Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Psycho-linguistics and the Black Arts Movement

University of California, Merced students with Marvin X after a lecture/discussion/reading of his BAM classic Flowers for the Trashman in Kim Macmillan's class. Kim says, "My students love Marvin X and his writings, yes, my White, Asian and Latino students!"  The language in Trashman caused a revolution in the psyche of youth seeking liberation in the 1960s. Even though the drama department at San Francisco State University produced the play while he was an undergrad, the director wanted him to tone it down, which he refused and later dropped out to establish Black Arts West Theatre in the Fillmore. There, the San Francisco Police Department attempted to  shut down the theatre  when they heard the language in his play and the works of Baraka, Ed Bullins, Jimmy Garett, Ben Caldwell, Sonia Sanchez, et al.

This document is in the National Museum of African American History and Culture,
Smithsonian, Wash. D.C.

Multi-cultural students perform his BAM classic Flowers the Trashman at UC Merced.

One cannot begin to comprehend the role psycho-linguistics played in the Black Arts Movement, sister of the Black Power Movement (Larry Neal), mother of the Black Power Movement (Marvin X), until one understand's the power of language that was critical in the mental liberation of brothers and sisters during the 60s and 70s. Language usage in the plays and poetry nullified any notion of obscenity and profanity. Instead, audiences were euphoric to hear such terms as motherfucker, bitch, nigguh, honky, devil and other words that ignited audiences and finally liberated them from the puritan speech of the petit-bourgeoisie. The BAM poets and playwrights took Black language to a new level of freedom. Amiri Baraka, aka LeRoi Jones set the tone with his play The Dutchman. Marvin X's poem Burn, Baby, Burn on the Watts Riot, 1965, was recited by Black Panther co-founder Bobby Seale from Oakland to Harlem. Even before the BPP was born, a choice line from Marvin's poem said, "Motherfuck the police/and Parker's (Chief of the LAPD) sister too!" Because of the language in Marvin's play Flowers for the Trashman and Ed Bullin's It Has No Choice, their Black Arts West Theatre was invaded by the San Francisco Police Dept. When Flowers for the Trashman was performed at Oakland's Laney College, the OPD threatened to arrest the entire cast. Meanwhile, the UC Berkeley Free Speech Movement was in full swing but had no connection with the BAM.

The Berkeley Free Speech Movement had no connection whatsoever with the BAM psycho-linguistic revolution. Dr. Nathan Hare would call their revolution "How to Recover from White Supremacy Type I." He called ours Type II Recovery from White Supremacy. See Marvin X's manual How to Recovery, foreword by Dr. Nathan Hare, Black Bird Press, Berkeley. Ironically, the Berkeley Free Speech Movement has morphed into a pseudo liberal Stalinist political correctness censorship of free speech that would have horrified Mario Savio.

Merritt College student Bobby Seale performed the lead role  in Marvin's second play Come Next Summer, 1965, about a young black man finding himself then joining the revolution and recited his poem Burn, Baby Burn from Oakland to Harlem. Marvin X has never told Bobby he was in the audience in Harlem outside the Theresa Hotel at 7th Ave. and 125th, in 1968, when Bobby recited his poem.
Burn, Baby, Burn

Sick an' tired
Tired of being
sick an' tired.


Lost in the wilderness
of white america
are the masses asses?
said the master to the slave,
"No problem, don't rob an' steal,
I'll be your drivin wheel."

Watts riot, 1965
And he wheeled us into 350 years
of black madness

1965 Watts riots photo gallery

to hog guts, conked hair, qovadis
bleaching cream and uncle thomas
to Watts.
To the streets.
To the kill.
Boommm...2 honkeys gone.
Motherfuck the police
Parker's sista too.
Black people.
sick an' tired.
tired of being
sick an' tired.
Burn, baby burn...
Don't leave dem boss rags
C'mon, child, don't mind da tags.
Git all dat motherfuckin pluck,
Git dem guns too, we 'on't give a fuck!
Burn baby burn
Cook outta sight

watts riots, watts riot, 1965 watts riots

burn, baby, burn
in time
will learn.
--Marvin X, 1965, Soulbook Magazine, Oakland

In 1966, Flowers for the Trashman was performed at Oakland's Merritt College, invited by the Soul Students Advisory Council, aka BSU, Bobby Seale says, "After Marvin's play was performed, the student movement at Merritt College took off giving birth the Black Panther Party." It was the language that liberated students and inspired them to join the revolution. People realized they were indeed free to say anything and no longer proscribed by black bourgeoisie linguistics. The bourgeoisie was horrified but the black masses were liberated psycho-linguistically by the BAM languange.

As per the psycho-linguistics of  Marvin X, Master Black literary critic James G. Spady says, "When you listen to Tupac Shakur, E-40, Too Short, Master P or any other rappers out of the Bay Area of Cali, think of Marvin X. He laid the foundation and gave us the language to express Black male urban experiences in a lyrical way."

