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for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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Spirituality is an awesome power when utilized for the common good, but there are

 communities where the religious leaders are silent and seem to collaborate with sins

 such as gambling, prostitution and drug dealing, even murder



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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Of Monks and Ministers

By Dr. M (Marvin X )


The recent march of protesting monks through the streets of Myanmar (Burma) has demonstrated once again the spiritual power of activist clergy. We suggest that ministers in America take to the streets in a show of spiritual power to attack political and social problems such as the war in Iraq and war in the hoods of our inner cities. Perhaps long lines of preachers leading their flocks to the promise land of social justice will have a healing effect on this wretched nation that somehow thinks it can bring democracy to Iraq at gunpoint and not have gun play at home. Yes, we need to see our religious leaders in the streets tending to dissocialized youth and delusional politicians who believe in unprovoked wars for oil and white supremacy.

But sadly, America is not Myanmar and ministers don’t have the courage of monks these days, rather they sermonize about prosperity rather than corruption in high places, lest they offend pharaoh and suffer the fate of the Myanmar monks who have been shot, beaten and had their monasteries surrounded with troops and barbwire. No, except for a few, our ministers are content to build crystal cathedrals and  travel down safe roads to prosperity, meanwhile the monks show us that spirituality is not devoid of radical political consciousness and action to liberate the oppressed rather than advocate their followers drown themselves in filthy  materialism on their way to heaven.

Having had a personal relationship with ministers as diverse as the Nation of Islam’s Farrakhan and Rev. Cecil Williams of San Francisco’s Glide Church, we know social activism can be a reality with determined and principled spiritual leaders. But perhaps it is romantic to think the majority of American clergy will step out of their comfort zone, certainly not to the degree of a Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson, although these gentlemen often seem to be ambulance chasers, showing up at every accident for media performances.

Spirituality is an awesome power when utilized for the common good, but there are communities where the religious leaders are silent and seem to collaborate with sins such as gambling, prostitution and drug dealing, even murder, for as someone noted, often if the preachers didn’t condone such vices they would have no congregation since the children of church members provide their parents with money from criminal life that is given to churches in the form of tithes, thus many ministers are silent about drug dealing and the resultant violence and mayhem in their communities. They would not dare march in monk fashion to community dope spots to pray for wayward youth, or offer to save them by providing alternative economic solutions such as micro credit that is raising millions of people out of poverty around the world.

As my daughter in Houston, Texas, boarded the bus to march in Jena, Louisiana, she noted the organization skills and discipline of activist Muslims, but when she called around to Houston’s mega churches, she said they had no knowledge of buses leaving for Jena. And we recall that when a minister named Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., attended a national Baptist convention, he was called a hoodlum and thug. And pronouncements to the contrary, we sense he would be called a hoodlum and thug by many ministers today, yes, even while they profess to love Jesus, another hoodlum and thug of his day.

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By Dr. M (Marvin X)


This is not about making money

Not about selling books

Not about ego or fame

Not about women or children

Old age and sex

This is not about sin or some preacher

Some holy book or how one prays

It is a simple thing

Like tears in the eyes

Like working the last nerve

Like standing when feet are tired

Talking when silence is the desire

Like showing love when hatred is behind the smile

Like feeding the poor when they ask

Like listening to an old woman who is homeless

Like hearing the story of a mad negro and a mad African one after another

Like listening to street children with grills in their mouths tell stories of the spirit world

This is the daily round

This is the work unfinished

To express truth no matter who is around

And knowing truth is a circle coming round and round and round


This is not about the personal or the lover who is lost in traffic

This is not about the teacher but the student who will learn to stand to teach what he is taught

About the comrades who will gather as peers on the corner to save themselves

Not about the black the white the mixed or the mad

It is coming together to realize life is a moment to seize or be lost in eternity.

It is knowing action and reaction

Passing the tone test in the presence of the beast.

It is about getting through the day so one can fight tomorrow.

It is about seeking knowledge above food, rent and pleasure.

Knowledge is the power that turns the universe into a ball

We throw into space and time until it explodes into particles of a new world for all to see and wonder.  

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Dr. M is the author of Beyond Religion Toward Spirituality , also the manual How to Recover from the Addiction to White Supremacy, a Pan-African 12 Step Model, Black Bird Press, 2007, $19.95, POB 1317, Paradise CA. 95967. email:,

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—WashingtonPost

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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posted 31 July 2008




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