Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Rain by Aime Cesaire

After I had by iron by fire by ash visited the most celebrated places in history
after I had by ash fire earth and stars courted with my wild dog and leechlike
fingernails the authoritarian field of protoplasms
I found myself as usual in the old days in the middle of a factory of vipers'
nests in a ganges of cacti in an elaboration of thorny pilgrimages - and as
usual I was salivated by limbs and tongues born a thousand years before
the earth - and as usual I made my morning prayer the one that protects
me from the evil eye and that I address to the rain under the aztec color of
its name

Rain who so gently washes a perverse injection from the earth's academic
All-powerful rain who on the chopping block makes the fingers of the
rock's leap
Rain who force-feeds an army of worms no mulberry forest could nourish
Rain inspired strategist who pushes across the mirror of the air your zigzag
army of numberless riverbanks that cannot not surprise the best-kept
Rain wasp nest beautiful milk whose piglets we are
Rain I see your hair which is a perpetual explosion of sandbox tree fireworks
your hair of misinformation promptly denied
Rain who in your most reprehensible excesses takes care not to forget that
Chiriqui maidens pull suddenly from their night corsage a lamp of thrilling
Inflexible rain who lays eggs whose larvae are so proud that nothing can
make them mount the stern of the sun and salute it like an admiral
Rain who is a fresh fish fan behind which courteous races hide to watch
victory with its dirty feet pass by
Greetings to you queen rain in the depths of the eternal goddess whose hands
are multiple and whose destiny is unique thou sperm thou brain thou fluid
Rain capable of everything except washing away the blood that flows on the
fingers of the murderers of entire peoples surprised in the soaring forests
of innocence

Aime Cesaire (photo by Denise Colomb)
(translation by A. James Arnold & Clayton Eshleman)
Solar Throat Slashed, The Unexpurgated 1948 Edition, Wesleyan University Press

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Homage to Aime Cesaire in Poetry & Jazz

New Day Jazz

Justin Desmangles

Jazz music for lovers and the lonely.


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Show Description for Sunday 06/26/2011

This afternoon, a special celebration of Aime Cesaire, honoring his birthday, June 26, 1913.

Also, a new essay by Cecil Brown, below.

If Racism is Over, Why are Whites Still Kicking Me in the Ass?

Next week, Amiri Baraka reviews the new biography, Malcolm X, A Life Of Reinvention, by Manning Marable.

Painting by Romare Bearden, 16 Mill Hands Lunch Bucket

Artist Song Album

Bud Powell Cleopatra's Dream The Scene Changes Blue Note

JulianAdderley Alison's Uncle Somethin' Else Blue Note

John Agard Stereotype An Evening Of International Poetry Alliance Records

John Agard Grafitti In A British Rail Waiting Room An Evening Of International Poetry Alliance Records

Max Roach featuring Anthony Braxton Dance Griot Birth And Rebirth Black Saint

Walt Dickerson Sirone Andrew Cyrille Life Rays Life Rays Soul Note

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Walt Dickerson & Sun Ra Visions Visions Steeple Chase

Mahmood Jamal A Gift Of Blood An Evening Of International Poetry Alliance Records

Mahmood Jamal Silence An Evening Of International Poetry Alliance Records

Gil Evans / Steve Lacy Reincarnation Of A Lovebird Paris Blues Owl

Steve Lacy Virgin Jungle The Door Novus

Okot P'Bitek Acholi Song / Song Of The Prisoner An Evening Of International Poetry Alliance Records

Clifford Brown George's Dilemma Study In Brown Emarcy

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Aime Cesaire (read by Justin Desmangles) Rain (translated by A. James Arnold & Clayton Eshleman) Solar Throat Slashed Wesleyan Universtiy Press

Jackie Byard Parisian Thoroughfare The Jaki Byard Experience Prestige

Mari Evans (read by Roscoe Lee Browne & James Earl Jones) This Ain't No Mass Thing A Hand Is On The Gate Verve - Folkways

Sam Rivers Involution Dimensions & Extensions Blue Note

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Aime Cesaire (read by Justin Desmangles) Secret Society (translated by A. James Arnold & Clayton Eshleman) Solar Throat Slashed Wesleyan Universtiy Press

Aime Cesaire (read by Justin Desmangles) Attack On Morals (translated by A. James Arnold & Clayton Eshleman) Solar Throat Slashed Wesleyan Universtiy Press

Rahsaan Roland Kirk Rahsaanica Natural Black Inventions: Root Strata Atlantic

Rahsaan Roland Kirk Raped Voices Natural Black Inventions: Root Strata Atlantic

Rahsaan Roland Kirk Haunted Feelings Natural Black Inventions: Root Strata Atlantic

Solar Throat Slashed Prelude Back Home Natural Black Inventions: Root Strata Atlantic

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Max Roach featuring Andy Bey Members, Don't Git Weary Members, Don't Git Weary Atlantic

Friday, June 17, 2011

Weatherbird Language Alive

Show description for Sunday 6/12/2011 @ 3:00 PM - 6:00 PM

This afternoon, on the 5 o'clock hour, we will listen to Toni Morrison read from the text of her lecture in acceptance of the Nobel Prize in Literature 1993