Of course let us not fail to mention the female poet/playwrights such as Sonia Sanchez with her choice line, "What a white woman got cept her white pussy...."

Ancestor Amiri Baraka and Marvin X enjoyed a 47 year friendship. He literally grew up as part of the Baraka family. Amina says when Marvin X came to stay with us, we knew we were going laugh and be happy!
Mrs. Amina Baraka. Marvin X has read her poetry and says it is similar to the vibration of Winnie Mandela and Nelson. You don't really want to hear what Amina got to say,but you shall! Amina is one of the greatest revolutionary women in my life. If I could tell her story, I would, but let women tell it. You don't want to hear my version! As Sun Ra taught, you don't want to hear the low down dirty truth!

Artist Emory Douglas came into the Black House as a poet reciting his poem Revolutionary Things.
Marvin X welcomed Emory along with Samuel Napier and others who became members of the BPP.
Marvin took Eldridge Cleaver to Bobby Seale's house in North Oakland, after which Eldridge joined the BPP as Minister of Information.

The  counter part of the BAM linguistic revolution was Cleaver's use of similar speech in the Black Liberation Movement, although we must understand the BAM and BLM were one fist in the devil's eye!

Marvin X is one of the few still true to the BAM linguistic tradition. Riding home from NYC to Newark with Amiri and Amina Baraka, Marvin recited a poem in the car until Amiri told him to shut up in the presence of Amina. Marvin was shocked to be censored by the man who helped teach him how to say motherfucker, although he did learn how to say motherfucker growing up on the streets of West Oakland. Listen to a line from a Baraka poem, "Back against the wall, motherfucker, this is a stick up...." In Dutchman, he said, "Up your ass, feeble-minded ofay! Up your ass...."

Marvin's chapbook Fly to Allah established him as the father of the literary genre known as Muslim America literature, according to Dr. Mohja Kahf, Professor of English and Islamic Literature at the University Arkansas, Fayetteville.
 Poet/novelist/professor Dr. Mohja Kahf

Fly to Allah was written during his days in Harlem, 1968-69, while under the influence of the Nation of Islam and contained no "bad words," i.e., profanity. Sonia Sanchez cleaned up her mouth while she was in the Nation of Islam.

Sonia Sanchez, Queen of the Black Arts Movement

 Angela Davis, Marvin and Sonia Sanchez

On a few occasions, Marvin X tried to accommodate the Muslim puritans, revolutionary puritans and the black bourgeoisie. In TDR, The Drama Review, Marvin X published a B version of Flowers for the Trashman called Take Care of Business, later made into a musical arranged by Sun Ra and his Arkestra. In his puritan Muslim madness, Marvin took out a sex scene in TCB. When Sun Ra learned of this, he scolded Marvin for taking out the best scene in the play. "Marvin, you want to be so right you're wrong! The people don't want the truth, they want the low down dirty truth!"

Marvin X and Sun Ra, two of the most advanced minds of the Black Arts Movement. They lived on the other side of time, Sun Ra would say. Gemini twins: Sun Ra, May 22, Marvin X, May 29.

In his recovery classic One Day in the Life, critic Wanda Sabir said the language was so strong it would knock the socks off old ladies!' FYI, hearing of Wanda's comment, some "old ladies" said they wanted their socks knocked off! The play became a cult classic in the Bay Area recovery community. Well, the language and situations were so raw, some recovering addicts cried like they were at their mama's funeral. When Marvin confronted the lady in the lobby of San Francisco's Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, she told him she was crying because she saw her life on stage and it was overwhelming.
Quentin Easter and Stanley Williams RIP

 But the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre director's Stanley Williams and Quentin Easter, told Marvin the Black bourgeoisie wanted to support his recovery drama but the language was too strong for them. Indeed, after hearing his language, there were wives who marched their husbands out of the theatre. Again, Marvin wrote a B script to accommodate the bourgeoisie negroes, but they still did not support his drama seen by recovering addicts of every stripe, including gays, lesbians, prostitutes, Native Americans, Latinos, Asians, et al. Alas, when the recovering audience came again to see One Day in the Life, they were horrified to learn he had accommodated the bourgeoisie with a Miller Lite version and consequently walked out in disgust. For sure, Marvin X found the recovery audience the most down to earth audience of all and they knew the script and refused to accept his B version to satisfy the linguistic proclivities of the bourgeoisie negroes.


BAM co-founder Askia Toure' and Marvin X, NYU memorial for Amiri Baraka and Jayne Cortez.

The Journal of Black Poetry, Bible of the BAM revolution. The psycho-linguistic revolution was advanced by poetry published in the Journal, published and edited by Jose Gonclaves, aka Digane.

