Chronology of Marvin X (El
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. Classmate and
girlfriend was poet/critic/professor Sherely A. Williams
(now deceased). Marries Pat Smith, Catholic school girl,
first son born, Marvin K. 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.
1964 Second son born,
Darrel, now deceased. 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
Ed Bullins and Ethna Wyatt.
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.
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
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 returned
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 Islam. Serves as Muslim minister.
1971 First daughter born,
Nefertiti. 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.
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), second daughter
born, Muhammida El Muhajir. 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 Third daughter, Amira
Sauda, born to Barbara (Hasani). 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
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.
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
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 T’shaka, 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.
Taught manhood training at Merritt College.
1982 Taught English at Kings
River Community College, Reedly CA. Retires from
Teaching with 97% student retention rate. Meets Marsha
1983 Vends on streets of San
Francisco, organizers vendors (mostly white) under his
non-profit corporation. Harassed under color of law,
“too much power for a nigguh” in downtown San Francisco,
especially in the Union Square shopping area.
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,
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
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.”
2000 Meets Suzzette Celeste,
2001 Produces Kings and
Queens of Black Consciousness at San Francisco State
University. Participants included: 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, 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. Daughter Muhammida’s documentary Hip Hop the
New World Order, screened on 9/12.
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,
Tarika Lewis. Published Land of My
Daughters, poems, and Wish I Could Tell You The Truth,
essays. Published issue of Black Bird Press Review
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 go to Bay Area
university. Transition of friends: Dr. Salat Townsend,
Paul Shular, Alonzo Batin, Dewey Redman and Rufus
* * *
Marvin X in German, Spanish and
A German publisher
has requested the rights to translate Marvin X's 2002
book of essays IN THE CRAZY HOUSE CALLED AMERICA into
German, Spanish and Italian. The publisher wrote the
poet that he became interested after reading comments by
death row inmate Mumia Abu Jamal. Marvin X says, "I
don't know what Mumia said, but it was positive because
people have mentioned they read his comments out here on
the Left coast." Regarding the German publisher, Marvin
X says "I am definitely interested in translating my
work into Spanish for the Latinos throughout the
Americas. Who knows, I may join Chavez in Venezuela
since he knows the Devil!" The University of California,
Berkeley, Bancroft Library recently acquired the poet's
archives, including several hand written manuscripts.
* * *
Marvin X On Discovery Channel
Marvin X has agreed to participate in a Discovery
Channel production on the life of Muhammad Ali to be
shown next year. There will be a series of three
one-hour documentaries on Ali, Mandela and Castro. The
documentary will explore Ali's life and legacy to date,
including his passionate fight for civil rights, his 20
year battle against Parkinson's and his standing up for
religious freedom. Marvin X's life parallels Ali's,
visk-a-vis the Nation of Islam and refusing to fight in
* * *
For more on Marvin X at Fresno State
University, check out the archives of Gov. Ronald Reagan and FSU
President Frederick Ness. Google has ample entries for Marvin X.
Visit his blog:
www.marvinxwrites.blogspot.com . Email him at:
jmarvinx@yahoo. com. His books are available from Black Bird
Press, 1222 Dwight Way, Berkeley, CA 94702, $19.95 each. For
speaking engagements, call 510-355-6339
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posted 21 March 2009