Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Open Letter to Minister of Oil, Republic of Iraq, Review: Pursuit of Happyness

Open Letter to Dr. Hussein Shahristani, Minister of Oil, Republic of Iraq

Marvin X

Dear Dr. Hussein Shahristani:


As-Salaam-Alaikum, my brother. It has been forty years since we last met at your apartment in Toronto, Canada, 1967. You may recall that I was resisting the Vietnam War and you were a student at the University of Toronto. I saw that you went on to become a nuclear scientist but was persecuted under Saddam Hussein because you refused to work on his "Islamic" bomb. Al Hamdulilah, you survived. I saw your name on the list of persons for the first prime minister of American occupied Iraq. I noticed you refused this most dangerous job. I prayed for your safety. It was good to know you are a servant of the Grand Ayatollah Sistani. I have watched you advance from leader of the assembly to minister of oil.

Oil is the reason I am writing you, other than to let you know my prayers are with you and I recall fondly how you taught me my prayers in Arabic and our conversations on Islam.
I recall how you related that you wanted a Nation of Islam, thus you agreed with the vision of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Clearly, your nation shall become a nation of Islam. It appears to me southern Iraq is a de facto Islamic nation. Correct me if I am wrong.

But back to oil. As minister of oil, I would like you to consider assisting North American Africans in the United States of America who recently experienced hurricane Katrina, only to discover they were left at the mercy of themselves, with little assistance from the local, state and federal government. Some were too poor to buy gasoline to leave town for safer ground. Some were shot trying to reach higher ground by KKK policemen.

As you know, President Chavez of Venezuela has assisted many poor and minority communities in America and throughout the Americas. He has given them discounted gasoline and oil. Perhaps, you can assist us as well. First, we need to establish a community strategic reserve through the North American African community, just in case of emergency since we know we cannot depend on FEMA, Homeland Security or any government agency. Thus, we see the need to establish our own reserve in each community with storage tanks and tanker trucks equipped with nozzles for roadside emergency service.

Brother, see if you can help us so we are not dependent on this sham government.

Finally, I would like you to consider a speaking tour of Black America to explain to us your perspective on the situation in your nation. It is truly painful for me to hear about the daily violence in Iraq. But it is equally as painful to know about the daily violence in our neighborhoods, the grieving mothers, fathers, siblings, relatives and friends.

We grieve for the Iraqi people and the innocent American soldiers. Please consider a brief tour of the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia and New York, also Detroit and Chicago. We want to hear from you. I know you are in the midst of war, but perhaps you can slip away for a few days. Let me hear from you soon.


Marvin X (El Muhajir)
P.O. Box 1317
Paradise CA 95965

The Pursuit of Happyness

Starring Will Smith

Marvin X

Will Smith has processed himself into a great actor, from rapper to Fresh Prince, to Ali and other characters. But Pursuit of Happyness lacked the full drama of being down and out in the most beautiful city in the world, San Francisco. The film was a Miller Lite version of homelessness, and the narrow focus on the main character excluded the high drama of homelessness in San Francisco’s Tenderloin, that poverty area two blocks from the famous Cable Car line at Market and Powell, and a few blocks from the Shopping area for the rich, Union Square. The contrast is so overwhelming we wonder how could the filmmaker fail to show us this. It is totally shocking to tourists who often make the wrong turn coming out of their hotel room and find themselves in the Tenderloin, the multiracial ghetto inhabited by Blacks, Latinos, Asians and poor whites, with a great amount of the population addicted to drugs. All we see of the homeless are them standing in line at Glide Church, administered by Rev. Cecil Williams, the angel of San Francisco’s homeless, addicted and afflicted, the male version of Mother Theresa. Cecil appears in the film as himself; after all, no one can perform his role except him. The most dramatic moment is this scene outside Glide when Rev. Williams allows the main character and his son to get in line for a room. But it is powerful because we see the army of the homeless and the hungry in America. This moment is communal and we see the individual as part of a nation of homeless. France has called homelessness a matter of national security. France is calling for its citizens guaranteed housing. America can do likewise. There is absolutely no excuse for homelessness and hunger in America, the richest nation in the world.

