Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A Marvin X Short Short Story: Searching for J.B., King of the Tenderloin, San Francisco

Marvin X and his Muse Fahizah Alim, her words inspire the poet to write

Cover art by Emory, Black Panther Minister of Culture

They found the king dead in a Tenderloin hotel room. I'd searched endlessly for him whenever I was in San Francisco. I'd cruise through the seedy streets of the TL looking for my buddy, my actor, my friend. Sometimes I do a walk through, stopping on a corner and resting on a fire hydrant. Looking up the streets for him. Often, he would appear out of nowhere. We'd hug and he'd say, "What's up ma nigguh, my teach?" We do small talk about our days in the Glide Church Facts on Crack Recovery Program under our beloved Rev. Cecil Williams and his wife, poet Jan Mirikitani. When I entered the Facts on Crack Drug Recovery Program (first generation), JB was Cecil's assistant, but Cecil immediately assigned JB to work with me, which was like having the wolf guard the hen house, for J.B. was outrageous or in drug terminology Scandalous. A Gemini like myself, he was in recovery and full blown addiction simultaneously. Poor Rev. Cecil Williams had little knowledge of the Crack addict's personality and especially his behavior, which was, again, scandalous.

But let me go back a little in time. In fact, I'd met J.B. as a customer at my stand on Market and Powell, in front of the Cable Car stop that took tourists to Fisherman's Wharf. I was at various times hustling incense and oils, sun glasses, umbrellas, political buttons, Cashmere wool scarves. It wasn't the political buttons that made me the King of Union Square, but the fact I had white boys working under my non-profit papers throughout the downtown area. What the New York police said about Malcolm X in Harlem, "He got too much power for a Nigguh," the San Francisco Police said about me having fifty plus white and black people working under my papers. Imagine, all the vendors selling scarves in the Union Square area worked under my papers. My off and on partner from the Black Arts Movement, Hurriyah Asar, was hustling at Market and Montgomery, in the financial district. The police were harassing her daily because she was one of the first Blacks selling on the streets of San Francisco. The police told her she could only sell if she were a non-profit organization. Okay, I incorporated her but she left town to visit relatives in Atlanta, but not before the chief attorney for the SFPD took us to court, but since she was incorporated under 501 (c) 3, during a recess in the court proceedings, SFPD Attorney Lawrence Wilson said to us in the arrogance of a gay male, "If you beat us in court we'll go to the Board of Supervisors and change the rules." Ultimately, he did what he said, but soon after the chief attorney for the SFPD was busted for dealing drugs out of his house and sentenced to time at Vacaville State Prison, and later died of AIDS.

During the Democratic Convention of 1984, I made $2,000.00 per day at the four day convention, and I did this at Market and Powell, not at the convention center. The San Francisco Chronicle called me the Button King in an article. The old Negroes who stood around conversing at Market and Powell watched me work. They estimated I made $300.00 per hour! In their minds, I was the richest Negro in downtown San Francisco. Little did they know every dime was going to the dope man for Crack. The dope dealers knew I had cash money every day so they lined up to serve me.

But J.B. had come by before I got strung out on Crack. He was one of the many people who bought one stick of incense, which I detested because I was trying to sell one hundred sticks for $5.00. I couldn't understand why anyone would want one stick of incense. Actually, at the time J.B. and others would come by for one stick, I had no knowledge of the Tenderloin, I knew nothing of Skid Row on 6th Street. I knew nothing of eating at Glide, St. Anthony's, St. Martin de Porres and elsewhere. I knew nothing of funky SRO (single room occupancy) hotel rooms that one stick of incense would make livable for the night. After all, I have been in academia, teaching (if only briefly) at Fresno State University, San Francisco State University, University of California, Berkeley and San Diego, University of Nevada, Reno, Mills College and elsewhere. So even though I was only a lecturer and Visiting Professor, in short, I'd been blacklisted or whitelisted when I taught at Fresno State University in 1969. Not only did Gov. Ronald Reagan removed Angela Davis from UCLA because she was a Black Communist, but he removed me because I was a Black Muslim who refused to fight in Vietnam. As Governor, he was President of the State College Board of Trustees and entering their meeting, "I want Marvin X off campus by any means necessary." And so the Superior Court ruled I was never hire to teach at Fresno State, even though 70 students registered for my classes in Drama, Journalism and Black Literature. I gave my students all A's except one Uncle Tom nigguh.


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