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I suspect in a way both men because they are special live a degree of isolation. This indeed is probably more true of Ahmad whose concern is more about faith than writing and art, which are the central concerns of Seven. Ahmad

suggests that he will never return to America, that he has found a home among Arabs, his Muslim brothers.

 

 

  Summer Hill Seven. Hang Time!: A Poetic Memoir. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2006

Ahmad Maceo Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Islam. Astoria, NY: Seaburn Publishing Group, 2006

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Sons of Black Power Sixties as 21st-Century Militants

Reviews of Soul on Islam by Ahmad Cleaver and Hang Time! by Summer Hill Seven

By Rudolph Lewis

 

This winter has not afforded me enough peace for reading, meditation, and writing. I have nevertheless read two small books by two exhilarating black men worlds apart, a few pages a day. One of them is titled Soul on Islam., by the son of Eldridge and Kathleen Cleaver, Ahmad Maceo Eldridge Cleaver. The book is promoted as a memoir; it indeed starts out that way and we learn a bit about what happened to the Cleavers in Algiers (where Ahmad was born) and Paris. But the book is less about the events of his life than it is about his faith in the tenets of Islam to reshape the world for the better, that is, it is more a testament of faith and an attack on the promiscuous culture of the West. Then there is the memoir of a New York poet, Summer Hill Seven, about the same age as Ahmad.

Seven's book is mostly poems sandwiched by an essay at the beginning and one at the end. He calls his Hang Time!: A Poetic Memoir. His book is indeed closer to a memoir, than Ahmad's, and much more personal. Some may even say too personal. In the middle are what is probably fair to call rap poems, that have to do with a consciousness that attacks racism, reassures itself of its talent and ability as writer and actor, and the potency of its sexuality. But rap is exaggerated (a boasting) stage performance (a showing out) and that kind of art runs against the grain of the essence of memoir, an earnest reflective balanced seriousness.

I do not care that much about rhyming rap poems, usually they do not work well on paper, but because of Seven's elevated consciousness on the whole, the poems work fairly well in places. Seven's writing is irreverent; he views life as a kind of game, "play and amusement." Consider an excerpt from his poem "Freak (In Three Acts)":

Matter of fact

if you really like it from the back freaks,

I know some tricks

That'll make it hard to sit for weeks:

But you gotta be real strong

Not just cuz ray is real real long

But cuz when it's right

That is to say real tight

Ray takes extra long

All day and all night

I got real missionary zeal

If you got real whip appeal

I'll position you on your back

You may think I'm foul or whack

But I ain't coming back

Unless you do something real unique

Like scream "daddy!!!!

I really want to be your favorite freak!"

It is in the essay sections, when Seven is off the stage that we learn more about the inner life, the material and intellectual struggles he had as a child and a young adult. He can be moving and philosophical:

When I became a writer -- long before I ever published my first book -- I began to hang time so that I will win at the game of "play and amusement." Poetry captures life's mood in sound waves. Writing poetry was how I began to see moments outside the lens of success-failure. Instead of viewing my life as a series of victories, accomplishments, defeats, setbacks, etc -- writing poetry enabled me to capture and cherish (hang) the precious moments of life's game. Then when poetry said: "dreams are the goal - so hold fast"; "sacrifice is sacred"; "live to love"; learn to learn"; "playmates are priceless"; and "everyday is the first and last" -- I listened. I came to understand that underprivileged was another way of saying -- "I have a lot to look forward to!" (p. 110)

The book is bifurcated, maybe like his life: professional and street-hipster; man on-the-make, one who is thoughtful and an intellectual. Seven is a lawyer/actor in New York. Seven also seems to have had an Islamic connection: he attended Clara Muhammad School and was subjected to "Quranic recitation and analysis."

On the other hand, Ahmad is reverent and puritanical and sees the world as apocalyptic. Initially his voice is one of innocence when he is recalling his personal past as a child but as he turns to his faith, that voice become more critical and harsh in his indictment of the West and nonbelievers.