Louis Armstorng - Earl HinesWeatherbirdFrom King Oliver To Ornette ColemanCBS - France

Fats WallerSt. Louis BluesFrom King Oliver To Ornette ColemanCBS - France

Count BasieTickle ToeFrom King Oliver To Ornette ColemanCBS - France

Ahmad JamalBilly BoyFrom King Oliver To Ornette ColemanCBS - France

Howard McGhee - Fats NavarroThe SkunkThe Other Side Of Blue Note 1500 SeriesBlue Note - Japan

Jutta HippZwonderfulThe Other Side Of Blue Note 1500 SeriesBlue Note - Japan

Louis SmithAu PrivaveThe Other Side Of Blue Note 1500 SeriesBlue Note - Japan

Beverly KenneyDo It AgainSings For PlayboysDecca

Beverly KenneyA Woman's IntuitionSings For PlayboysDecca

Beverly KenneyYou're My BoySings For PlayboysDecca
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Carmen McRaeHow Did He Look?BittersweetFocus

Carmen McRaeGuess I'll Hang My Tears Out To DryBittersweetFocus

Carmen McRaeThe Meaning Of The BluesBittersweetFocus

Bud PowellJohn's AbbeyThe Other Side Of Blue Note 1500 SeriesBlue Note - Japan

Paul Chambers(Untitled)The Other Side Of Blue Note 1500 SeriesBlue Note - Japan

Johnny GriffinCherokeeThe Other Side Of Blue Note 1500 SeriesBlue Note - Japan

Okot p'BitekSong Of The PrisonerAn Evening Of International PoetryAlliance

Miles Davis - Gil Evans SpringsvilleFrom King Oliver To Ornette ColemanCBS - France

Woody HermanFour BrothersFrom King Oliver To Ornette ColemanCBS - France

Benny Goodman - Charlie ChristianSolo FlightFrom King Oliver To Ornette ColemanCBS - France

Fats WallerI"m Crazy About My BabyFrom King Oliver To Ornette ColemanCBS - France
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Benny Goodman AvalonFrom King Oliver To Ornette ColemanCBS - France

Charlie ParkerAnthropologyFrom King Oliver To Ornette ColemanCBS - France

Charles MingusGunslinging BirdFrom King Oliver To Ornette ColemanCBS - France

Mushtaq SinghThe RespiteAn Evening Of International PoetryAlliance

Mushtaq Singh4 Lines In Urdu TranslationAn Evening Of International PoetryAlliance

Bill EvansLucky To Be MeEverybody Digs Bill EvansRiverside

Farmers By NatureFor Fred AndersonOut Of The Worlds DistortionsAUM-Fidelity

Darius Jones TrioMeeknessMan'ish Boy ( A Raw & Beautiful Thing)AUM-Fidelity

Darius Jones - Matthew ShippOvervoidCosmic LiederAUM-Fidelity
========================== Airbreak ==========================

Toni MorrisonThe Nobel Lecture In Literature 1993The Nobel Lecture In Literature 1993Random House Audio
========================== Airbreak ==========================

Matthew Shipp Trio / SoloGamma RayArt Of The ImproviserThirsty Ear

Matthew Shipp Trio / SoloPatmosArt Of The ImproviserThirsty Ear

David S. WareCrystal PalacePlanetary UnknownAUM-Fidelity
========================== Airbreak ==========================

Darius Jones TrioBig Train Rollin'Man'ish Boy ( A Raw & Beautiful Thing)AUM-Fidelity

Friday, June 10, 2011

Toni Morrrison, Nobel Lecture December 7, 1993

Nobel Lecture December 7, 1993

Listen to an Audio Recording of Toni Morrison's Nobel Lecture
33 min.

"Once upon a time there was an old woman. Blind but wise." Or was it an old man? A guru, perhaps. Or a griot soothing restless children. I have heard this story, or one exactly like it, in the lore of several cultures.

"Once upon a time there was an old woman. Blind. Wise."

In the version I know the woman is the daughter of slaves, black, American, and lives alone in a small house outside of town. Her reputation for wisdom is without peer and without question. Among her people she is both the law and its transgression. The honor she is paid and the awe in which she is held reach beyond her neighborhood to places far away; to the city where the intelligence of rural prophets is the source of much amusement.

One day the woman is visited by some young people who seem to be bent on disproving her clairvoyance and showing her up for the fraud they believe she is. Their plan is simple: they enter her house and ask the one question the answer to which rides solely on her difference from them, a difference they regard as a profound disability: her blindness. They stand before her, and one of them says, "Old woman, I hold in my hand a bird. Tell me whether it is living or dead."

She does not answer, and the question is repeated. "Is the bird I am holding living or dead?"

Still she doesn't answer. She is blind and cannot see her visitors, let alone what is in their hands. She does not know their color, gender or homeland. She only knows their motive.

The old woman's silence is so long, the young people have trouble holding their laughter.

Finally she speaks and her voice is soft but stern. "I don't know", she says. "I don't know whether the bird you are holding is dead or alive, but what I do know is that it is in your hands. It is in your hands."

