Notes of Artistic Freedom Fighter Marvin X
Marvin X Kidnapped, Incarcerated
Marvin X, University of Chicago Sun Ra Conference on Afro-futurism
Notes for Black August 2018
FYI: Marvin X speaks coast to coast live, this Tuesday, July 17, 8pm EST, 5PM PST.
Stay tuned for details.
As part of Black August National Conference in Oakland, 2018, he will speak and read on his experience with incarceration.
Marvin X: Kidnapped, Incarcerated
Marvin X, Harlem NY, 1968
He was part of the founding members of the Black Arts Movement, e.g., Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Askia Toure, Larry Neal, Last Poets, Nikki Giovanni, Don L. Lee, Sun Ra, Milford Graves, Barbara Ann Teer, Ed Bullins, Robert Macbeth and the Lafayette Theatre, Oba Olatunji, et al.
photo Doug Harris
In 1970, he was deported from British Honduras, now Belize, Central America for teaching Black Power and reporting on the sedition trial of Black Power leaders Evan X. Hyde and Ishmael Shabazz as Foreign Editor of Muhammad Speaks Newspaper. After his arrest and appearance before the Minister of Home Affairs who read his deportation order: Your presence is not beneficial to the British Colony of Honduras, therefore you are under arrest until your flight departs for Miami, Florida at 4PM. "I was taken to the police station and told to sit down in the lobby. I was not handcuffed and after a short time I was surrounded by Black police officers and when the circle was full, one asked me to teach them about Black Power. It was surreal but I replied that from my study of Belize history, Marcus Garvey came here in 1923 and told you to get the Queen of England off your walls. It is 1970, get that white bitch off your walls. The brothers cracked up and said I was all ite. They couldn't understand why the government was deporting me for teaching Black Power, after all the hippies came to Belize and smoked their weed and did other drugs, but they were not deported. When an uncle tom black officer came into the room but did not join the circle, the officers said he was a black mon wit white heart, black mon wit white heart!
I was taken to the airport for the 4pm departure to the USA, and but when I resisted getting on the plane because my wife was five hours up the river, pregnant with no knowledge of my arrest and deportation and I wanted her to leave with me, I was thrown onto the plane and the door shut.
The flight back to USA first went south over Cuba to Spanish Honduras, Tegucigalpa, the capital. I though about hijacking the plane over Cuba but declined after recalling Cuba's troubling history with North American African revolutionaries Robert F. Williams and Eldridge Cleaver, especially when Cleaver discovered the Afro-Cubans ignited the revolution and identified with them although at the time the Cuban revolution said we are one people, yet it later recognized its African heritage when Cuban decided to assist the African revolution in Angola, South Africa and elsewhere, sacrificing the blood of Afro-Cubans in the African revolution.
FYI, in truth, I can't recall if we crossed Cuba on the way to Tegucigalpa or on the way back, but when the plane landed in Tegucigalpa for a short stop, I got off the plane and even though the airport looked like an American military airport, I walked off the plane and told the soldiers I wanted refuge. One said, "Espera un momento, por favor." He soon returned and marched my black ass back onto the plane and we eventually arrived in Mimai, Florida where two US Marshals met me and delivered me to Dade County Jail in a cell with Niggas who, when I called them my brother, replied they were not my brothers, so I took the silent mode until I was transferred to the Federal facility at Miami City Jail, wherein the white Cuban prisoners, mainly dope dealers, welcomed me with open arms. In contrast to the treatment of my deaf, dumb and blind brothers in Dade County Jail, the white Cubans exclaimed that I was their brother and whatever I needed and wanted, all I had to do was ask them. Did I need any money, they asked. I said yes because I needed to check on the status of my pregnant wife stuck on an island Gales Point. I was able to call her family and learn my father in law had sent for her and she was home. The white Cuban dope dealers asked what I wanted to eat since they were sending out for restaurant food. After being in exile from America, what do you think I asked them to order for me: a milkshake, hamburger and fries!
The Cuban dope dealers treated me with so much love I was depressed when I recalled my treatment with my Niggas so deaf, dumb and blind at Dade County Jail. Truly, it hurt me that the white Cubans showed me so much love but my brothers showed me so much hate!
Each day at Miami City Jail, I watched the Cuban dope dealers go to court and return with 17 years, no matter guilty or innocent. They informed me who was innocent and who was guilty as the white Cubans returned from court. When they were busted, they said a white hippy knocked on their door. They called the police and told them white hippies were at their door, alas, the white hippies were the police.
During my stay in Miami, it was announced there was an attempted prison breakout in Marin at the courthouse. I was joyful about the courthouse shootout to free George Jackson and others of the Black revolutionary prison movement. Actually, as a student at San Francisco State University and on the staff of Black Dialogue Magazine, we made a visit to the Soledad Prison Black Culture Club, 1966, chaired by Eldridge Cleaver and Alprentis Bunchy Carter. We shared our publication and they shared their writings that we published in Black Dialogue, including Cleaver's essay My Queen I Greet You, his love letter to the black woman although much of his Soul on Ice was mostly a praise song of the white woman, especially his white lawyer/lover, Beverly Axelrod, who smuggled his manuscript out of prison.
