninger
Art In This Cultural Moment
In mid-2014, Brothers' Network Board Member and Tony-nominated actor Colman Domingo
was summoned to play a role in a film by Ava DuVernay
, an established filmmaker who was working on a film about Martin Luther King. At the time, Mr. Domingo was scheduled to star in a three-week run of his own autobiographical one-man show, "A Boy and His Soul," at the Philadelphia Theatre Company. After much reflection and lots of thought, Mr. Domingo postponed the engagement in order totake the role
At left: Brothers' Network Creative Director Gregory T. Walker with Ava DuVernay, director of the new film "Selma," at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia.
The change of engagement left his friends, admirers and fellow Brothers' Network members in Philadelphia a bit bereft, for the opening of the show was to have been the centerpiece of The Brothers' Network's annual Black-Tie Gala Fundraiser, featuring a performance of the show and an exclusive post-performance conversation with Mr. Domingo.
Nonetheless, we were excited over Mr. Domingo's change of plans, and the reason why will open in New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta on Christmas Day.
Colman Domingo (second from left) plays The Rev. Ralph David Abernathy in "Selma."
The Ava DuVernay film "Selma," produced by Oprah Winfrey
and featuring Colman Domingo as The Rev. Ralph David Abernathy
, opens in New York and Los Angeles on Dec. 25
, in theaters across the United States Jan. 8
, and later in the year in Europe and the United Kingdom. The film received four Golden Globe nominations, including Best Picture-Drama, Best Actor-Drama, and Best Director for Ms. DuVernay, the first black woman to be so honored.
For more information about this film, follow @TheBroNet and @avaetc on Twitter and search on #SELMAmovie and #BlackArtMatters.
Above: Mike Dennis of Reelblack, Christopher Norris of Techbook Online Corporation and Gregory T. Walker.
The Brothers' Network has worked in conjunction with Reelblack and Ms. DuVernay's company, AFFRM, to build audiences for the work of this gifted filmmaker, and I recently had the opportunity to sit and talk with her about her own career from publicist to film producer, her filmmaking process, and the brilliance of Colman Domingo.
The genius of "Selma" arises from its capturing of the intellectual discourse and dialogue among the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. Listen as they carefully plan the strategy for the movement and the march. No other film has captured the intellectual capacity of not only Dr. King, but also The Rev. Ralph Abernathy, James Farmer
, John Lewis
, and Bayard Rustin
as they prepared for what became a watershed moment in the history of the Civil Rights Movement and a spur to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Ms. DuVernay gets the language right.
This is another moment in time that reinforces and re-emphasizes the importance of The Brothers' Network's mission, vision and values, which underscore the intersection of art, life and culture through works that engage and examine the thinking of black men such as Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement leaders and organizers featured in "Selma."
The cast of "Selma" engages in a unity exercise during filming.
We could not be happier or more proud of Ava DuVernay selecting Mr. Domingo to play The Rev. Ralph David Abernathy in the film "Selma." He is seen by Dr. King's side in nearly every frame of the film. We encourage you to see "Selma," listen to its language, and learn about the role of history as it relates to the matters of today. On Christmas Day, we invite our brothers and friends in New York, Atlanta and Los Angeles to see this informative, engaging, and enlightening film that you can view alone or with friends.Do not miss this film. Purchase your tickets now for screenings on Christmas Day in Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta.
The Brothers' Network will invite its members and friends to a conversation about the film shortly after it opens in cities across America in January.
-Gregory T. Walker, Creative Director, The Brothers' Network
My dear brothers, and most especially my brother Mack (Fresno projects with me, ringing chickens heads in backyard), I refuse to perform at Laney without your participation. Enough said. You must be there February 7, 2015, at the Laney celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Black Arts Movement, West coast style. West Oakland in da house! 510-200-4164
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: The Police Aren’t Under Attack. Institutionalized Racism Is.
December 21, 2014
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose.” This is the season and time when we should be resolved to continue seeking justice together and not let those with blind biases distract, diminish, or divide us. The way to honor those who defend our liberties with their lives—as did my father and grandfather—is not to curtail liberty, but to exercise it fully in pursuit of a just and peaceful society.
The way to honor those who defend our liberties with their lives — as did my father and grandfather — is not to curtail liberty, but to exercise it fully in pursuit of a just and peaceful society
According to Ecclesiastes, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose.” For me, today, that means a time to seek justice and a time to mourn the dead.