In the opening essay "On Becoming," Ahmad writes:

My parents didn't enjoy living neither in Algeria nor France. None of us cared for the lifestyle in Paris. I can remember the lewdness of the French even as a child. We lived in Paris and pornography was seen openly in the streets. . . . I was going to walk my younger sister home from school. Where did I find her? She was penned against the wall by another student, a French boy. He was ever so determined to try and kiss her. I was only about six years old and she is a year younger than me. But I kicked that boy so hard with my cowboy boots he probably still remembers it to this day. I had to beat him down just to get hold of my sister.

Ahmad returned to France years later as a Muslim and that experience did not improve his view of the French and their racial and religious prejudices towards blacks and Arabs. The careless French government [officials] . . . have legislated that modesty and part of the Muslim female's obligatory clothing is forbidden inside their school system" (14).

With regard to the US conspiracy to invade Iraq, Ahmad is  well-armed with political invective:

First, it was sketched out in the CIA's inner chambers of deceit and treachery. Then, Bush was watered and fed it like a cow. Next it was beefed up, groomed, colored in and decorated with the finishing touches. Ta-daah! A masterpiece was unveiled. A portrait of a new Iraq!. Bustling and overflowing with missiles honed in, targeted and aimed right at Washington, D.C., New York, and Tel Aviv. This magnificent work of art was then shaded with the finishing strokes of the masters of propaganda Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Condoleeza Rice, and Colin Powell.

It looked good to the blind. Yet the United Nations was not buying the tale. They refused to swallow this conjured up threat, a cocktail of the invasion of a sovereign nation. An invasion for no reason except for Oil.

Then the the cherry was placed on top of the cake. Right before Bush stuffed it down American throats. That the Iraqi people would greet American soldiers with open arms, flowers, hugs, and kisses saying, "Oh you saved us Uncle Sam!"

As far as a consciousness and care about writing the above passage is about as good as it gets in Soul on Islam. But there are other insights worthy of note, especially with regard to American foreign policy:

If the US government could get their greedy hands on Iraqi Oil then they would rush at the opportunity. That would give them more room and leverage against Saudi Arabian Oil. When they are not crucially dependent on Saudi Oil then they will try to tell the Saudis what to do and what to change. And if Saudi will not change then some of the extremists in the American government have a hope. The extremists in the American government hope and pray to make the opportunity arise to one day invade and take control of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. However, God will protect the two cities of Mecca and Medina in the land of Saudi Arabia (58).

In "The Bridge Over the Hellfire," Ahmad presents his vision of the Apocalypse:

There are signs that the day of the Judgment will be upon us:

One of the major signs is the second coming of Jesus, the son of Mary (may God's peace and blessings be upon him).

Jesus, the son of Mary (may God's peace and blessings be upon him), will forbid the eating of swine, break the cross (demand the abandonment of using this symbol in worship) and forbid anyone from worshipping him as God or the son of. . . .

Try to remember, as I do so well, all those folks in the church telling you, "Jesus paid for your sins on the cross. Just believe in Jesus his blood was "spilled for your sins." Wake-up Boss and smell the e coffee! Who is going to pay for YOUR Sins? No one but you.

Ahmad's breaking of the cross reminds me of a passage in Nathaniel Turner's 1831 Confessions, in which he speaks of Jesus laying down the cross for the oppress to pick up and carry for themselves. Ahmad's vision of Judgment is vivid and graphic, enough to scare the hell out of the young, and maybe the old too. "The Bridge Over the Hellfire"  is more akin to an extended sermon than a memoir.

Both books Hang Time and Soul on Islam are probably excellent books for their age groups and those younger who have suspicions and an unease about the cultural and political status quo of American society. They are probably excellent for those older readers who are interested in what our young men have endured and the directions they are taking. Both books are accessible for an American audience fickle when it comes to literary culture. Ahmad abandons the personal memoir entirely as he ends his books with the testaments of Muslim converts, including a Christian Bishop. This decision was disappointing and very sad that he did not return like Seven to his parents, their lives, and their influence on the direction he has taken. Both books deserve some attention and some feedback.