Her answer can be taken to mean: if it is dead, you have either found it that way or you have killed it. If it is alive, you can still kill it. Whether it is to stay alive, it is your decision. Whatever the case, it is your responsibility.

For parading their power and her helplessness, the young visitors are reprimanded, told they are responsible not only for the act of mockery but also for the small bundle of life sacrificed to achieve its aims. The blind woman shifts attention away from assertions of power to the instrument through which that power is exercised.

Speculation on what (other than its own frail body) that bird-in-the-hand might signify has always been attractive to me, but especially so now thinking, as I have been, about the work I do that has brought me to this company. So I choose to read the bird as language and the woman as a practiced writer. She is worried about how the language she dreams in, given to her at birth, is handled, put into service, even withheld from her for certain nefarious purposes. Being a writer she thinks of language partly as a system, partly as a living thing over which one has control, but mostly as agency - as an act with consequences. So the question the children put to her: "Is it living or dead?" is not unreal because she thinks of language as susceptible to death, erasure; certainly imperiled and salvageable only by an effort of the will. She believes that if the bird in the hands of her visitors is dead the custodians are responsible for the corpse. For her a dead language is not only one no longer spoken or written, it is unyielding language content to admire its own paralysis. Like statist language, censored and censoring. Ruthless in its policing duties, it has no desire or purpose other than maintaining the free range of its own narcotic narcissism, its own exclusivity and dominance. However moribund, it is not without effect for it actively thwarts the intellect, stalls conscience, suppresses human potential. Unreceptive to interrogation, it cannot form or tolerate new ideas, shape other thoughts, tell another story, fill baffling silences. Official language smitheryed to sanction ignorance and preserve privilege is a suit of armor polished to shocking glitter, a husk from which the knight departed long ago. Yet there it is: dumb, predatory, sentimental. Exciting reverence in schoolchildren, providing shelter for despots, summoning false memories of stability, harmony among the public.

She is convinced that when language dies, out of carelessness, disuse, indifference and absence of esteem, or killed by fiat, not only she herself, but all users and makers are accountable for its demise. In her country children have bitten their tongues off and use bullets instead to iterate the voice of speechlessness, of disabled and disabling language, of language adults have abandoned altogether as a device for grappling with meaning, providing guidance, or expressing love. But she knows tongue-suicide is not only the choice of children. It is common among the infantile heads of state and power merchants whose evacuated language leaves them with no access to what is left of their human instincts for they speak only to those who obey, or in order to force obedience.

The systematic looting of language can be recognized by the tendency of its users to forgo its nuanced, complex, mid-wifery properties for menace and subjugation. Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge. Whether it is obscuring state language or the faux-language of mindless media; whether it is the proud but calcified language of the academy or the commodity driven language of science; whether it is the malign language of law-without-ethics, or language designed for the estrangement of minorities, hiding its racist plunder in its literary cheek - it must be rejected, altered and exposed. It is the language that drinks blood, laps vulnerabilities, tucks its fascist boots under crinolines of respectability and patriotism as it moves relentlessly toward the bottom line and the bottomed-out mind. Sexist language, racist language, theistic language - all are typical of the policing languages of mastery, and cannot, do not permit new knowledge or encourage the mutual exchange of ideas.

The old woman is keenly aware that no intellectual mercenary, nor insatiable dictator, no paid-for politician or demagogue; no counterfeit journalist would be persuaded by her thoughts. There is and will be rousing language to keep citizens armed and arming; slaughtered and slaughtering in the malls, courthouses, post offices, playgrounds, bedrooms and boulevards; stirring, memorializing language to mask the pity and waste of needless death. There will be more diplomatic language to countenance rape, torture, assassination. There is and will be more seductive, mutant language designed to throttle women, to pack their throats like paté-producing geese with their own unsayable, transgressive words; there will be more of the language of surveillance disguised as research; of politics and history calculated to render the suffering of millions mute; language glamorized to thrill the dissatisfied and bereft into assaulting their neighbors; arrogant pseudo-empirical language crafted to lock creative people into cages of inferiority and hopelessness.

Underneath the eloquence, the glamor, the scholarly associations, however stirring or seductive, the heart of such language is languishing, or perhaps not beating at all - if the bird is already dead.

She has thought about what could have been the intellectual history of any discipline if it had not insisted upon, or been forced into, the waste of time and life that rationalizations for and representations of dominance required - lethal discourses of exclusion blocking access to cognition for both the excluder and the excluded.

The conventional wisdom of the Tower of Babel story is that the collapse was a misfortune. That it was the distraction, or the weight of many languages that precipitated the tower's failed architecture. That one monolithic language would have expedited the building and heaven would have been reached. Whose heaven, she wonders? And what kind? Perhaps the achievement of Paradise was premature, a little hasty if no one could take the time to understand other languages, other views, other narratives period. Had they, the heaven they imagined might have been found at their feet. Complicated, demanding, yes, but a view of heaven as life; not heaven as post-life.

