Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Marvin X interviewed LeRoi Jones, aka Amiri Baraka, 1968
God is Black
Chinese say God is the Chinese People
Chicanos say La Raza La Raza La Raza
Whites say God is White
Negroes say God is White
God is Black
Didn't the world come from a Black woman's womb?
Didn't Jesus come from a Black woman's womb?
God is Black
Son of God is Black
Mother of God is Black
Father of God is Black
Black Bird Press News & Review: Marvin X's Grand Vision for the Bay Area Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Black Arts Movement, 2015
Black Bird Press News & Review: Marvin X's Grand Vision for the Bay Area Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Black Arts Movement, 2015
During the 1960s and 1970s, a cadre of poets, playwrights, visual artists, musicians, and other visionaries came together to create a renaissance in African American literature and art. This charged chapter in the history of African American culture—which came to be known as the Black Arts Movement—has remained largely neglected by subsequent generations of critics. New Thoughts on the Black Arts Movement includes essays that reexamine well-known figures such as Amiri Baraka, Larry Neal, Gwendolyn Brooks, Sonia Sanchez, Marvin X, Betye Saar, Jeff Donaldson, and Haki Madhubuti. In addition, the anthology expands the scope of the movement by offering essays that explore the racial and sexual politics of the era, links with other period cultural movements, the arts in prison, the role of Black colleges and universities, gender politics and the rise of feminism, color fetishism, photography, music, and more. An invigorating look at a movement that has long begged for reexamination, this collection lucidly interprets the complex debates that surround this tumultuous era and demonstrates that the celebration of this movement need not be separated from its critique.
After Mecca by Cheryl Clarke: The relationship between the Black Arts Movement and Black Women Writers
The politics and music of the sixties and early seventies have been the subject of scholarship for many years, but it is only very recently that attention has turned to the cultural production of African American poets.
In "After Mecca," Cheryl Clarke explores the relationship between the Black Arts Movement and black women writers of the period. Poems by Gwendolyn Brooks, Ntozake Shange, Audre Lorde, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, Jayne Cortez, Alice Walker, and others chart the emergence of a new and distinct black poetry and its relationship to the black community's struggle for rights and liberation. Clarke also traces the contributions of these poets to the development of feminism and lesbian-feminism, and the legacy they left for others to build on.
She argues that whether black women poets of the time were writing from within the movement or writing against it, virtually all were responding to it. Using the trope of "Mecca," she explores the ways in which these writers were turning away from white, western society to create a new literacy of blackness.
Provocatively written, this book is an important contribution to the fields of African American literary studies and feminist theory.
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Dr. Ayodele Nzinga, PhD.
Ancestor playwright August Wilson
I am mid way through the production of Jitney. Only 3 shows left. It's the second show of the cycle we have done at the Flight Deck in newly dubbed "Uptown", (used to be plain old downtown), Oakland. This is our third production since leaving The Yard , (The Sister Thea) in the Bottoms. We started in the Bottoms and now we are Uptown -- we are a success story. What a story it is -- the making of art is often if not always as much a drama as the work itself. We are The Lower Bottom Playaz, we are Oakland's premiere North American African theater company and we have earned every accolade we have ever received.
We are that company Javier Reyes from Colored Ink called the Mc Gyver troupe for our inventiveness and applied ingenuity. How else would a troupe with the motto, We create what we need from what we have been gifted" roll. We much like our art come from a place of struggle. We are more than entertainment. Our mission is to create community one story at a time. We have become very intentional in embodying our mission. We are serious artist.
We do not create art because it is easy. It is in fact very difficult. Art making in America is costly. We are not wealthy but we have something to say. We are artist out of a necessity -- we have found our purpose. We are gifted. We share the gifts we have been given. We find a way to make art in spite of the difficulty. We make art as a way of being in the world, as a way of changing the world, as an act of resistance to narratives of lack, marginalization, and scarcity. We are abundantly gifted. We are boundless in our determination. We are dedicated to our craft.