And a time to shut the hell up.
The recent brutal murder of two Brooklyn police officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, is a national tragedy that should inspire nationwide mourning. Both my grandfather and father were police officers, so I appreciate what a difficult and dangerous profession law enforcement is. We need to value and celebrate the many officers dedicated to protecting the public and nourishing our justice system. It’s a job most of us don’t have the courage to do.
At the same time, however, we need to understand that their deaths are in no way related to the massive protests against systemic abuses of the justice system as symbolized by the recent deaths—also national tragedies—of Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, and Michael Brown. Ismaaiyl Brinsley, the suicidal killer, wasn’t an impassioned activist expressing political frustration, he was a troubled man who had shot his girlfriend earlier that same day. He even Instagrammed warnings of his violent intentions. None of this is the behavior of a sane man or rational activist. The protests are no more to blame for his actions than The Catcher in the Rye was for the murder of John Lennon or the movie Taxi Driver for the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan. Crazy has its own twisted logic and it is in no way related to the rational cause-and-effect world the rest of us attempt to create.
Those who are trying to connect the murders of the officers with the thousands of articulate and peaceful protestors across America are being deliberately misleading in a cynical and selfish effort to turn public sentiment against the protestors. This is the same strategy used when trying to lump in the violence and looting with the legitimate protestors, who have disavowed that behavior. They hope to misdirect public attention and emotion in order to stop the protests and the progressive changes that have already resulted. Shaming and blaming is a lot easier than addressing legitimate claims.
Witness the Aftermath of Police Shooting in Brooklyn
Some police unions are especially heinous perpetrators. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s previous public support of protestors has created friction with these unions. The Patrolman’s Benevolent Association responded with a petition asking that the mayor not attend the funerals of officers killed in the line of duty. Following the murders of Ramos and Liu, an account appearing to represent the Sergeants Benevolent Association tweeted: “The blood of 2 executed police officers is on the hands of Mayor de Blasio.” Former New York governor George Pataki tweeted: “Sickened by these barbaric acts, which sadly are a predictable outcome of divisive anti-cop rhetoric of #ericholder and #mayordeblasio. #NYPD.”
This phony and logically baffling indignation is similar to that expressed by the St. Louis County Police Association when it demanded an apology from the NFL when several Rams players entered the field with their hands held high in the iconic Michael Brown gesture of surrender. Or when LeBron James and W.R. Allen wore his “I Can’t Breathe” shirts echoing Eric Garner’s final plea before dying. Such outrage by police unions and politicians implies that there is no problem, which is the erroneous perception that the protestors are trying to change.
This shrill cry of “policism” (a form of reverse racism) by Pataki and the police unions is a hollow and false whine born of financial self-interest (unions) or party politics (Republican Pataki besmirching Democrat de Blasio) rather than social justice. These tragic murders now become a bargaining chip in whatever contract negotiations or political aspirations they have.
What prompted a mentally unstable man to shoot two officers? Protestors? The mayor? Or the unjust killings of unarmed black men? Probably none of them. He was a ticking bomb that anything might have set off. What’s most likely to prevent future incidents like this? Stopping the protests which had sparked real and positive changes through a national dialogue? Changes that can only increase faith in and respect for the police? No, because the killer was mentally unfit. Most likely protecting the police from future incidents will come from better mental health care to identify, treat, and monitor violent persons. Where are those impassioned tweets demanding that?
In a Dec. 21, 2014 article about the shooting, the Los Angeles Times referred to the New York City protests as “anti-police marches,” which is grossly inaccurate and illustrates the problem of perception the protestors are battling. The marches are meant to raise awareness of double standards, lack of adequate police candidate screening, and insufficient training that have resulted in unnecessary killings. Police are not under attack, institutionalized racism is. Trying to remove sexually abusive priests is not an attack on Catholicism, nor is removing ineffective teachers an attack on education. Bad apples, bad training, and bad officials who blindly protect them, are the enemy. And any institution worth saving should want to eliminate them, too.
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose.” This is the season and time when we should be resolved to continue seeking justice together and not let those with blind biases distract, diminish, or divide us. The way to honor those who defend our liberties with their lives—as did my father and grandfather—is not to curtail liberty, but to exercise it fully in pursuit of a just and peaceful society.