She would not want to leave her young visitors with the impression that language should be forced to stay alive merely to be. The vitality of language lies in its ability to limn the actual, imagined and possible lives of its speakers, readers, writers. Although its poise is sometimes in displacing experience it is not a substitute for it. It arcs toward the place where meaning may lie. When a President of the United States thought about the graveyard his country had become, and said, "The world will little note nor long remember what we say here. But it will never forget what they did here," his simple words are exhilarating in their life-sustaining properties because they refused to encapsulate the reality of 600, 000 dead men in a cataclysmic race war. Refusing to monumentalize, disdaining the "final word", the precise "summing up", acknowledging their "poor power to add or detract", his words signal deference to the uncapturability of the life it mourns. It is the deference that moves her, that recognition that language can never live up to life once and for all. Nor should it. Language can never "pin down" slavery, genocide, war. Nor should it yearn for the arrogance to be able to do so. Its force, its felicity is in its reach toward the ineffable.

Be it grand or slender, burrowing, blasting, or refusing to sanctify; whether it laughs out loud or is a cry without an alphabet, the choice word, the chosen silence, unmolested language surges toward knowledge, not its destruction. But who does not know of literature banned because it is interrogative; discredited because it is critical; erased because alternate? And how many are outraged by the thought of a self-ravaged tongue?

Word-work is sublime, she thinks, because it is generative; it makes meaning that secures our difference, our human difference - the way in which we are like no other life.

We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.

"Once upon a time, ..." visitors ask an old woman a question. Who are they, these children? What did they make of that encounter? What did they hear in those final words: "The bird is in your hands"? A sentence that gestures towards possibility or one that drops a latch? Perhaps what the children heard was "It's not my problem. I am old, female, black, blind. What wisdom I have now is in knowing I cannot help you. The future of language is yours."

They stand there. Suppose nothing was in their hands? Suppose the visit was only a ruse, a trick to get to be spoken to, taken seriously as they have not been before? A chance to interrupt, to violate the adult world, its miasma of discourse about them, for them, but never to them? Urgent questions are at stake, including the one they have asked: "Is the bird we hold living or dead?" Perhaps the question meant: "Could someone tell us what is life? What is death?" No trick at all; no silliness. A straightforward question worthy of the attention of a wise one. An old one. And if the old and wise who have lived life and faced death cannot describe either, who can?

But she does not; she keeps her secret; her good opinion of herself; her gnomic pronouncements; her art without commitment. She keeps her distance, enforces it and retreats into the singularity of isolation, in sophisticated, privileged space.

Nothing, no word follows her declaration of transfer. That silence is deep, deeper than the meaning available in the words she has spoken. It shivers, this silence, and the children, annoyed, fill it with language invented on the spot.

"Is there no speech," they ask her, "no words you can give us that helps us break through your dossier of failures? Through the education you have just given us that is no education at all because we are paying close attention to what you have done as well as to what you have said? To the barrier you have erected between generosity and wisdom?

"We have no bird in our hands, living or dead. We have only you and our important question. Is the nothing in our hands something you could not bear to contemplate, to even guess? Don't you remember being young when language was magic without meaning? When what you could say, could not mean? When the invisible was what imagination strove to see? When questions and demands for answers burned so brightly you trembled with fury at not knowing?

"Do we have to begin consciousness with a battle heroines and heroes like you have already fought and lost leaving us with nothing in our hands except what you have imagined is there? Your answer is artful, but its artfulness embarrasses us and ought to embarrass you. Your answer is indecent in its self-congratulation. A made-for-television script that makes no sense if there is nothing in our hands.

"Why didn't you reach out, touch us with your soft fingers, delay the sound bite, the lesson, until you knew who we were? Did you so despise our trick, our modus operandi you could not see that we were baffled about how to get your attention? We are young. Unripe. We have heard all our short lives that we have to be responsible. What could that possibly mean in the catastrophe this world has become; where, as a poet said, "nothing needs to be exposed since it is already barefaced." Our inheritance is an affront. You want us to have your old, blank eyes and see only cruelty and mediocrity. Do you think we are stupid enough to perjure ourselves again and again with the fiction of nationhood? How dare you talk to us of duty when we stand waist deep in the toxin of your past?

"You trivialize us and trivialize the bird that is not in our hands. Is there no context for our lives? No song, no literature, no poem full of vitamins, no history connected to experience that you can pass along to help us start strong? You are an adult. The old one, the wise one. Stop thinking about saving your face. Think of our lives and tell us your particularized world. Make up a story. Narrative is radical, creating us at the very moment it is being created. We will not blame you if your reach exceeds your grasp; if love so ignites your words they go down in flames and nothing is left but their scald. Or if, with the reticence of a surgeon's hands, your words suture only the places where blood might flow. We know you can never do it properly - once and for all. Passion is never enough; neither is skill. But try. For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don't tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear's caul. You, old woman, blessed with blindness, can speak the language that tells us what only language can: how to see without pictures. Language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. Language alone is meditation.

"Tell us what it is to be a woman so that we may know what it is to be a man. What moves at the margin. What it is to have no home in this place. To be set adrift from the one you knew. What it is to live at the edge of towns that cannot bear your company.

