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."
Black Bird Press News & Review: Parable of the Black Bourgeoisie: The economic and political dependence of this African neo-colonial bourgeoisie is reflected in its culture of apenmanship and parrotry enforced on a restive population through police boots, barbed wire, a gowned clergy and judiciary; their ideas are spread by a corpus of state intellectuals, the academic and journalistic laureates of the neo-colonial establishment. --Ngugi wa Thiong'o, Decolonizing the Mind
Marvin X and Fahizah Alim, longtime friends. He was her teacher, she is writer emeritus at the Sacramento Bee. At the Sacramento Bee she was Lois Lane and Superwoman for the Sacramento Blacks.
Rick was a happy dope fiend. He loved shooting dope in the Tenderloin of San Francisco, though he used to shoot dope in the Fillmore, but that was in the old days when the Fillmore was jumping, bumper to bumper cars, Negroes with big hats and long coats, ladies strutting like peacocks. Jazz clubs everywhere. That was before Negro removal came to town. When Negro removal came, Rick started hanging out in the TL, that funky multi-ethnic ghetto a block from downtown.
He was happy in the TL, along with all the other dope fiends, sex workers, derelicts , mentally ill, homeless and working poor.
Whenever Rick was on the streets of the TL, he had a big smile and laughed so hard you had to laugh with him, even if what he was laughing about wasn't funny.
He dressed clean like a real dope fiend from the old days when dope was good, not like that punk dope they have today.
Sometimes Rick would be in the middle of the street loaded to the gills, laughing out loud with one of his dope fiend friends.
Then something happened to Rick. He disappeared for awhile. We heard he was in a drug recovery program. We were happy for him.
He came out of recovery a changed man. He got a job driving yellow cab. He moved out the TL to Oakland. He'd found a house, bought two cars, one a Cadillac Seville.
But when we ran into Rick he was somber, quiet, mellowed out, didn't laugh anymore. He wasn't the Rick we knew. But he was clean and sober, had money in his pocket. But he didn't have that old smile, the laughter was gone.
We saw Rick one day down in the BART or subway station. He was with a girl. She was telling him to hurry up, come on. Rick did as he was told. He had a smile and was laughing.
It was the last time we saw Rick. We know he died happy, doing his thing. --Marivn X 4/12/10
Dope Man Blues
Hey, Mister Dope Man please bring ma dope please mister dope man bring ma hope hurry dope man wit proper dope ain't no hope witout dope come right mister dope man get me high as a kite give me dat paramedic blast to the future and da past let me see thangs dat ain't dare spare me dem punk bitch ass nigguhs spare me dem squares hurry mister dope man come take me dare come wit justice don't play wit da scales Maa'at will get yo ass litter dan a feather come right dope man let me see dat dope sparkle Peruvian flake gimme dat 30 hitter shit don't be fake Call da paramedics! dis dope too good dis what a nigguh need down here in da hood! Hey, dope main gimme dope make me sane gimme truth dope fada mind brainwash me dope better get in line!
Acclaimed novelist Toni Morrison, while promoting her new novel God Help the Child, proved that she’s certainly not insulated from the racial climate in America. Morrison has often written about race, and explained in The Telegraph why she’s grown tired of people who keep calling for a conversation on race.
“People keep saying, ‘We need to have a conversation about race,’” she explains. “This is the conversation. I want to see a cop shoot a white unarmed teenager in the back,” Morrison says. “And I want to see a white man convicted for raping a black woman. Then when you ask me, ‘Is it over?’, I will say yes.” Morrison is drawing attention to the disparity of how blacks are policed in comparison to other communities. Recently a black man in South Carolina was fatally shot in the back as he fled a police officer. The officer wasn’t arrested until video of the incident surfaced. Morrison explained during the interview that we’re having a hard time getting past racism because there’s so much money in it.
“Race is the classification of a species. And we are the human race, period. But the other thing – the hostility, the racism – is the money-maker. And it also has some emotional satisfaction for people who need it.” She explains that slavery “moved this country closer to the economy of an industrialized Europe, far in advance of what it would have been.” In a separate NPR interview, Morrison discussed why categorizing people by skin tone is problematic. “Distinguishing color — light, black, in between — as the marker for race is really an error: It’s socially constructed, it’s culturally enforced and it has some advantages for certain people,” she says. “But this is really skin privilege — the ranking of color in terms of its closeness to white people or white-skinned people and its devaluation according to how dark one is and the impact that has on people who are dedicated to the privileges of certain levels of skin color.”
The father of Afrofuturism and onetime local is having a big influence on six artists’ upcoming projects. What gives?
By Matthew Hendrickson
Published April 30, 2014
May marks the centennial of the birth of Herman Blount, the father of Afrofuturism. Born in Alabama, Blount moved to Chicago in 1946, claiming that aliens from Saturn had told him to quit school and take up music.
He changed his name to Sun Ra, and by the 1970s he was at the helm of a cultural movement that was a bizarre concoction of science fiction, African American history, magical realism, and free jazz. Twenty years after Blount’s death, interest in Afrofuturism is surging.
“Part of what’s appealing about Sun Ra to artists is the fact that he was not constrained to a single medium,” says John Corbett, co-owner of Corbett vs. Dempsey, a gallery in Wicker Park that collects Blount’s early work. “[It’s] a sensibility that’s very current.”
To meet six innovative Chicago artists with new projects influenced by Sun Ra, see below.