I lived the life of a homeless drug addict in San Francisco’s Tenderloin. On one level, it was good to see the main character was not drug addicted. But it would have added so much more drama. Maybe his little frustrated wife should have been on drugs, because she has no real motivation to depart for New York, leaving her son behind for a two dollar job. Her character was weak and should have been explored, or at least included a violent departing scene. Since Will Smith used his son, why not have Jada as his wife, surely they could have created more drama, including a love scene that was absent in the film.

After I spent a decade in the Tenderloin (and God only knows how I made it out alive—thank you God Allah) as a Crack addict, I knew many mothers and fathers who abandoned their children for the drug life. Yesterday, a young lady at my outdoor classroom, downtown Oakland, told me she became homeless in San Francisco because her mother was doing Crack and she had to escape, so she lived in the street. The young lady, now 19, said she grew up in foster care.

A few weeks ago, a young brother recently released from prison, asked me about his mother whom he hasn’t seen since he was a baby.—she has been lost in the Tenderloin for years, and I have seen her from time to time, so I told the young man, also a product of foster care, now the California Department of Corrections, to go stand at 6th and Market and eventually he will see his mother, passing by on a mission impossible. I had told my nephew to do the same to find his father, lost and turned out in the TL.
This is some of the pain the film lacked.

It showed the grand beauty of San Francisco, but again, it should not have neglected the contrasting ugliness. There was a scene with Chris and his son at the East bay bus terminal, where they spent the night along with other homeless, although we don’t see the others in the film. I spent many nights on those benches at the East bay terminal; it was difficult to find bench space in those days, around the same time as the film, early 1980s.

Ok, this is one man’s story, the struggle of an individual to get ovah in America, a slave narrative. Slavery was communal, not individual, so we need to know about all those others who are still there, who didn’t make it out. Can they get out? I got out. Chris got out, so it takes discipline as he demonstrated. You got to be bout it bout it. For Chris it was one step forward two back, but he fought all the way, trying to be husband, father, and worker in a racist society. Apparently he was successful.

Marvin X’s latest collection of essays is Beyond Religion, Toward Spirituality, Black Bird Press, 2006. ISBN: 0-9649672-9-4. His book is available in Oakland at De Lauer’s books, 14th and Broadway, and Your Black Muslim Bakery, San Pablo at Stanford. Otherwise send $19.95 to Black Bird Press, P.O. Box 1317, Paradise CA 95967.
Visit and

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Friday, December 15, 2006


Marvin X is the USA's Rumi…He's got the humor of Pietri, the politics of Baraka, and the spiritual Muslim grounding that is totally new in English--the ecstasy of Hafiz, the wisdom of Saadi….

Bob Holman, Bowery Poetry Club, New York City

Still the undisputed king of black consciousness!

Dr. Nathan Hare, Black Think Tank

Declaring Muslim American literature as a field of study is valuable because by re-contextualizing it will add another layer of attention to Marvin X's incredibly rich body of work. Muslim American literature begins with Marvin X. (Note: The University of California , Berkeley , Bancroft Library, recently acquired the archives of Marvin X.)

Dr. Mohja Kahf, Dept. of English & Middle East & Islamic Studies,
University of Arkansas ,Fayetteville

In terms of modernist and innovative, he's centuries ahead of anybody I know.

Dennis Leroy Moore, Brecht Forum, New York

Marvelous Marvin X!

Dr. Cornel West, Princeton University

Courageous and outrageous! He walked through the muck and mire of hell and came out clean as white fish and black as coal.

James W. Sweeney, Oakland CA

His writing is orgasmic!

Fahizah Alim, Sacramento Bee

Jeremiah, I presume.

Rudolph Lewis,

He's Plato teaching on the streets of Oakland . His play One Day In the Life

is the most powerful drama I've seen.

Ishmael Reed

One of the founders and innovators of the revolutionary school of African writing.

Amiri Baraka

He laid the foundation and gave us the language to express Black male urban experiences in a lyrical way.