"Tell us about ships turned away from shorelines at Easter, placenta in a field. Tell us about a wagonload of slaves, how they sang so softly their breath was indistinguishable from the falling snow. How they knew from the hunch of the nearest shoulder that the next stop would be their last. How, with hands prayered in their sex, they thought of heat, then sun. Lifting their faces as though is was there for the taking. Turning as though there for the taking. They stop at an inn. The driver and his mate go in with the lamp leaving them humming in the dark. The horse's void steams into the snow beneath its hooves and its hiss and melt are the envy of the freezing slaves.

"The inn door opens: a girl and a boy step away from its light. They climb into the wagon bed. The boy will have a gun in three years, but now he carries a lamp and a jug of warm cider. They pass it from mouth to mouth. The girl offers bread, pieces of meat and something more: a glance into the eyes of the one she serves. One helping for each man, two for each woman. And a look. They look back. The next stop will be their last. But not this one. This one is warmed."

It's quiet again when the children finish speaking, until the woman breaks into the silence.

"Finally", she says, "I trust you now. I trust you with the bird that is not in your hands because you have truly caught it. Look. How lovely it is, this thing we have done - together."

From Nobel Lectures, Literature 1991-1995, Editor Sture Allén, World Scientific Publishing Co., Singapore, 1997

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1993

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Amiri Baraka Reviews Manning Marable's Malcolm X: A Life Of Reinvention

On Mar 30 I waited for a car that Manning Marable was supposed to send to pick me up at my house so that we could meet later that day in his office at Columbia University because he wanted to interview me as part of an oral history project.

I had met with him two weeks before to discuss how Columbia would handle my papers, that is when we scheduled this last project. But the car never came. I called another driver I knew, a friend of mine and we drove to Columbia, but Marable was not there. It seemed no one at the Africana studies department knew where he was. Finally some one word got to me that Manning had gone back into the hospital.

I went back home, the next day I got the news on the internet that he had died.The strangeness of that missed appointment was weird enough, but the fact that his last work on Malcolm X was to be released two days later made the whole ending of our living relationship a frustrating incomplete denouement.

Initially, a friend of mine gave me a copy of the book at a happy discount. Taking it on one of my frequent trips out of town, I began to read. I gave that first copy to my wife when I returned because she had also, as many other people had, been clamoring to read it. As well as asking me relentlessly had I read it.

I bought another copy of the book at the Chicago airport, and I guess started to get into the book seriously. I have known Manning for a number of years. Actually I met him while he was still teaching in Colorado. I even worked under him, when I taught briefly at Columbia University, when he was chairman of the Africana Studies Dept. at Columbia.

As well, I have appreciated one of his books, the DuBois (“Black Radical Democrat”) work and at least appreciated the theme of “How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America”, as well as the entire stance of his acknowledgement of the important aspects of American (Black American) history which had to be grasped.

But as recently as a few weeks ago, ironically I had written him a letter about his journal Souls regarding an essay that quoted a man* who had been accused of participating in the assassination, making some demeaning remarks about Malcolm. My letter questioned the“intelligence” of including the quote since it offered nothing significant to the piece. This was not just loose criticism; I really wanted to know just what purpose the inclusion served. ( *This man Thomas 15X is the same one quoted by Marable as saying that it was the Nation of Islam that burned Malcolm’s house down.)

But with the publication of what some have called “his magnum opus”“Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention” it is not just Marable’s inclusion of tidbits of presumed sexual scandal that should interest readers, that I question, but more fundamentally, what was the consciousness that created this work?

First of all I don’t think we can just bull’s-eye the writer’s intentions, we must include Marable’s consciousness as the overall shaper of his intentions, as well as his method. Originally from Ohio, Marable was a freshman in college in 1969; he did not graduate until1971. He has been attached to Academic institutions since 1974, Smith, Tuskegee, Univ. of San Francisco, Cornell, Colgate, Purdue, Ohio State, University of Colorado, Columbia.

It is no denigration of his life to say that Manning was an academic, a well principled one, but an academic nevertheless. But Marable did have a political aspect to his life, which I understood and is why I think he was a very principled academic. He did understand that the “purely” academic was fabrication of the essentially unengaged. That whatever you might do, there was a conscious political stance that your political consciousness had to assume, even if you refused to take it.

So his “membership” in the1970’s National Political Assembly chaired by Richard Hatcher, Mayor of Gary, Indiana, Rep Charles Diggs, the congressman from Detroit and myself as chairman of the Congress of African Peoples, signified that he was aware and a partisan of that attempt to raise and institutionalize Black political consciousness as a way to organize Black people nationally to struggle for Black political power.

In 1974 Marable joined the Democratic Socialists of America, and for a time was even a Vice Chairman of that organization which is called “Left” but is not Marxist and certainly not a Marxist-Leninist organization. It is one of those organizations like the group that split from Lenin’s 2nd International which he called socialists in word but chauvinists in reality.

So it is important that we recognize the specific political base upon which Manning’s“observations” may be judged. He is not simply “observing”. He is making judgments.So that, for instance, for Marable to consistently, throughout his book, call the Nation of Islam a “sect” is a judgment not an observation. The NOI certainly has and had more influence on society than DSA, certainly on Black people. The meaning as a small break awaygroup of a religious order only used now to connote a “jocular or illiterate” character (according to the OUD) is spurious.