- - - - - - - - - -
Abdul-Jabbar is a six-time NBA champion and league Most Valuable Player. He is also a celebrated author, filmmaker and education ambassador.
In Harlem, Renaissance Theater Is at the Crossroads of Demolition and Preservation
Michael Henry Adams, center, leading a demonstration against razing the Renaissance Theater and Casino in Harlem last month.
Photo Credit Bryan R. Smith for The New York Times
The Renaissance Theater and Casino in Harlem has been vacant for more than 30 years. The doors and arched Palladian windows are covered in warped sheets of wood. The tapestry brick on the squat, blocklong two-story building is loose, and many of the mosaic tiles inspired by architecture in North Africa have fallen away. Tree branches pierce the roof.
One Sunday morning, an empty half-pint liquor bottle marked the ballroom entrance that Lindy hoppers, basketball fans and boxing enthusiasts once walked through. Down the street, the theater where Paul Robeson had performed is now a fenced-in dirt lot.
There are two competing visions about how to revitalize the Renaissance, which is along Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard at West 137th Street. One calls for demolition. The other, preservation.
As churchgoers and tourists walked by on a recent Sunday morning, the preservation campaign was on full display. A man wearing a bowler hat and round-framed glasses bellowed from the sidewalk a chant of three woeful words: “Save Harlem now.”
Mr. Adams wants to preserve the building.
Photo Credit Bryan R. Smith for The New York Times
Starting in mid-November, Michael Henry Adams, 58, has stood on the corner outside the Renaissance on Sundays as a human bullhorn against plans to tear it down. Led by the Abyssinian Development Corporation, the real estate arm of the Abyssinian Baptist Church, a group of investors recently sold the building, once a storied social club owned, operated and frequented by blacks, to BRP Development Corporation for $15 million. In November, BRP applied to New York City for a demolition permit. The developer plans to turn the Renaissance into a glassy apartment tower, with stores, a restaurant and a community center below, next to Abyssinian Baptist Church.
“That to me is the cultural and historical catastrophe about to happen,” Mr. Adams said. “We have to save this.”
Meredith Marshall, a managing partner at BRP and a longtime member of Abyssinian Baptist Church, said that he respected the significance of the Renaissance, but that unfortunately through time and neglect, “there’s nothing to save but memories.”
The Renaissance opened in 1921. There was nothing like it.
The venue was built in stages, with its frieze of polychrome Moorish-style glazed tile designed by the theater architect Harry Creighton Ingalls. The complex included a ballroom, a billiard parlor, stores and the China House restaurant.
Owned by William H. Roach, the Renaissance was a leading hot spot in Harlem and the city. Known as the Renny, it hosted Joe Louis fights. Big bands led by Cab Calloway, Count Basie and Duke Ellington performed on its stage. The Renaissance was also the home court, at a time when blacks were barred from the National Basketball Association, for the Black Fives basketball team known as the Harlem Rens, regarded as one of the best of its time. The adjacent 900-seat theater featured movies by Oscar Micheaux, the first African-American to produce a feature-length film. The casino was used for a 1923 anti-lynching meeting held by the N.A.A.C.P. In 1953, David N. Dinkins, who went on to become the city’s first black mayor, and his bride held their wedding reception there.
The Renaissance started to taper in the 1960s as integration opened downtown clubs to blacks. It closed in 1979.
Mr. Adams, a historian, the author of the book “Harlem: Lost and Found” and a tour guide based in Harlem, moved to the neighborhood from Akron, Ohio, in 1985. He came for the graduate program in historic preservation at Columbia University, but did not complete his degree. Until recently, Mr. Adams worked as the community cultural associate for State Senator Bill Perkins, Democrat of Harlem. Mr. Adams seemingly cannot walk along a Harlem street without stopping to admire the gorgeous architecture of a building that now houses a business or a restaurant, or to share its back story.
There are a number of historical districts in Harlem. Still, Mr. Adams has long argued that the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission has ignored much of the neighborhood. On occasion, his protests have gotten him arrested for disturbing the peace, mostly recently outside the Renaissance. Bit by bit, Mr. Adams said, too many cultural and historical sites in Harlem — sites that make Harlem, Harlem, made iconic through black achievement — have been chiseled away. His requiem of places erased in whole or in part includes: the Cotton Club, the Lafayette Theater, Connie’s Inn, the Ubangi Club, the Audubon Ballroom, the Savoy Ballroom, the Harlem Opera House, Madam Walker’s house and beauty salon, Smalls’ Paradise, the Rockland Palace dance hall, Lewisohn Stadium, Pabst’s Harlem, the Eisleben Building, the Church of the Master and the Lenox Lounge.
