Books by Marvin X
Love and War: Poems /
In the Crazy House Called America /
Woman: Man's Best Friend /
Beyond Religion Toward Spirituality
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Marvin X Unplugged
An Interview by Lee Hubbard
drugs and their impact have been talked about, no one has really
dealt with the addiction to drugs and how it impacts a community
and one’s soul. No one has, until Marvin X, a poet, long time
writer and activist, decided to touch this subject in his play,
One Day in the Life. The play details Marvin X’s life
ordeal with drugs, as well as the impact drugs had on former
Black Panthers Eldridge Cleaver and Huey Newton and the Black
While the play helped many people exorcise their demons, it also
helped to revive the work and career of Marvin X, who, along
with Amiri Baraka and Sonia Sanchez, was one of the founding
members of the Black Arts Movement. BAM helped to lay an
intellectual and artistic base for the Black Power movement in
the late 1960s and early 1970s.
As word spread about Marvin’s Recovery Theatre, many younger
people began to discover Marvin X’s controversial work, which
during the 60s prompted Ronald Reagan, then governor of
California, to ban Marvin X from teaching at state universities.
I was able to sit down and talk to Marvin X about his
involvement in the 1960s Black Arts Movement and on his latest
book of essays,
In The Crazy House Called America..
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Tell our readers about your Recovery Theatre.
Marvin: It is a continuation of my work in the Black Arts
Theatre. Recovery Theater is a present day Black Arts Theatre.
Black Arts was about healing from oppression. Recovery Theater is
about healing from drugs and/or oppression. Drug usage is caused
by oppression. It is a symptom of a greater problem. I don’t
care if you are poor or rich, you can still be oppressed.
Lee: Tell me about your book
In The Crazy House Called America.
Marvin: I thought I would offer a prescription to get out
of the crazy house or, if not to get out of it, to transform the
crazy house and turn it into a mansion. The prescription is like
Frantz Fanon said, “You have to fight your way out of the crazy
house to sanity.” That is the only way that the oppressed man
and woman can regain their mental health, through revolutionary
struggle and challenging the diagnosis that he isn’t sick.
Oppression is a sickness. That you allow yourself to be a slave is
a sickness. It is a form of mental illness. We become passive.
Lee: So your book has the cure?
Marvin: Well this is what people who have read my book say.
It is prescription for action to get up and do something. It is
part of the African American literature tradition of how I got
over and how I survived, how I made it from Hell and back. It is a
lesson that everyone can learn from. If I did it, why can’t you?
I had gone from the poorest street in America to the richest
street in the world, Wall Street. My national tour was a
manifestation that there are many mansions in my father’s house,
because everywhere I have stayed, I was in a mansion.
Lee: In your book, you talk about your life on drugs.
Explain to our readers how a very literate and educated
revolutionary man could get hooked on crack.
Marvin: That is very simple. I am going to say it in the
words that my father used. He said, “You are so smart that you
outsmarted yourself.” I outsmarted myself, and I played with
fire. And I got burned. There was no excuse. I can give you some,
but the critical Negroes in New York said that no excuse is
acceptable for what happened to me, Eldridge and Huey and other
so-called revolutionaries. They say we betrayed the revolution for
drugs, when we knew the source of drugs, and we knew the danger of
drugs and the destructive power of drugs. I am just lucky to come
out alive in contrast to Huey and Eldridge, my buddies, who I
smoked dope with who did not make it out. I wrote about this in my
play, One Day in the Life.
Lee: Why did you write your book, and what can younger
readers get out of it?
Marvin: I wrote it to help save humanity from insanity,
because White people are just as crazy if not crazier than Black
people. For example, the brothers and sisters in Houston asked me
to set up a Recovery Theatre South in Houston. Immediately what
came to my mind, more important than recovery from drugs, the
South has to recover from racism. I wrote it about everyone, for
Muslims as well as Christians. Muslims are sick with religiosity
just as Christians are sick with religiosity, and ritualism and
mythology. These are some of the causes of our current situation.
If we recognize it, we can get a healing.
Lee: Looking back at your career, what do you think of the
Black Arts Movement and your contribution to it?
Marvin: The Black Arts Movement was part of the liberation
movement of Black people in America. The Black Arts Movement was
the artistic arm. The time period we are talking about was from
1964 until the early 1970s. The Black Arts Movement was like a
halfway house for brothers and sisters to get Black Consciousness
and go from there into the political revolution.