Six Other Afrofuturism Acolytes Worth Checking Out
On any given Sunday, you can find multi-instrumentalist David Boykin jamming with other free-jazz aficionados at the University of Chicago Arts Incubator in Washington Park. “Sun Ra was among some of the first records I heard, it was totally an awakening,” says the Greater Grand Crossing musician who started playing jazz in college. “[Sun Ra’s] music always sounded like it was happening right now. No one else sounded like that.” On Sun Ra’s birthday, May 22, Boykin plans to invite 100 saxophone players to salute to the musician at the Arts Incubator (301 E. Garfield Blvd.). They’ll kick things off with “Happy Birthday,” naturally.
Walking into Nick Cave’s South Loop studio—a behemoth of a loft littered with piles of branches, neon-dyed hair, and thousands of vintage tchotchkes—is like entering a wacky, warped world that is at once tribal and futuristic. Famous for his wearable Soundsuits (opulent assemblages that are part sculpture, part dance performance), Cave has long said he culls inspiration from Sun Ra’s eccentric rhythms and choreography. “I think we just need to keep everything funky and keep it moving,” says the artist, who, like Sun Ra, often performs in costumes that play off ritual African dress. Cave will perform on May 2 in Millennium Park at the School of the Art Institute’s annual fashion show. For tickets, saicfashion.org.
This South Side hip-hop artist known for polarizing public appearances is also a burgeoning author. Last December, he began writing a noir-Afrofuturist novel on Twitter about Teriyaki Joe, a Harlem detective. The blaxploitation–meets–Double Indemnity project has 1.3 million followers, who get frequent updates such as “.45 on the desk. Digital cigar burning. Sun-Ra coming out the speakers. Antique Rick Ross poster on the wall.” The account is private, so you’ll have to request access to @LupeFiasco.
A musician who uses the stage name Hieroglyphic Being, Jamal Moss has recorded over 300 experimental electronic tracks and outlined another 3,000, all rich with spiraling, atonal melodies inspired by Sun Ra’s 1967 album Strange Strings. In March, Moss recorded an album with Marshall Allen, the sax player who has led Sun Ra’s band, the Arkestra, since its leader’s death. “[Sun Ra] stuck to his guns . . . no matter how many people might have ridiculed him,” says Moss, whose new untitled record is set to hit the shelves this fall. “He carved a niche for himself on this planet.” For a taste of Moss’s music, hear the song “A Synthetic Love Life.”
This seasoned avant-garde guitarist and backbone of the band Tortoise says the 1970 album My Brother the Wind“opened my mind to a lot of experimental stuff.” His side project Isotope 217 also pays homage to Sun Ra with a noisy synth-heavy sound that Parker says is influenced by the Afrofuturist’s 1974 film Space Is the Place.“He is a very important musician to me conceptually, just in terms of having a more metaphysical, spiritual connection through your music. . . .[Afrofuturism] is a cultural reflection of what African Americans are dealing with in their art.”
For this Kenwood artist and experimental filmmaker, inspiration struck while standing in line at the DMV. “There was one song in particular, called ‘Love in Outer Space.’ I just listened to it over and over and over. I was like, I should be wanting to kill myself right now, but I feel great,” says the artist. Smith became a Sun Ra scholar of sorts and has spent the past four years knee-deep in his archives at the University of Chicago and the West Loop gallery Threewalls. Recently, she has been weaving his writings on American politics and the black diaspora into multimedia installations, including the one on view at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary in Dallas through May 3. Bonus: Here’s a behind the scenes look at the photo shoot with Nick Cave, as he tries out the Soundsuit in our lead photo.
Marvin X and Sun Ra at Marvin X's Black Educational Theatre, Fillmore District, San Francisco, 1972. Sun Ra and Marvin X both lectured in the Black Studies Department, University of California, Berkeley during this time. Marvin performed coast to coast with Sun Ra's Arkestra, reciting his poetry. Sun Ra arranged the musical version of Marvin's play Flowers for the Trashman, retitled Take Care of Business. They produced a five hour concert at San Francisco's Harding Theatre, with a cast of fifty, including the cast of TCB, Arkestra, Ellendar Barne dancers, Raymond Sawyer Dancers.
HiMarvin, Mumia is still in medical danger. He is weak, in the infirmary, and still needs a wheelchair to come out to visits. In a phone call on Monday his voice was hesitant and lacked its usual vibrancy. Yesterday, the PA Department of Corrections notified Mumia’s Attorney Bret Grote (of the Abolitionist Law Center) that it would:
Not allow Mumia to be examined by his own doctor;
Not allow Mumia to be examined by a endocrinologist (diabetes specialist);
And they denied access for the doctor to communicate with prison medical staff to assist or direct Mumia’s care; and the Prison has refused to provide for regular phone calls between Mumia and his doctor. Currently, Mumia can only use the phone every other day for only 15 minutes, as the infirmary does not have phone access.
Mumia is being held in the very infirmary that caused his chronic conditions of eczema and late-onset diabetes to become life-threatening. The medical personnel on site were prevented from ordering tests when he was ill in mid-March, and are under the same prison/corporate restrictions today. One postive note, at this time Mumia is being allowed to monitor his own blood sugar multiple times a day, and he is receiving insulin. Since Mumia was hospitalized in ICU on March 30th with life threatening complications from chronic conditions we have been advocating for his treatment. We have to step up our efforts.
Take Action Now!
Demand that the Department of Corrections permit Mumia to have an examination by his doctor! Click here to call and fax the Prison and State officials and state our demands.
Pam Africa, Abdul Jon, and Johanna Fernandez visited with Mumia at SCI Mahanoy.
We have 11 days left to reach $40,000 for Mumia
In just 20 days, 465 supporters from around the world have defended Mumia's life by raising $24,837! Now, with 11 days left, we need to reach $40,000 to get Mumia the care he critically needs!
Have you given yet? Now is the time. We are pursuing every step necessary to get a medical care team to see Mumia.
