ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


Home  ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)   



"Negroes see me and they get on a skateboard," Marvin observes. "I don't have no  money, I ain't got no bank account,

I ain't got no job, and I ain't had  no job in twenty five years, you understand, I don't have no power but the word,

and Negroes run from me, scare to death, they scared, Mama . . .  but they ain't scared of doing whatever

the white man tells him. Going to Iraq, dying like flies . . .



Books by Marvin X

Love and War: Poems  / In the Crazy House Called America / Woman: Man's Best Friend Beyond Religion Toward Spirituality

*   *   *   *   *

Wish I Could Tell You the Truth

Essays by Marvin X

Reviewed by Rudolph Lewis


I've been listening to Wish I, a CD of an interview of Marvin X on KPOO-Radio in San Francisco. Though I been checking out Marvin for a season I never been with him in the flesh and never heard his voice except on the page, and in cyber-communications. And from reports by Kalamu ya Salaam. The Wish I CD affirmed how I imagined him and how I tried to characterize him in my review of his book of poetry, Land of My Daughters.

Funny, outrageous, challenging Marvin X is on the same tier as Amiri Baraka and Kalamu ya Salaam in putting on an entertaining program. For in "Why I Love Lesbians,"  Marvin says, "In their hatred is drama / I love drama." Marvin's first love is theater; he is poet and shaman, skilled in manipulating the passions like  the preacher in the pulpit, or the Harlem soapbox orator, or the barbershop orators found throughout the black community. In his Wish I Could Tell You the Truth--Essays, Marvin X has created a book that mirrors the orature in bull sessions, ubiquitous in black speech and poetry, in the barbershop.

That is, Malcolm X ain't got nothing on Marvin X. Still Marvin has been ignored and silenced like Malcolm would be ignored and silenced if he had lived on into the Now. Marvin's one of the most extraordinary, exciting black intellectuals living today--writing, publishing, performing with Sun Ra musicians, reciting, filming, he's ever engaging, challenging the respectable and the comfortable. He like Malcolm dares to say things, fearlessly, in the open (in earshot of the white man) that so many Negroes feel and think and speak on the corner, in the barbershops and urban streets of black America.

Discourse by exaggeration and humor has its place in serious intellectual enquiry. Everybody don't have to wear the nerdy mask and inky cloak and speak in the autocratic tones of academia. Marvin's dramatic style and political approach could not be tolerated at the University since Ronald Reagan forced him out of the California university system, which signaled the castration of black studies at white universities. 

In short, Wish I Could Tell You the Truth is one of the most daring, innovative, entertaining group of "essays" I ever had yet to read. In a true sense this book is a literary replication of the barbershop experience. The street rap. Yet much more sophisticated, informed, daring, philosophical. And it is sheer arrogance and snootiness that he has been ignored or overlooked by PBS, CNN, and FOX. And by black literary societies and colleges. Because his thinking is dangerous, and his simple courage is infectious. And anybody who's heard him know that Chris Rock and Amiri Baraka ain't got nothing on Marvin, once he gets to improvising. Marvin is a truth teller, and just as funky as James Brown.

Wish I Could Tell You the Truth is, too, an intellectual and philosophical autobiography. Boswell has nothing on this  journalistic foray, that sweeps the planet in its thinking. Marvin is a storyteller. Like Abby Lincoln, Marvin's voice matches the story he tells. He ain't no Cornel West. With Marvin you cannot separate the story from the voice, one reinforces the other. Though everyday speech is in Marvin's writing, his writing is artistic writing and different from his oral performances. Marvin is no linear thinker and so you have to take him in in the all in all, between the covers, you got to read him fully to appreciate truly what he has achieved as an artist and as a man.

The tone of Wish I Could Tell You the Truth is established in a forty-page autobiographical note beginning with his birth during an age of war, the impact of broken family life, youthful love, exposés, going on to his academic career, antiwar activism, criminal on the run, hustler, civic reformer, and revolutionary. This autobiographical section is primarily episodic and expressionistic rather than linear and analytical. It is Marvin's expertise as storyteller that carries us forward for his views are often surprising and shocking. Marvin don't pull no punches when lives are involved.

"Negroes see me and they get on a skateboard," Marvin observes. "I don't have no  money, I ain't got no bank account, I ain't got no job, and I ain't had  no job in twenty five years, you understand, I don't have no power but the word, and Negroes run from me, scare to death, they scared, Mama . . .  but they ain't scared of doing whatever the white man tells him. Going to Iraq, dying like flies . . . won't die for a purpose. . . . dying on the streets of America. . . . for no purpose, at all . . . they learn all this from the white man, really. Because that's how they think. Bush think there ain't no consequence to his actions. . . Bush always needs another cowboy . . . but he don't understand . . . the Indians are coming . . . THE INDIANS ARE COMING . . . they coming for you . . . the Ancestor Spirits of the Black Man and Woman are coming for you, Mr. White Man, unless you clean up. . . . you understand."