Personally, I stay not because its easy, not because of material rewards, but because art is my calling. The stage is my podium -- I am talking to you. I have been gifted a talented cohort of artist to create with -- that in itself is a challenge. Sitting in a room of geniuses is not all you might think. Genius comes at a cost. And I demand more than mere genius. I am not fond of actors. I am in love with artist -- storytellers, musicians, alchemist who turn story into gospel, magicians who willingly disappear into a character in the name of the story unfolding to show us pain, beauty, horror, injustice,ugly truth, triumphant love and all the other myriad aspects of being. Try herding cats, harnessing fire in a bottle, or aiming a rainbow and you will come to understand what it is to sit in collaboration with genius. I have that privilege.
Yet this is not a cakewalk. It is a marathon in a smorgasbord with all the challenge you can stand . I may have come to the table ready, but I have grown since I pulled up a chair. I have become very firmly who I say I am. I am now capable of setting the table. I owe some of that to Wilson. I owe a great deal to the teachers who came to me before Wilson. I owe it to my horse eating great grand parents and the female lineage they bore who taught me how to strive. I owe it to the characters I recognize and have come to love and admire in the American Century Cycle. I owe it to the genius in the room with me trusting me to invoke Wilson properly. I owe it to my ancestors who walked the path to give me the privilege to claim my gift as my birthright, as my ordained avocation, as my duty to life and nation. I owe it to my nation walking like a blind man in the dark surrounded by enduring hostility and privilege in this nation divided smothered by the myth of the American dream. I owe it to myself for the struggle doing the American Century Cycle has been.
Doing Jitney was difficult. They are all difficult. I don't expect it will get any easier. Doing what is right, what one should do, what one must to live in the world with dignity in tact is not usually the easiest path. My path has rocks on it. I stay the path rocks and all. I have been called. I have answered. "The destination is worth the journey" as Wilson himself declared. The difficult journey has made me appreciate the lessons learned along the way. We should all know we pay for our lessons in life. With that in mind I am open to the lessons, paying the price for knowing, and determined to remember to remember. I am on the battlefield with Wilson.
With Jitney I claim our space. I mark this point in the journey like Wilson marked completing Jitney which was the eighth play of the ten which would become The American Century Cycle. He had yet to write the bookends Gem of the Ocean and Radio Golf. This was a point of epiphany for Wilson. He could see the whole spell. I sit in deep communion with him. I feel this point on the path viscerally. Seeing and knowing have become painful and I channel the pain through the production of art that illuminates the source and the chance of deliverance from that pain. I am praying with my hands moving trying to help construct the healing I need -- the healing we all need. I have the advantage of having the whole spell writ out before me; nothing left but to perform the incantation. I am on verse eight of ten shoulder to the grindstone, pushing the envelope, anticipating a blessing.
With my commitment to the American Century Cycle. the world I knew has fell apart as I walk the path. The producer and the theater we started with are in our rear view as is the neighborhood we moved into to do art that had the intention of being much more than entertainment. We were Griots coming home to tell the tale of falling forward into the American dream with our souls still in tact. We had the idea that, if we worked to make it so, it would surely be. My home itself has become an emblematic battleground. Home and the idea of it had to be rethought, are still being considered as I write. At this moment my only home is in the graveyard when the songs of my ancestors whisper to me -- stay the path. Wilson has blown so much away.
We were not wrong it has just not turned out the way we thought it would. That's okay. We have become fine dancers we have learned to change the steps when necessary but we refuse to leave the path. We are no longer sure where the path will take us. We have faith in our fate, we have surrendered to our destiny, we are doing what we must--sharing the gifts given. We are in alignment. We are the water that Ester speaks of in Gem of the Ocean, we are fluid, we have learned the necessity and rude contours of Diaspora. None of it matters as much as the fact that this is exactly where we should be. Even the difficulty factor acknowledges we are at the top of a mountain. Wilson and the ancestors stand there with us waiting for the song. The song must be sung the spell must be completed.