Please join us by helping Mumia’s medical fund reach $40K now! We're asking you to contribute $1,000, $250 or even $8 to the medical fund that will save Mumia's life. bit.ly/rise4mumia#DefendMumiasLife
"I Ain't Got No Quarrel With The VietCong... No VietCong Ever Called Me Nigger"— Muhammad Ali, 1966
On August 23, 1966, Muhammad Ali embarked on the biggest "fight" of his life when he applied with the Selective Service for conscientious objector status on religious grounds (as a minister with the Nation of Islam). In what became an extensive legal, political, professional, and personal battle, Ali was convicted of draft evasion, stripped of his boxing title, and became a lightning rod — and a voice — for opinions on the Vietnam War. Muhammad Ali's willingness to speak out against racism in the United States, and the affect it had on domestic and foreign policy, earned him many supporters and detractors. In 1971, nearly five years after it began, Ali's legal battle finally culminated with a unanimous decision (8-0 with Thurgood Marshall abstaining) by the United States Supreme Court overturning his draft conviction. The following resources document his struggle, his views, and his influence.
Clay, aka Ali v. United States 1966-1971 Click here for resources detailing Muhammad Ali's fight against induction into the U.S. Army — from 1966 to 1971. It includes the full text of the Supreme Court decision (Clay, aka Ali v. United States), a 1967 CIA document describing a pro Ali rally, editorials and coverage from the Nation of Islam publication, Muhammad Speaks, and more.
Ali's Vietnam Legacy Muhammad Ali's stance on Vietnam inspired admiration and hatred among many. Click here to find resources describing Ali's Vietnam legacy, including reactions to his being named "Athlete of the Century" by USA Today in late 1999, an Ali interview with National Public Radio from December 2001, in which Ali answers his critics, and more.
"No, I am not going 10,000 miles to help murder kill and burn other people to simply help continue the domination of white slavemasters over dark people the world over. This is the day and age when such evil injustice must come to an end." —Muhammad Ali
Source: "Muhammad Ali — The Measure of a Man." (Spring 1967). Freedomways, 7(2), 101-102.
- Geronimo ji Jaga on Viet Nam and Detroit A leading member of the Black Panther Party in Los Angeles, Geronimo was a Viet Nam war veteran. He was falsely imprisoned for 27 years in a frame-up engineered by the FBI as part of their counter-intelligence (Cointelpro) program. For more, see here. - Chican@ Moratorium Speech on Viet Nam War The Chicano Moratorium was a broad-based coalition of antiwar Chican@ groups throughout the Southwest that organized a march of more than 30,000 in Los Angeles on August 29, 1970, in which four were killed by police. Rosalio Munoz speaks. - Chican@ Moratorium Press Conference on Viet Nam War - Native Americans on Viet Nam A solidarity statement that emphasizes anti-imperialist commonalities between the Vietnamese and Native American struggles. John McClain speaks for the Bay Area chapter of AIM. (1975) - Attack the Water - Janice Mirikitani A San Francisco poet who often read at antiwar events, and brought forth her childhood experience in the concentration camps in the US during World War II that imprisoned Japanese-Americans. (1973)
The Long Haired Warriors from mel halbach on Vimeo. They were soldiers, activists and tortured as prisoners of war. This is a film trailer about Vietnamese women who struggled against American occupation and the South Vietnamese government during the war in Vietnam.
April 30, 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of the victory of the people of Viet Nam over the US military. The Vietnamese national liberation struggle moved the entire world and is one of the most important historical events of the 20th century. The people’s war waged by the people of Viet Nam, reaching a peak in the Tet Offensive of 1968, demonstrated that a united people, even in a poor and underdeveloped nation, could defeat the most powerful military and economic power on earth. In an era when national liberation struggles surged in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, the struggle of the Vietnamese people provided an inspiring example to solidarity movements around the world and inside the US. The movement against the war in Viet Nam in the US was inextricably tied to the early anti-imperialism of the civil rights/Black liberation movement, and many other movements of the 1960s and 1970s. The victory of Viet Nam is a living examplethat holds lessons for the ongoing struggle against US imperialism today. We are creating this online tribute, much of it drawn from the Freedom Archives, to help illustrate and pass on these lessons.
From 1964 to 1972, the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the history of the world made a maximum military effort, with everything short of atomic bombs, to defeat a nationalist revolutionary movement in a tiny, peasant country-and failed. When the United States fought in Vietnam, it was organized modern technology versus organized human beings, and the human beings won. - Howard Zinn from A People's History of the United States
The Chican@ Moratorium marches against the Vietnam War played a decisive role in ending that conflict (poster: Malaquias Montoya)
Colonialists, International Traitors, Think Carefully Before You Take Vietnam - To Lien (1978)
Women played a powerful, absolutely crucial role in Viet Nam’s liberation struggle, from the Trung Sisters leading ancient struggles against Chinese domination to the courageous participation of millions of women from north and south in the people’s war against the US Empire. Prominent leaders include General Nguyen Thi Dinh, a commander of the National Liberation Front, and Madame Nguyen Thi Binh, who led the delegation for the Front at the Paris negotiations. There were a number of meetings between Vietnamese women with women from North America and other nations during the war; the example of women in Viet Nam’s independence struggle had a profound impact on the antiwar and then resurging women’s liberation movements—and in fact inspired women all over the world. In her book, Women and Revolution in Viet Nam, Arlene Eisen quotes Bui Thi Me, then Minister of Health of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Viet Nam, as saying, when welcoming her to a liberated zone: “We are part of the worldwide family of militant women. The oceans cannot dampen our feelings of solidarity and love.”
