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Tutu, We Love You

 We love you, Tutu

We love you, Tutu
Bishop of global Justice
destroyer of apartheid 
critic of toxic whiteness 
toxic blackness Tutu
we love you
for your love TuTu
90 years love true
God's love protected you
devils tried devouring every part of you
Tutu danced warrior steps through blazing fire
no devil fire burned your hair

Oh, Tutu, you taught us only Divine love is true
Fake love shall not stand with truth justice freedom
corruption love ephemeral like desert mirage
political power comes goes
vote for me I set you free
vote vote vote yet slavery
black hangman no better'n white hangman
Don't hang we
set us free
Tutu, Tutu, Tutu
We love you!
--Marvin X/El Muhajir

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Duke University Professor Dr. Ellen McLarney delivers paper on the Black Arts Movement and Marvin X/Arabic/Islam at Columbia University

Duke University Professor Dr. Ellen McLarney paper on Marvin X/Arabic Language, 

Islamic Aesthetics, and the Black Arts Movement

Delivered at Columbia University 12/15/21

In his seminal 1968 essay “The Black Arts Movement,” published in The Drama Review

Larry Neal calls for a “radical reordering of the western cultural aesthetic” and a 

reinvigoration of its “decaying structure,” envisioning “an art that speaks 

directly to the needs and aspirations of Black America” (29). In the late 1960s 

and early 1970s Black Arts Movement poets, artists, and writers used the Arabic 

language and the language of Islam as a means of performing this radical 

reordering of western cultural ethics, with the aim of giving expression to 

a politics of racial justice and black liberation. These artists leveraged 

Islamic knowledge systems, as one among various Afro-Asian intellectual, 

cultural, and spiritual traditions, with the aim of radically re-envisioning 

not just western cultural aesthetics, but western ethics and epistemologies.

Black Arts Movement poets that converted to Islam—Askia Touré, Marvin X, 

Sonia Sanchez, Yusef Iman, Amiri and Amina Baraka—were key to developing 

Black Studies as an academic discipline, at San Francisco State College, 

UC Berkeley, University of Pittsburgh, and Amherst, among others. They engage 

in what Alexander Weheliye calls the “particular decolonizing critique developed 

within black studies” that strives to “disassemble the coloniality of being in 

Western modernity.” To perform this decolonizing critique, Wehiliye argues in 

his essay “Black Studies and Black Life,” we must insist on “the centrality of 

blackness to the creation of the occident” and on “just how fundamental black 

life is to this terrain” (5).

BAM artists aimed to de-center knowledge from state sponsored systems of 

sanctioned knowledge in schools and universities, rooting it in community, 

in study groups and alternative institutions like Spirit House in Newark, 

Black House in San Francisco, and Black Arts West in Los Angeles and in 

community schools like the Afrikan Free School in Newark, Uhuru Sasa 

School in Brooklyn, and US School of Afroamerican Culture in Los Angeles 

(Moten and Harney 2016; Farmer 2017; Kelley 2018). These institutions 

were rooted in a long tradition of developing literacies critical for 

escaping white supremacy and its Eurocentric understandings of the 

human and the humanities (Wynter 1994; 2004; Givens 2020). [[[In her book 

length poem Blues Book for Blue Black Magical Women, written after her 

conversion to Islam, Sonia Sanchez talks about how her

“my brown bamboo/colored/


will spread itself over this western hemisphere…

and the world shaken by her blackness

will channnNNGGGEE colors. 

& be reborn. 



My paper today will focus on the work and writing of Marvin X Jackmon 

who converted to Islam in the midst of the agitation for Black Studies at 

San Francisco State College, calling for the cultivation of alternative spaces 

for Black study, art, performance, and expression. The fight for Black Studies, 

he writes, “would involve blood, sweat, and tears, literally…We were not only 

challenging the college, but the society, the state. Challenging the view that we 

were deaf, dumb, and blind so-called negroes, tools and fools of the white man, 

domestic colonial subjects, servile, to be placated with crumbs from the master’s 

table…” Mohja Kahf calls the Muslim authors of the Black Arts Movement 

“Prophets of Dissent,” through a “deliberate espousal of an aesthetic that 

has Islamic roots.” Through a close reading of his poetry, written just after 

Marvin’s conversion, I explore his development of a poetic language and 

an Islamic aesthetics, partly through his deployment of Arabic and Islamic words, 

expressions, and writing.

