Nefertiti, Cornell West and Amiri, daughters of Marvin X. Far left is the Honorable John Douimbia, Marvin X's mentor. Photo is from the King's and Queens of Black Consciousness concert, produced by Marvin X, April 1, 2001.
August 4, 2010
The thickness and softness of the quilt reminds me of the warmth and security that I have always felt in my youth. Blessings and honor and peace be upon all of humanity. Reconnect with your faith. Reconnect with your history. Reconnect with things which will lead to your progression.
I was back in Houston, sitting on the couch, looking out the window at the big magnolia tree in the front yard. As I sat on the couch and snuggled in my thick, warm, quilt, I sighed and reflected, “Life is good.”
The quilt felt warm, and even thought it wasn’t exactly what I wanted, I had one. I had obtained a piece of history, a piece of my ancestors, my grandmothers, my people. A piece of the country, rural America; although I now lived in the big city of Houston, and I was raised in a small town in California, but my roots run deep in the red, powdered soil of Texas.
I had always wanted a quilt. My great grandmother, Momma Lue, used to make quilts and my grandmother had many of them in her home. Momma Lue had made many quilts for many of her grandchildren, but being that I was a great grandchild, it wasn’t likely that I would ever get one from her. My recollections of Momma Lue, who lived to be 104, were of her chewing tobacco, going fishing and living a very independent life. So I guess the quilting was another phase in her life that I never got a chance to see her partake in.
On the day that I purchased my quilt, I was making one of my rare 6 hour trips from Monroe, Louisiana to Houston. It was just me, my loud music and my trusted companion—MY GARMIN GPS. Outside of individuals, that little thing is by far the best gift I have ever received in my life (thanks to my beautiful sisters). But as usual, my music was blaring so loud that I didn’t hear her say, “Turn left,” and I kept straight.
I kept straight until I began to realize the unfamiliarity of my location. “Got diggity dog,” I thought, “I did it again, I missed my turn.” I decided not to do what I did the last time I missed this same turn, I didn’t turn around and go back to the freeway; the turn-around was too long and I wanted to stay on schedule.
So I thought I’d use my head and take the back roads. I was still in Louisiana, right before crossing into Texas. Driving along the tree lined roads of Louisiana always stirred up the most joyful and painful emotions within me. I reflected on the beauty of God’s creation, for the scenery was breathtaking if you choose not to take anything for granted. I loved seeing the greenery, the red dirt and the vast farm lands that had the unmet potential to feed the world. I reflected on how this land was considered by many African American conscious thinkers as “black land,” the land we should receive if ever awarded reparations. But at the same time I also thought of the blood, the sweat and the tears that fertilized the beauty of the land. I reflected on the sounds of dogs, chains, whips, the cries of mothers and fathers, the panting breaths and the racing heart beats of those who sought to be free and the incarcerated minds of pale men who sought to deny freedom.
I saw a sign, as I dashed down the road at my preferred and now legal speed of 70 mph. No music now, I needed to concentrate, I didn’t know where I was. Yes it was still day, but I can never travel those roads and assume nothing will happen to me. I don’t travel them laden with fear, but laden with a knowing of what happened in the past always has the potential to happen again.
I saw a sign, “Quilts for Sale.” But my thoughts raced just as quickly as my car did, “I want a quilt from a little old black woman, and that professional looking sign is an indication that a white family lives there.” I kept zooming and I saw a black man at the next house clearing his land, and then I saw two black women in the next yard running their mouths, and I zoomed by and I saw a young guy with his pimped out ride in the next house, along with an ambulance that was pulling up to the yard. “Slow down Nef, turn around. Ain’t no white woman living all the way back in these woods with all of these black people.” I was also conscious of the fact that I’d never make it to Houston when I wanted to. But it didn’t matter, I was not on a time frame, no one was expecting me, I’d get there when I did.
Walking up to the steps I breathed a prayer, “Lord I pray that no danger comes upon me; protect me from all danger and harm.” My minds seeks the wisdom, knowledge and protection of God all day long, whether I’m picking up a stranger off of the streets, walking into unknown territory, familiar places or just thinking about my child during the day. I didn’t want anyone to tie me up and discard my body somewhere in those woods. As no one was expecting me in Houston, no one would have missed my absence either. Maybe my mom after not hearing from me, but that wouldn’t be until Sunday; a couple of days away.
I walked to the door of the old trailer home and I heard a little old lady running her mouth on the phone. She was a small, tiny framed, black woman, who needed a new wig. I breathed a slight sigh of relief as I entered her home and kept my eyes on alert. She reminded me of any little old lady from church that I had met through the years. Her house had an old smell that made me breathe fewer breaths until I could get out. She had little nice trinkets that people had given her through the years to express their love, fake flowers, ceramic figurines, cards and pictures of people and places who had long forgotten her. Everything was tidy, but you could tell she couldn’t keep her place clean like she used to. It was too much work for someone who had worked for others her entire life.
There is another ending to this story, but I misplaced it. I'm sure I'll find it one day and I will add it with this.
--Nefertiti El Muhajir
Nefertiti is the oldest of Marvin X's three daughters. She was conceived while her parents were in flight: her father refused to fight in Vietnam and went into exile a second time in Mexico City. He was soon joined by his student from Fresno State University, Barbara Hall (Hasani). They were given temporary refuge by revolutionary artist Elizabeth Cattlett Mora. Betty and her husband, Poncho, were witnesses at the civil marriage of Marvin and Barbara. Against the advice of Betty, Marvin and Barbara departed Mexico City for Belize, then British Honduras. After hooking up with some radicals, Marvin X was arrested and deported back to America. The Minister of Home Affairs read his deportation order which said, "Your presence is not beneficial to welfare of the British Colony of Honduras. Therefore, you shall be deported to America at 4 pm. Until then, you are under arrest."
Marvin X was taken to the police station and told to sit down. He was not handcuffed nor put in a cell. To his bewilderment, he was soon surrounded by police officers who then begged him to teach them around black power, the very reason he was being deported, i.e., for teaching black power on Gales Point island.
After serving time in San Francisco County Jail and Terminal Island Federal Prison, Marvin X was released a few days before the birth of Nefertiti.