Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Laney College will kick off the Black Arts Movement 50th anniversary celebration with the BAM Isaiah 61 Project

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners....
--Isaiah 61 

Dr. Leslie Stradford, Professor of Fine and Applied Arts at Laney College, takes a moment with Marvin X after a planning session for the Black Arts Movement Isaiah 61 project, which will exhibit the art of San Quentin prison inmates. 

A little black bird tells us Laney College will kick off the Bay Area Black Arts Movement 50th anniversary celebration. The Laney College Art Gallery was the first institution to respond to our call for support.  The Laney Gallery contacted us after reading Paul Cobb's vision for a BAM celebration in the Oakland Post, of which he is the publisher. As one of the chief planners of the BAM 50th anniversary, when he learned from co-planner Marvin X that the Laney Art Gallery was interested in exhibiting BAM art work, Paul suggested an exhibit of prison art. FYI, BAM West began with a 1966 visit to the Soledad Prison Black Culture Club, chaired by author Eldridge Cleaver and Alprintis Bunchy Carter. Against the prison rules explained to us by the officer in charge, The Black Dialogue staff gave out copies of Black Dialogue and the prisoners gave us copies of their writings. We published Eldridge Cleaver's essay My Queen, I Greet You in Black Dialogue before it appeared in Soul on Ice. We published the poetry of Bunchy Carter as well, along with the work of other inmates.

In 1966, the staff of Black Dialogue Magazine visited the Soledad Prison Black Culture Club, chaired by Eldridge Cleaver and Alprintis Bunchy Carter. (Left to Right), former staff and contributors to Black Dialogue Magazine, a critical organ of BAM nationwide: Aubrey LaBrie, Marvin X, Abdul Sabry, Al Young, Arthur Sheridan, Duke Williams. Most were in the BSU at San Francisco State University.
Before joining the Black Panthers, Eldridge Cleaver and Marvin X founded Black House, a political/cultural center in San Francisco, 1967. Bunchy, a poet as well as activist, visited Black House.  After the fall of Black Arts West Theatre, Black House became the center of non-establishment Black culture in the Bay Area. Marvin X introduced Eldridge to Bobby and Huey. EC immediately joined the BPP, becoming Minister of Information.
Prison author/activist George Jackson was in Soledad Prison when BAM came to visit the Black Culture Club that became the genesis of the American prison movement. We didn't see Comrade George who wrote Soledad Brother and has become the messiah of the Prison Movement. Prison Griot Kumasi says, "While you guys made revolution outside, we made revolution inside the walls."
The BAM celebration will continue our connection with the incarcerated brothers and sisters. BAM will work with the Post Newspaper to promote the art and writings of prisoners. As Paul Cobb said in his BAM vision, we want to put books into the hands of inmates, maybe a book a month. We will set up a fund for this purpose. We are collecting the names of inmates. If you have names, please send them to me at or Paul Cobb at goodnewspc@

You can be a part of this Bay Area BAM celebration. Call Marvin X at 510-200-4164.

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