But then in relationship to revolutionary Marxism or Marxism –Leninism, DSA certainly fits the description. My point being that Marable must be judged by what he says not by what others say he “intended”. The best thing about the book, of course, is that it raises Malcolm X to the height of our conversation again, and this is a very good thing in this Obama election period. (Post racialit ain’t!)

The very profile of Malcolm’s life, the outline of his life of struggle needs to be spread across the world again, if only to re-awaken the fiercest “blackness” in us to fight this newly packaged “same ol’ same ol”’emergence of white supremacy and racism. Whatever Marable is saying or pointing out, in the end, is to convince us of the superiority of social democracy which he refers to as “the Left”, which is anything from DSA to the Trotskyists. The characterization of Bayard Rustin’s “superior” reasoning in a debate with Malcolm or the response of James Farmer to Malcolm’s bringing a“body guard” to Farmer’s house, “Do you think I want to kill you?” tries to render Malcolm some paranoid case when indeed there were people plotting very actively to kill him.

Ultimately, it is Marable’s own political line that renders the book weakened by his consistent attempts to “reduce” Malcolm’s known qualities and status with many largely unsubstantiated injections,many described by Marable himself as “rumors”. Is there, for instance, any real evidence of Malcolm’s or Betty’s sexual trysts?

People who knew Charles Kenyatta, for example, in Harlem, will quickly recall a vainglorious fool & liar. Could much of this rumor material actually have come from Marable’s “official” sources, the FBI, CIA, BOSS, NYPD, as well as those in the NOI who hated him?

About Malcolm, a sentence like Marable’s “That evening Sharon 6X may have joined him in his hotel” is inexcusable.When I wrote the FBI asking them to release surveillance materials they had gathered on me, at first the director even denied such papers existed. It was Allen Ginsberg’s lawyer that finally got an admission that such papers existed, and that I could get them for ten cents a page. But when I got the papers, it was my wife, Amina, who said how do we know that the information they haven’t crossed out is stuff they want us to see and so confuse us about what was really going on.

I would submit that is exactly what those agencies would do in this case! To assume because you are given “access” to certain information, that that information is not “cooked”, as people around law enforcement say, is to labor in deep naiveté as to whom you are dealing with!

Marable never made any pretensions about being a “revolutionary”. His hookup with the DSA is open acknowledgment that he rejected Lenin’s prescription for a revolutionary organization, or party of the advanced, or such concepts as “The Dictatorship of the Proletariat”. In fact the DSA says they are not a party, aligning themselves very clearly with Lenin’s opponents in the 2nd International.

Such people, social democrats, are open opponents of revolution, so that at base Marable was opposed to the political logic of Malcolm’s efforts to make revolution. Marable is even more dismissive of the Nation of Islam which he brands a “cult”, a “sect”, dismissing the fact that even as a religious organization, the NOI had a distinct political message, and that it was this message, I think, more than the direct attraction of Islam, that drew the thousands to it

If Marable was giving a deeper understanding of Elijah Muhammad’s call for Five States in the south, he would have mentioned the relationship of this concept to Lenin’s formulation of an Afro American Nation in the black belt south (called that because that is the largest single concentration of Afro Americans in the US).

It was not simply some Negro fantasy. If Marable actually understood the political legitimacy of Malcolm’s Black Nationalism and how Malcolm’s constant exposure to the revolutionary aspects of the Civil Rights movement and the more militant Black Liberation Movement shaped his thinking and made his whole presentation more overtly political and that this was not only negative to the core of the NOI bureaucracy but certainly to the FBI,&c.

They have even written Malcolm X was much safer to them in the Nation than as a loose cannon roaming the planet outside of it. They understood that what Malcolm was saying, even in The Ballot or the Bullet was dangerous stuff. That his admission that all white people might not be the Devil was not morphing into a Dr. King replica but an understanding, as he said at Oxford University, that when Black people made their revolution there would be some white people joining them.

The meeting with the Klan was not Malcolm’s idea, certainly it was Elijah Muhammad’s as it had been Marcus Garvey’s idea before him. Malcolm’s Black Nationalism became more deliberately a Revolutionary Nationalism, such as Mao Tse Tsung (or Cabral or Nkrumah) spoke of, necessary to rally the nation’s forces together to make lst a national revolution to overthrow foreign domination and followed by a revolution to destroy capitalism.

Importantly, Marable does draw a clearer picture of Malcolm’s childhood and early days, especially indicating the Garvey influence his parents taught him and how that would make him open to what Elijah Muhammad taught, unlike the obscure flashbacks of Spike Lee’s version of Malcolm’s early days.

Though Marable ascribes some wholly political “defiance” to the conked hair and zoot suits of the 40’s rather than understanding that there was also a deep organic cultural expression that is always evident in Black life. It is not just a formal reaction to white society. African pants are similarly draped. Access to straightening combs or conkolene are a product of the period, and certainly if any straight hair is gonna be imitated, there was some here before the Latinos.