Marvin and Danny Glover, comrades since their student days at San Francisco State University and later at Black Arts West Theatre in the Fillmore.

Umar ben Hasan and Abiodun of the Last Poets, comrades of Marvin X since their Harlem days, 1968-69. The Last Poets extended the psycho-linguistic revolution into Rap although the rappers made the BAM language reactionary at the behest of record producers representing the oppressors in their attempt to crush Black Liberation. First, crush the psyche, flip the language into non-sense and the ass will follow! In the pic below, Marvin and Felipe Luciano of The Last Poets. At the NYU memorial for Amiri Baraka and Jayne Cortez, Felipe told the audience, "Marvin X is a motherfucker!"

Black Panthers Arrested For Reading Poetry

In Bobby Seale’s 1968 book Seize The Time he relates how in 1966 whilst at Merritt College he and fellow Black Panther Huey P Newton were arrested because Bobby Seale had read poems. This is prior to the formation of the Black Panther Party.
… Huey and I and Weasel, one of the brothers on the campus, were all sitting in the car one night. We decided we wanted to buy some records by T-Bone Walker, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Howlin’ Wolf, those downhome brothers. I suggested we go up the Cal campus because up around there they have more LP’s of T-Bone Walker, Howlin’ Wolf and all the brothers, than they have in the regular black record shop.
We started walking down the street on Telegraph toward the Forum, when the brothers asked me to recite one of them poems I always liked. One of them was named, “Burn, Baby, Burn.” The other was “Uncle Sammy Call Me Fulla Lucifer.” I was walking down the street reciting “Burn, Baby, Burn,” all the way down till we got to the next block, and then Huey and Weasel asked me to recite that other poem, “Uncle Sammy Call Me Fulla Lucifer.”
So I got to reciting that poem. I said two or three words when we got in front of the Forum, across the street, one of the brothers, Weasel, got over and picked a chair up. (It’s kind of a sidewalk restaurant.) He said, “Here, Bobby, stand on this”. So we set the chair up by the curb there, and I got on the chair and hollered, “Uncle Sammy Call Me Fulla Lucifer.” When I said that, I went on to recite the rest of the poem. Then someone said, “Do it again. Run it down again, man.” So I got to the part of the poem where it said, “You school my naïve heart to sing red-white-and-blue-stars-and=stripes-songs.” Some uniformed pig cop walked up. He stood around ten or twelve feet away. I said, “You school my naïve heart to sing red-white-and-blue-stars-and=stripes-songs and to pledge eternal allegiance to all things blue, true, blue-eyed blond, blond-haired, white chalk white skin with U.S.A. tattooed all over.”
Man, when I said that, this cop walks up and says, “You’re under arrest.” I got down off the chair, said “What are you talking about, ‘You’re under arrest?’ Under arrest for what? What reason do you have for saying I’m under arrest?” And he says, “You’re blocking the sidewalk.” And I say, “What do you mean I’m blocking the sidewalk? I’m standing over here.” I noticed Huey, standing to my left. Next thing I know, some people started grabbing on me. “You under arrest, you under arrest.” I started snatching away from them, man. Next thing I know, Huey was battling up there, and three paddies had me down, tied down onto the ground. One of them paddies that had hold of me, Huey knocked him in the head a couple of times, and a couple of brothers stomped on the paddies. I got loose. A big fight was going on. But boy, they say Huey whipped up some motherfuckers up there. They say Huey was throwing hands.
Bobby Seale and Huey P Newton
Both Seale and Newton were arrested and charged with assault on police officers. They were bailed out of jail by Seale’s wife Artie Seale and by mid October, 1966 the court put them on one year probation each, after their no-contest pleas.
Burn, Baby Burn is a poem by Marvin X (Marvin Jackmon, also known as Nazzam Al Fitnah) who was also at Merritt College.
Uncle Sammy Call Me Fulla Lucifer is an anti-draft poem by Ronald Stone.
Uncle Sammy don’t shuck and jive me,
I’m hip the popcorn jazz changes you blow,
You know damn well what I mean,
You school my naive heart to sing
red-white-and-blue-stars-and-stripes songs and to pledge eternal allegiance to all things blue, true, blue-eyed blond, blond-haired, white chalk white skin with U.S.A. tattooed all over,
When my soul trusted Uncle Sammy,
Loved Uncle Sammy,
I died in dreams for you Uncle Sammy,
Died in dreams playing war for you Uncle Sammy,
No, I don’t want to hear that crap,
You jam your emasculate manhood symbol, puff with Gonorrhea,
Gonorrhea of corrupt un-realty myths into my ungreased, nigger ghetto, black-ass, my Jewish-Cappy-Hindu-Islamic-Sioux-sure, free public health penicillin cured me,
But Uncle Sammy if you want to stay a freak-show strongman god,
Fuck your motherfucking self,
I will not serve.

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