No one not even Wilson has enacted the spell in order. We will be the first. We are in a new theater. We produce our own work. We will finish this spell of a work and move on changed forever having walked with Wilson though the past to the point where Radio Golf ends. We will know more than we now know, and that will inform how we walk though the world carrying the song we have found in Wilson. I have learned a fair amount so far:
One must match walk with talk or become simply sound and fury.
If you pray with moving hands the path will clear.
One's song is the essence of one's being the inner light, the purpose, the soul force, it must be nurtured, it demands to be sung.
We have a duty to life.
We must remember.
If you drop the ball go back and pick it up.
Everything ain't always what it seem.
If you lose sight of your song you will suffer.
You were born free with dignity and everything.
Our stories are enough.
You can't pass the torch to the future and then insist on calling the music it dances to.
We must consider doing what we have never done if we desire what we have never had.
The past is the key to the present you need it to see the path to the future clearly.
Trust what you know you know.
I am because we are.
If the wheel don't work somebody got to fix it -- it don't matter who it pains.
Right is right and right don't wrong nobody.
You got to tell the truth and stand in the light.
We are enough.
What I have learned is what feeds me now. Finally we are getting feature stories. To all this I say yes. But as the SF Gate feature pointed out "we have been doing this with very little fanfare." Truth is fanfare cost. You need money for advertising and bells and whistles. We are so grassroots. I value paying artist. I know we eat and that heat and water cost even geniuses. It's nice to finally get reviewed. They say:
So the fanfare is coming.
But it's not what drives me. I am driven by what drove Wilson: the urgency to hear the song . The need to complete the spell. This is my duty to life. If my art is my weapon I have chosen well with Wilson. We are on the battlefield in dark times when the song of self is our most potent magic. The world is poised for change. I can hear it in the people's getting up and taking to the street. The fight is not over. We have not forgotten being born free. We are all called to contribute to a better world. There are forces in place that like the way the wheel works its their job to guard the wheel. I am a Black Arts Movement artist. My art is my contribution to the battle to change what is into what needs to be. I battle not against personalities but principalities, this art is spiritual, its a leavening stone, it is resistance. I am emboldened with my hard earned lessons firmly rooting. I am fit for the battle. In the tradition of the Black Arts Movement art is ritual, it is political, it is my calling card for discourse, it is my intra-inter group interface with my humanity. I am teaching while I am learning. This song will be sung.
The American Century Cycle
No North American African should celebrate New Years Day--the worst day in the life of our ancestors
The Slaves' New Year's Day
|Dr. Flint owned a fine residence in town, several farms, and about fifty
slaves, besides hiring a number by the year.
Hiring-day at the south takes place on the 1st of January. On the 2d, the slaves are expected to go to their new masters. On a farm, they work until the corn and cotton are laid. They then have two holidays. Some masters give them a good dinner under the trees. This over, they work until Christmas eve. If no heavy charges are meantime brought against them, they are given four or five holidays, whichever the master or overseer may think proper. Then comes New Year's eve; and they gather together their little alls, or more properly speaking, their little nothings, and wait anxiously for the dawning of day. At the appointed hour the grounds are thronged with men, women, and children, waiting, like criminals, to hear their doom pronounced. The slave is sure to know who is the most humane, or cruel master, within forty miles of him.
It is easy to find out, on that day, who clothes and feeds his slaves well; for he is surrounded by a crowd, begging, "Please, massa, hire me this year. I will work very hard, massa."
If a slave is unwilling to go with his new master, he is whipped, or locked up in jail, until he consents to go, and promises not to run away during the year. Should he chance to change his mind, thinking it justifiable to violate an extorted promise, woe unto him if he is caught! The whip is used till the blood flows at his feet; and his stiffened limbs are put in chains, to be dragged in the field for days and days!