Having left the undergrad program in English/Creative Writing at San Francisco 

State College to pursue his writing, Marvin X was drafted into the war in Vietnam 

in the summer of 1967. He fled to Toronto and renounced his American citizenship 

at the U.S. embassy. He fled not only the army and the country, but also the 

university, becoming a fugitive. Marvin later took a name that referred to that 

fugitivity—al-Muhajir (the emigrant)—framing his journey as a hijra. But he 

also describes it as an underground railroad out, paralleling his fugitivity to 

Canada with the fugitivity of slave narratives, using literacy as a means of charting 

a path to freedom. But in this case, it is the Arabic language that functions, as it did 

during slavery, as a kind of cabalistic code between insurgents. But it also 

becomes the promise of a different kind of belonging promising a full humanity.  

In his autobiography Somethin’ Proper, Marvin talks about his conversion, describing 

an interview he was sent to do with Muhammad Ali at Elijah Muhammad’s house in 

Chicago. He was sent by the anti-war magazine Ramparts to interview Ali about his 

refusal to be drafted into the army during the Vietnam war. The description has 

overtones James Baldwin’s description of his visit to Elijah Muhammad’s house in 

The Fire Next Time. But in contrast to Baldwin, Marvin does join the Nation of 

Islam after this encounter, becoming Marvin X, “X slave, X nigguh, X tool and fool, 

X, true name unknown, X, mystery, X, lost/found socalled negro—no longer lost, 

now found, finally.” Marvin paraphrases Muhammad Ali’s famous words, saying: 

“There was no way in hell I was going to Vietnam or round the corner for America, 

the Great Satan!…Ain’t no Vietcong called me a nigguh, raped my mama, 

lynched my daddy, brought my foreparents here on slave ships, through the 

Middle Passage.” 

Marvin’s self-published collection Sudan Rajuli Samia is a broadside, a 

collection of poetry but also a political pamphlet, typed by hand for $1 a piece. 

It is a poetic rendering of Marvin’s conversion to Islam, flight to Toronto, and 

experimentation with his emergent knowledge of Arabic. The Arabic title means 

Black Man Listen; Marvin X uses an Arabic name Nazzam Al Sudan that 

he translates as “the black organizer/poet”; gives the press Al Kitab Sudan 

(“the black book”) an Arabic name, orders the pages with the numbers written 

out in transliterated Arabic, and provides a glossary of key Arabic terms, like 

those of kinship father, sister, and brother, as well as “white devil.” He describes 

the poet as a priest “of the Holy Tribe of Shabazz. Baraka-llah. As-Salaam-Alaikum” 

confronting what he calls the “language of the beast.” 

In his introduction, Marvin X writes about how “the poet must listen to the music 

and language of his people. He must express their collective rhythm. The poet is 

their servant. He records the mythology of his people, his brother and sisters, 

[ikhwa and akhwat] (akhi wa akatun). He knows their heartbeat.”  

He fuses an Islamic idiom with a Blackamerican one, creating alternative 

linguistic possibilities that are both old and new, lost and found (in the language of 

the Nation of Islam).

The errors in the Arabic (in the title, the translations, and some of the transliterations) 

speak of Marvin X’s Arabic study, acquired outside the strictures of formal education, 

at the Black Arts West Theater in San Francisco with Alonzo Batin, in Toronto with 

friends from Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Iran and the Gulf, and through self-study. 

One of his teachers was Hussein Shahristani, the President of the Islamic Students 

Association of the US and Canada. While in Toronto, the MSA offered him a scholarship to 

the Islamic University of Omdurman in the Sudan, but didn't accept it because 

he had no passport. Marvin X teaches Arabic to his friends and his 

children—and his son Darrel Patrick Jackmon (Abdul Ibn El Muhajir, deceased) 

formally studies Arabic at UC Berkeley, and graduates in Arabic and  Near Eastern 

Literature; studies at the University of Damascus on a Fulbright, and attends the 

Graduate School in Middle East Studies at Harvard. 

