ChickenBones: A Journal

for  Literary & Artistic African-American  Themes


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The children are ignorant because their parents are ignorant--many of the homes are without books,

newspapers or any material of educational value. So even when teachers do their jobs, their work

is undone when the child gets home where ignorance reigns supreme.



Books by Marvin X

Love and War: Poems  / In the Crazy House Called America / Woman: Man's Best Friend Beyond Religion Toward Spirituality

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Minister of Poetry Replies to Dr. Julia Hare
Marvin X Returns to the Fillmore

By Marvin X


17 January 2003

Since I attacked the Oakland NAACP's summit to stop homicide, Dr. Julia Hare asked me what was my solution. 

First, organize the progressive elders council--and there are men and women 30 years old who are wise as an 80 year old, simply because they have lived life to the fullest in their 30 years. The elders will be the point of authority in our community as they have been for thousands of years, prior to our captivity, and perhaps part of our captivity can be blamed on the corruption and collaboration of reactionary elders, so the elders council must be composed of radical, revolutionary men and women. The elders will mediate issues that may lead to violence. 

Secondly, churches and other social organizations must go to the dope corners and hold vigils, not only prayer vigils, but vigils to relieve suffering, hunger, abuse issues, right on the corner. Feed the youth, many of whom are homeless, parentless, offer shelter in the many empty churches, school buildings. Offer psychological counseling to those who need it, since we know many persons on dope are dual diagnosed, that is, they suffer mental disabilities as well as chemical abuse problems.

The Black Panthers were successful because they fed hungry children, taught them, clothed them and sheltered them, gave them identity and security. We can police ourselves. Let the progressive men and women step to the front of the line and take authority in our community. The Guardian Angels is a foreign force that failed to stop drug use and violence in the Tenderloin--I can testify to that since I was there. The problem of public schools can be solved by educating parents first, then educate the children. The children are ignorant because their parents are ignorant--many of the homes are without books, newspapers or any material of educational value. So even when teachers do their jobs, their work is undone when the child gets home where ignorance reigns supreme.

There are alternatives to selling dope and we must act like we have the intelligence to find them and offer them to our suffering children. If they can sell dope, they can sell anything.

Finally we must understand the United States government is the guilty party with respect to drugs and guns entering our community. The USA is the number one drug pusher and gun dealer throughout the world.

Marvin X, poet/playwright, activist, is a former public school teacher, college and university lecturer. He is the author of
In the Crazy House Called America, Essays, 2002. Email . 510-798-9155.  


30 January , 2003
Buriel Clay Theatre

Last night, January 30, Marvin X returned to San Francisco's Fillmore District and performed a poetic/ritualistic dramatization of IN THE CRAZY HOUSE CALLED AMERICA. The poet's career began in the Fillmore in 1966 when he founded Black Arts West Theatre on Fillmore Street, along with playwright Ed Bullins, Hurriyah Amanuel and others. The evening began with a video screening of ONE DAY IN THE LIFE, his drama of addiction and recovery. He screened the father/son scene described by James W. Sweeney as revolutionary in African American literature. In this scene revealing rare father/son love, Marvin immortalized his son, Abdul or Darrel, who made his transition last year at the age of 38. 

We must note that James W. Sweeney, who wrote the preface to In the Crazy House, lost his cool last night while watching a live dramatic depiction of domestic violence. As Marvin read and actors performed Confession of an Ex-wife Beater (see Dr. Julia Hare's How to Find A BMW), the six-foot plus Sweeney ran on stage to assist the young lady (Judy Jackmon) being whipped to a pulp by her lover. Sweeney didn't know the next scene was "I Shot Him." The woman shoots her man and recites a poem explaining why as the classic song "A Thin Line Between Love and Hate" played and the audience sang along.