I suspect in a way both men because they are special live a degree of isolation. This indeed is probably more true of Ahmad whose concern is more about faith than writing and art, which are the central concerns of Seven. Ahmad suggests that he will never return to America, that he has found a home among Arabs, his Muslim brothers. Both Ahmad and Seven are talented. Their skills are on an upward curve.

 

posted 22 February 2007 /

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Summer Hill Seven. Hang Time!: A Poetic Memoir. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2006

Summer Hill Seven (f.k.a. Alím Ákbar) — author, actor, artist, and attorney. Although raised in Albany, NY and Trenton, NJ, he has resided throughout the United States in various cities including Los Angeles, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Newark (Delaware and N.J.) and currently New York City.  He graduated, second in his class, from the historically significant Sister Clara Muhammad School in Philadelphia, PA, the oldest school in the United States for the training of Muslim students.  He began lecturing in jails and correctional facilities while still in high school. Seven graduated with honors from Richard Stockton College of New Jersey with a B.A. in Political Science and New York University School of Law, where he was the National Director of Community Service for the National Black Law Students Association.  He was an adjunct professor in African American Studies at the City University of New York.  Currently he is affiliated with the University of Delaware’s Professional Theatre Training Program.

Summer began a career as a professional actor while in law school when he realized the theater was a powerful tool for social change. He has created roles for both stage and screen. While a law student he traveled with a national tour of the Pulitzer Prize winning play, A Soldier’s Story.  He created the role of Husband in the mid-west regional premier of John Henry Redwood’s, The Old Settler at the Phoenix Theater (Eugene O’Neil Award).

An entertaining and inspirational speaker, Summer Hill Seven hosts a weekly internet radio show on WVUD – 2: www.wvud.org  and speaks frequently on college campuses throughout the United States.  He is also author of Notes of a Neurotic

Summer Hill Seven created poemedy - a lyrically poetic storytelling form where the past meets the present to create poignant, passionate theater for today and tomorrow.  Hang Time! is for tomorrow.—David Lamb,Writer/Producer Platanos & Collard Greens

 

This is a profound work of art by a very talented and gifted poet.  I highly recommend it to all who appreciate the spoken and written word.—Sekou Molefi Baako, Executive Director, Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center-Queens Public LibraryPresident, Black Caucus of the American Library Association

 

Summer Hill Seven’s ebullient “neo-beat-hip-hop” verse explodes from the page to the stage with a powerful multicultural message!  Delightful!—Phil Hubbard,Chair of Performance Studies Department University of Nevada Las Vegas

 

Summer Hill Seven is an exceptionally gifted writer and performer whose work is both entertaining and thought provoking.—Sanford Robbins,Director, Professional Theatre Training Program, University of Delaware

 

Fiercely powerful!—Jennifer Weaver, Daily News of Southern Utah

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Ahmad Maceo Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Islam. Astoria, NY: Seaburn Publishing Group, 2006

Ahmad Maceo Eldridge Cleaver is a 36 years old African-American. He was born in Algeria while his father, who was a leader in the Black Panther Party, was in exile from the turbulent civil rights movement of the 1960s. Then the family lived in France and he visited America on two occasions before his family returned to the USA when he was 6 years old.

In 1992 he graduated with a B. A. from the Africana Studies and Research Department at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He was raised as a Christian and has for the last 13 years been a Muslim. He comes from a family of writers and social activists.

Since embracing Islam he has been a dedicated student of Islamic studies and the Arabic language. He has studied the teachings of Islam in classes held in mosques under teachers in America, Sudan, Kuwait and in Qatar. He is fluent in the Arabic language, have studied it formally as a Second Language in those same three different Arabic speaking nations mentioned above.

He has authored one recently released book entitled "Soul on Islam." He brings to an audience an informative and enlightening presentation that opens their eyes about the way of life of over 2 Billion people.

