ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
As between Senator Barbara Boxer and Condi Rice, if I had to choose my soul sister, I would
rise above color in favor of consciousness, thus claim Senator Boxer as my sister. This is no time
in history to be starry-eyed idealists and continue with romantic notions about blackness. Sadly,
we live in a world where what appears to be black is white and what appears white is black.
Books by Marvin X
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Barbara BoxerIn Search of My Soul Sister
By Marvin X
After a lifetime of fears, doubts, ambivalence and general paranoia (my essential mental state) about the feminine gender, I recently concluded, based on six decades of interaction, that the black woman was, after all is said and done, my friend, and that she has never wanted to be anything other than my friend, helper, lover and mate, really, for eternity, if I could have ever been shackled to her that long. Yes, after thinking about my most wonderful Mother, an even more gracious and loving Grandmother (Oh, Grandmas hands!), and after reflecting on my six sisters who probably more than anyone else helped form my ambivalence and maybe paranoia too, since I was so traumatized by their constant chatter and feminine intrigues that I would find it a simple matter upon adolescence and adulthood to ignore any words from the feminine gender, especially simple advice or wisdom, which cost me greatly on the road to success, including several failed marriages and a kind of psychic distance from my three lovable daughters.
If truth be told and certainly it is time to tell the truth at this stage in my life, I must admit that all the women in my life have been absolutely wonderful, not one ever treated me wrongly or without tenderness and unconditional love, yet my response was to dog them to no end, or rather until the end when they departed broken hearted and disgusted.
This new recognition on my part was made even plainer when my actor/singer J.B. Saunders presented me with a wonderful song Dont Bite The Hands That Feed You.
J.B., also a dogger of women, perhaps even worse than myself since he had a career of pimping, had also had a revelation that it was time to reconcile with the feminine gender, or least stop the abuse, whether physical, mental or emotional. Perhaps old dogs actually do learn new tricks! J.B.s lyrics said that our woman was indeed our friend and supporter, not someone to be dogged at every turn, for in the end we become the victim, or as another song told us the hunter gets captured by the game.
Of course, one truth about love is that love is a game of victims, for by its nature, love makes the beloved victim of the lover, for love is that state wherein we willingly accept to be victimized for we submit and declare to all who need to know and to some who dont need to know that we are helplessly under the power of the beloved.
Moving from the personal to the political, we now clearly recognize that love for the Black woman had to move from the romantic to the critical in deciding who or what she represented on this stage of life. How is she connected to us and we to hera question we had to answer about men as well, with the same if not more degree of political acumen because few men allow another man to do to us what we allow women to do, after all, women have the unique skill to get anything from us with a smile, a glance of the eye, a stride. During my brief academic career, my female students knew they could get almost any grade from me, especially if they came at me right, or simply talked right, it wasnt always about sexual favors. And two of my students convinced me to marry them, so much for the wisdom of the professor.
But in the politics of love, we matured to the point of understanding a black face, even of the feminine gender, was not sufficient to gain our allegiance and respect. We came to recognize that politics was not about color, contrary to what we believed during the 60s, especially with the call for black power. Forty years later, however belatedly and detrimentally, we came to see blackness was about consciousness not color and had much to do about class as well, since class very often determines consciousness, although not always, after all, we know of several instances in our history when house Negroes plotted slave revolts, but generally speaking, the house Negro is not to be trusted, since he/she is more determined to preserve the house than the master.
We are reminded of that scene in the film Amistad where the Africans are being marched into town for mutiny. One African sees a Negro carriage driver and remarks, He is our brother. An African replies, No, he is a white man.
And so it is the class nature of things that must be examined with respect to loving or not loving Dr. Condi Riceto be or not to be our sisterthat is the question! Having transcended our gender fears, having made every determination to reach out in sincerity to embrace our sister in struggle, who endured with us all the horror and terror of the centuries, we must sadly reject her and everything for which she stands, for we find her political consciousness an abomination, a betrayal of our racial heritage of resistance in the face of suffering, in short genocide. Clearly, she came from us, but is no longer us, she has graduated from victim to victimizerwhile some, perhaps her classmates on the right will call this progress and a point of pride for the race. Well, I remember Elijah Muhammad describing UN Undersecretary Ralph Bunche as A Negro we dont need, and this most surely applies to Condi, who graduated from oppressed to oppressor. She stands at the pinnacle of imperialism, the most powerful woman in the world, yes, even more powerful than the Queen of England, for Condi literally has the world in her hands. In assuming to Secretary of State, we are humbled at her meteoric rise from the slave pit of Alabama to steering the ship of state.