Now this kind of speech scares Black Academia in the company of their white colleagues. And the white professional does not want to endure his female colleagues squeamish in their chairs because of Marvin's voice. But Marvin is a radical advocate of free speech, "Don't sell me no sheetrock, for my pipe. . . . Give me some love, give me some truth. It does not matter whether you black or white . . . the weapon of today is consciousness, not color . . . we been trained to be warriors . . . God was training us for war . . . but they [we] don't have the right word, the right directions . . . turning them into constitutional slaves."

Well this kind of nationalist speech would make a Martin Kilsonsquirm. There's no place in the academy and black studies programs for nationalists like a Marvin X or an Amiri Baraka or a Kalamu ya Salaam. Three of the most extraordinary men (writers, artists) of our time alienated, separated, barred from the Academy, and the "accepted" (the "pragmatic activists") embarrassed by their presence and speech. 

In his response to Reverend Eugene Rivers' "Beyond the Nationalism of Fools: Toward An Agenda for Black Intellectuals" (Boston Review), Kilson argued we don't need "a new-mode Black nationalist discourse issue . . . . For me, all variants of Black nationalist modalities have spent-their-load, as it were, whether here in US, in the Caribbean, or in the many African states where it is fully bankrupt." So Marvin has nothing a Kilson can respect, unworthy of his intellectual attention or recommendation. 

Marvin and Baraka have "spent their load"!!! Is that the real deal? Or just the Academic Black Ball. But this kind of autocracy within black political discourse and acts and educational arenas should have been dispensed with yesterday. Here's a matter in need of serious consideration. If the Du Bois Chair at Harvard is going to be the Chair for Black Humanities and the political, social, and cultural arbiter of Black Life and Culture, shouldn't we black folks have something to say who sits in the Chair? 

Baraka had more books, more scholarship than Skip Gates, more organizational skills, he was  more representative of the sentiments of black youth and Du Bois, an activist scholar, par excellence. But we didn't have a hand in it, we folk, because white money is more persuasive, than dedication and sacrifice, and even community shaming. If we were truly a nation we could by vote choose our representatives and leaders. We wouldn't have to wait for good white people to choose them. Let's vote for our Idol.

So Marvin writes: "The activist scholars were long ago removed from academia as a threat to Western scholarship and community liberation. Safe, qualified negroes were brought in who would control the natives and have them chasing rocks in Egypt rather than stopping gunshots in the hood by providing alternative consciousness. . . . Black studies was not about degrees, but the liberation of a people . . . . the community would be better served giving consciousness to dry bones in the hood."

But Strong Men keep on pushing, despite isolation, alienation, and banishment. There ain't no stopping Strong Men, says Sterling Brown. And Marvin is a nationalist with a global consciousness. But our primary "mission is self and community development, not esoteric journeys to the Motherland to discover much to his dismay and utter disappointment that he is not an African but a pitiful American mutation, a mongrel, in short, a white man in black face, a disconnected  descendant, even worse than ET because he can't call home even when he gets there." 

But it is "even more important that he makes peace with the trees and swamps and bayous of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, then perhaps the ancestors in Africa will accept him and assuage his mind . . . better . . . connect with the ghetto blacks he . . . earnestly desires to escape." We are schizophrenic (you know, Du Bois' "double consciousness"). Negroes "got ten different personalities . . . negroes know  how to act. . . Tom was a killer, he had murder in his heart."  So for the dope gangs, we need to "make peace with them, teach them to make peace with themselves." But we also have too many black celebrities, like Crouch, Cosby, and West, "cultural police for the black bourgeoise," destructively "Beyond the Ignorance Zone."

So, you see, Marvin is refreshing. He's a Liberator. He has freed up contemporary black public speech, primarily controlled by the hip hop industry, Hollywood, the communication industry, and educational factories like Harvard and black public schools. He's like no Muslim you have heard speak. And this is odd for the usual impulse is to think of Muslims as limiting speech and especially the speech of women. For he knows the "light don't come on if you don't turn the switch. . . . Flip the switch on, dummy . . . you got to put on the armor of God and you can walk through the valley of shadow and death. . . .  I had the armor of God  on me when I was out there, when I was out there in the projects, on crack."

War, religion, and cultural ethics are the steak of Marvin's extended discussion. Wish I Could Tell You the Truth is thus cultural criticism at its best. "In the Name of Love," Marvin explains, "Love ain't love if it cuts too deep." For many Marvin probably cuts "too deep." It's a book that would frighten a Tavis Smiley or a Jesse Jackson or a Skip Gates. Though he says he's a Muslim, on reading Marvin you can only guess he is a Muslim. He don't pray five times a day and he don't ascribe to some of the cultural practices of some Muslims and thus he has made a call for a "Radical Spirituality."

The slave religion cultivated by black mega-preachers and Saudi-supported Islam are better understood as a "religion box." Marvin continues, "But we know the people have been hoodwinked and bamboozled, therefore it is the mission of the truly spiritually conscious to step to the front of the line and represent, not hide in the closet and let the masquerade continue." Marvin is wary of religious institutions that exist for the priests primarily. "We have been told to seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and all things, yea, even political and economic things will be added unto ye."