The Arabic and the Islamic become the “hidden curriculum” of a “fugitive pedagogy”

—“learning that becomes a means of escape,” a kind of learning that Harvard 

professor Jarvis Givens describes “as a site of fugitivity, of hope, of escape, and 

as a space to imagine an emancipation yet to be realized” in the volume The Future is 

Black: Afropessimism, Fugitivity, and Radical Hope in Education  The final poem of 

Sudan Rajuli Samia is titled “al-Fitnah Muhajir” using Arabic words to describe 

Marvin X emigrating to escape the war (fitna), taking the plane (the tayyarah), 

crossing the border, flying to freedom. “Al-Fitnah Muhajir” opens with “Bismillah!” 

(In the name of God!) to begin the poem but also his journey. Other Arabic and Islamic 

phrases are threaded throughout, greetings of peace and an exclamation of Allahu 

Akbar, Marvin X reading the Qur’an on the plane, “Ayat al-kursi/The verse of knowledge” 

(2:255). “Fitnah al-Muhajir” is also included in his poetry collection Fly to Allah but 

with a different title “The Underground Railroad: Revisited”—explicitly connecting 

the fugitive life of slaves to the flight from oppression that was his own hijra. This 

Islamic lexicon provided an alternative language for Marvin X’s creative outpouring, 

tapping a knowledge system functioning as protest, but also creating a community 

bound together by these signs, symbols, words, and language. As Sherman Jackson 

observes in Islam and the BlackAmerican, the African, Eastern, non-European language 

of Islam became one of the most important elements of the marriage between Black 

Religion and Islam, “language being perhaps the most important and deeply missed 

of all the casualties of the American slave experience.” The Arabic also functions like 

a hidden transcript, a dissident language illegible in the context of the dominant power 


Weaving Islamic and Arabic words and expressions into his writings, Marvin X 

performs what Fred Moten calls “idiom(atic) difference,” experimenting with 

Black Arts Movement ideas about black vernaculars, idioms, and language. The 

transcriptions of Arabic are sounds that can be read, but understood only by the 

initiated, creating a kind of speech community. In “Black Arabic: Some Notes on 

African American Muslims and the Arabic Language,” Su’ad Abdul Khabeer writes 

about how this process of acquiring “religious terminology in ritual speech” 

becomes “a means of expressing newer worldviews and rearticulating older 

worldviews and forms of sociality.” Fred Moten explores this “old-new language” 

as an echo of the unremembered that is like a wound, “confounding the dream 

of another universality, conflating that dream with the vision of an old song, 

old-new language, homely sound…idiomatic writing.” 

Marvin X invokes what Moten calls a metalanguage that he ritualistically performs 

in his poetry, a reawakening, a remembering, a reverting, inhabiting another language, 

and another name. The old-new language “constitutes its own true metalanguage” 

but also “its own truth,” a truth of the brutal suppression of Islam and other 

African religions, and of the systematic oppression of African Muslims 

through deracination. As Abdul Khabeer observes in her chapter 

“Black Arabic” in Hisham Aidi and Manning Marable’s Black Routes to Islam 

“the sociolinguistic meanings of Arabic words can be related to both a 

religious (Islamic) context and parallel meanings found within the context of 

broader African American culture.” These Arabic words actually replace the English, 

she writes, more meaningfully describing social realities. 

Marvin X intersperses Arabic sounds and speech into his writing, but translates 

Black American language into the Arabic. His poetic process reflects the way Islamic 

language is coded into black American vernaculars, but also how the black 

American experience have become an integral aspect of a global Islam. 

He translates phrases like “black power” into Arabic “qadir sudan”creating what 

he calls a “black dialectic” with Arabic and Islam as an “old new language.” 

