Sunday, August 23, 2015

Notes on Straight outta Compton and August Wilson's King Hedley II


Straight Outta Compton and August Wilson's King Hedley are the major theme  of North American African cinematic and literary tradition, i.e. the Slave Narrative or How I Got Ovah. Ancestor Amiri Baraka was asked at a UC Berkeley poetry reading what was his greatest accomplishment? He replied, "I survived!"

Watching August Wilson's stage play King Hedley II  and a viewing Straight Outta Compton were similar in several ways, although I only saw the first half of King Hedley produced by the Dr. Ayodele Nizinga's Lower Bottom Playaz at the Flight Deck Theatre, downtown Oakland. Although August Wilson's play was about the 1950s and Compton was about the 80s and 90s, both presented the pervasive violence in our lives, the internal violence with each other and the external violence of the police.  The film and the play revealed the awesome violence we are confronted with daily. Ice Cube was so on time when he wrote those lings about just getting through the day without using my AK. All the brothers in the play and film were packing guns as a natural part of our daily round. This has been true for the 50s, 60s, 80s, 90s until the present moment, 2015.

Both play and film revealed the economic violence as well, e.g., the pimping in the music industry or the the wage slavery in Hedley. In short, we are in a constant state of war within our community and with external forces that seek to exploit and rob us at every turn.

It was most timely for the film to show why we are NWA's or Nigguhs with Attitudes, especially with respect to the police. After watching the film, perhaps some people will better understand why NWA wrote FUCK THE POLICE and why in 2015 we are saying the same Fuck the Police. Just for your information, after the 1965 Watts Rebellion, my poem Burn Baby Burn, included the lines
"Motherfuck the police
and (Chief) Parker's sister too!...",
--from Burn Baby Burn by Marvin X, Soulbook Magazine, 1965

The Black Arts Movement was also threatened with arrest by the police for the plays of Amiri Baraka, Ed Bullins and myself. Yes, we had to deal with freedom of speech here in the Bay Area at our Black Arts West Theatre, San Francisco, and at a Laney College performance. In 2015, we don't think the Heldley play will be stopped because of August Wilson's line, "God is a bad motherfucker!"

We appreciate the raw but common language used in the film and play, although we know the Black culture police will try to have some pseudo moral comment about the language usage in the film. But Rap music cares nothing about the pseudo morality and the psycholinguistic crisis of the Black Bourgeoisie, for, as E. Franklin Frazier told us, they live in the land of make believe. As Ice Cube told a white journalist in the film, "Rappers are just journalists reporting the news in our community."

The film and play reveal how Black bodies respond to place and time. We are still in the Sisyphus  syndrome, rolling the rock up the hill only to have it fall down so we must repeat the same process for eternity until we indeed get Straight Outta Compton, a mental condition that we cannot overcome until we decide to do for self like Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and other rappers and artists with consciousness and business acumen.

August Wilson's King Hedley II runs through September 6 at the Flight Deck Theatre, downtown Oakland. We demand you go see the Lower Bottom Playaz production of this classic.
 --Marvin X
23 August 2015


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