Marvin is against imperialist wars, e.g. Iraq and Haiti. He was a Vietnam-era anti-war activist on the run, from Canada to Central America. And he takes position on Israel that no black academic would dare take, no black elected official would allow pass through his lips. "Israel is the number one problem in the Middle East. Israel is no less a fascist, nazi, apartheid state backed with the money and armaments of America. Israel is the only threat to peace in the Middle East." 

Whether Israel is the "only threat" my political sympathies do not extend so far. What's troubling is Israel is beyond criticism, if you want to win public office in America. And our 800 public black officials and academicians know how their bread is buttered. And as it used to be with our black mayors, there is no full criticism, but rather a mumbling, hypocritical silence. Nationalism is okay for the Jew, but not the American Negro, for they ain't got no guns and capital, and certainly, thank God, they ain't nuclear.

So in the spirit of Marvin I'm gonna call on and thank God, Allah, Jesus, Jah, Jehovah, Buddha, Karl Marx, and Lenin, and call on the Ancestors to bless you with a copy of  Wish I Could Tell You the Truth. Don't run from Marvin, give him an ear. The brother got truths you need to hear, that will clean us up. Liberate the captive. Build a new black world, real free zones. And he's got some lies, too, but it's all good. Contrary to Kilson's view, life is still in black nationalism. For Marvin Black is White and White is Black. He ain't fearing being fired, he says what he wants to say. . . . Praise God in the name of Love.

I Wish, a 2CD reading/interview with Marvin X is available from Black Bird Press, 11132 Nelson Bar Road, Cherokee CA 95965, 19.95.

*   *   *   *   *

Wish I Could Tell You the Truth

Essays by Marvin X



Chapter One: Tale of an Angry Old Man


Chapter Two: Manifesto of The University of Poetry


Chapter Three: Toward A Radical Spirituality


In Search of my Soul Sister


Terrorism in the World Post 9/11


On Cecil's Brown's "What Happened to My Black Studies?"


Has Nature Turned Against America?


America, the Fire This Time


Black Studies, Treading Water


Beyond the Ignorance Zone


Bush, Last American Tragedy


Farrakhan's Final Call


Mass Murder in the Middle East and the Peace Movement


Michael Rode His Boat Ashore


Minister of Poetry Brings Tears to Sacramento


MMinister of Poetry Replies to Dr. Julia Hare


War in Iraq


Of Spiritual Things


Chapter Four: Crazy House of the Negro Book Tour


Open Letter to the Poets of Detroit


Human Earthquake Rocks New York City


Marvin X, Sonia Sanchez and the Crazy House Band


Live in Philly at Warm Daddies


Speaks to the Gullah Nation, South Carolina


Human Earthquake Hits Houston, Texas


Call for General Strike at Reparation Rally


Chapter Five: Of Myth and Rituals


Hero/Shero Defined


Islam Needs a Martin Luther 


End of World Innocence


Hug a Thug: The Education of Ptah Allah-El


Throws in Poetry Towel


Mass Murder in Fresno, CA


Life in Social Movements


What Is Life and Why Are We Living


Of Men Beast, Ancestors and Nature


Black Woman's Tit Knocks Out America


Gay Marriage and Black Liberation


New Nat Turner


Happy New Year, 2003


Twisted Route of Peace March


Chapter Six: Reviews and Blues


Film Review: Ray


Book Review: How to Find a BMW by Julia Hare


Book Review: America's Still the Place, Charlie Walker


Book Review: Somebody Blew Up America, Amiri Baraka


Movie Review: Gospel of the Game, James Robinson


Book Review: Wounded in the House of a Friend, Sonia Sanchez


Drama Review: Pantalos and Collard Greens `179
Drama Review: Invisible Chains


Movie Review: Panther in Africa


Chapter Seven: Blackness and Nothingness


Am I Black, Am I White


Black Bourgeoisie Defend Their Own


The Meaning of Black Reconstruction


Black Reconstruction, Week Two


Black Reconstruction, Week Three


Negro Psychosexuality in the Post Crack Society


Black Muslims as Fifth Column in US


VIP Nigguhs and Rape


Powell, the Running Dog, Raps


Fable of the Horse, the Cow, the Bull


Power of Prayer



Wish I Could Tell You the Truth is available from Black Bird Press, 11132 Nelson Bar Road, Cherokee CA 95965, 19.95. Or email Marvin -- 


*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books

For July 1st through August 31st 2011


#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#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

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#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

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#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
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

*   *   *   *   *

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.

*   *   *   *   *

Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London

*   *   *   *   *

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)

*   *   *   *   *

Ancient African Nations

*   *   *   *   *

If you like this page consider making a donation

online through PayPal

*   *   *   *   *

Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


*   *   *   *   *

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

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

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

*   *   *   *   *

*   *   *   *   *

ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)   






posted 1 April 2005 




  Home Marvin X Table 

Related file:      How to Love a Thinking Woman  Land of My Daughters   How To Love A Thinking Man    WHAT IF  Wish I Could Tell You the Truth