728 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, Pa.
Sunday, November 2, 2014, 2 p.m.
SOS—Calling All Black People: A Black Arts Movement Reader
A major new anthology of readings, this volume brings together a broad range of key writings from the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, among the most significant cultural movements in American history. The aesthetic counterpart of the Black Power movement, it burst onto the scene in the form of artists’ circles, writers’ workshops, drama groups, dance troupes, new publishing ventures, bookstores, and cultural centers and had a presence in practically every community and college campus with an appreciable African American population. Black Arts activists extended its reach even further through magazines such as Ebony and Jet, on television shows such as Soul! and Like It Is, and on radio programs. Many of the movement’s leading artists, including Ed Bullins, Nikki Giovanni, Woodie King, Haki Madhubuti, Sonia Sanchez, Askia Touré, Marvin X and Val Gray Ward, remain artistically productive today. Its influence can also be seen in the work of later artists, from the writers Toni Morrison, John Edgar Wideman, and August Wilson to actors Avery Brooks, Danny Glover, and Samuel L. Jackson, to hip-hop artists Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and Chuck D. SOS—Calling All Black People includes works of fiction, poetry, and drama in addition to critical writings on issues of politics, aesthetics, and gender. It covers topics ranging from the legacy of Malcolm X and the impact of John Coltrane’s jazz to the tenets of the Black Panther Party and the music of Motown. The editors have provided a substantial introduction outlining the nature, history, and legacy of the Black Arts Movement as well as the principles by which the anthology was assembled.
As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Peralta College District, I invite you to join me in the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Black Arts Movement, known as the Sister of the Black Power Movement. The Black Arts Movement (BAM) is without a doubt the most radical artistic and literary movement in American history. Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) is recognized as the chief architect of BAM (RIP), but here on the west coast, BAM has roots at Merritt College with students Bobby Seale
(yes, before co-founding the Black Panther Party, Bobby Seale performed in Marvin X's second play Come Next Summer), Ernie Allen, Ken and Carol Freeman, and Marvin X, who won first prize for a short story in Merritt's literary magazine. Of course we were inspired by the Afro American Association, led by Attorney Donald Warden. Bobby Seale calls us the "neo-Black intellectuals."
After graduating from Merritt, many of us transferred to San Francisco State College/now University, where we transformed the Negro Students Association into the Black Students Union that eventually led to the first Black Studies Department on a major college campus--Merritt had already established a Black Studies Department.
My first play Flowers for the Trashman was produced at SFSU by the Drama department but after the production I decided to drop out of college to establish Black Arts Theatre on Fillmore Street, co-founded by playwright Ed Bullins, Carl Bossiere, Duncan Barber, Ethna Wyatt and Hillery Broadous, 1966. BAW actors included Danny Glover and Vonetta McGee, along with musicians Rafael Donald Garrett, Oliver Jackson, Monte Waters, Dewey Redman, Earl Davis, et al.
I should mention that students from SFSU published the key critical literary magazines of the National Black Arts Movement, Black Dialogue and the Journal of Black Poetry. Students included Aubrey and Gerald LaBrie, Duke Williams, Jose Goncalves, Sadaat Ahmad, et al. Contributors included Amiri Baraka, Askia Toure, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, Eldridge Cleaver, Don L. Lee,
Al Young, Art Sheridan, et al.
The staff of Black Dialogue made a historic visit to Soledad Prison's Black Culture Club, under the leadership of Eldridge Cleaver and Alprintice Bunchy Carter. This club was the beginning of the American Prison Movement, 1966.
In 1967, along with recently released from prison essayist Eldridge Cleaver, playwright Ed Bullins, Ethna Wyatt and myself, we established the political/cultural center in San Francisco known as Black House which became the center of non-establishment Black culture in the Bay Area. Black House participants included Amiri and Amina Baraka, Askia Toure, Sarah Webster Fabio, Adam David Miller, the Chicago Art Ensemble, Bobby Seale, Huey Newton, Little Bobby Hutton, Advotjha, Reginald Lockett, et al.
In summary, the Bay Area played a critical role in the national Black Arts Movement. Many BAM players, movers and shakers were bi-coastal. In 1968, we found ourselves in Harlem, invited by playwright Ed Bullins who was now at the New Lafayette Theatre. We become associate editor of Black Theatre Magazine, a publication of the New Lafayette. We joined BAM founders Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, Askia Toure, Sun Ra, Barbara Ann Teer, Milford Graves, Yusef Iman, Larry Neal et al.
We invite you to help plan and produce the Bay Area celebration of the Black Arts Movement. We call upon academic and cultural institutions to make this event a reality, especially in honor of ancestor Amiri Baraka who often talked of a 27 city BAM tour. We initiated the first leg of the 27 city tour in late February/March, 2014, at the University of California, Merced, produced by Kim McMillan and myself. We are so very thankful that UC Merced made this BAM conference a great success, especially with generous funding. We know the Bay Area will help us expand on what we did in the Central Valley.
At this point, we are in partnership with the Eastside Arts Organization and the Post News Group. Please let us know if you are willing to be a funder and/or partner, participant or volunteer. Tentative date, June/July, 2015.
Marvin X, A.A., Merritt College, 1964,
B.A., M.A., San Francisco State University, 1974-75
Board of Advisors
Dr. Ayodele Nzinga
Muhammida El Muhajir
Leon and Carolyn Teasley
Ovis and Nina Collins
Conway Jones, Jr.
Left to right, Audrey LaBrie, Marvin X, Abdul Sabrey, Al Young, Arthur Sheridan, Duke Williams
photo Gene Hazzard, Black Bird Productions