If he lives until the next year, perhaps the same man will hire him again, without even giving him an opportunity of going to the hiring-ground. After those for hire are disposed of, those for sale are called up.
|O, you happy free women, contrast your New Year's day with that of the
poor bond-woman! With you it is a pleasant season, and the light of the day
is blessed. Friendly wishes meet you every where, and gifts are showered
upon you. Even hearts that have been estranged from you soften at this
season, and lips that have been silent echo back, "I wish you a happy New
Year." Children bring their little offerings, and raise their rosy lips for
a caress. They are your own, and no hand but that of death can take them
But to the slave mother New Year's day comes laden with peculiar sorrows. She sits on her cold cabin floor, watching the children who may all be torn from her the next morning; and often does she wish that she and they might die before the day dawns. She may be an ignorant creature, degraded by the system that has brutalized her from childhood; but she has a mother's instincts, and is capable of feeling a mother's agonies.
On one of these sale days, I saw a mother lead seven children to the auction-block. She knew that some of them would be taken from her; but they took all. The children were sold to a slave-trader, and their mother was brought by a man in her own town. Before night her children were all far away. She begged the trader to tell her where he intended to take them; this he refused to do. How could he, when he knew he would sell them, one by one, wherever he could command the highest price? I met that mother in the street, and her wild, haggard face lives to-day in my mind. She wrung her hands in anguish, and exclaimed, "Gone! All gone! Why don't God kill me?" I had no words wherewith to comfort her. Instances of this kind are of daily, yea, of hourly occurrence.
Marvin X and Mrs. Lomax in Oakland, Cali for the Angela Davis/Sonia Sanchez Discussion, sponsored by WURD
Philadelphia Poets Join the Black Arts Movement 27 City Tour
Philly Black Poetry Honors
Marvin X received a special honor. A brother in Oakland told Marvin, "Marvin X, I heard more about you in Philly than in Oakland."
Philly poet, editor, publisher Lamont b. Steptoe receives award from Black Authors on Tour founder, Maurice Henderson
Cities where North American Africans are in large numbers
At the National Black Authors Tour awards ceremony last night, Philadelphia poets were honored for poetic excellence. Poet Lamont b. Steptoe was honored along with Special Guest Marvin X who invited the poets to join his Black Arts Movement 27 City Tour in honor of Amiri Baraka. In his remarks, Marvin X said, "There are enough poets here to start my vision of a 100 poet mass choir."
When Marvin told the Philly poets he may need to bring in some other poets, the poets shouted from the audience, "We can handle it, Marvin. We got it" Indeed, Marvin X enlisted National Black Authors Tour founder, Maurice Henderson to help produce the BAM tour. Greg Corbin of the Philadelphia Youth Poetry Project, will coordinate the youth poets on the BAM tour, along with Muhammida El Muhajir who will arrange panel discussion with Black Arts babies and Black Power babies. She produced Black Power Baby events in Brooklyn, New York and Philadelphia.
Sonia Sanchez, Queen Mother of the revolutionary Black Arts Movement, a true trouper
supports and will participate in Black Arts Movement 27 City Tour
Marvin also received tentative support from the Art Sanctuary. Executive Director, Valerie V. Gay, who said it is possible we can partnership with the BAM tour. The Art Sanctuary is having a month long celebration of Black writers. Marvin X may return before the month is out to participate, although he must get back to the Bay for the Malcolm X Jazz Festival, May 17. The BAM poets choir and Arkestra will participate.
Philadelphia pianist Alfie Pollitt and Marvin have longed to work together. Alfie has agreed to serve as music director. Alfie is currently music director for George Foxx who sings from the Teddy Pendergrass songbook. Don't be surprised if George Foxx doesn't join the BAM tour now that Marvin has made the 60s classic Wake Up Everybody the BAM tour theme song.
Ancestor Amiri Baraka, a True Trouper to the end,
my brother and friend, my comrade in revolution, "It's Nation Time, " Imamu
told us, "Nation Time!"