He has been living abroad for the past 7 years in Doha, the capitol of the small Arabian Gulf nation of Qatar that borders Saudi Arabia. He works as an Instructor of English as a Second Language for an oil company. His background has molded him to become a bridge of communication between the Muslim and Arab world and Americans. http://www.myspace.com/soulonislam  

Soul on Islam is the first book written by Ahmad Maceo Eldridge Cleaver, the son of best selling author Eldridge Cleaver. This book is an informative memoir sketching his life with his parents, activists in America's civil rights movement, including details of their life in Algeria, where he was born, France and in America. Then the book continues to unfold and gives the reader a very moving and beautifully put description of how the author came to embrace Islam twelve years ago. He has spent nearly a decade living and traveling amongst the Muslims in countries in the Arabian Peninsula and in Africa and in the book he shares some of the stories and scenes that he has passed through while living in Sudan and in Qatar.—Publisher

 

Although Soul on Islam is a personal, insider's view of one of America's famous "militant" families, the author offers that there are some universal percepts to be learned from his experiences. Thus through a series of short letters and essays, he outlines a worldview predicated on the idea that all human beings come from one place and are ultimately programmed to serve the one Creator. By taking this approach, Ahmad Cleaver attempts to bridge the schisms created by humanity that are based on race, color, ethnicity, gender, national origin or any other category used to divide us from one another and our true nature as human beings. Consequently he begins by telling his own story, but ends telling the conversion stories of Muslins from a diversity of backgrounds.

 

Like myself, you will likely not agree with absolutely everything that Ahmad Cleaver says about Islam, the African-American struggle and the Sixties. However, you are likely to come away with a greater appreciation for the striking similarities between the struggles of the youth of today and the struggles of the youths who came up during the heyday of the Black Panther Party. —Dr. James E. Jones, Chair of World Religions, Manhattanville College

 

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Guarding the Flame of Life (Kalamu ya Salaam) / Toni Morrison Presses For Writers' Freedoms (audio)

New Orleans Jazz Funeral for tuba player Kerwin James / They danced atop his casket Jaran 'Julio' Green

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The Price of Civilization

Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity

By Jeffrey D. Sachs

The Price of Civilization is a book that is essential reading for every American. In a forceful, impassioned, and personal voice, he offers not only a searing and incisive diagnosis of our country’s economic ills but also an urgent call for Americans to restore the virtues of fairness, honesty, and foresight as the foundations of national prosperity. Sachs finds that both political parties—and many leading economists—have missed the big picture, offering shortsighted solutions such as stimulus spending or tax cuts to address complex economic problems that require deeper solutions. Sachs argues that we have profoundly underestimated globalization’s long-term effects on our country, which create deep and largely unmet challenges with regard to jobs, incomes, poverty, and the environment. America’s single biggest economic failure, Sachs argues, is its inability to come to grips with the new global economic realities. Sachs describes a political system that has lost its ethical moorings, in which ever-rising campaign contributions and lobbying outlays overpower the voice of the citizenry. . . . Sachs offers a plan to turn the crisis around. He argues persuasively that the problem is not America’s abiding values, which remain generous and pragmatic, but the ease with which political spin and consumerism run circles around those values. He bids the reader to reclaim the virtues of good citizenship and mindfulness toward the economy and one another.

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Ratification

The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788

By Pauline Maier

A notable historian of the early republic, Maier devoted a decade to studying the immense documentation of the ratification of the Constitution. Scholars might approach her book’s footnotes first, but history fans who delve into her narrative will meet delegates to the state conventions whom most history books, absorbed with the Founders, have relegated to obscurity. Yet, prominent in their local counties and towns, they influenced a convention’s decision to accept or reject the Constitution. Their biographies and democratic credentials emerge in Maier’s accounts of their elections to a convention, the political attitudes they carried to the conclave, and their declamations from the floor. The latter expressed opponents’ objections to provisions of the Constitution, some of which seem anachronistic (election regulation raised hackles) and some of which are thoroughly contemporary (the power to tax individuals directly). Ripostes from proponents, the Federalists, animate the great detail Maier provides, as does her recounting how one state convention’s verdict affected another’s. Displaying the grudging grassroots blessing the Constitution originally received, Maier eruditely yet accessibly revives a neglected but critical passage in American history.—Booklist

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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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update 26 February 2012

 

 

 

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