One of the most powerful and often understated components of the movement against the war in Viet Nam was the unprecedented wide-scale revolt inside all branches of the US Armed Forces that essentially led to the breakdown of the military’s ability to wage war—the US military in all branches became unmanageable. At its height, the GI movement involved nearly half of all enlisted personnel. There were 300 antiwar GI newspapers, and many antiwar GI coffeehouses near bases throughout the US. For soldiers of color, who were predominantly fighting and dying on the front lines allegedly for “democracy” the contradictions were even greater, as activists inside the US struggled and sometimes died for a democracy that had so long been denied. On the battlefield itself, there were numerous incidents of rebellion, including “fragging”—the killing of officers by enlisted men. Even official statistics record hundreds of successful fraggings—and those only include incidents using explosives, not rifles or other means, nor the many threats of fragging that curtailed officer orders. By 1970, the US Army recorded 65,643 desertions, roughly the equivalent of four divisions. There were also many thousands of draft refusals and an active draft resistance movement, including demonstrations such as Stop-the-Draft Week in Oakland, California and the public burning of draft cards in many cities. http://depts.washington.edu/antiwar/gi_mvmt.shtml https://libcom.org/history/1961-1973-gi-resistance-in-the-vietnam-war
We will fight and fight from this generation to the next - 1969.
May 19: Birthday of Malcolm X and Ho Chi Minh, two great revolutionary fighters for social justice and national liberation.
NOTE: MARVIN X ENDURED EXILE AND FEDERAL PRISON OPPOSING THE VIET NAM WAR
By the late 1960s Marvin X was a central figure in the Black Arts Movement in coast to coast and had become part of the Nation of Islam, changing his name to El Muhajir and following Elijah Muhammad. Like the heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, Marvin X refused his induction to fight in Vietnam. But unlike Ali, Marvin X, along with several other members of the Nation of Islam in California, decided to evade arrest. In 1967 he escaped to Canada but was later arrested in Belize. He chastised the court for punishing him for refusing to be inducted into an army for the purpose of securing “White Power” throughout the world before he was sentenced to five months’ imprisonment. His statement was published in the journal The Black Scholar in 1971. Despite his reputation as an activist, Marvin X was also an intellectual, and a celebrated writer. He was most concerned with the problem of using language created by whites in order to argue for freedom from white power.
One of the most memorable interviews from THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION came from Wayne Pharr, a founding member of the LA chapter of the Black Panther Party. He passed away last year shortly after giving his truthful and powerful account of being a Black Panther.
Tickets to the see actor Wendell Pierce (Selma, The Wire, Treme) in the acclaimed play, BROTHERS FROM THE BOTTOM when it premieres at the Lupin Hall in his hometown of New Orleans
A signed DVD of the finished film
Private link to watch the film online followed by an online Q&A with myself and former Black Panthers
Black Panther t-shirts, tote bags and official posters from the film
Tickets to theatrical premieres in Seattle, Baltimore and Maryland
Rare, signed photo of Kathleen Cleaver from a 1978 rally in San Francisco
And for the budding filmmakers out there, I will review your rough cut or screenplay and offer detailed advice and feedback. Think of it as a virtual mentorship!
Have you already donated? Thank you! Please share this newsletter with your family, friends and colleagues and encourage them to make a donation and own a piece of their history.
Remember, even though we've raised over $33,000 in 15 days, we will LOSE IT ALL if we do not reach $50,000 by May 5. Your donation of any amount moves us further from that possibility - and closer to our goal.
(Right now Carl is in Baltimore focused on the fight against police murder and mass incarceration. Given, however, the seriousness of the attack against Cornel West, he and I have talked at length about this, and I am writing for us both. Lenny Wolff)
This Sunday, the New Republic posted a vicious attack on Cornel West, “The Ghost of Cornel West,” by Michael Eric Dyson. This attack is not an academic dispute; it is a hit job against a deeply principled intellectual who refused to put away his critical faculties when Obama took office, who has increasingly stepped out into the struggle against murders by police and mass incarceration, and who has done so in a way that condemns and exposes the crimes—and yes, they are crimes—of the Obama Administration. All the sound and fury of Dyson’s long rant cannot hide that essential, and shameful, fact.
On one level, Dyson’s attack is beneath contempt and barely merits reply. But because principle and intellectual rigor are currently so debased in this society, and because powerful forces seem intent on promoting Dyson’s takedown of Cornel West, reply we must.
Instead of making a reasoned critique of Cornel West’s actual positions, Dyson vacuums up a toxic brew of speculation on personal motives, rumors, criticisms from all kinds of quarters (some of which he says he doesn’t even agree with), and out-of-context bits and pieces from West’s personal life (taking special advantage of moments where Cornel made himself vulnerable by confiding personal regrets), and then he spews this all over his readers.
Dyson has combined this brew with mis-readings of key concepts developed and/or worked on by West (the rise of nihilism in the Black community during the 80’s/90’s, the role of prophecy as a strand in Black leadership, the relevance of jazz to intellectual undertakings, etc.) that are as superficial as they are willful. All of this is designed to overwhelm people’s critical faculties and hide the actual substance of what Dyson is attacking and defending. This is what passes for intellectual criticism in the era of reality TV. Let’s look at what Dyson says.
First, Dyson indicts Cornel West for a lack of new thought. Dyson must not have read and listened to West lately, for surely he would have noticed that Black Prophetic Fire is actually a further development of West’s thinking on a number of very important questions. West uses the form of conversations about six pre-eminent figures in the cause of Black emancipation. He draws out the contributions and shortcomings of each as he sees it, and in the process further develops his thoughts on the particular role of the Afro-American people in US history and the current day, the (varying, multiple and sometimes contradictory) qualities of what he calls prophetic leadership, the challenges posed by the current era, among other things. Yes, this is a different form, in keeping with West’s drawing on the jazz tradition—this is improvisation on a theme, done collectively in dialogue with someone who has differing but overlapping views. How refreshing!