Marvin X carefully renders Arabic transcription of central Islamic invocations 

like Allahu Akbar and bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim and key Arabic words and phrases 

in place of English ones. 

In his collection Black Man Listen, a translation of Rajul Sudan Samia, an entire poem 

“The Origin of Blackness” is written in transliterated Arabic words with 

their English translations, alternating. 

Sudan la al lawn

Black is not a color.

Lawn kuli min sudan

All colors come from Black

Sudan al harakat

Black is a rhythm…

Ka umma sudan

Your mother is Black

Ka abu sudan

Your father is Black…







The poem exemplifies, through the Arabic tradition, what Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 

identifies as the repetition and revision of the black tradition to create a parallel 

literary universe, what he describes as a “double-voiced text” that talks to other 

texts, becoming “a joyous proclamation of antecedent texts.” In Black Chant: 

Languages of African-American Postmodernism, Aldon Nielson calls this 

“a recollection of the history of fractures. Excavation, restoration, 

and rereading must proceed simultaneously.” 

Just after Marvin’s conversion to Islam in spring 1967, LeRoi Jones would also 

convert, in the midst of the Newark uprisings, taking the name Amiri Baraka 

and his wife, the name Amina. Marvin met Baraka when he came to San 

Francisco State College to teach a course on Black Studies, joining other 

poets like Sonia Sanchez and Askia Touré who became key figures in the 

Black Arts Movement but also in the campaign to formalize Black Studies 

as a discipline. Although many understand Jones as converting when he moved uptown to Harlem after the assassination of Malcolm X, he actually converted in the aftermath of the Newark 

uprisings in 1967. In a climactic scene described in The Autobiography of 

LeRoi Jones (1984), police are beating Jones with guns and nightsticks. 

Blood runs hot over his head, face, hands, and clothes as he screams 

“Allahu Akbar. Al Homdulliah [sic]!” The scream is a cri de coeur at the heart of 

the Newark rebellion July 12-17, 1967, making him “feel an absolute kinship 

with the suffering roots of African American life… What I had screamed 

while they were trying to kill me. ‘Al-Homdulliah!’ All Praise the Power of 

Allah, the Power of Blackness. I felt transformed, literally shot into the eye of the 

black hurricane of coming revolution. I had been through the fire and had not been consumed,” writes Baraka."

A collection of Baraka’s poetry published in the aftermath of the uprisings, 

Spirit Reach, reflects on the uprisings, but in an almost beatific tone, in poems like 

“Study Peace” and “Place of Peace.” The collection opens with a tribute to 

John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders, a reflection on the “Coltrane circle” 

that Yusuf Lateef talks about in his 1967 Repository of Scales and Melodic Patterns

writing about the circle as the circle of life. In the poem “All in the Street” Baraka says, 

Allah speaks in and thru me now…

The energy The energy the energy the rays 

of God roared thru us all…uh 

rays of God plunged thru us all-uh

Sanders would similarly pay tribute to Baraka in “Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah-Hum-

Allah” on his Jewels of Thought album recorded in 1969. The song sings about 

the “Prince of Peace,” a translation of the name Amiri Baraka. The title 

of the song seems to be saying hamdulillah, like the words Jones screams 

in the heat of the Newark uprisings. But it is also hummed like in a ritual 

chant as Leon Thomas sings: “Peace is a united effort for co-ordinated control. 

Peace is the will of the people and the will of the land. With peace we can move 

ahead together. We want you to join us this evening in this universal prayer…

Let loving never cease. Hum-Allah, hey, Hum-Allah, yeah, Hum-Allah, hey.”

Program: Foundations and Trans/Formations of Arabic Literary Theory

December 14, 2021 – Opportunities

Trans/Formations of Arabic Literary Theory: Prospects and Limits
Columbia University
December 14 – 17, 2021

Hosted by Columbia University’s Arabic Studies Seminar, Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, Sheikh Zayed Book Award, and Brill Academic Publishers

In Memory of Jaroslav Stetkevych

Hosted at Columbia University’s Faculty House and available virtually for all.

