Thursday, September 26, 2013

Marvin X as Plato teaching on the streets of Oakland

Oakland Youth at Academy of da Corner, 14th and Broadway

Marvin X as Plato
By Marvin X

After stopping by  Marvin X's outdoor classroom at 14th and Broadway, downtown Oakland, Ishmael Reed told the students gathered around Marvin X, "He's the modern day Plato, teaching his students on the street." Marvin told the people gathered in front on DeLauer's bookstore, "Ishmael Reed is my elder. He's always been supportive of my projects and I deeply appreciate him for this."
Ishmael had come to the bookstore /24/7 new stand to get a copy of the Sunday Los Angeles Times which carried a review of his latest book. He said the review cut him up as usual. He said people cut him up for his views on Alice Walker and other feminists, but according to Ishmael the most critical review of Walker's Color Purple was by Toni Morrison.
The people who stop at the open air classroom include a cross section of Oakland's humanity, including whites, blacks, youth and elders. David Glover, director of OCCUR, stopped through to advise Marvin to be a part of the cultural committee for the Ron Dellums administration soon to take the reins of Oakland.
A young sister stopped to say she was in pain because her friends are being killed on the streets for no reason. She has vowed not to be a victim but she is traumatized at the loss of some many friends. She is 19.
The police officer who works the beat that includes 14th and Broadway, comes through picking up litter. Seems a waste of time for the officer to pick up litter when there are so many unsolved homicides. The officer is known to post up at 12 o'clock to listen to Plato talk with his variety of students.
A brother came by to challenge Plato, telling him he didn't know anything, especially since he wasn't from the south, New Orleans in particular. Plato told him New Orleans was as much a killing floor as Oakland, look at the recent deployment of National Guard to stop the murders.
Another brother came through and invited Marvin to speak with youth at a West Oakland school. He agreed, telling the brother, "I recently spoke with children at the Black Repertory Group's summer camp. I was deeply impressed with their intelligence. They asked serious questions, as serious as any I've received from college and university students across the country."
On Sunday, July 30, Plato was given a book party in Richmond, another Bay Area killing floor. But the party, hosted by Sister Shukuru, was probably the most powerful gathering of black consciousness people in Richmond history. The party was attended by movement elders and organizers, including Alona Cliffton, Phil Hutchins of SNCC,
Margo Dashiel, Dr. James Garrett, Dr. J. Vern Cromartie, Jim Lacey, Ann Lynch, Suzzette Celeste, Richmond poet President Davis representing conscious hip hop.
Poet Opal Palmer Adisa gave a reading of her work that was as spicy and hot as a two dollar pistol in South Philly.
The audience was enraptured by the musical accompaniment of Elliott Bey Savoy, who backed Marvin's reading and the audience discussion. A brother showed a video of himself reading Marvin X's poem The Origin of Blackness in Venezuela. He read in Spanish, then English. The poem was originally written in English/Arabic. Marvin then read an updated version on the theme of the poem, Black History is World History. Much thanks to Sister Shukuru, a great organizer, formerly with Brooklyn's East.
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Plato's Students
Plato stood at the subway entrance on Broadway in front of DeLauer's news store that serves as his outdoor classroom. Three young girls come out of the SUB sandwich shop. Seeing Plato's books on display, they ask if he wrote them.

You live in Oakland?"


You grow up in Oakland?"



"Seventh and Campbell."

The girls laugh and giggle with shame, "He grew up in Campbell Village," they say to each other.

He from the bottom."

I don't know what ya talkin bout the bottom. I don't use that term. I grew up on Seventh and 


Campbell. That ain't Campbell Village."

"Yes it is," they insisted, "He from the projects. You wrote them books, huh?""


And what if I am from the projects, so damn what?"

Don't get mad," one said.

"I ain't mad."


Why don't you write a book for young people?"What do you want me to write about young 


"Write about how bad boys treat us.

"I might do that." 

"What's your grandson's name?


"Your grandson, what's his name?"

He don't live in West Oakland."

Oh, well, we go tell our mamas to come buy yo books." They ran down Broadway toward 

home. Plato stood thinking about what they'd said. So what if he grew up in the projects?

Maybe he should write something for young people. And how did they know he had grandsons? Plato scratched his beard.
posted 3 August 2006 /

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