James G. Spady, Philadelphia New Observer

An outspoken critic of American economic, social and cultural discrimination of African Americans at home and Third World peoples abroad.

Dr. Julius E. Thompson, African American Review

Although Marvin X emerged from an extremely politicized era and enthusiastically confronted the issues of the day, his work is basically personal and religious and remains most effective on that level. It should remain relevant long after issues are resolved, if ever, and long after slogans and polemics are forgotten.

Lorenzo Thomas, Dept. of English, University of Houston , Texas


Marvin X has done extraordinary mind and soul work in bringing our attention to the importance of spirituality, as opposed to religion, in our daily living. Someone—maybe Kierkegaard or maybe it was George Fox who—said that there was no such thing as "Christianity." There can only be Christians. It is not institutions but rather individuals who make the meaningful differences in our world. It is not Islam but Muslims. Not Buddhism but Buddhists. Marvin X has made a courageous difference. In this book he shares the wondrous vision of his spiritual explorations. His eloquent language and rhetoric are varied—sophisticated but also earthy, sometimes both at once.

Highly informed he speaks to many societal levels and to both genders—to the intellectual as well as to the man/woman on the street or the unfortunate in prison—to the mind as well as the heart. His topics range from global politics and economics to those between men and women in their household. Common sense dominates his thought. He shuns political correctness for the truth of life. He is a Master Teacher in many fields of thought—religion and psychology, sociology and anthropology, history and politics, literature and the humanities. He is a needed Counselor, for he knows himself, on the deepest of personal levels and he reveals that self to us, that we might be his beneficiaries.

All of which are represented in his Radical Spirituality—a balm for those who anguish in these troubling times of disinformation. As a shaman himself, he calls too for a Radical Mythology to override the traditional mythologies of racial supremacy that foster war and injustice. If you want to reshape (clean up, raise) your consciousness, this is a book to savor, to read again, and again—to pass onto a friend or lover.

Rudolph Lewis, Editor, ChickenBones: A Journal

Monday, December 11, 2006

Marvin X : The Chronology

➢ Chronology of Marvin X

➢ 1944 Born May 29, Fowler, CA to Owendell and Marian M. Jackmon, second child.

➢ Sits atop desk as father and mother publishes Fresno Voice, the Central Valley’s first black newspaper. Father was a Race man who served in WWI. He introduced Christian Science to wife who becomes a lifelong follower of Mary Baker Eddy. Mr. Jackmon remained a Methodist.

➢ Marvin attended Lincoln and Columbia elementary schools in Fresno. In Oakland
where the family moved, he attended Prescott, McFeely and St. Patrick elementary schools, also Lowell Jr. High.

➢ Wrote in the children’s section of the Oakland Tribune.

➢ 1962 Graduated with honors from Edison High School in Fresno.

➢ Attends Merritt College in Oakland where he meets Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Ken Freeman and Ernie Allen.

➢ Introduced to Black Nationalism. Wins short story contest in college magazine, story published in SoulBook, revolutionary nationalist publication.

➢ Graduates with AA in sociology. Attends San Francisco State College.

➢ 1965 At the request of novelist John Gardner, San Francisco State College drama department produced first play, Flowers for the Trashman.
-Called the best playwright to hit SF State by Kenneth Rexroth.
-Worked as TA for novelist Leo Litwak.

➢ 1966 Writings begin to appear in Soulbook, Black Dialogue, Negro Digest (Black World), Black Scholar, Journal of Black Poetry, Black Theatre, and Muhammad Speaks. Black Dialogue staff visits Eldridge Cleaver and Bunchy Carter in Soledad prison. Marvin is present. Black Dialogue publishes Cleaver’s essay, My Queen, I Greet You, later it appears in Soul On Ice.

➢ Co-founds Black Arts West Theatre with Ed Bullins, Ethna Wyatt, Duncan Barber, Hillery Broadus and Carl Boissiere.

➢ 1967 Co-founds Black House political/cultural center in San Francisco with Eldridge Cleaver, Ed Bullins and Ethna Wyatt. Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Askia Toure, Sarah Webster Fabio, Chicago Art Ensemble, Avotja, Reginald Lockett, Emory Douglass, Samuel Napier, Lil Bobby Hutton, Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, attend Black House.