The actual content of WHAT Cornel gets into here—what he is driving at, how he is posing and approaching these questions, the actual evaluations he makes of these different signal historical figures, the synthesis he is driving at and our respective “takes” on this—is beyond the scope of this letter. What is relevant here is that Dyson, in claiming that West has no new thinking, never actually engages what Cornel has been saying, in this and other works and forums. This kind of blatant non-engagement should be seen as unconscionable and ruling whoever does it out of any sort of serious consideration.
Second, Dyson dismisses Cornel West’s work of the past six years as driven by personal spite. Please! What a commentary on this gossip-driven culture that such a claim has any legs at all. One of us, Carl, has actually been in public dialogue with Cornel at least half a dozen times, stretching from the June 2009 dialogue on “In The Age of Obama: What Future for our Youth?” to a dialogue this month on the emergency of murder by police. You can see these dialogues for yourself on-line, or you can check out any of the other dialogues that Cornel has done with a whole range of people over these past years—including the recent unprecedented dialogue with Bob Avakian at Riverside Church this past November on revolution and religion—and even a few minutes should convince you that Cornel West’s critique of Obama focuses on questions of empire and of Obama’s actual actions as the head of that empire. (It is—again—stunning, and a sad commentary on intellectual discourse today, that Dyson feels he can get away with attacking Cornel West and never once mention the word “empire” in the whole steaming 9500-word heap.)
If the stakes were not so high, it would be almost comical when Dyson instructs Cornel in “how to deliver criticisms of Obama to Black audiences.” Dyson says you have to start with how much you love and respect Obama and his “achievement” of becoming President, then acknowledge the animosity he’s incurred among the racists and fascists, and only then offer your criticisms for his “missteps and failures.” As Carl strongly pointed out in discussing this with me, this pat little formula totally leaves out the fact that Obama is Commander-in-Chief of the biggest empire in the world, and is raining down terror and horror on people in that role, and these are CRIMES and not “missteps.” Dyson then boils Cornel’s supposed inability to follow the formula to West’s “lack of respect” for Obama, when the key difference between the approaches of Dyson and West is precisely whether you expose the objective ROLE of Obama.
Third, it is telling—and speaks very much to the point and purpose of Dyson’s screed—that he delivers a back-handed slap at the fact that Cornel West has increasingly assumed a front-line and very important role in the struggle against police murder. Dyson goes so far as to say that this activity is nothing but stunts for the camera.
Let’s look at the facts. One of us, Carl, co-founded the network to Stop Mass Incarceration with Cornel in August of 2011 in a basement meeting with a dozen other people and nary a camera in sight. The first action of this network was to link up revolutionaries and anti-police brutality activists with the Occupy movement in October of 2011 to do a series of civil disobedience actions against Stop-and-Frisk in New York. Yes, Carl, Cornel and the others involved sought to make this known, to get this outrageous abuse in the front of the cameras—innocent as charged! Cornel came to critical, out-of-the-limelight meetings where strategy and political will was forged with the parents and relatives of police murder victims, immigrant rights activists, clergy, and many others and he made time on a number of occasions to speak at events organized by parents and clergy in particular, and to lend his name and platform to their cases. It is highly ironic that the New York actions against the police a week ago which Dyson briefly cited in his New York Times op-ed of Friday April 17 were part of national actions which Cornel and Carl led in calling for and helped to organize, including at a critical rally where the two spoke on April 6 in NYC leading up to these actions.
Nellie Bailey of the Harlem Tenants Council (at mic) speaks at a 2012 rally before the opening day of the trial for 20 people who were arrested at a Harlem police precinct during an October protest against NYPD stop-and-frisk practices. Behind her are (from l.) defendants Elaine Brower, Cornel West and Carl Dix.
What exactly is Dyson’s problem with all this? Is it that during these past few actions West has been quoted making the point that here we are six-plus years into the reign of a Black president, Black attorney general, and Black head of “Homeland Security” and there has not been a single successful federal prosecution of murder by police? That in fact this crime has grown during their reign?
(And here it has to be said, in the face of Dyson’s accusations of egotism, that—as Carl often points out—Cornel has gone out of his way since 1996 and the first time they worked together to credit others and bring them into the spotlight, and more generally to reference the work of others and graciously point to their contributions at any opportunity, even when this goes against the grain of his audience. In many ways, Cornel West fights to represent what Bob Avakian has called the “largeness of mind and generosity of spirit” so badly needed in society today.)
Dyson’s rant takes on what would, again, be comical proportions were it not for the stakes and dangers of these times when, toward the end of his piece, Dyson delivers his pathetic list of Obama’s “achievements.” These are supposed “left-wing” accomplishments that Obama has carried out while cleverly pretending to “talk right.” Here Dyson blots out and covers over Obama’s record as deporter-in-chief, his refusal to even half-heartedly criticize murders by police (let alone do anything about them) until not doing so would have seriously undermined his legitimacy among Black people, his defense of draconian surveillance and attacks on those daring to reveal these crimes, his all-out support for Israel’s genocidal attacks on Gaza, his vicious military predations and outright war crimes from Afghanistan to Libya and most recently Yemen (where, with true Obama-esque double-talk, he now “condemns” the Saudi airstrikes that he himself authorized!), etc. And as Dyson once knew when he (correctly) took a whole book to go after Bill Cosby’s “pull-up-your-pants” poison, “talking right”—as Obama does when, at his “Brother’s Keeper” press conference in 2014, he all but openly blamed the murders of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis on absent Black fathers (when such “absences” have everything to do with the very consciously designed genocidal policy of mass incarceration)*, or when Obama does his own Bill Cosby imitation at places like the Morehouse graduation ceremony in 2014—has seriously bad consequences.
