Book Excerpt – Notes of Artistic Freedom Fighter
Notes of Artistic Freedom Fighter
by Marvin X
Copyright © 2018 Black Bird Press/Marvin X No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission from the publisher or author. The format of this excerpt has been modified for presentation here.
By Dr. Nathan Hare
With the return of “white nationalism” to the international stage and the White House and new threats of nuclear war, the black revolutionary occupies a crucial position in society today. Yet a black revolutionary of historic promise can live among us almost unknown on the radar screen, even when his name is as conspicuous as Marvin X (who may be the last to wear an X in public view since the assassination of Malcolm X).
This semblance of anonymity is due in part to the fact that the black revolutionary is liable to live a part of his or her life incognito, and many become adept at moving in and out of both public and private places sight unseen. For instance, I didn’t know until I read Marvin X’s Notes of Artistic Freedom Fighter that when he put on a memorial service for his comrade and Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver, 1998, he was unaware that Eldridge’s ex, Kathleen Cleaver, had traveled from the East Coast and slipped into the auditorium of the church with her daughter Joju. As one of the invited speakers I had noticed her curiosity when I remarked that I had been aware of Eldridge before she was (he and I /had had articles in the Negro History Bulletin in the spring of 1962) and had met her before Eldridge did, when I was introduced to her while she was working with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee at Tuskegee institute, but luckily for Eldridge I was happily married to the woman who years later would escort Kathleen around San Francisco in what I recall as a failed search for a black lawyer to take his case when he returned from exile in France.
Like many other persons across this promised land, I also thought I knew Marvin X. I can clearly recall seeing him walk into the offices of The Black Scholar Magazine, then in Sausalito, with a manuscript we published in the early 1970s. However, his reputation had preceded him. For one thing, then California Governor Ronald Reagan had publicly issued a directive to college administrators at UCLA and Fresno State University to get Angela Davis and Marvin X off the campuses and keep them off. The Fresno Bee Newspaper quoted Reagan as he entered the State College Board of Trustees meeting in his capacity as president of the board, “I want Marvin X off campus by any means necessary!”
Over the years I continued to encounter him: when he organized the First National Black Men’s Conference, 1980, Oakland Auditorium, that drew over a thousand black men (without benefit of media coverage) to pay their way into a conference aimed at getting black men to rise again. I was a member of his Board of Directors. I also attended a number of other conferences he organized, such as the Kings and Queens of Black Consciousness, San Francisco State University, 2001, and the San Francisco Black Radical Book Fair, 2004, as well as productions of his successful play, “One Day in the Life,” with a scene of his last meeting with his friend, Black Panther Party co-founder, Dr. Huey P. Newton, in a West Oakland Crack house.
I will never forget the time he recruited me and the seasoned psychiatric social worker, Suzette Celeste, MSW, MPA, to put on weekly nighttime workshops in black consciousness and strategies for “overcoming the addiction to white supremacy.” On many a night I marveled to see him and his aides branch out fearlessly into the gloom of the Tenderloin streets of San Francisco and bring back unwary street people and the homeless to participate in our sessions, along with a sparse coterie of the black bourgeoisie who didn’t turn around or break and run on seeing the dim stairway to the dungeon-like basement of the white Catholic church.
But when I received and read Marvin’s manuscript, I called and told him that he had really paid his dues to the cause of black freedom but regretfully had not yet received his righteous dues.
As if to anticipate my impression, the designer of the book cover [Adam Turner] has a silhouetted image of Marvin, though you wouldn’t recognize him if you weren’t told, in spite of the flood lights beaming down on him from above like rays directly from high Heaven, as if spotlighting the fact that Marvin ‘s day has come.
You tell me why one of the blackest men to walk this earth, in both complexion and consciousness, is dressed in a white suit and wearing a white hat; but that is as white as it gets, and inside the book is black to the bone, a rare and readable compendium of Marvin’s unsurpassed struggle for black freedom and artistic recognition.
Black revolutionaries wondering what black people should do now can jump into this book and so can the Uncle Tom: the functional toms find new roles for the uncle tom who longs for freedom but prefers to dance to the tune of the piper; the pathological tom, whose malady is epidemic today, as well as the Aunt Tomasinas, can be enlightened and endarkened according to their taste in this literary and readable smorgasbord.
Notes of Artistic Freedom Fighter Marvin X is a diary and a compendium, a textbook for revolutionary example and experience, a guide for change makers, a textbook for Black Studies and community action, including city planners who will profit from his proposals and experiences in his collaboration with the mayor and officials of Oakland to commercialize and energize the inner city, with a Black Arts Movement Business District (BAMBD) that could be the greatest black cultural and economic boon since the Harlem Renaissance. No longer just talk and get-tough rhetoric, his current project is cultural economics, Oakland’s Black Arts Movement Business District, an urban model evolving in real time in the heart of downtown Oakland, where people like Governor Jerry Brown once tried their hand before they turned and fled back into the claws of the status quo. I can’t say everything is in this book, just that it reflects the fact that Marvin, for all he has done on the merry-go-round of black social change, is still in the process of becoming.
Readers from the dope dealer to the dope addict to the progressive elite, the Pan African internationalist, the amateur anthropologist, the blacker than thou, the try to be black, the blacker-than-thous, the try to be white (who go to sleep at night and dream they will wake up white) and other wannabes; in other words from the Nouveau Black to the petit bourgeois noir and bourgie coconuts, Notes of Artistic Freedom Fighter Marvin X is a fountainhead of wisdom, with a fistful of freedom nuggets and rare guidance in resisting oppression or/and work to build a new and better day.