I shot him
because he loved me
he loved me so much
he came home smelling
like his other bitch's pussy
I shot him
I didn't kill him
but I shot him
because I got the phone bill
and saw he'd called his other bitch
on my birthday
I shot him
because I got papers on him
yeah, I got papers on the motherfucker
to use his filthy language
I shot him
and I ain't sharing him with nobody
I don't care what the Muslims say
'bout a nigguh can have four wives
I don't care what the holy Qur'an say
I don't care about the African tradition of polygamy
I don't care how many more women it is for every man
I shot him
I don't care if women are turning lesbian and bisexual
'cause they don't want no man
I want my man
I love my man
But I shot him.
--Marvin X,

from the play IN THE NAME OF LOVE, Laney College production, circa 1981

The live segment of the program began with Master drummer Tacuma King and his disciple Kele Nitoto acknowledging the ancestors, joined by dancer Raynetta Rayzetta, sax man Khevan Onaje and the wonderful, heavenly sounds of Destiny on harp and vocals. Destiny complied when the audience called for more. She faded softly into the background when Suzzette Celeste came forward with words of meditation, offering the audience of mostly recovering addicts healing words based on the teachings of Religious Science. 

After Geoffrey Grier recited Marcus Garvey's classic lines "look for me in the whirlwind," Suzzette Celeste returned, this time as dancer (she trained with Ruth Beckford, K. Dunham, Ellendar Barnes, et al.), leading the cast on stage chanting D'Angelo's classic "Shit, Damn, Motherfucker." Although in total shock, the audience loved it. D'Angelo song shows how meaning can be transformed by context and music; rather than profane and obscene, the words become a beautiful expression of human pain and hurt.  Sister Hunia, tall, elegant in a two piece African dress, read Marvin's biography. And then it was on. The poet went into a monologue about America, the Crazy House. Suffice to say this was the start of his night of ranting in the wilderness. No one had seen him like this before. 

As someone noted, he is not the Minister of Poetry, simply "The Minister." With drum, sax, harp and dance accompaniment, the talked, recited and rapped about the Crazy House Called America. "America knows what weapons Saddam has because they gave them to him." "Don't take your addiction personal, it is political--drugs are introduced to paralyze and neutralize  your fight for liberation." "Let us be clean and sober for our ancestors who will curse us if we don't fight the good fight until victory." Accompanied by sax man Khevan and dancer Suzzette Celeste, Marvin read "The Maid, the Ho, the Cook," the most popular essay in the book. 

A reviewer said, "The Maid, the Ho, the Cook, is one of the most beautiful pieces about real love I've ever read. The image of crack heads as scandalous and without human dignity is destroyed by Marvin's recollection of this sister
with whom he fell in love." The sister was in the audience--someone heard her whisper to a friend, "He's talking about me." Not wishing to put the sister on the spot, Marvin didn't tell the audience she is an example of how a person can redeem their soul from hell. After going into recovery, she completed a legal internship and is working as a legal receptionist, regained custody of her son and occupies a spacious apartment near San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. 

He did share with the audience that he went from the skid row of SF Sixth Street to Wall Street. "God took me from Crack Street to Wall Street. I just walked around Wall Street thinking prosperity consciousness--I didn't want to go to Harlem, although let's be clear: I know the history of Wall Street, that it originated at the wall of the African Village--at the wall was the slave mart--and even today, it is indeed a slave mart, as Rev. Cecil Williams reminded me." The poet ended with his poem "Black History is World History," backed by the musicians and a great and gracious dance interpretation by Raynetta Rayzetta. 

The evening ended with Suzzette Celeste leading the cast in a dance to Kirk Franklin's "Stomp." The show will be repeated tonight at the Buriel Clay Theatre, 762 Fulton Street, San Francsico. A video will be available soon.

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—WashingtonPost

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 3 February 2012




Home Marvin X Table

Related files: Wish I Could Tell You the Truth Marvin X Returns to the Fillmore  Introduction to Crazy House    Healing Peek Review  Marvin X Unplugged  

Black Bourgeoisie Defend   The San Francisco Anti-War March  Farrakhan's Final Call  Marvin X Show Coming Home