For example, brothers came into the Black Arts Theatre that Ed
Bullins and I had in San Francisco, and they got a revolutionary
consciousness through Black art, drama, poetry, music, paintings,
artwork and magazines. The same thing took place on the East Coast
in Harlem at Amiri Baraka’s Black Arts Theatre. In Detroit, they
had the Black Arts Movement with Rod Milner and producer Woody
King. In Chicago, you had a crew with Haki Madhubuti, Gwendolyn
Brooks, Hoyt Fuller. You had the same thing in the South with the
Free Southern Theatre in New Orleans that traveled throughout the
South and was connected with SNCC. There was a marriage between
Black arts and the revolution.
Lee: What happened to this movement?
Marvin: Well, what happens to a dream deferred? It had to
be destroyed. Black people were on the road to freedom. We had
upped the anti with the Black Power/Black Arts movement, so we had
to be stopped.
Lee: What happened with you and the Black Arts Movement?
Marvin: As far as I am concerned it is ongoing. I am still
working in it. I just had a great performance in Philadelphia with
Sonia Sanchez and Sun Ra’s musicians. I am a manifestation that
it is still going, that the Black Arts Movement is still here.
Baraka is still here. He has gotten more media play than any poet
in America, because of a poem that is coming directly out of a
Black Arts tradition of telling it like it is.
Lee: Tell me about your relationship with Amiri Baraka?
Marvin: Well, it is an artistic relationship, and it is a
personal relationship. On the artistic level, he set a standard
for artists and poets. He set the standard high for revolutionary
Black artists. But even Baraka was in the tradition of other
writers and activists, such as Langston Hughes, Richard Wright,
Paul Robeson and others. On a personal level, he is like a friend
and an uncle, since he is 10 years older than me.
Lee: What did you think of his poem controversy with the
governor of New Jersey?
Marvin: I thought it was in the tradition of the Black Arts
Movement. I think it was one of his greatest poems. He asked the
question, Who. If you ask the question, you might get some
Lee: So where is the revolution?
Marvin: The revolution is inside of the revolutionary. We
thought it was outside in the 1960s. We thought we could free the
people, but we did not free our families or ourselves. We abused
our families. We neglected our families, yet still we were
But there is no revolution without the family. There is no
revolution if we beat our women half to death and neglect our
children for an abstraction called freedom. That is why the
rappers have gone crazy. They saw our contradiction in the Black
Arts Movement. And so they rejected the aesthetics of the Black
Arts Movement, and they have gone on to openly express
* * * * *
January 30-31, 2003, Marvin X performed at the Buriel Clay Theatre
in the Fillmore district of San Francisco where his career began
in 1966 at the Black Arts Theatre. The performance featured
material from his book
In the Crazy House Called America, plus his
poetry, read by himself and performed by actors, choreographed and
backed by musicians, including drummers Tacuma King, Kele Nitoto,
harpist Destiny, sax Khevan, dancers Suzzette Celeste and Raynetta
Rayzetta, actors Geoffrey Grier, Salat Townsend, Judy Jackmon,
Lamont Adams, Yusef James. Set by Paula Shular. The concert was
videoed by Ptah Allah-El and will be available soon.
Email Marvin X at
Hubbard at email@example.com.
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What Orwell Didn't Know
Propaganda and the New Face of American Politics
By Andras Szanto
Propaganda. Manipulation. Spin. Control. It has ever been thus—or has it? On the eve of the 60th anniversary of George Orwell's classic essay on propaganda (
), writers have been invited to explore what Orwell didn't—or couldn't—know. Their responses, framed in pithy, focused essays, range far and wide: from the effect of television and computing, to the vast expansion of knowledge about how our brains respond to symbolic messages, to the merger of journalism and entertainment, to lessons learned during and after a half-century of totalitarianism. Together, they paint a portrait of a political culture in which propaganda and mind control are alive and well (albeit in forms and places that would have surprised Orwell). The pieces in this anthology sound alarm bells about the manipulation and misinformation in today's politics, and offer guideposts for a journalism attuned to Orwellian tendencies in the 21st century.