There is a further irony here when Dyson, who praised Race Matters when it came out, now faults Cornel West’s criticism of nihilism in that book as “blaming the victim.” First of all, read the damn book and engage it—get into what he’s actually saying and if you, Dyson, have changed your opinion on it now, say why you agreed back then and why you now have changed your mind. More to the point, it’s really outrageous to say this about Cornel, when a large part of his vocation over decades now has been precisely to uphold, defend and stand with in deed as well as word “the least of these”—those who have been cast out, stigmatized, demonized, despised, incarcerated and murdered by this system.
I want to conclude by saying that Carl particularly emphasized to me that one has to wonder at the timing of this attack when the network which he and Cornel co-initiated has just mounted a mass outpouring against police murder on April 14, making a major contribution to reseizing the offensive on this for the movement as a whole. You have to wonder at the timing of this compendium of cheap shots, rank distortions and half-truths, right when we are beginning what promises to be a long hot summer, to invoke that 60’s term—a time when the police have been emboldened by the Justice Department’s whitewash of Darren Wilson’s murder of Michael Brown but when masses of people are increasingly refusing to take this, and not so persuaded by those who would want them to work within the system, and when the Obama administration that Dyson so cherishes has no real answers to this horror.
You have to wonder as well why Dyson offers not reasoned criticism or disagreement, but a really foul farrago of snark, half-truths and straight-up slanders, seemingly designed to destroy a rare and important truth-teller and, increasingly, front-line activist at just this crucial time.
Michael Eric Dyson: which side are you on?
* The conference on Brother’s Keeper took place just days after the anniversary of Martin’s unpunished murder by the vigilante George Zimmerman, and shortly after Jordan Davis’ killer had been found not guilty, in his first trial, of the homicide of Davis. It is painfully ironic that for all of Obama’s emphasis about absent fathers, the very real presence of both these fathers in their sons’ lives could not prevent white supremacy from murdering them.
Black Panther Party Minister of Culture, Emory Douglas, and Black Arts Movement co-founder Marvin X at screening of Stanley Nelson's Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution,
at the San Francisco International Film Festival. photo Aries Jordan
Marvin X Notes on Slave Catchers/Slave Resisters, Part Two: Black Panthers/Vanguard of the Revolution, directed by Stanley Nelson
In consideration of the request from director Stanley Nelson, i.e., I should delay the release of a review until September, 2015,
when the film is released to general audiences, and in consideration that I have requested the outtake footage of myself in the film,
I will not attempt a review but submit some notes or impressions of the film.
Firstly, I refer the reader to that excellent documentary on the History Channel “Slave Catchers, Slave Resisters” (on Youtube).
A viewing of this film will give the viewer the roots of the police in the form of the slave catcher. Of course the response to
the Slave Catcher was the Slave Resister. The film noted the significance of the literary document David Walker’s Appeal, 1829,
in building the resistance. We know Brother David Walker had a bounty on his head for writing his Appeal. He was found murdered
in Boston a year after the publication of the Appeal. This reveals the power of the word, the power of art and propaganda.
Mao taught us all art is propaganda of one class or another. Walker’s literary art was for the liberation of his people, enslaved
North American Africans.
We must note Nelson’s film is an inflammatory document. It will either advance the revolution or render us deeper down into the
dungeon of Americana. Although it is refreshing to see a new generation on the road to carrying out their destiny: the liberation
of our people, North American Africans, we only ask this generation to study the past carefully before proceeding down the road to
freedom in a serious manner. Yes, liberty or death should be our mantra, for why should we permit ourselves to continue being
relegated to the lowest rung on the societal ladder?
Just as Slave Catchers, Slave Resisters, offered us a model from the American slave system, Black Panther/Vanguard of the Revolution
presents a model from the past, a radical model for sure, but a model from our most recent experience, i.e.,the 1960s.
We must study carefully the positive and negative points presented. We should note our internal flaws and the vile nature of external
forces, not only the awesome fire power of the military/corporate complex, but the additional bags of tricks that were almost insurmountable
to the 60s revolutionaries, especially in the Black Panther Party, but the Nation of Islam as well, along with all the civil rights groups
and radical organizations, including the Christian liberation movement lead by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and those who came after his
transition to the ancestors.
L to R: Director Stanley Nelson, Black Arts Movement co-founder Marvin X, Black Panther Party Cub, Fred Hampton, Jr.
photo Aries Jordan
Disinformation, defamation, infiltration, surveillance and other tactics were in the bag of tricks administered by the military/corporate state.
What methods will be employed by the present generation to resist? It is for them to decide. Will they be able to fight by not fighting?
Or will the 60s model be unavoidable. Ultimately, we must come to terms with death and transcend it or there can be no bold forward motion.
Arrest, jail and prison is the natural and normal response from the Slave catcher state, now modern America in 2015. So the revolutionary
must transcend death, imprisonment, exile and other consequences of striking down the freedom road.
But, for sure, revolution is a family affair. When all forces unite, all classes that are progressive, the deal is done. We saw this in the
Slave Catchers, Slave Resisters as well as in Black Panthers, Vanguard of the Revolution. In 2015, half a centuray later, The Black Panthers
Ten Points what we want and need are the same: decent housing, education, release from the jails and prisons, recovery from drug addiction
and addiction to white supremacy mythology; economic independence to transcend the mythical job for life syndrome that is suicide and partly
responsible for the high incarceration rate as a result of joblessness and the resultant criminal route as a survival technique.
