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We must listen to the youth and answer their questions as truthfully as we can and

don't reveal our contradictions except to let them know we are human and have our

foibles. For sure, they are watching us, every word we say, every action we make.



Parable of Love

By Marvin X


In the 60s and 70s, we wanted to transcend the English language because we recognized it as the slave master's tongue, the tongue of the true "motherfucker" who had kidnapped, raped and robbed our ancestors, the men, women and children. In our frantic and desperate effort to rid ourselves of English, we tried Swahili and Arabic, and this functioned for a short time, even though these languages originated from another slave master, the Arab, yet much of our literature was in Arabic and Swahili. Those Muslims who learned to pray in Arabic found a sense of joy in transcending English in our sacred moments, and Swahili gave many cultural nationalists a feeling that we were regaining our African consciousness, at least linguistically, no matter that Swahili is basically an East African tongue and most of us descended from West Africa. A few did learn Yoruba, especially those North American Africans in Harlem who gravitated to the Yoruba religion as practiced by Baba Serjiman Olatunji.

As a result of this minuscule understanding of African languages, parents began naming their children non-English titles. This was a grass roots attempt to reclaim some semblance of our collective memory, additionally it was an attempt to distance ourselves from Christian names and Christianity itself, since the English language and the slave master's religion were part of the "breaking in" or brainwashing and behavior modification to transform us from Kunta Kinte to Toby.

Bill Cosby was a shameful black bourgeoisie slob when he attacked black mothers and fathers who gave their children African names or even Africanized English names, so prominent in the South. The Southern names are so unique and original, even in their spelling, that we should applaud the parents for their effort to reclaim their cultural memory. When the culture of North American Africans is studied, those Southern names shall constitute a genre apart from the traditional African or Arabic names.

In the 60s, we also referred to each other as king and queen, and often dressed accordingly, giving up the Western attire for dashikis and bubas, elegant headdresses or gayles. Men wore African crowns rather than fedoras. This was all part of the cultural revolution that was an essential part of the political liberation. There can be no revolution without a change in cultural consciousness. Language plays an essential part since language is a reflection and expression of mythology and ritual, components of culture.

In the Black Arts Movement, we wanted to break out of the English language as well. Use of so called profanity was one attempt to express ourselves in the basic language of our people. It was also a method of putting "curses" on the oppressor by rejecting his proper speech in favor of grass roots linguistics. And yet some of us were multi-lingual, often combining Arabic, Swahili and grass roots English. And then there was the attempt to purify our works of so called profanity. During the height of my Muslim period, especially my time in Harlem, 1968, I purged my work of profanity until Sun Ra pulled my coat that I was trying to be so right I was wrong.

And so we are in a linguistic conundrum, because every writer is duty bound to speak the language of his people, especially if he and his people are going through the process of decolonization from the culture of the oppressor. The great Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiango has called for African writers to abandon the English language and return to writing in their native tongues. But the majority of North American Africans speak English, so what choice do we have but to use English until we can discover another language. Hip Hop has fashizzel, but don't know how far we can go with fashizzel.

Often, the most significant change we can do is redefine the language, reverse meanings that are negative into positive. Black was at one time a fighting word—if you called someone black you better be ready to fight. Now black is beautiful. Nigguh is another term that was negative but today is a global expression of love among the Hip Hop generation. It is a multi-ethnic term. Youth around the world are calling themselves nigguhs, even when they have little or no understanding of the historical significance of the term. The older generation of North American Africans go into a tizzy when they hear youth, especially non-Africans, using the term.

But this is due to their fixation on the original meaning as something negative, while we must understand that language is dynamic and fluid, ever changing, so we must flow with the flow. The term Negro is archaic, although I love the term because it calls to mind a time when we had our own society even though we lived under segregation. But imagine, when we were Negroes we had Harlem, Fillmore, South side of Chicago, and other enclaves of black culture. We had Seventh Street in Oakland.