Most importantly, we now know the Soledad Prison Black Culture Club was in fact the beginning of the Black and American Prison Movement (See the lectures of Prison Griot Kumasi for his minute by minute history of the Black Prison Movement. See my first play Flowers for the Trashman for references to my brother who was in another section of Soledad Prison at this time yet I learned he was part of the prison liberation movement. Kumasi notes, "It was kill or be killed, there was no other choice. You guys had your revolution on the outside, we had ours on the inside and it was kill or be killed!"
Meanwhile in Miami, one morning two gentleman came to deliver me to San Francisco. We stopped in Nashville and I played a game of pool with these US Marshall's. Being a poor shark from West Oakland, I beat them and then we continued our flight to San Francisco County Jail on Bryant Street where I spent three months going to trial for draft resistance and fleeing from prosecution (see my Court Speech in Black Scholar Magazine, issue on Black Prisoners,1970).
As a political prisoner, I was not allowed to infect the general population on the main line so soon I was moved to C Block or the isolation section for political prisoners, nuts on the way to Napa Mental Hospital, murder suspects and homosexuals. I was put in a cell with a mental patient on his way to Napa. In the next cell was a murder suspect who'd been awaiting trial for over two years and hadn't had a visitor. We became friends and I arranged for my wife's best friend to visit him. Eventually he beat his murder charges and he hooked up with my wife's friend long enough to have a child who is now an international lawyer.
I couldn't understand how copies of Muhammad Speaks Newspapers were dropped in my cell. I soon learned the Black Sheriff Charles Smith, a lieutenant at the time, dropped them in my cell at the request of my Black Arts Movement partner Ethna X, aka Hurriyah Asar. Charles Smith was a Sheriff and also a playwright, so he was sympathetic to Black liberation and especially the Black Arts Movement. Years later Sheriff Smith said he attended an Interpol Conference in Belize at which I was a topic of discussion.
Anyway, after three months in SF County Jail which was a nano dot from hell: I saw black sheriffs abuse black inmates to "prove" themselves to their white comrades. Does it matter if the hangman is white or black?
After writing my court speech on toilet paper and handing it to my P.D. (public pretender), I went to court to discover I'd beat my case on a technicality but the judge said, "Sir, the USA spent a lot of money trying to apprehend you, over five years. We must convict you for something so how much time would you like for avoiding persecution?
I thought about (I'd already served three months), "Your honor, I will do five months." Yes, I gave myself my time!
The judge sentenced me to five months in Federal Prison, with three months served in SF County Jail.
I was sent to Terminal Island Federal Prison, San Pedro, California.
Soon as I arrived in San Pedro, fish factory town, I noticed the fish smell. But once inside Terminal Island Prison, the Muslim brothers informed it was not the fish smelling but the smell of deaf, dumb and blind dead niggas, including fake ass Muslim niggas. But more importantly, the first thing they told me was don't get sick, whatever you do, brother, don't get sick. We got a prison graveyard full of niggas who got sick in here!
Depending on one's education, one is assigned a job. Some brothers did factory work or hard labor. Since I could type, they assigned me to the Yard Office, yes, from which the big yard and the entire prison is controlled. My job was to call the prisoners when they had a visit, if they did not respond, I would go to their dorm and let them know. Each dorm had a lobby with bookshelves. When I went to tell brothers they had a visit, I would peruse the dorm book collection and take books I wanted to my locker.
One day my dorm buddy, a bank robber named Arthur Ratliff, took it upon himself to announce, "Listen up, everybody, Marvin X got all the best books in the prison in his locker. Any book on any subject you want, just come to his locker. Alas, I also had books in the prison library stamped contraband, meaning if caught with them there would be consequences. I didn't care, some of those contraband books I took with me when I departed Terminal Island, including J.A. Rogers classic deconstruction of White roots, Africa's Gift to America.
One day on the big yard the Nation of Islam held an election. There were three of us but the election organizer was a brother named Marcellous 15X Bey Lee who I observed exercising in chains shortly after I entered TI. That day on the big yard, he said, as per the NOI election, "Marvin X, you the smartest, you the minister." He told the other brother he was the Secretary and he, himself, was Captain. We did not contest the election results but held our first service in the chapel that Sunday. My lecture was on Black History. A Chicano brother in attendance told me it was the best lecture he’d ever heard. Well, after all, I was coming from Africa’s Gift to America by J.A. Rogers. No one can go wrong citing Rogers, recommended by the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and W.E.B. DuBois.
We soon heard that Elijah Muhammad's grandson, Elijah, aka Sonny, was caught smuggling marijuana across the border and was in Lompoc Federal prison. We were told when the brothers tried to bow down to Sonny because of his bloodline, he told them he was just a nigga like them and didn't need any praise or special treatment. I had met Elijah, aka Sonny, during my Mexico City second exile. When I grew impatient for my Fresno State University student, Barbara Hall, to join me in exile, Elijah let me use his birth certificate to cross the border to snatch my wife to be and mother of our daughters Nefertiti and Amira. But when I got pass the US border as Elijah Muhammad and arrived in San Francisco where Barbara was staying, she was in Mexico City at the home of my Mexico City contact, the painter/sculpturalist Elizabeth Cattlett Mora. When I returned to Mexico City and united with Barbara, Betty Mora educated me, "Marvin, when a woman says she is coming, she is coming!"
--continued in Notes of Artistic Freedom Fighter Marvin X, Black Bird Press, 2018.