The “antibourgeois” attitude of the Black youth culture is organic and an expression of the gestalt of black life in the US and Marable seems not to wholly understand it. For instance his take on BeBop as the music of “the hepcats (sic) who broke most sharply from swing, developing a black oriented sound at the margins of musical taste and commercialism”.

BeBop was a revolutionary music, dismissing Tin Pan Alley commercialism and raising the blues and improvisation again as principal to black music.The essential “disconnection “ in the book is Marable’s failure to understand the revolutionary aspects of Black Nationalism, as a struggle for “ Self Determination, Self Respect and Self Defense”. A struggle for equal democratic rights expressed on the sidewalks of an oppressor nation by an oppressed Afro American nationality.

What the book does is try to remove Malcolm from the context and character of an Afro American revolutionary and “make him more human” by dismantling that portrait by redrawing him with the rumors, assumptions, speculations, questionable guesses and the intentionally twisted seeing of the state and his enemies.

Was Captain Joseph (who later changed his name to Yusuf Shah) close to Malcolm? He appeared on television calling Malcolm “Benedict Arnold”and told Spike Lee that I had come up to the Mosque and stood up to question Malcolm and Malcolm told me to “sit down until you get rid of that white woman”.

I met Malcolm only once, the month before he was murdered. This was in Muhammad Babu’s room at the Waldorf Astoria. Babu had just finished leading the revolution in Zanzibar, and would later become Minister of Economics for Tanzania( which was Zanzibar and Tanganyika). At that meeting Malcolm responded to my demeaning of the NAACP by saying I should be trying, instead, to join the NAACP, to make a point about Black people needing a “United Front”.

That idea was not an attempt at “trying to become respectable”, to paraphrase Marable, Malcolm had come to realize that no sectarianism could make the revolution we needed. Interestingly, Stokely Carmichael also called for the building of a Black United Front, and Martin Luther King, when he visited my house in Newark, a week before he was murdered, called for the same political strategy.

It was such a front that was a major part of the national democratic coalition that elected Obama. As for Yusuf Shah, when Spike Lee repeated Shah’s wild allegations about me in his book How I Made The Movie X, I asked a college friend of mine, who had become my part time lawyer, Hudson Reed,to file a suit against Shah demanding he be questioned in court for any “exculpatory”evidence relating to the murder of Malcolm X, particularly as to the involvement of himself and organized crime.

A short time later, Shah, who had moved to Massachusetts, died in his sleep. Marable reports that Captain Joseph/Yusuf Shah’s FBI file was “empty”! It is Marable’s misunderstanding of the revolutionary aspect of Black Nationalism that challenges the portrait not only of Malcolm but of the period and its organizations as well. He treats the split between Malcolm X and the NOI much like he assumes the police did. (Though this is patently false.) As a struggle between “two warring blackgangs”, a sect splitting from the main.

So that there is much more from Marable framing Malcolm’s murder as directed by the NOI, rather than the state. Marable’s general portrait of Malcolm is as doomed and confused individual about whom he could say that “Malcolm extensively read history but he was not a historian”. As if the academic title “HISTORIAN” conferred a more scientific understanding of history than any grassroots’ scholar might have. Simple class bias.

To say of the NOI that it was not a radical organization obscures the Black Nationalist confrontation with the white racist oppressor nation. Marable thinks that the Trots of the SWP or the members of the CP or the Committees of Correspondence are more radical. That means he has not even understood Lenin’s directive as pointed out in Stalin’s Foundations of Leninism, in The National Question, “…The revolutionary character of a national movement under the conditions of imperialist oppression does not necessarily presuppose the existence of proletarian elements in the movement, the existence of a revolutionaryor a republican programme of the movement, the existence of a democratic basis of the movement.

The struggle that the Emir of Afghanistan is waging for the independence of Afghanistan is objectively a revolutionary struggle, despite the monarchist view o fthe Emir and his associates, for it weakens, disintegrates and undermines imperialism; whereas the struggle waged by such ‘desperate’democrats and ‘socialists’, ‘revolutionaries’ and republicans…was a reactionary struggle. …

Lenin was right in saying that the national movement of the oppressed countries should be appraised not from the point of view of formal democracy but from the point of view of the actual results , as shown by the general balance sheet of struggle against imperialism” –Foundations of Leninism, p77

Marable thinks that the Trots like the SWP or the soi disant Marxistsin CPUSA or the Committees of Correspondence (a breakaway from the CPUSA) or the DSA are more radical than the NOI or Malcolm X. Perhaps on paper. But not in the real world of the Harlem streets.

Malcolm came out the NOI, Dr. King from the reformist SCLC. But both men were more objectively revolutionary on those Harlem streets or in those southern marches than any of the social democratic formations and the social democrats ought to face this. Marable spends most of his time trying to make the NOI Malcolm’s murderers. Information from FBI, BOSS, CIA, NYPD, would tend to push this view, for obvious reasons.

In this vein Marable says that Malcolm’s Africa trips “made his murder all the more necessary from an institutional standpoint.” That Malcolm’s actions “had been all too provocative” to Elijah Muhammad and the NOI. But what about the Imperialist U.S. state and its agencies of detection and murder? They would be more provoked and better able to end such provocation. If there’s a well-known murderer of Malcolm X still running loose as Marable and others have pointed out, how is it he remains free and we must presume that those agencies of the state know this as well as Marable and the others!