The building in the 1920s.
In part, because such cultural markers have been lost, the Renaissance, which never officially gained landmark status, takes on even more meaning.
“There is nothing left. This is it,” Mr. Adams said. “It defines the community. If it’s gone — ” he paused and then said, his voice rising: “You can name streets after dead black leaders all you want, but what’s left for people to see? It’s cultural genocide.”
On a recent Sunday, Mr. Adams was joined by Claude Johnson, founder and executive director of the Black Fives Foundation, devoted to the history of the black basketball league. “What hurts so much about the demolition of this building,” Mr. Johnson said, “is that this was the heart of black culture.”
But what the preservationists see as an attempt to destroy history was born out of an effort to save it. More than a decade after the Renaissance closed, when the building was littered with trash and overrun by vermin, the Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church, organized a group of small business owners in Harlem to buy the site. The group bought the $300,000 mortgage for the Renaissance in 1991, the same year that landmark status of the building was proposed to the city’s landmarks commission; in 1997, a court-appointed mediator awarded the business owners the title to the property.
“The idea was we don’t need downtown hotels,” said Kevin McGruder, who at the time was the real estate director at Abyssinian Development Corporation and who is now assisting Mr. Adams and others on possible ways to preserve the Renaissance. “We can do events here.”
Abyssinian Development, Mr. Butts said in 1995, planned to restore the building as a ballroom with a restaurant and a 500-seat theater. The Renaissance, however, continued to languish.
“Everybody wanted to develop it,” he said in an interview this month with Mr. Marshall of BRP Development. “But all of them had big ideas and no money.”
In 2007, Mr. Butts successfully lobbied the landmarks commission to have it removed from consideration, he said, to spur its redevelopment. At the time, the development corporation said it would replace the Renaissance with a 13-story apartment house but that it would save the exterior of the northern part of the complex. This would be incorporated into a larger performance, ballroom and community space. Still, the Renaissance sat.
“It should have been landmarked,” said Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy, adding that she gave Mr. Adams credit for raising awareness. But in 2007, the conservancy sided with Abyssinian in saying that the building should not gain landmark status. Looking back, Ms. Breen said, “Maybe it’s a lesson.” But at some point, she said, preservation comes down to economics. “And is someone willing to invest to put it all together, and to what use?” she said. “It’s a shame to see it deteriorate like that.”
The Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church.
Photo Credit Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times
Sometimes it is too late.
The Renaissance sits along a somewhat barren strip near the storied Strivers Row townhouses and a French-Senegalese restaurant, Ponty Bistro. Most of the surrounding residents are working class and black. More than a third of the households in this section of Harlem have incomes of less than $25,000 a year, census data show.
“The greatest need, perhaps in our community today after education, is housing,” Mr. Butts said.
The construction project will include a 134-unit apartment building, with affordably priced homes, Mr. Marshall said, and 17,500 square feet of retail space. The project’s estimated cost is $70 million.
The site will also include an education center, where Mr. Butts said students can learn life skills, get homework help and study cultural figures such as Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen and Maya Angelou. It will also have a performance space where, he imagined, students can revive classic works like “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry. For him, it is the same mission that he had more than two decades ago.
But none of the Renaissance building would remain.
“If I could save it, I would,” Mr. Butts said.
Some remain unconvinced. “I can’t see why we can’t, or the developer did not feel it necessary to, keep the facade,” Chet Whye, a community activist in Harlem, said. “And to add insult to injury, they’re going to call the building the Renny.”
Mr. Marshall sees it as a level of preservation.
“I want to preserve as much of Harlem as I can,” he said. He hopes to salvage some of the mosaic near the parapet of the old building, maybe for an interior archway. The Renaissance has a long, deep history, he said, but he echoed that there is little left to save. “We’re going to remove the remnants and build anew.”
Mr. Adams contends that people save what they want to save.
Days before his next protest, a passer-by stopped Mr. Adams by the Renaissance and thanked him for his preservation efforts. The two then bumped elbows. “Some cannot imagine how you can take a wreck like that and bring it back to life,” Mr. Adams said. “But what will be lost in the meantime is a great deal, and that’s what I’m fighting against.”
