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Beyond Religion Toward Spirituality
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Scholars in Crisis?
By Marvin X
Marvin X & Asa Hilliard Exchange Notes
The nation's Afrocentric scholars met in
Oakland this past weekend to celebrate the work and birthday of
Professor Dr. Wade Nobles. I believe the late Dr. John Henry
Clark once remarked, "What is an Afro?" But generally
speaking, Afrocentricism is the African approach to reality as
opposed to the European approach. The Afrocentrists look at the
world through the lens of African colored glasses. Whatever
problems I've had with my Afrocentric brothers and sisters ended
on Saturday at Allen Temple Baptist Church, site of panel
discussions on the subject.
I was doing all right in my generally held
views to the left of almost everyone on the planet.
Alas, my daughter asked me the other night,
"Dad, is there anyone you like?" I said no, including
myself. I have mixed feelings about everything and everyone, but
then a strange thing happened as I sat listening to a panel
discussion: an African goddess glided past me so black and
beautiful that my mind did astro-travel to Africa in that
instant--my mind was completely taken by the beauty of the
goddess walking passed me; all my antipathy to Afrocentrism
evaporated and I was thereafter able to enjoy the full message
of the day, although I retained a small measure of critical
analysis, but, clearly, the power of the African goddess had me
under her control.
How could I be so weak, or, perhaps, how
could she exercise such power? Local poet Phavia has a poem that
repeats the line: "If you think I'm just a physical thing,
you don't know the spiritual power that I bring."
Had the conference organizers told the
goddess to glide past Marvin X so we'll have him in our
corner? Maybe so.
I had arrived late and was chided by
conference organizer and daughter of Dr. Nobles. The panel on
education was in session but I had missed panelist Dr. Asa
Hilliard, although I would question him later during the press
conference. Dr. Safiya Madhubuti reviewed the work of Third
World Press, the Institute of Positive Education and the Betty
Shabazz charter school founded by her and her husband Haki (aka
Don L. Lee) in Chicago.
Her comments echoed those of former
superintendent of schools, Dr. Ruth Love, who said we cannot
expect the public schools to save us. We must save ourselves.
Dr. Love told of her trips to Africa and the eagerness African
youth have to become educated under the direst poverty. She
suggested African American youth need to visit Africa to gain an
appreciation of education.
At the press conference attended by fellow
journalists Wanda Sabir and Charles Aikens, I was able to
question Dr. Wade Nobles, Dr. Asa Hilliard, Dr. J. Alfred Smith
and priestess Iyana Vanzant. I asked Dr. Nobles about the state
of black people. He said we’re going backward and forward
simultaneously, perhaps like Michael Jackson dancing the
Recently, a brother asked me to sign one of
my books by writing, “Up with spirituality, down with
religion,” so I asked Rev. Dr. J. Alfred Smith his views on
this. He said, “Well, Jesus was against religion. When we had
this complex built, the Pharisees and Sadducees opposed me; they
didn’t want this edifice built for the people in the hood.”
Journalist Wanda Sabir asked the scholars
how should she relate to her just received tenure at a local
college. Iyana Vanzant told her to be true to herself, to follow
in the tradition. Indeed, Dr. Nobles said she must pick up the
baton until victory is won. He added that even today was a
victory, by the fact that we are having this conversation. Dr.
Hilliard noted that this is indeed the mission of Afrocentric
scholars, to have conversations with the people.
I was troubled by the answer to my
question, “How can the work of black scholars get to the
people in the hood in the way CDs and DVDs are being sold on the
street?” Dr. Hilliard said, “It is being done. The youth are
selling CDs and DVDs of Afrocentric scholars across the
I take issue with this for I doubt one can
go anywhere in Oakland to find youth selling the audio or video
works of Dr. Hilliard, Dr. Nobles, or even Iyana Vanzant.
Marvin X has been called the undisputed
king of black consciousness. He is one of the founders of the
Black Arts Movement and the father of Islamic literature in
America. His recent books are In the Crazy House Called America,
essays, 2002, Wish I Could Tell You the Truth, essays, 2005, and
Land of My Daughters, poems, 2005. On June 10, he will receive a
lifetime achievement award at the Los Angeles Black Book Expo.
Email him at
or call 510-472-9589.
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Asa Hilliard & Marvin X Exchange Notes on "Black
Scholars in Crisis?"
||Hello Brother Marvin,
thank you for being present at Wade Nobles'
celebration. I wanted to clarify my comment from the interview.
I did not mean to say that the young people were involved in
widespread distribution. I intended to refer to the bootlegging
of audio and videotapes of many speakers, and that their
products are easily available on the streets in New York,
Atlanta etc. I also do not mean to approve that practice, just
to say that in the absence of financial support and
institutional vehicles for dissemination is a continuing problem
for the messages.
Thanks for covering our meeting.
Asa G. Hilliard III-Nana Baffour Amankwatia II, email@example.com
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Dear Brother Asa:
Thanks for your clarification but my real
desire is see how can we help the "bootleggers" spread
the truth, maybe even pay them if we could find sponsors so that
our material could be given out freely--in the way Imam Khomeini
launched his revolution with cassette tapes and in the way
"self respecting" preachers give away free copies of
their books and tapes.
What about getting our material produced in
China--I know the SFSU Black Studies Journal was printed in
Taiwan. Basically I am saying we need to launch a true cultural
revolution in the hood by flooding it with black consciousness
material so that "no child is left behind" and all can
make a great leap forward into the new millennium with
educational material that will counteract the reactionary filth
that rap is spreading along with public school disinformation
that is killing the desire to learn in our children.
The panelist talked about returning to some
of the post-slavery educational models. Indeed, I read that
during those years they had to beat the children out of the
classroom to make them go home because of their burning desire
to learn. Today we must beat them into the classroom. I spoke to
students at Oakland's McClymonds High School recently. As I
began my talk the students informed me the police was outside
rounding up students. The Oakland School District went 100
million in debt because students failed to show up for class.
We must take over our schools but with
radical teachers and radical materials that will hold the
attention of students even unto the midnight hour.
Also, I especially liked what one panelist
said about the intergenerational schools--this is what is really
needed--many parents of today need to be in classrooms with
their children because in their parental ignorance they undo all
that is done for the child at school.
Thank you for being one of the great minds of
our time. You know I remember you when you were the Dean of
Education at SFSU. No one is all wrong and no one is all right.
Let's do the damn thing.
Peace, Marvin X
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updated 12 July 2008