Today we are Black but where is Harlem, Fillmore, Seventh Street, either destroyed or on the way to gentrification. As Negroes we had our own restaurants, hotels, clubs, newspapers, magazines. What do we have today? Nothing, hardly a pot to piss in except for a few high class blacks who act white for all practical purposes—like Bill Cosby rejecting the linguistic originality of his people, a Negro who grew up in funky Philly, yeah, a Philly dog Negro. So what happened to our use of Arabic and Swahili, or referring to each other as king and queen?

With the destruction of the liberation movement came the destruction of culture, thus the necessity of the cultural revolution to get back on track, on the right path or ihdina sirata al mustaqim. And then we must practice eternal vigilance, stay ever alert and watchful that we do not relapse into our negrocities. It shall be a daunting task because our situation is not only a linguistic dilemma, but we must resolve contradictions in our social relations, male/female relations, brother to brother/sister to sister/ parent to child relations, even our relationship to the Creator.

But when we become disgusted with the youth of today, their language and nihilistic behavior, the violence and general self hatred and low self esteem, we must understand that they observed our language and behavior, saw the contradictions and sometimes emulated them. And then along came Crack that caused a great chasm between adults and children, children who were abandoned, abused and neglected, emotionally starved and traumatized.

To reverse the present condition will require unconditional love and understanding of the depths of the problem. Our children require Divine love and healing. It is not a stretch to say they have come under the power of the devil, hence their behavior is beyond our understanding, especially those of us who consider ourselves so conscious to the point of puritanical. We have worked on ourselves over the decades, so it is disgusting to observe youth behavior, and often we match Bill Cosby in our reactionary attitudes toward our children who shall not recover until we decide to reach out and touch them with the language of love, demonstrating our love by answering the many questions they have as persons in search of their sexual and adult identity.

Many have had no manhood or womanhood training. They received no parental love since many of the parents were Crack addicted and thus they suffer arrested development. We have fifty year old adults bouncing to rap music, pants sagging with skull and bones on their gear, so they cannot speak to the children--they are stuck in childhood themselves.

We must listen to the youth and answer their questions as truthfully as we can and don't reveal our contradictions except to let them know we are human and have our foibles. For sure, they are watching us, every word we say, every action we make. Not long ago I took a young man on my book tour of the East coast. We were in Brooklyn at my daughter's house, and my ex-wife was there as well. The young man observed me talking with my ex-wife. He asked my daughter how did it feel to see her mother and father talking together, since he had hardly ever seen his mother and father talking, especially in a friendly, loving manner.

Imagine how many youth are like this young man. Both his parents were on Crack, and he loves them both, but there is an estrangement, an emotional void, a psycholinguistic crisis, for how shall he talk with his girl? Can he tell her he loves her, how shall he say it? Where and when did he hear the language of love? And then love is not a word, but an action, a verb, not a noun. I was guilty of abandonment of my children as a Crack head. One of my daughters wrote me and said, "Daddy, you say you love me, but you don't take care of me. Mama says she loves me and shows me she does. What is your problem?"

So even parents who are estranged, separated or divorced can and must let the children see they can be civil, even if they are not friends, even if they hate each other. Don't make the child hate the father because you hate him, or hate the mother. Let's show our children love, maybe then they will emulate our positive behavior and raise up from their animal actions.

And don't let their language stress you, be more concerned about their behavior. Again, language is dynamic and fluid, so flow with the flow. Guns kill, not language, and yet we know the power of words, and this is why I say silence is golden, until we evolve a true language of love, and it may not involve words but simple acts of kindness, for if you show me you love me, there is no need for words.

Source: Wisdom of Plato Negro, Parables/Fables by Marvin X

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Renaissance of Imagination

Review of Wisdom of Plato Negro, Parables/Fables by Marvin X

Interview w/ Marvin X20 August 2012 @35 min.