Mrs. Amina Baraka and Amiri Baraka
Nisa Ra, Amina Baraka, Muhammida El Muhajir
Marvin X and Sun Ra
In my conversation with widow of BAM chief architect, Ancestor Amiri Baraka, as per her participation in the Bay Area Black Arts Movement 50th Anniversary Celebration at Laney College on February, 7, 2015, Mrs. Amina Baraka said the proper thing would be for the Mayor elect Libby Shaaf to invite Mayor of Newark, NJ, Ras Baraka, to attend the Laney College 50th Anniversary of the Black Arts Movement, Feb, 7, 2015, Noon til 10pm. Mayor Ras Baraka will be allowed time to speak on Newark as well as the Black Arts Movement and any issues he feels are of critical importance.
He will be able to participate in the panel Black Arts/Black Power Babies, moderated by Davey D of KPFA Hardknocks Radio. Other invited panelist: Danny Glover and son, Phavia Kujichagulia and daughter, Emory Douglas and daughter, Ayodele Nizinga and son; Marvin X and daughter; Walter Riley and son, et al.
Exhibits will include art work from community artists expressing the BAM theme of liberation and from inmates at San Quentin Prison, Open Mike, Speakers on Critical Issues, and performance by Marvin X with the Poet's Choir & Arkestra and Special Guests from the Black Arts Movement, the most radical literary and artistic movement in American history.For more information or if you would like to make a generous donation to the Black Arts Movement 50th Anniversary Celebration, call 510-200-4164. Or go to Indiegogo, Black Arts Movement.
Marvin X associate Hopie, MX and his chief student, Dr. Ayodele Nzinga, director/producer of the Lower Bottom Playaz
photo Adam Turner
From SF Gate
With little fanfare, Oakland theater
company the Lower Bottom Playaz has been working through August Wilson
’s “Century Cycle,” an extraordinary series of 10 plays depicting aspects of African American life in each decade of the 20th century.
The company, founded by Ayodele Nzinga
, started the cycle in 2011 with “Gem of the Ocean,” set in the 1900s, and has moved all the way to the 1970s with “Jitney,” opening Friday, Dec. 26, at the Flight Deck in Oakland.
“As far as I can verify, we are doing something no one else on the planet has done,” Nzinga says. “We are doing the entire cycle with fully produced plays in chronological order. Other companies have done the plays but not in chronological order, and others have mixed full productions with staged readings.”
Nzinga, who grew up in the East Bay, was a self-described theater kid whose life took her in directions that she calls “destructive.”
As we begin celebrations of the 50th Anniversary of the Black Arts Movement, we are honored and humbled to know the BAM revolution continues through writers such as August Wilson and playwright/director/producer Dr. Ayodele Nzinga, a student of mine since I taught theatre at Oakland's Laney College, 1981. Although August Wilson was one of the few acceptable Negroes on Broadway, his plays deal with the lower side of Black life in America. Perhaps we should say he delineates the life and times of the wretched of the earth colonized in these United Snakes of America. Now Wilson is not an Ed Bullins, my associate at Black Arts West Theatre, San Francisco, 1966, and at the New Lafayette Theatre in Harlem, NY, 1968--Bullins deals with the wretched of the wretched in his plays based on life in Philadelphia. August Wilson centers his dramas on life in Pittsburgh, PA, a little distance from Philly. Both men deal with the workers and non-workers, drunkards and murderers. They plays of both are virtual rites of passage, especially for North American African men. In Jitney, the setting is a taxi company in use by NAA's up and down the east coast, a way for men to hustle as unofficial taxis. It is a community about to be gentrified, but in those days the term was redevelopment or Negro Removal. The action centers around the coming closing of the building by the City and resistance to the closing by the men. In between we see the rite of passage of fathers and sons, manhood and womanhood training, especially male responsibility, but the wife of one character speaks of her duties and responsibilities as well as the couple purchase a house to move on up.
In the language of August Wilson, I hear my writing style. Indeed, at another Wilson play, my daughter said, Dad, did you write this--it sounds like your style. In Jitney, I heard the ghetto speech rhythms--for sure, Wilson does not employ my use of socalled profanity, but the linguistic music is there for those who have ears. After the Jitney company manager is killed, the play ends with his recently released from prison son, answers the business phone, signaling the baton has passed to him, especially after a dramatic scene between father and son on male responsibility.
