Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Mavin X keynote speech at BAM conf, UC Merced--that he didn't give, but talked and performed

Black Arts, Black Power, Black Studies
Time to finish the cultural revolution

The Black Arts Movement was the cultural arm of the national liberation movement. The cultural arm provided the necessary radical consciousness to awaken the people and inspire them to join the political movement, though we should not think culture and politics are separate entities, for they are not, rather they work in tandem in the holistic manner of African tradition. The body parts are all connected and cannot function except as a unified whole, each doing its part to make the whole move forward.

 When we look at the Black Arts Movement, Black Power politics and Black Studies, three components of  the national liberation movement, we see the first step was to gain cultural consciousness through the arts. This happened when young people, especially students, became workers in BAM then graduated to the political movements such as the Black Panther Party and the Nation of Islam. We must see the BPP and NOI has political, though on the surface the NOI was religious, but certainly the mission of the NOI in seeking a nation state was a political act, and surely Malcolm X pushed a political agenda, especially after his departure from the NOI.
The Nation of Islam, by definition, was a political and spiritual movement, even more, it was a consciousness raising project, i.e., Elijah Muhammad taught us our task was the raise the deaf, dumb and blind. But this consciousness raising had been persistent throughout our sojourn in the wilderness of North America as described by Elijah Muhammad. From the time Africans arrived in the American slave system, attempts were made to regain our mental stability. One need only read the socalled slave narratives, especially read the writings of those 19th century North American Africans who clearly expressed a radical cultural and political consciousness, such as David Walker, Henry Highland Garnett, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, W.E.B. DuBois, et al.
But by the beginning of the 20th century, Islam began to rekindle Black national consciousness, after all Marcus Garvey was mentored in London by an Egyptian Muslim and Pan Africanist, Duse Muhammad Ali, publisher of the Oriental Times and Review. It was after reading the writings of Booker T. Washington in the publication that Garvey decided to come to America to meet Booker T, who may have been of Muslim ancestry since Booker T. could be a corruption of Abubakr, a Muslim name.  And even before Garvey arrived teaching One God, One Aim, One Destiny, another Muslim Noble Drew Ali  was on the scene with his Moorish Science Temples.
Thus, Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam was well grounded in African Islamic consciousness, especially by the late 1950s when Malcolm X came on the scene as the chief minister and national spokesman. It had spread its version of consciousness since 1930, but Malcolm X took things to a higher level after the American media exposed the NOI with the documentary The Hate that Hate Produced by Mike Wallace.
So the seeds that grew into the Black Arts Movement were clearly sown by the NOI and Malcolm X. LeRoi Jones, aka Amiri Baraka, departed the Village for Harlem when Malcolm X was assassinated, 1965. Obviously, he had been influenced by the teachings of the NOI through Malcolm X. It was the same for us on the west coast. At Oakland's Merritt College, Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, Ernie Allen, Ken and Carol Freeman, myself and a host of other students were inspired by Malcolm X rather than by the Civil Rights Movement. We considered Martin Luther King, Jr. the chief boot licker of the white man and we wanted no part of non violence.
Although after Malcolm X  broke from the Nation of Islam and had no organization, we students at Merritt College considered ourselves followers of Malcolm X, we stated this in a Merritt College newspaper article, featuring Isaac Moore and myself.
And even though I did not join the NOI until 1967, my first play Flowers for the Trashman, produced by the San Francisco State College Drama department, 1965, expresses language that came from the teachings of Elijah Muhammad. So we must credit the NOI for influencing the Black Arts Movement, especially Amiri Baraka. See his play A Black Mass, based on the NOI's myth of Yacoub, the scientist who genetically engineered the birth of the white man.  See the Islamic writings of Sonia Sanchez and Askia Muhammad Toure. Dr. Mohja Kahf posits that the Black Arts Movement gave birth to the genre called  Muslim American literature.

 Those who say BAM was short-lived (Dr. Henry Louis Gates) need to be reminded that Jesus only lived 33 years but look at his impact; MLK, JR. and Malcolm X only lived 39 years but look at their impact,  so it is not how long a movement lasts but what was accomplished in the time it existed. What did BAM accomplish? BAM developed into a national movement of cultural workers, i.e., east coast, west coast, Midwest, south, creating a plethora of cultural workers in the arts, writers, poets, artists, musicians, dancers, actors; magazines, venues, theatres, all contributing to the cultural revolution that allowed the masses to gain radical consciousness and then seek to address the myriad issues facing an oppressed people.