➢ Marvin X introduces Eldridge Cleaver to Bobby Seale. Eldridge joins BPP. Black Panthers plan invasion of state capital at Black House.

➢ Marvin joins Nation of Islam, flees to Toronto, Canada to protest draft and resist Vietnam war.

➢ 1968 Goes underground to Chicago shortly before assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Lived on Southside during riots. Meets Don L. Lee, Gwen Brooks, Hoyt Fuller, Phil Choran, Carolyn Rogers, Johari Amini and others of Chicago BAM (Black Arts Movement.

➢ In Harlem joins Ed Bullins at the New Lafayette Theatre. Works as associate editor of Black Theatre magazine. Associates with Amiri Baraka, Askia Toure, Sun Ran, Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, Last Poets, Barbara Ann Teer, Milford Graves.

➢ Publishes Fly to Allah, poems that later establish him as the father of Muslim American literature, according to Dr. Mojah Kahf of the University of Arkansas department of English and Islamic Studies.

➢ 1969 Apprehended returning from Montreal, Canada, charged with draft evasion. Defended by Conrad Lynn. Returns to California to stand trial and teach at Fresno State University until removed at the insistence of Governor Ronald Reagan, by any means necessary.

➢ Angela Davis is also removed from teaching at UCLA. Student protesters burn computer center at Fresno State. Students from throughout California attend draft trial in San Francisco.

➢ 1970 Convicted, flees into exile a second time, this time to Mexico City and Belize. Marries Barbara Hall, a student from Fresno State College, in Mexico City. Revolutionary artists Elizabeth Catlett Mora and Poncho Mora witness civil ceremony.

➢ Deported from Belize because his presence was not beneficial to the welfare
of the colony of British Honduras. While in custody, police ask him to teach them about black power. Sentenced to five months in Federal prison, Terminal Island.

➢ Founds Black Educational Theatre in Fresno.

➢ Performs musical version of Flowers as Take Care of Business. Reactionary negroes kill choir director in theatre, put hit out on poet.

➢ He flees to San Francisco, opens Black Educational Theatre in Fillmore District,
joined by Sun Ra’s Arkestra.

➢ Produced five hour musical version of Take Care of Business, with cast of fifty at Harding Theatre on Divisadero, choreography by Raymond Sawyer and Ellendar Barnes.

➢ 1972 Produced Resurrection of the Dead, a myth/ritual dance drama with Plunky, Babatunde Lea, Victor Willis as lead singer (Village People), dancers included Raymond Sawyer, Jamilah Hunter, Nisa Ra, Thomas Duckett.

➢ Lectures at University of California, Berkeley in Black Studies. Marries UCB student, Nisa (Greta Pope)

➢ Awarded National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. Travels to southern Mexico, Oxaca, Trinidad and Guyana. Interviews prime minister Forbes Burnham. Interview appeared in Black Scholar.

➢ Published Woman,Man’s Best Friend, poems, proverbs, lyrics, parables, Al Kitab Sudan Press.

➢ 1973 Returns to San Francisco State University, awarded BA.

➢ Earns MA in one semester, English/Creative writing.

➢ Teaches at SF State, black literature, journalism, radio and television writing.

➢ 1975 Lectures at Mills College,Oakland.

➢ Produced musical version of Woman,Man’s Best Friend.

➢ Upward Bound program pressured director Connie Wye to halt production. She refused, suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and expired.

➢ Visiting professor at University of California, San Diego. Taught Afro-American literature and Elementary Arabic.

➢ 1976 Organizes Eldridge Cleaver Crusades. Hires staff of Black Muslims for Cleaver’s ministry. Meets Donald Rumsfeld, Charles Colson, Jim and Tammy Baker, Rev. Robert Schuller. Deals with Rev. Billy Graham, Rev. Falwell, Pat Roberson, Cal Thomas, Pat Boone, Hal Linsey, Art DeMoss.

➢ 1978 Returns to Fresno. Falls in love with Sharon Johnson, childhood friend. See autobiography Somethin Proper.