Columbia University affiliates are eligible to attend in person with the ReOpen CU green pass, space is limited – register for in person attendance here. In-person registration has reached capacity. You will be added to a waiting list and allowed entry if space is available.
Virtual registration is open to all.

All times listed are EST – New York. A PDF copy of the program is linked here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021
Day One:

Registration for opening remarks and the first keynote talks can be found here.

9:00 – 9:15am
Opening Remarks
Muhsin J. al-Musawi, Columbia University

Keynote Talk
Faisal Darraj
Modern Arabic Literary Criticism
النقد العربي الأدبي الحديث

متحف الادب The Museum of Literature
شكري المبخوت Choukri Mabkhout

Registration for Panel 1 can be found here.

Panel 1: Opening Panel in Honor of Jaroslav Stetkevych
Chairperson: Muhsin J. al-Musawi, Columbia University
Yaseen Noorani, University of Arizona
Michael Sells, University of Chicago
Roger Allen, University of Pennsylvania
Moneera al-Ghadeer, Senior Advisor of International Cultural Relations, Ministry of Culture, Riyadh

Registration for Tahera Qutbuddin’s keynote talk can be found here.

Keynote Talk
Tahera Qutbuddin, University of Chicago

Wednesday, December 15, 2021
Day Two:

Registration for Panel 2 can be found here.

9:00-10:45 am
Chairperson: Roger Allen, University of Pennsylvania
“Cauldron of Conspiracy”: Modernity, Apocalypse, and Conspiracy Theory in Habiby’s The Pessoptimist and Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad.”
Aya Labanieh, Columbia University
“Infrapolitical Digital Culture & the Reclaiming of Postcolonial Arab Identity.”
Ali Omar Abu-yasein, Universitat Ramon-LLull
Adab al-manfā vs Adab al-luǧū’ ? ‘Refugeedom’ in Contemporary Arabic Fiction of Forced Migration.”
Annamaria Bianco, Aix-Marseille Université (IREMAM)
“A Biography for a Poet?”
Jonathan Lawrence, University of Oxford

Registration for Panel 3 can be found here.

Chairperson: Bruce Robbins, Columbia University
“Iltizām Under Duress, The Case of Ghassan Kanafani.”
Nouri Gana, University of California, Los Angeles
“Kitab Sudan: Arabic Language and Islamic Epistemologies in the Black Arts Movement.”
Ellen McLarney, Duke University
“Literature, Labor, Extraction.”
Shir Alon, University of Minnesota
“Poetic Accumulation: Toward a Critique of Settler Form.”
Jeff Sacks, University of California, Riverside
“Final Remarks on the Postcolonial.”
Hamid Dabashi, Columbia University

Registration for Bilal Orfali’s keynote talk can be found here.

Keynote Talk
Bilal Orfali, American University in Beirut
The Art of Enumeration in Pre-modern Arabic Literature

Thursday, December 16, 2021
Day Three:

Registration for Panel 4 can be found here.

Chairperson: Tahera Qutbuddin, University of Chicago
“Mannerism Revisited: al-Maʿarri’s Zajr al-Nābiḥ and its Variations.”
Sarah R. bin Tyeer, Columbia University
“A Case for Love Poetry in Literary History.”
Jennifer Tobkin, George Washington University
المقطّعات ال ّشعريّة في مد ّونة المقل : بين ثوابت نظرية األدب عند العرب ومتغيراتها ّين
Ali Boujdidi, University of Gabes

Registration for Panel 5 can be found here.

Chairperson: Yaseen Noorani
“Amīn al-Rīḥānī as a Literary Theorist.”
Michael Battalia, Princeton University
“Sociological Perspectives to Literature in the Modern Arab World(s): ʿAlī alWardī’s Usṭūrat al-adab al-rafīʿ (1957).”
Antonio Pacifico, Jean Moulin University of Lyon 3.
“False Dichotomies.”
Taoufik Ben Amor, Columbia University
“The Missing Pictorial in Narrative.”
Joscelyn Shawn Ganjara Jurich, Columbia University

Registration for Wen-Chin Ouyang’s keynote talk can be found here.