But even as he keeps hammering away that it was the Nation of Islam, he still says contradictorily “The fatwa, or death warrant , may or may not have been signed by Elijah Muhammad, there is no way of knowing.” Many of Marable’s claims fall under the same category. He even quotes Malcolm after he was refused entrance into France tha the had been making a “serious mistake” by focusing attention on the NOI Chicago headquarters “thinking all my problems were coming from Chicago and they’re not”.

Asked then from where, Malcolm said “From Washington”.Marable also tells us that even today the FBI refuses to release its reports on Malcolm’s assassination. Yet he will quote one of those agencies without question. Of Betty Shabazz’ death Marable says flatly, of Malcolm’s daughter Qubilah…”her disturbed twelve-year old son set fire one night to his grandmother’s apartment”. How does he know this? Is an official government “information” release that impressive? There are many doubts about that murder; shouldn’t some of them have been investigated?Some of the characterizations in the book are simply incorrect and suffer from only knowing about the movement on paper. Marable saying about Stokely Carmichael, after splitting with “pacifist” Bob Moses and SNCC that he would subsequently join the Black Panthers” is such an example.

Carmichael didn’t join the Panthers; he was “drafted”along with Rap Brown. Marable says in effect that Malcolm misunderstood Martin Luther King’s influence on Black people. He didn’t misunderstand that influence, he was trying to provide an alternative to it.

Though ultimately I believe both leaders later conclusion that a United Front would be the most formidable instrument to achieve equal rights and self-determination for the Afro American people. I would have liked to see Malcolm and Martin in the same organization, and for that matter Garvey & DuBois. They could argue all day and all night and in the end some of us might not agree on the majority’s decision, but like theCongress of the United States we’d have to say “I don’t even agree with that…but that’s what we voted to do”!

Interestingly, on the back of the book are three academics who represent the same social democratic thought as Prof Marable. Gates, who disparages Africa, looks for racism in Cuba not Cambridge and says the Harvard Yard is his nation. My friend Cornell West who in response to me calling out at the Left Forum, “Where are the socialists, where are the communists” shouts“I’m a Christian!” And Michael Eric Dyson who wrote a book on Dr. King calling it the “True Dr. King’ somewhat like Marable’s approach to Malcolm.

But who and what else in the paper “Garden of Even” of “Post Racial America”. So it is necessary that we rid ourselves of the real leaders of our struggle, in favor of Academics who want to tell us we werefollowing flawed leaders with flawed ideas. We don’t need equal rights and self-determination, an appointment to an Ivy League school will do just fine.

--Amiri Baraka

5/4 /11

New Ark

Remembering Gil Scott-Heron

My mother turned me on to Gil Scott Heron. Reflections played often in her circle. It was the year of Survival, and Hotter Than July. But Reflections, when it was on people listened in a different way, and I noticed.
The normal get-down-boogie-stop-shuffle-bounce would be accompanied by the affirmative nodding, uh-huh, right-on, and tell it, of people acknowledging truth being spoken. There is a freedom there, when truth is heard, a freedom we long for. Gil Scott had that gift.
Right away I started borrowing that record into my room. Listening to it repeatedly, in my own time, trying to make his rap mine. At school Gil Scott’s couplets, metaphors and rhymes started making their way into my own. I memorized classics like B-Movie and the poem from Inner City Blues. From behind the words I watched with secret joy the power words could reveal and disclose.
That was 30 years ago, and tonight Gil Scott is gone. On to the ancestors, as we say. But the music, the poetry, lives on in our blood, our lives, our breath with his. You, me, and others.
Back then I had no idea that I was being initiated into a world of art and culture and that I would dedicate my life to it. That would become my life’s work, as it has. Gil Scott is the reason I chose to be who I am today.
Gil Scott was an exemplar of black literature.
As a self-proclaimed Bluesologist, Gil Scott resuscitated the living heritage of rap’s connection with earlier blues poetry forms. See Ted JoansThe 38.
Simple-minded critics have called him the Godfather of Rap, a title he refused, directing them to his primary sources of inspiration, Langston Hughes, and Paul Lawrence Dunbar‘s Lyrics of the Lowly Life. As Amiri Baraka said, jazz without the blues is a music without memory, it can be equally said of hip-hop without Gil Scott. (And hip-hop needs it’s memory very badly now, wouldn’t you say?)
There is a general prohibition against speaking the truth about the lives of black men in America. Gil Scott broke through that prohibition, every chance he had, telling our stories, our peoples’ stories, our peoples’ lives. With extraordinary empathy, with gentleness, with violence, bitterness and love. With heartache, passion, and tenderness. Also joy. His music contained the full panorama of our black experience in America. He rejected none of us, and held us all close, even the most hurtful and backward among us, in song. He loved us.
It was through Gil Scott that I found the courage to seek my own voice, speak my own truth, first imitating him, as a child. He helped cut through the demonic clamor of racism and sickness that surrounded. He still does.

Justin Desmangles, Chair of the Before Columbus Foundation, host of New Day Jazz on KDVS at UC Davis