 BAM must be seen as a revolutionary movement that not only changed the Black Nation but awakened other ethnic and gender groups to establish cultural sovereignty and recognition in the American cultural landscape.  For sure, we accepted the notions expressed by ancestor Langston Hughes in his essay on the Artist and the Racial Mountain, i.e., that we were going to do our thing no matter what, no matter if whites or blacks liked what we were doing, for we were on a mission possible. And no matter how briefly BAM lasted, the impact was made in the Black is Beautiful expressions and statements; the impact was revealed in how other ethnic groups began to express their cultural sovereignty, and finally how the white supremacy society came to realize some degree of multil-cultural inclusion was necessary if white supremacy was to survive.
For sure, white supremacy America, only reluctantly  and with great struggle decided to include other ethnicities in the cultural pie, especially in academia.  And if anything was short lived it was the inclusion of radical Black cultural expression in the curriculum known as Black Studies. Radical BAM expressions and personalities were quickly disposed of and only a weakened Black Studies was allowed until now.  Radical BAM expressions and personalities were purged from Black Studies nationwide, from UC Berkeley to San Francisco State University to east coast, Midwest and southern academic institutions, including purges at socalled Negro or Black colleges and universities. BAM founder Haki Madhubuti, aka Don L. Lee, was recently purged from his position at a university in the Midwest.  As we speak, two radical black professors (Dr. Anthony Montiero and Dr. Muhammad Ahmed (Max Stanford) are being terminated at Temple University in Philadelphia.  In the central valley, Fresno City College professor Kehindi Solwazi claims every attempt was made to silence and/or remove him, including the filing of criminal charges that were reduced to a $100.00 tax evasion.

The classic example is the treatment of Dr. Nathan Hare who was removed from the faculty at Howard University and San Francisco State University. This writer was removed from Fresno State University on orders from Gov. Ronald Reagan who simultaneously removed Angela Davis from UCLA. The reasons in each case was radical political consciousness: Hare, Marvin X and Angela Davis.

 So fifty years later American academia is still purging radical black thought and thinkers, although it is gratifying UC Merced made this conference possible. And we thank them for having the courage to do so, although we are aware the purge continues with the attempted dismantling of Black Studies programs nationwide, often by denying funds or tenure to professors of a black radical persuasion.

 Again, please do not make a distinction between BAM and Black Studies for we see them as one and the same. Without BAM what would be the curriculum of Black Studies, although BAM expressions was, of necessity, largely not taught in order for a Miller Lite Black Studies to be acceptable. In truth, it is difficult for American white supremacy society and/or institutions to tolerate a moderate, e.g., Martin Luther King, Jr., or a radical, e.g., Malcolm X. Richard Wright told us in his classic novel Native Son, "Our very presence is a crime against the state, every glance of the eye is a threat!...."

And so here we are almost fifty years later, attempting to celebrate BAM and its counterparts Black Power and Black Studies, strangely, in a little country town in the center of California, and we see the residue of white power thinking in the resistance of a few who are simply unable to recover from their addiction to white supremacy. We certainly hope by the end of this conference that all of us, those suffering the addiction to white supremacy type I and type II, will have inched forward to acknowledge the need not fear BAM, Black Power or Black Studies since we are only exercising our human right to self-determination and national sovereignty.

It is indeed time now to pass the baton to the next generation, yes, the conscious hip hop youth who are the inheritors of the BAM tradition. This is not to say that BAM was all positive for it was not, there were indeed reactionary elements that perhaps led to the abortion of the BAM, and reactionary elements are doing the same in hip hop. But we should see as Ishmael Reed has said, “Without BAM Black culture would be extinct.” So let us indeed pass the baton to the BAM babies and Black Power babies who may find in the positive aspects  of BAM the very necessary tools needed to infuse Hip Hop with the ingredients to move Black Culture and in the process global culture forward in the present era.