In conversation with the producers Stanley Nelson and Laruens Grant, I wanted them to stress the dynamic connection between the Black Arts
Movement and the Black Liberation Movement. I am happy to say the art of Black Panther Minister of Culture, Emory Douglass, satisfied by
thirst for BAM inclusion. It was of even more significance to hear Emory explain his functional art that focused on the common people in
their daily round and new found radical persona, especially in harmony with the Black is Beautiful theme.
We were seated behind Fredericka Newton, Huey’s widow, so we saw her reaction to the film that ended with Huey depicted as a madman.
But we can say that was his essential personality, for sure revolution made his condition more pervasive, but all of us have been forced
to don the mask of psychopath. But Dr. Franz Fanon and Dr. Nathan Hare tell us revolution is the only way to regain our sanity or mental
Again, these are just some notes on the connection between Slave Catchers, Slave Resisters and the film Black Panther/Vanguard of the Revolution.
At this present moment, the brothers and sisters in Baltimore are in the resistance mode to the present day slave catchers, i.e. police, aka pigs..
As Rev. James Cone would say, little brother Freddie Gray (RIP) was crucified on the cross and the lynching tree!(See Rev. Cone's interview with
Bill Moyer's, PBS archives).
Tour Update: The Wild Crazy Ride of the Marvin X Experience National Tour:
Tommy Smith Track Meet, Edwards Stadium, UC Berkleley
May 3, Saturday, 2015, 7:30AM
Tommy Smith and John Carlos giving Black Power Salute, Mexico City Olympics, 1968.
Marvin X was invited to participate in the opening ceremonies of the Tommy Smith Track this Sunday, Edwards Stadium, University of California, Berkeley. Tommy Smith and Marvin X grew up in the Central Valley of California; Marvin X in Fresno and Tommy Smith in Lemoore. They played against each other in high school basketball. Marvin and The Edison Tigers beat Tommy's team--he was the only North American African on his team from Lemoore High School.
The simple solution is for the occupying army of policemen to depart from the oppressed sectors of North American African communities coast to coast, as well as depart from other oppressed peoples communities. The time has come for us to secure ourselves from one element of stress from the Domestic Colonialism, i.e., the USA Military/Corporate complex, aka Global pimps!.
How can we have a conversation with the 1% who own 90% of the wealth? White Privilege is Pathological, full blown denial, and we suspect what the A.A. Big Book says: there are some who are constitutionally unable to recover from addiction ( in any form, Marvin X theory).
The A.A. Book tells us addiction is cunning and vile. The sad truth is that so many liberal and even Right Wing whites of good will do not understand the sickness emitted from their mouths!
Recently we were in Oakland at the 50th Anniversary of the Peralta Colleges, including Merritt College, home of birth of the Black Panther Party and the Black Arts Movement on the West Coast. Oakland's Afro-American Association gave birth to the Black Panther Party, the West Coast Black Arts Movement, including Maulana Ron Karenga's Kwanza myth/ritual. Karenga was the Los Angeles representative of Oakland's Afro-American Association, headed by Attorney Donald Warden, aka, Khalid Abdullah Tariq Al Mansour.
As per the West Coast, Merritt College was the hotbed of Revolutionary Black Nationalism. At the Peralta College 50th Anniversary, Black Panther Party co-founder was honored. Bobby was ill, so he had Virtual Murrell accept his award. In his remarks, Virtual said, "Bobby told me to say it was Marvin X's play Flowers for the Trashman that ignited the students after his production at Merritt College when the Soul Students Advisory Council held an evening of Black culture at Merritt. Bobby Seale said, "After Marvin's play, our student organization went full blown!"
As per White Supremacy, those addicted are not only in denial but are best described by James Baldwin when he said, "The idea of white supremacy has made white people pathological." In my 1968 interview with James Baldwin at his New York apartment, he said in the depressing winter of December, 1968, while the Viet Nam was in full swing: "How dare can we talk about the Prince of Peace while we bomb the hell out of the Vietnamese!"
"It's a wonder we haven't all gone stark raving mad. It's a miracle for a black father to raise a black son in this environment, and I applaud those fathers who have done so." (Marvin X interview with James Baldwin, NYC, 1968, Black Theatre Magazine, New Lafayette Theatre Publication, unpublished)
Marvin X on The Final Solution to the Occupied Pig Army and peace in the Hood
What I am about to say is not new to the American Government, they have spent millions and billions of dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan to placate the young people in rebellion throughout the global village.
In Iraq, President Bush gave funds to the tribal chiefs in the Western Sunni provinces to enable the Sunni tribes and youth to stop their resistance. The USA promised three items: jobs, housing and education. Yes, this was the deal: from Iraq to Afghanistan, including the Taliban if they would only pledge allegiance to the constitution of the corrupt opium dealing government.
My point is simply this: if the USA can give the Sunni tribes in Iraq, the Taliban in Afghanistan, three items: education, housing and jobs, if they will only lay down their arms and surrender to the constitution of their countries, surely the USA can eliminate police terror by employing youth to secure their communities in the many ghettoes of America.
We must admit the police are constiutionally unable to transcend from the Slave Catcher Model to The Peace Officer mode, perhaps due to the Slave Catcher DNA, combined with addiction to white supremacy full blown, Type I (Dr. Nathan Hare, Blak Think Tank, San Francisco)
In the Western provinces, the only question was how to decrease the violence? The global bandits knew they could seduce the young members of the Sunni tribes with the offer of the three items: housing, education and housing.
