Friday, January 1, 2016

From the Black Bird Press archives: Artistic Freedom Fighter Harry Belafonte

By Davey D

Long time entertainer/activist/ freedom fighter Harry Belafonte came to Oakland the other week
for an event he puts on called the Gathering for Justice. It drew more than a thousand people
from all over the world including a number of former gang members who are concerned
about the high incarceration rates and the increasing challenges besetting our society.
*   *   *   *   *
Why was Belafonte’s Oakland star-studded gathering

whited out by mainstream media?
By Marvin X

Billed as Harry Belafonte’s Gathering for Justice, the world renowned humanitarian called
a national conference of youth to gather in Oakland Saturday to address their pressing
issues and spark their consciousness to continue the work of his generation and those
before him on the train of justice. Youth flooded into the Oakland Marriot from
Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Washington, D.C., Brooklyn, Boston,
Chicago and Detroit, as well as California.

Youth from Oakland and the Bay Area, however, did not seem to be well represented,
for some strange reason. [Little publicity appeared before the gathering, and the Bay
View has been able to find no mainstream media coverage of the event. – ed.]

Nevertheless, the multi-cultural crowd was treated to the likes of Belafonte,
Danny Glover, Barbara Lee, Ron Dellums, Walter Mosley, Sean Penn, Santana,
Davey D and yes, Marvin X, who was vending his books when the Hot 8 Brass Band
called him to the stage to join them in electrifying the crowd.

 Paul Robeson, the artistic freedom fighter supreme!

We cannot praise and honor Harry Belafonte enough for his years in our liberation struggle.
Yes, he is in the tradition of our great ancestor Paul Robeson, who defined himself as the
artistic freedom fighter. At 81 years old, Harry is showing us that there is no retirement
 in the battle for justice in America or the world.

Just as the forces of white supremacy are relentless, we must be also and never give
up until the last breath. In his keynote address delivered at 9 a.m. on Saturday
morning, he talked about the suffering his mentor Paul Robeson experienced as
the artistic freedom fighter, but Harry said he is inspired to see Robeson’s spirit alive in
actor Danny Glover.

 Artistic Freedom Fighters Danny Glover and Marvin X
at Anti- War Rally, San Francisco. Both attended San Francisco
State University. Both helped establish the Black Arts Movement.
Danny was an actor in Marvin X's Black Arts West Theatre, Fillmore Street,
San Francisco, 1966.
photo Kamau Amen Ra

Even though he supported and marched with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Harry was
hypercritical of the black church today, calling it the "kidnappers of truth," along
with a few more choice words. DJ Davey D urged me to write a poem using
Harry’s metaphor. Harry criticized the reactionary rappers as well, calling them
sellouts to cultural imperialism.

A Poem for Harry 
(I'm Just Wild About Harry!)
at the request of Davey D

kidnappers of truth
liars on the blood of Jesus
truth will never set you free
like JC said
you too in bed wit Pharaoh
selling out for a mess of pottage
you are Pharaoh's magicians
til Moses came with superior magic
Moses threw down you threw down
Most was the Master Magician
but you are Pharaoh's running dogs
a chicken bone will suffice
give your congregation a chicken leg
chitterlings with collard greens
and you all vote for me
I'll set ya free!
Vipers in the name of Pharaoh
snakes in the grass
coming in the name of Jesus
yet you do not free the captives
do not heal the broken hearted
you shame Jesus
like Peter you a scared of the water
Jesus must save you
deaf dumb blind
and you lead the people
when the blind lead the blind
they both fall into  the ditch together.
--Marvin X
Let's do the BAM Thang!

But his main message is that we can overcome the forces of white supremacy
by organizing and non-violently opposing evil. A mass movement of conscious
youth can be a critical factor in moving the Movement forward out of the lethargy
 and passivity of the last few years.

Because of its revolutionary tradition, Oakland was chosen for the first in a series
of national meetings of the Gathering for Justice movement. Youth and adults
in attendance included Native Americans, Latinos, Whites, Pacific Islanders, Asians
and African Americans.

We don’t quite understand why more Oakland people were not present,
especially with such high profile personalities on the agenda. Did organizers
do outreach locally, or did they purposely limit information on the event since
Oakland is currently suffering so much violence? Of course violence is nationwide.
Someone, maybe Harry, mentioned 16,000 persons were murdered in America last year –
yes, far more than have died in Iraq. Maybe conference organizers feared Oaklanders
mixing with youth from outside the city.

The Gathering for Justice must present a long-term strategy to confront the myriad
problems facing youth, including violence, mis-education, lack of jobs –
in lieu of jobs we suggest entrepreneurship and micro credit.

Since there are few Black teachers, we offer peer teaching and independent study.
And the prison population should be reduced with a general amnesty.

The problem of the church or faith community can be addressed by noting the
liberation theology of Jesus and Muhammad, and perhaps moving beyond
religion toward spirituality as the Native Americans spoke about so eloquently
and at great length.

If Harry Belafonte, at 81, can involve himself with the Gathering for Justice,
surely I can do the same at 63, and so I call upon my generation to become
a part of this movement to save our children. Remember that James Brown tune,
“Get Involved”?

The highlight for me at Harry’s Gathering for Justice was seeing the new
generation of youth embracing each other and us elders. The Creator is telling
me every little thing is going to be all ite. It was a blessing hearing and performing
with that great group of young people from New Orleans, the Hot 8 Brass Band.
“Get Involved!”

See the latest book by Dr. M/ Marvin X How to Recover From the Addiction to 
White Supremacy: A Pan African 12 Step Model for a Mental Health Peer Group,
foreword by Dr. Nathan Hare, $19.95, Black Bird Press, Berkeley CA.

No comments:

Post a Comment