Before I conclude, allow me to speak on what I call the Psycholinguistic Crisis of the North American African. As a result of the Euro-Arab-American slave system, "...the proud African was beaten down from Kunta Kinte to Toby, perhaps the first level in his psycho-linguistic crisis: who am I, what is my name? Once in the Americas, especially after the breaking in, the psycho-physical deprogramming,  he was no longer Yoruba, Hausa, Ibo, Congo, Ashante but Negro, and according to Grimm's law (the consonants C,K, and G being interchangeable) he was a dead, from the Greek Necro, something dead, lifeless, without motion and spirit. Of course, he retained some of his African consciousness in the deep structure of his mind, in the bowels of his soul and he expressed it in his dance, his love life, his work habits, his songs and shouts, but basically he was a trumatized victim of kidnapping, rape and mass murder--genocide, for after all, when it was all said and done, between 50 and 100 million of his brothers and sisters were lost in the Middle Passage, the voyage between Africa and the Americas, thrown to the sharks that trailed slave ships, one of which was named Jesus, perhaps the same one whose captain had the miraculous conversion and wrote the song Amazing Grace! But changing the African into Negro was a primary problem in terms of identity which persists until today, even as we speak a new generation is now in crisis trying to decide whether they shall be called by Christian, Muslim or traditional African names, trying to decide whether they are Americans, Afro-Americans, African-Americans, Bilalians, Kemites, Sudanese, or North American Africans.

With this term I've tried to emphasize our cultural roots by making Africa the noun rather than the adjective. Also, I wanted to identify us geo-politically: we are Africans on the continent of North America, as opposed to Africans in Central and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia or the Motherland. As such, we are unique and have created an original African Culture in North America, imitated throughout the world, and yet, as Franz Fanon noted, the colonized man is disoriented, doesn't know where he's at, the Whispers said we were lost and turned out on the way to grandmother's house. But even in our wretchedness, the whole world wants to talk like us, dance like us, sing like us, dress like us: we have the highest standard of living of any Africans in the world and are thus in the position of leadership even though we lack any degree of National sovereignty, are yet a defacto Nation, albeit captive and colonized, exploited 24/7 by any pimp fearless enough to enter the ghetto, and there are many from around the world, including Asians, Arabs, Jews, Africans, West Indians, and Latins......"

From a writer's perspective, a poet, much of endgame in the psycholinguistic crisis is censorship, pure and simple, a violation of First Amendment rights and human rights. I have a right to say what I want to say the way I want to say it. This is an old tired discussion we encountered fifty years ago in the Black Arts/Black Culture revolution of the 60s: shall we define ourselves or the shall the masters and their pitiful bourgeoisie imps impose their definitions, their hypocritical, perverted moral standards. If a bitch is bitch call her a bitch. If yo mama is a bitch call her a bitch. If your wife is a bitch call it, your daughters call it. The worse bitch in the world is the bitch in denial. And as I've said, men are known to be bitches too!

There was a time when we were kings and queens, in Africa and during the 60s in America, but this was B.C., before crack. With the coming of crack, we reduced ourselves beyond slavery. We returned to the auction block of the crack house, and indeed, in fact, became bitches and hoes. With crack, the sexual etiquette of North American Africans has been forever altered and whether we will again reach the level of kings and queens depends more on the success of our total liberation than our correct grammatical structure, after all, we see Asians, Arabs, Latins, come to America and get rich speaking no English, yet we are being deluded by our leaders into believing we must speak the Kings English in order to be successful. If nothing else, the rappers have shown us they can make millions for themselves and billions for the white man utilizing three words: bitch, hoe and motherfucker. The tragic reality is that the black bourgeoisie failed to teach inner city youth proper English or anything proper for that matter, so the upper and middle classes must reap the reward of neglect, in the form of their children enraptured by rap and thus incomprehensible to the middle-class parents--as my daughter has said, You might not like rap, but if you want to understand me, you better try to understand rap. To paraphrase Eryka Badu, the psycholinguistic crisis goes on and on......on and on....."

Finally, we are calling for a BAM/Hip hop  tour of the 27 cities ancestor Amiri Baraka spoke about so often. We must hurry to put this BAM/Hip Hop tour together since so many BAM pioneers are making their transitions. This should be in the BAM tradition of a nationwide project that will be consciousness raising, educational, and spiritually healing, a tour that will indeed teach that Black is Beautiful, Powerful and Global! Thank you.

--Marvin X


No comments:

Post a Comment