The Black Arts Movement 27 City Tour is ready to visit your city. For booking call: 510-200-4164.
Abstract for the Black Arts Movement 27 City
Tour of the BAM Poets Choir and Arkestra
BAM Poets Choir & Arkestra performed at the Black Arts Movement Conference, University of California, Merced,
Feb 28--March 2, 2014 (produced by Kim McMillan and Marvin X)
The mission of the Black Arts Movement’s 27 City Tour is to continue the cultural revolution we initiated during the 1960s. This cultural revolution is still needed because for a variety of reasons the Black Arts Movement was aborted due to the radical nature of our task which was the liberation of our people in harmony with the political movement. Today, the need to address the political condition is critical, yes, even with the election of a non-white president, though this president has done little to address non-white issues, especially the high unemployment of youth, the high incarceration rate of 2.4 million and the deportation rate of two million so called illegal immigrants since President Obama took office.
But more than the political and economic situation is the cultural condition, the reactionary values in hip hop culture, especially unconscious rap poetry, and even the socalled conscious poetry is, in the words of my daughter, an expression of the pseudo conscious, for words are not followed by the right action. As we know, talk is cheap!
But most important is the overall lack of mental health wellness in our community nationwide, to say nothing of physical wellness. The high rate of homicide among young North American African men is symptomatic of a lack of manhood training or the infusion of traditional values that inspire and motivate people to be the best they can be, to give honor and respect to their elders and ancestors.
The 50% or more drop out rate of students in our schools is partly the result of our dire mental health condition. Alas, it is said not only is there a critical need for a positive curriculum and teachers with an undying love for our children, but the mental health condition of our children requires mental health counselors with radical values of wellness based on a holistic approach to solving our myriad psychosocial and economic issues. We are dumbfounded to learn the USA (Bush and Obama) promised the young men in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere (except in the USA) three items if they stop their violence and pledge allegiance to the constitution of their lands: education, jobs and housing. Why not offer education, jobs and housing for the boyz and girls , in the hood? The BAM tour will address some of these issues through the medium of art, i.e. poetry, drama, dance, music, graphics.
While art therapy has been used in traditional cultures, and was utilized in the Black Arts Movement, there must be a concerted effort to make use of art in the healing of our people. Throughout the years, we have seen the power of art in changing destructive personalities. We recall the production we did of Amiri Baraka’s play The Dutchman in Fresno CA. The local pimp loaned us a wig for the female character Lula. When he viewed the play and saw her stab the young North American African male, Clay, this rocked the pimp’s world and he threw in his pimping towel, joined the Nation of Islam and eventually became an imam and made his haj or pilgrimage to Mecca. Thus we see the power of art to heal broken, self destructive and economically damaged personalities.
Many times we heard Amiri Baraka speak about the need to reach our people in the 27 major cities we inhabit—to reach out and touch them with healing Black Art that can restore our mental and physical wellness. In honor of ancestor Amiri Baraka, we propose to conduct a 27 city tour with concerts and wellness workshops to aid in the recovery of ourselves. Our special focus shall be on young Black men, although we cannot and will not ignore young black women, nor will we avoid adult and parental responsibility.
We estimate the overall budget for this project will be 2.7 million dollars at $100,000 per city, including artist fees, promotion, advertisement, rental of venues, insurance, security, lodging, food and transportation. Since many of the Black Arts Movement workers are elders, the timeline would be at least three years to complete this project, including planning and production.
BAM workers in each community will be recruited to participate and we would like to establish a BAM center in each city, no matter if it is a 50 seat theatre as Amiri Baraka suggested. A staff of educators, and mental and physical health workers must be a part of this project so that we more effectively deal with our wellness in a holistic manner.
Marvin X, Project Director
The Black Arts Movement 27 City Tour
National Advisory Board Members (Drafted by Marvin X)
Mrs. Amina Baraka
Kalamu Ya Salaam
Muhammida El Muhajir
Jessica Care Moore