On Saturday, September 1, 2012, 3-6pm, Marvin X will read and sign The Wisdom of Plato Negro at the Joyce Gordon Gallery, 14th and Franklin Streets, downtown Oakland. Donation $20.00, includes signed copy of book. For more information, please call 510-200-4164.

Sponsored by the Post Newspaper Group, Lajones Associates, OCCUR, West Oakland Renaissance Committee/Elders Council, Black Bird Press. Proceeds benefit Academy of da Corner, 14th and Broadway.

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
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#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

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#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

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#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
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The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry

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 section.—Booklist

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Sonata Mulattica: Poems

By Rita Dove

This 12th collection from the former U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize recipient is her third book-length narrative poem: it follows the real career of the violin prodigy George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower (1780–1860), a former pupil of Haydn, as well as the grandson/ of an African prince, or so his promoters and teachers in England said. Moving to Vienna during the Napoleonic Wars, the violinist met and befriended the famously moody Beethoven, who was prepared to dedicate his famously difficult Kreutzer Sonata to Bridgetower until a rivalry for the same woman drove them apart. Dove tells Bridgetower's story, and some of Beethoven's and Haydn's, in a heterogenous profusion of short poems, some almost prosy, some glittering in their technique. In quatrains, a double villanelle, what looks like found text, short lines splayed all over a page and attractive description, Dove renders Bridgetower's frustrated genius: Music played for the soul is sheer pleasure;/ to play merely for pleasure is nothing/ but work. Dove does not always achieve such subtleties—those who loved her early work may think this book too long: few, though, will doubt the seriousness of her effort, her interest at once in the history of classical music and the changing meanings of race.—Publishers Weekly

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Season of Adventure

By George Lamming

First published in 1960, Season of Adventure details the story of Fola, a light-skinned middle-class girl who has been tipped out of her easy hammock of social privilege into the complex political and cultural world of her recently independent homeland, the Caribbean island of San Cristobal. After attending a ceremony of the souls to raise the dead, she is carried off by the unrelenting accompaniment of steel drums onto a mysterious journey in search of her past and of her identity. Gradually, she is caught in the crossfire of a struggle between people who have "pawned their future to possessions" and those "condemned by lack of learning to a deeper truth." The music of the drums sounds throughout the novel, "loud as gospel to a believer's ears," and at the end stands alone as witness to the tradition which is slowly being destroyed in the name of European values. Whether through literary production or public pronouncements, George Lamming has explored the phenomena of colonialism and imperialism and their impact on the psyche of Caribbean people.

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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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Ghosts in Our Blood

With Malcolm X in Africa, England, and the Caribbean

By Jan R. Carew

Carew, an activist, scholar, and journalist, met Malcolm X during his last trip abroad only a few weeks before he was killed in 1965. It made such an impression on Carew that he felt compelled to search out Malcolm's family and friends in order to flesh out the family history. He interviewed Wilfred (Malcolm's older brother) and a Grenadian friend of Malcolm's mother named Tanta Bess. Comparing his family's experiences with that of Malcolm X, he gives the most complete picture yet of Malcolm's mother. Carew also offers a tantalizing glimpse of Malcolm X's transforming himself into El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, a man less blinded by his own racial prejudices yet as committed to the betterment of his race as ever. Just before his death, Malcolm X became convinced that a U.S. agency was involved with those trying to kill him, and Carew here reveals the evidence Malcolm X gave him to support these beliefs. The mystery of Malcolm's death remains unresolved, and we are once again filled with regret that he was cut down before he could fulfill the promise of his later days. While this book will not replace The Autobiography of Malcolm X (LJ 1/1/66), it is an important supplement. All libraries that own the autobiography should also purchase this one.—Library Journal

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My First Coup d'Etat

And Other True Stories from the Lost Decades of Africa

By John Dramani Mahama

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 confiscated.

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 Weekly

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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 Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

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

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posted 10 August 2012




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Related files: Parable of the Man Who Left the Mountain  / Parable of Zionism and National Insanity  / Marvin X and Fresno State University