Politics and the English Language
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The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story
of Citizenship, the Economy, and the Role of Government
By Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer
American democracy is informed by the 18th century’s most cutting edge thinking on society, economics, and government. We’ve learned some things in the intervening 230 years about self interest, social behaviors, and how the world works. Now, authors Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer argue that some fundamental assumptions about citizenship, society, economics, and government need updating. For many years the dominant metaphor for understanding markets and government has been the machine. Liu and Hanauer view democracy not as a machine, but as a garden. A successful garden functions according to the inexorable tendencies of nature, but it also requires goals, regular tending, and an understanding of connected ecosystems. The latest ideas from science, social science, and economics—the cutting-edge ideas of today—generate these simple but revolutionary ideas: (The economy is not an efficient machine. It’s an effective garden that need tending. Freedom is responsibility. Government should be about the big what and the little how. True self interest is mutual interest.
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The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century
By Rita Dove
Selecting poets and poems to represent a
century of poetry, especially the
riotous twentieth century in America, is
a massive undertaking fraught with peril
and complication. Poet Rita Dove-a
Pulitzer Prize- winning former U.S. poet
laureate, professor, and presidential
scholar- embarked on what became a
consuming four-year odyssey. She reports
on obstacles and discoveries in an
exacting and forthright introduction,
featuring striking quotes, vivid
profiles, and a panoramic view of the
evolution of poetic visions and styles
that helped bring about social as well
as artistic change [...] Dove's incisive
perception of the role of poetry in
cultural and social awakenings infuses
this zestful and rigorous gathering of
poems both necessary and unexpected by
180 American poets. This landmark
anthology will instantly enhance and
invigorate every poetry shelf or
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The Last Holiday: A Memoir
By Gil Scott Heron
Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King's birthday ended up becoming a national holiday ("The Last Holiday because America can't afford to have another national holiday"), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel.
Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the
night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also
the night that John Lennon was murdered. Gil uses Lennon's
violent end as a brilliant parallel to Dr King's assassination
and as a biting commentary on the constraints that sometimes
lead to newspapers getting things wrong.
Jamie Byng, Guardian / Gil_reads_"Deadline" (audio)
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Life on Mars
By Tracy K. Smith
Tracy K. Smith, author of Life on Mars has been selected as the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. In its review of the book, Publishers Weekly noted the collection's "lyric brilliance" and "political impulses [that] never falter." A New York Times review stated, "Smith is quick to suggest that the important thing is not to discover whether or not we're alone in the universe; it's to accept—or at least endure—the universe's mystery. . . . Religion, science, art: we turn to them for answers, but the questions persist, especially in times of grief. Smith's pairing of the philosophically minded poems in the book’s first section with the long elegy for her father in the second is brilliant." Life on Mars follows Smith's 2007 collection, Duende, which won the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, the only award for poetry in the United States given to support a poet's second book, and the first Essence Literary Award for poetry, which recognizes the literary achievements of African Americans.
The Body’s Question (2003) was her first published collection. Smith said Life on Mars, published by small Minnesota press Graywolf, was inspired in part by her father, who was an engineer on the Hubble space telescope and died in 2008.
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My First Coup d'Etat
And Other True Stories from the Lost Decades of Africa
Though the colonies of sub-Saharan Africa began to claim independence in the
late 1950s and ’60s, autocratic and capricious leadership soon caused initial
hope to fade, and Africa descended into its “lost decades,” a period of
stagnation and despondency from which much of the continent has yet to recover.
Mahama, vice president of the Republic of Ghana, grew up alongside his nascent
country and experienced this roller-coaster of fortunes. In this memoir, Mahama,
the son of a member of parliament, recounts how affairs of state became real in
his young mind on the day in 1966 when no one came to collect him from boarding
school—the government had been overthrown, his father arrested, and his house
In fluid, unpretentious style, Mahama unspools Ghana’s recent
history via entertaining and enlightening personal anecdotes: spying on his
uncle impersonating a deity in order to cajole offerings of soup from the
villagers hints at the power of religion; discussions with his schoolmates about
confronting a bully form the nucleus of his political awakening. As he
writes: “The key to Africa’s survival has always
been . . . in the story of its people, the
paradoxical simplicity and complexity of our lives.”
The book draws to a close as the author’s
professional life begins. —Publishers
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The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
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Ancient African Nations
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update 21 may 2012