Jitney is a must see. If you can, rush, run, fly downtown to the Flight Deck Theatre at 15th and Broadway, go pass the boarded up buildings from I Can't Breathe & Hands UP, Pants Up! and take a seat at the 2pm Sunday matinee. It runs next weekend as well.
Dr. Ayodele Nzinga introducing the cast of August Wilson's Jitney. They are all outstanding performers.
Playwright August Wilson by James Gayles. We place Wilson in the Black Arts Movement tradition of focusing on the common Black people. Some say since he didn't rant and rave about white oppression, he was acceptable to whites, even a hit on Broadway. But however subtle, we cannot watch his plays and not see white supremacy in the deep structure.
SAVE THE DATE: February 7, Noon til 10pm, Laney College Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Black Arts Movement, the most radical artistic and literary movment in American history. For more information, stay tuned to www.blackbirdpressnews.blogspot.com or call 510-200-4164.
Assata Shakur : An Open Letter To The Media -
My name is Assata Shakur, and I am a 20th century escaped slave.
Because of government persecution, I was left with no other choice than
to flee from the political repression, racism and violence that
dominate the US government’s policy towards people of color. I am an
ex-political prisoner, and I have been living in exile in Cuba since
I have been a political activist most of my life, and although the U.S.
government has done everything in its power to criminalize me, I am not
a criminal, nor have I ever been one. In the 1960s, I participated in
various struggles: the black liberation movement, the student rights
movement, and the movement to end the war in Vietnam. I joined the
Black Panther Party. By 1969 the Black Panther Party had become the
number one organization targeted by the FBI’s COINTELPRO program.
Because the Black Panther Party demanded the total liberation of black
people, J. Edgar Hoover called it “greatest threat to the internal
security of the country” and vowed to destroy it and its leaders and
In 1978, my case was one of many cases bought before the United Nations
Organization in a petition filed by the National Conference of Black
Lawyers, the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression,
and the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice, exposing
the existence of political prisoners in the United States, their
political persecution, and the cruel and inhuman treatment they receive
in US prisons. According to the report:
“The FBI and the New York Police Department in particular, charged and
accused Assata Shakur of participating in attacks on law enforcement
personnel and widely circulated such charges and accusations among
police agencies and units. The FBI and the NYPD further charged her as
being a leader of the Black Liberation Army which the government and
its respective agencies described as an organization engaged in the
shooting of police officers.
This description of the Black Liberation Army and the accusation of
Assata Shakur’s relationship to it was widely circulated by government
agents among police agencies and units. As a result of these activities
by the government, Ms. Shakur became a hunted person; posters in police
precincts and banks described her as being involved in serious criminal
activities; she was highlighted on the FBI’s most wanted list; and to
police at all levels she became a ‘shoot-to-kill’ target.”
I was falsely accused in six different “criminal cases” and in all six
of these cases I was eventually acquitted or the charges were
dismissed. The fact that I was acquitted or that the charges were
dismissed, did not mean that I received justice in the courts, that was
certainly not the case. It only meant that the “evidence” presented
against me was so flimsy and false that my innocence became evident.
This political persecution was part and parcel of the government’s
policy of eliminating political opponents by charging them with crimes
and arresting them with no regard to the factual basis of such charges.
On May 2, 1973 I, along with Zayd Malik Shakur and Sundiata Acoli were
stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike, supposedly for a “faulty tail
light.” Sundiata Acoli got out of the car to determine why we were
stopped. Zayd and I remained in the car. State trooper Harper then came
to the car, opened the door and began to question us. Because we were
black, and riding in a car with Vermont license plates, he claimed he
became “suspicious.” He then drew his gun, pointed it at us, and told
us to put our hands up in the air, in front of us, where he could see
them. I complied and in a split second, there was a sound that came
from outside the car, there was a sudden movement, and I was shot once
with my arms held up in the air, and then once again from the back.
Zayd Malik Shakur was later killed, trooper Werner Foerster was killed,
and even though trooper Harper admitted that he shot and killed Zayd
Malik Shakur, under the New Jersey felony murder law, I was charged
with killing both Zayd Malik Shakur, who was my closest friend and
comrade, and charged in the death of trooper Foerster. Never in my life
have I felt such grief. Zayd had vowed to protect me, and to help me to
get to a safe place, and it was clear that he had lost his life, trying
to protect both me and Sundiata. Although he was also unarmed, and the
gun that killed trooper Foerster was found under Zayd’s leg, Sundiata
Acoli, who was captured later, was also charged with both deaths.