➢ 1979 Lectures at University of Nevada, Reno.

➢ Awarded two National Endowment for the Humanities planning grants.
Produced Excellence in Education Conference. Participants included Eldridge Cleaver, Dr. Harry Edwards, Dr. Wade Nobles, Fahizah Alim, Sherley A. Williams,Ntizi Cayou, Dr. Ahimsa Sumchi.

➢ Publishes Selected Poems.

➢ Returns to Oakland to organize Melvin Black Human Rights Conference at Oakland Auditorium to stop police killing of black men. Participants included Minister Farakhan, Angela Davis, Paul Cobb, Eldridge Cleaver, Khalid Abdullah Tariq Al Mansour, Dr. Yusef Bey, Dezzie Woods-Jones. Police killings stop but drive by shootings begin along with introduction of Crack.

➢ 1980 Produced National Conference of Black Men at Oakland auditorium. Participants included Dr. Yusef Bey, Dr. Nathan Hare, Dr. Wade Nobles, Dr. Oba Tshaka, Dr. Lige Dailey, John Douimbia (founder), Betty King, Dezzie Woods-Jones.

➢ 1981 Taught drama at Laney College.

➢ Did production of In the Name of Love,a poetic drama directed by Ayodele Nzinga. Eldridge Cleaver said this drama returned theatre to the poetic dramas of Shakespeare.

➢ Taught manhood training at Merritt College.

➢ 1982 Taught English at Kings River Community College, Reedly CA.

➢ Retires from Teaching with 97% student retention rate.

➢ 1983 Incorporated Afrikan Universal Library for Hurriyah (Ethna X.) Vends on streets of San Francisco, organized vendors (mostly white) under his non-profit corporation. Harassed under color of law

➢ 1984 Vends political buttons at Democratic and Republican conventions. San Francisco Chronicle called him the Button King. In Dallas, the Republicans observed his salesmanship and said, “If he makes one more dollar, he’ll be a Republican”

➢ Descends into the muck and mire of hell: Crack drives him into the mental hospital several times.

➢ 1989 Writes article on Huey Newton, based on last meeting in Oakland Crack house.
Article becomes source of Ed Bullins’ play, Salaam, Huey, Salaam. Article is beginning of autobiography, Somethin Proper.

➢ 1990 Begins recovery at San Francisco’s Glide Church with Rev. Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani. Transcribes testimonies of Crack addicts.

➢ Writes docudrama of his addiction and recovery One Day In The Life.

➢ 1995 Transition of Marsha Satterfield at 41 years old, cancer. Poet flees to Seattle, WA. Works on autobiography.

➢ Publishes Love and War, poems.

➢ 1996 Produces One Day In The Life with Majeeda Rahman’s Healthy Babies Project, a recovery program for woman and children. Play performed at Alice Arts Theatre.

➢ 1997 One Day In the Life opens at Sista’s Place in Brooklyn, New York, also Brecht Forum in Manhattan and Kimako’s Blues in Newark, New Jersey, home of the Barakas.

➢ 1997 Attends National Black Theatre festival, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Meets Carolyn Turner. She provides him with time and space to finish autobiography, plenty of sweet tea and dirty rice, in the tradition of the film Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

➢ 1998 Transition of Eldridge Cleaver. Kathleen Cleaver approves poem Soul Gone Home to be read at funeral in Los Angeles. Marvin and Majeeda Rahman organize memorial service in Oakland. Participants included Emory Douglas, Tarika Lewis, Richard Aoki, Dr. Nathan Hare, Reginald Major, Dr. Yusef Bey, Minister Keith Muhammad, Imam Al Amin, Kathleen and Joju Cleaver. Publication of autobiography Somethin Proper.

➢ 1999 Establishes Recovery Theatre. Begins run of One Day in the Life. Gets support from Mayor Willie Brown of San Francisco after Uhuru House performance. One Day becomes longest running black play in the Bay. Ishmael Reed says, It’s the best drama I ever saw.

➢ Associate director and lead actress, Ayodele Nzinga; role of Huey Newton performed by Geoffrey Grier; Marvin X played himself or did the opening monologue, clocked at forty-five minutes.