Keynote Talk
Wen-Chin Ouyang, SOAS, London University, UK
Creativity in Arabic Critical Theory

Friday, December 17, 2021
Day Four:

Registration for Panel 6 can be found here.

Chairperson: Wen-Chin Ouyang, SOAS
“A Balm for Sorrows? Permutations of Arabic Literary Theory in Hebrew
Daniel Behar, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
“’High Treason Against Arabic Literature and Criticism’ Ghālib Hālasa’s Translation of Gaston Bachelard’s La poétique de l’espace.”
Fernanda Fischione, Sapienza University of Rome
“Doing New Criticism in Baghdad.”
Emily Drumsta, University of Texas, Austin
“The Absence of Mahfuz’s Economies in Criticism,”
Karim Malak, Columbia University

Registration for the closing keynote talk can be found here.

Closing Keynote talk
Suzanne Stetkevych, Georgetown University

Additional Information:

Questions about the conference can be directed to

Organizers: Rebecca Johnson, Nizar F. Hermes, Chiara Fontana, Bilal Orfali and Sarah Monks

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

No one does things better than Blacks by Phavia Kujichagulia

Revolutionary Black Queen Phavia Kujichagulia, Master Teacher of Pan African consciousness

Reply to Marvin X: No one does things better than Blacks


Ironically, Black folks are definitely geniuses. Teach Black folks basketball and we end up with a Michael Jordan. Teach Black folks golf and we end up with a T. Woods. Teach Black folks white psychopathy (insanity is not supremacy) and no one will hate Blacks folks better than we have been programmed to hate one another.  


No conversation, no understanding, no over-standing, no benefit-of-doubt … just unfounded, unnecessary hate, envy and jealousy. We have become a community of jealous, envious, simple-minded negro-American-haters…and ironically, we LOVE TO HATE because no one does things better than Blacks.  


Peace & Power  

Phavia Kujichagulia

Subject: Parable of Functional Unity by Marvin X


Imagine,  some married couples hate each other but have continued living together for decades. I have a long time married friend who swears he hates his wife and is convinced she hates him and everything he is about. Yet they are both living their best lives, nice home,  good retirement, though he has serious health issues.  Hers are imagined.  The doctors say there is nothing wrong with her, please go home woman,  we don't have time for your anxiety. Her anxiety is not being able to dominate and control her husband who is a free thinker. His knowledge is far superior to Hers but she doesn't have a clue. His car uses Supreme while her car uses regular. After 30 years of marriage,  he is finally convinced you can't turn a donkey into a stallion. A donkey will never win the Kentucky Derby. 

But in the ritual of Nigga Black African love lives, hatred is simply the icing on the cake of love. Recognize the icing. Scrape it off the cake if necessary and let love flow. 

I don't agree with you,  don't like you but I respect you because you are sincere. 

Functional unity is practical,  pragmatic,  beyond emotions, ideological persuasions, religiosity,  sectarianism and dogmatism. Functional unity is for the greater good of the whole community, beyond individuals and personalities. No more king for life, royal family jive. We all royal, holy,  sanctified, yet not without sin.  Who can cast the first stone? Didn't God say, "Find me one righteous man and I will save the whole town!"

Our duty is to save ourselves, family and community from destruction, from being deaf dumb and blind.  If we fail to do our duty, we shall suffer a great chastisement by Allah.

So we come together to  transcend our negative selves for the freedom of our people. 

Let us not hate each other more than we hate our oppresser. Didn't Malcolm tell you that you don't catch hell because you are Democrat or Republican, Christian, Muslim,  but because you are Black. But Black is not a color,  Black is a state of mind, a state of being in time and space. 
Black is not De Nile River but the Hapi River.  Come out of denial and get to Hapi! We came here together and we shall be free together or in continued neoslavery together.  

Unity, Criticism Unity.  

Do 4 Self. 

The world is moving against all unorganized people.

Didn't Frederick Douglas say no struggle no progress.  "Power concedes nothing without demand. It never has and never shall."

Functional Unity.  Do 4 Self