Neither Sundiata Acoli nor I ever received a fair trial We were both
convicted in the news media way before our trials. No news media was
ever permitted to interview us, although the New Jersey police and the
FBI fed stories to the press on a daily basis. In 1977, I was convicted
by an all- white jury and sentenced to life plus 33 years in prison.
In 1979, fearing that I would be murdered in prison, and knowing that I
would never receive any justice, I was liberated from prison, aided by
committed comrades who understood the depths of the injustices in my
case, and who were also extremely fearful for my life.
The U.S. Senate’s 1976 Church Commission report on intelligence
operations inside the USA, revealed that “The FBI has attempted
covertly to influence the public’s perception of persons and
organizations by disseminating derogatory information to the press,
either anonymously or through “friendly” news contacts.” This same
policy is evidently still very much in effect today.
On December 24, 1997, The New Jersey State called a press conference to
announce that New Jersey State Police had written a letter to Pope John
Paul II asking him to intervene on their behalf and to aid in having me
extradited back to New Jersey prisons. The New Jersey State Police
refused to make their letter public. Knowing that they had probably
totally distorted the facts, and attempted to get the Pope to do the
devils work in the name of religion, I decided to write the Pope to
inform him about the reality of’ “justice” for black people in the
State of New Jersey and in the United States. (See attached Letter to
In January of 1998, during the pope’s visit to Cuba, I agreed to do an
interview with NBC journalist Ralph Penza around my letter to the Pope,
about my experiences in New Jersey court system, and about the changes
I saw in the United States and it’s treatment of Black people in the
last 25 years. I agreed to do this interview because I saw this secret
letter to the Pope as a vicious, vulgar, publicity maneuver on the part
of the New Jersey State Police, and as a cynical attempt to manipulate
Pope John Paul II. I have lived in Cuba for many years, and was
completely out of touch with the sensationalist, dishonest, nature of
the establishment media today. It is worse today than it was 30 years
After years of being victimized by the “establishment” media it was
naive of me to hope that I might finally get the opportunity to tell
“my side of the story.” Instead of an interview with me, what took
place was a “staged media event” in three parts, full of distortions,
inaccuracies and outright lies. NBC purposely misrepresented the facts.
Not only did NBC spend thousands of dollars promoting this “exclusive
interview series” on NBC, they also spent a great deal of money
advertising this “exclusive interview” on black radio stations and also
placed notices in local newspapers.
Like most poor and oppressed people in the United States, I do not have
a voice. Black people, poor people in the U.S. have no real freedom of
speech, no real freedom of expression and very little freedom of the
press. The black press and the progressive media has historically
played an essential role in the struggle for social justice. We need to
continue and to expand that tradition. We need to create media outlets
that help to educate our people and our children, and not annihilate
their minds. I am only one woman.
I own no TV stations, or Radio Stations or Newspapers. But I feel that
people need to be educated as to what is going on, and to understand
the connection between the news media and the instruments of repression
in Amerika. All I have is my voice, my spirit and the will to tell the
truth. But I sincerely ask, those of you in the Black media, those of
you in the progressive media, those of you who believe in true
freedom, to publish this statement and to let people know what is
happening. We have no voice, so you must be the voice of the voiceless.
Free all Political Prisoners, I send you Love and Revolutionary
Greetings From Cuba, One of the Largest, Most Resistant and Most
Courageous Palenques (Maroon Camps) That has ever existed on the Face
of this Planet.
Catch Marvin X at Oakland's Laney College, February 7, 50th Anniversary of the Black Arts Movement--focus will be on Black Arts West--the Bay Area contribution to the Black Arts Movement.
12 Noon--Book Fair
2pm--Open Mike Poetry/Speak Out
4pm BLACK ARTS MOVEMENT BABIES PANEL
6PM RECEPTION IN THE ART GALLERY: EXHIBIT OF SAN QUENTIN PRISON ART
7PM Laney College Theatre: Marvin X's classic Flowers for the Trashman
8pm Black Arts Movement Poet's Choir & Arkestra with special guests