We shall conclude with the question: if America can spend millions and billions in Iraq to placate the youth, why can't she do the same in the ghettoes of America? Show the youth in the ghettoes of America you have love for them. Afterall, name one crime they have done to you!
Marvin X and Sun Ra at Marvin's Black Educational Theatre, San Francisco, CA 1972. Sun Ra arranged the musical version of Marvin's Flowers for the Trashman, retitled Take Care of Business. Both also lectured at the University of California, Berkeley in Black Studies, 1971-72.
BAM poet Marvin X with his Poet's Choir and Arkestra, featuring David Murray and Earle Davis, all three were associated with San Ra. This performance is from Oakland's Malcolm X Jazz/Art Festival, 2014
Marvin X at his Academy of da Corner, 14th and Broadway, Oakland, with one of his top students, brother Jermaine Cash. Author Ishmael Reed says, " Don't spend all that money attending seminars and workshops, if you want motivation and inspiration, just go stand at 14th and Broadway, downtown Oakland, and watch Marvin X at work. He's Plato teaching on the streets of Oakland." Bob Holman calls him, "The USA's Rumi, Saadi and Hafiz...." Rudolph Lewis says, "I would put him ahead of Mark Twain, even, as a story teller."
Ten Points for Youth Survival 1. Before going into the street, put on the amour of God or Spiritual consciousness,i.e., yea thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil. The Lord is my rod and staff.
2. Be aware of your surroundings. Two are better than one, for if you stumble and fall, who shall lift you up? Do not stay long in unfamiliar places with strange people.
3. Be conscious of the tone test with the police, e.g., if they stop you for any reason, one of three things can happen depending on your tone of voice: they can kill you, arrest you or release you.
4. Be conscious of the tone test with another brother or sister: they can kill you, bum rush you or greet you in peace.
5. Do not wear sagging pants that prevent you from running or fighting. The ghetto, sad to say, is a war zone or hostile environment. Do not pretend you are in La La Land. There are mind fields everywhere, so try not to be in a mind altered state. It is best to be cold sober on the street.
6. Respect elders and do not take liberties with women.
7. Help the poor, say a kind word to the broken hearted.
8. At all times, be a soldier in the army of the Lord.
9. Pray going out and coming in. Be thankful you made it back home safely.
10. Make your home the No Stress Zone.
--Marvin X, Prime Minister, First Poet's Church of the Latter Day Egyptian Revisionists 4/17/11
Young brothers at Marvin X's Academy of da Corner, reading the Oakland Post Newspaper
photo by Gene Hazzard
Marvin X and son of Chicago's BPP Chairman, Fred Hampton, murdered in a police shootout. Black Panther Cub will host a reception for Black Liberation/Black Arts Movement Elder Marvin X in Chicago while he attends the University of Chicago celebration of Black Arts Movement Master Sun Ra. Marvin X had a long artistic association with Sun Ra and his Myth-Science Arkestra and will perform with surviving Arkestra members Marshall Allen and Danny Thompson, along with David Boykin and other Chicago musicians and poets.
Black Arts Movement's poets/mythologists/philosophers Marvin X and Sun Ra
Rev. Blandon Reemes, Academy of da Corner students/authors Aries Jordan, Latoya Carter and Master Teacher Marvin X, on a visit to Alameda County Juvenile Hall to give out books from North American African authors, donated by the Post Newsgroup, published by Paul Cobb.
Linda Johnson, dancer, choreographer, dancer Raynetta Rayzetta, Val Serrant, Tumani, drummers
at the 75th birthday celebration of Amiri Baraka at the Lush Live Gallery, San Francisco, produced by Marvin X.
Aries Jordan, one of the students at Academy of Da Corner that Marvin X has mentored. She survived the Wild Crazy Ride of the Marvin X Experience to publish two books and have a male child, Legend Muhammad.
Marvin X and Academy of da Corner students Toya Prosperity and Aries Jordan, reading poetry at the Memorial for Geronimo Ji Jaga Pratt, Los Angeles Black Panther Party Leader, at Oakland's Bobby Hutton Park, aka Defermery Park.
Bay Area Black Authors, Artists, Activists celebrate the life of slain journalist Chauncey Bailey at the Joyce Gordon Gallery, 14th and Franklin, Oakland. photo Gene Hazzard and Adam Turner
Comrade George Jackson, Messiah of the American Prison Movement
Marvin X as bandleader with the Black Arts Movement Poet's Choir and Arkestra
performing at the Malcolm X Jazz/Art Festival, Oakland, May, 2014
Cornel West's first cousin Kwame Satterfield is Marvin X's stepson. Ase!
I am so horrified at the tales people tell me at Academy of da Corner, whether at Oakland's 14th and Broadway, the upscale Lakeshore Academy or in Berkeley at the ASHBY BART STATION. We are at all locations when we feel like it (prerogative of the Senior Citizen).
The unresolved grief and traumatic stress narratives presented to me in the various locations of Academy of da Corner, are overwhelming to say the least. Yes, some of the tales and stores are beyond tragedy, yet Cheikh Anta Diop taught us there is no African tragedy, only tragi-comedy, for the Southern Cradle believes in tragi-comedy. Tragedy is a concept from the Northern Cradle, Europe, thus it has no place in African mythology.
Perhaps, one day I can present testimonies in the first person, especially since I am pushing the suffering oppressed to write their narratives of how I survived, the essential theme in North Amrican literature, beginning with the socalled Slave Narratives, we say the Narratives of North American Africans caught in the American Slave System (Ed Howard term). I tell them to write one page a day. They said, how can I do this? I say turn off the phone, get the lover off your shoulder, put them out the room for an hour or two, do not show them what you are writing, write, write, write. Got blockage? Get some Henny, weed or Blizo! No writer's block up in here!