➢ Funded by the Mayor’s office, SF Arts Commission, Zellerbach Family Fund, Grants for the
Arts, Marin Country Board of Supervisor’s, Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission.

➢ 2001 Produces Kings and Queens of Black Consciousness at San Francisco State University. Participants incl ded: Nathan and Julia Hare, Rev. Cecil Williams, Dr. Cornell West, Amiri and Amina Baraka, Ishamel Reed, Askia Toure, Avotja, Eddie Gale, Rudi Wongozi, Rev. Andriette Earl, Dr. Theophile Obenga, Elliott Bey, Ayodele Nzinga, Destiny, Tarika Lewis, Phavia Kujichagulia, Suzzette Celeste, Tureeda, Geoffrey Grier, Rev. Otis Lloyd, Kalamu Ya Salaam, Ptah Allah-El. Funded by Glide Church and Vanguard foundation.

➢ Video of Kings and Queens screened at New York International Independent film festival. In Newark on 9/11, stopped at airport by police.

➢ 2002 Transition of son Darrel at 38, suffered manic oppression.

➢ Publication of In the Crazy House Called America, essays.

➢ 2004 Produced San Francisco Black Radical Book Fair. Participants included Amiri and Amina Baraka, Nathan and Julia Hare, Al Young, Askia Toure, Kalamu Ya Salaam, Ishamel Reed, Sonia Sanchez, Reginald Lockett, Charlie Walker, Jamie Walker, Davey D, Opal Palmer Adisa, Devorah Major, Fillmore Slim, Rosebud Bitterdose, Sam Hamod, Ayodele Nzinga, Tarika Lewis.

➢ Published Land of My Daughters, poems, and Wish I Could Tell You The Truth, essays.

➢ Published issue of Black Bird Press Review newspaper.

➢ 2006 Writes Sweet Tea, Dirty Rice, poems; Up From Ignorance, essays; Beyond Religion, Toward Spirituality, essays; Mama Said Use The Mind God Gave You, autobiographical novel.

➢ Archives sold to University of California, Berkeley, Bancroft Library.

➢ Transition of friends: Dr. Salat Townsend, Paula Shular, Alonzo Batin, Dewey Redman and Rufus Harley.

➢ Online writings appear at,,

Thursday, December 7, 2006

The Nigguh Question

by Marvin X

The black culture police are at it again, lead running dog is Rev. Jesse Jackson, perhaps the most hypocritical culture policeman on the scene--especially after leading president Clinton in prayer over Monica while himself engaged in extramarital shenanigans.

The culture police continue to focus on the N word as in Nigguh or Nigger, depending on whether one is into Ebonics or Euronics. Now Nigguh/Nigger has become a billion dollar word, thanks to rappers. It is used around the world on the rap scene and used by the multicultural hip hop generation. Yes, a white boy, Asian, Latino or others can be called nigguh. Language is fluid and dynamic, not static, thus, definitions of words, connotations and denotations change with time. The conservative cultural police are stuck in a time warp, suffer cultural lag and other psycho pathologies. They want to deal with surface structure rather than deep structure issues. They abhor the term motherfucker while they fuck their mothers and daughters, even sons. They abhor the term nigguh because they are the real nigguhs, faking like they black. As James Brown says in one of his songs, "Talkin Black but living negro."

As a writer, I am opposed to censorship in any way, for any reason. Nigguh is one of the most powerful words in the American language, certainly in the language of North American Africans, and it's silly to think we are going to stop using the N word--I am not, so Nigguh please tell the culture police to kiss my black nigguh ass.

If there were people in my audience talking or heckling me, I would/will tell them to get their black nigguh asses out my concert, or come up to the mike and take over, since it is obviously their show and they have something important to say to the audience.

It is time for political correctness to enter the dustbin of history. Call a spade a spade and stop tweeking. How in the hell can we get mad at the white boy when we use nigguh every day of our lives. And when we ain't using nigguh, for sure we are acting like nigguhs, talkin loud, saying nothing--or more precisely doing nothing.