Her brother Colin Powell whom she replaces for the simple reason that he was found disagreeable to the imperial throne, perhaps even in his conservatism too uppity with thoughts slightly to the left of Pharaoh, had to be replaced by Condi who shares a more amicable relationship with boss man sah, to the tragic extent that Senator Barbara Boxer voted against confirmation, saying Your loyalty to the mission you were given overwhelmed your respect for the truth.
In the darkest days of my gender fears, I never forgot the teachings of my mothers Christian Science religion with its emphasis on the centrality of truth in all matters.Indeed what has gotten me in trouble with women even more than physical and mental abuse is being truthful, especially in regard to my sexual improprieties.
Condi Rice stands condemned before the world for being a liar and murderer, a person completely and utterly devoid of truth, thus her elevation to Secretary of State must be a great embarrassment to our ancestors, and her reply to Senator Boxer that her credibility and integrity was being impugned is without merit. Boxer pointed out how she contradicted the president and herself with respect to weapons of mass destruction as the cause for war against Iraq. Contrary to Dr. Rice, Saddam was not a threat to his neighbors in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, Jordan and Syria. He was contained and therefore not a threat to the American people, who, as Nelson Mandela pointed out, are the greatest threat to world peace. There was nothing to fear from Saddam but fear itself, quite similar to my gender fears I harbored for decades when I imagined female friends, mates, lovers were somehow my enemies, and were, in my tortured mind, out to get me, when in reality, I was out to get them.
Condis advice to President Bush has, at this point, caused the death of 1,366 Americans,10,372 wounded, also over 100,000 Iraqi dead. As Boxer noted, this is no light matter but a deception of the most despicable kind that has brought Americas credibility in the world to a new low, yet, like the President, Dr. Rice is totally unapologetic and stoic in maintaining her stance that contravenes reality.
I cannot in the name of our shared Africanity go there with her, for she long ago crossed the line of propriety. She cannot have my respect and sympathy in her dutiful defense of Pharaoh and his meanderings throughout the world in the name of global capitalism. Imagine, in the midst of the Iraqi quagmire, they are now contemplating an invasion of Iran. This American arrogance has no end except The End.
As between Senator Barbara Boxer and Condi Rice, if I had to choose my soul sister, I would rise above color in favor of consciousness, thus claim Senator Boxer as my sister.
This is no time in history to be starry-eyed idealists and continue with romantic notions about blackness. Sadly, we live in a world where what appears to be black is white and what appears white is black. Get over it and march forward into the new millennium. I shall never forget how we banned interracial couples from attending our black nationalist parties in the 60s. Amina Baraka loves to tell the story of when she and her husband were at the Black House cultural/political center in San Francisco in 1967. Amina observed my lady friend Ethna Wyatt (Hurriyah Asar) tell a white woman she couldnt come in. The lady replied she was part Indian. Hurriyah replied, Well, the Indian can come in but the white got to go.
At another party with revolutionary black nationalists, a brother tried repeatedly to convince us his white woman was in fact black in consciousness, therefore should be admitted. We rejected his pronouncement, but in consciousness his woman was black and should have been admitted, especially since there were sisters at the party who harbored thoughts, if only subconsciously, similar to Condi Rices. As a matter of fact, I was recently told of one sister who was at this particular party who is now such a right wing fanatic that her in-laws banned her from their house, even changed their telephone number to avoid her right wing ranting.
I am not promoting interracial relationships, rather, in the tradition of my Mother, I am promoting truth and honesty which is the least we should expect from human beings with consciousness, no matter their color. But we understand that class has a way of stretching truth beyond reality, where it becomes an exercise in arrogance and sick pride, the stuff of classic tragedy. I am not into hating human beings, especially my distant sister Condi Rice, whom we must allow history and God to judgemay they have mercy on her soul.
At least Colin Powell was man enough to apologize to the world for his United Nations pseudo lecture justifying the war. Shall we await the day when Condi will admit her sins? Let us hope she is not made to do so before the World Court for crimes against humanity.
Black aint black
White aint white
Beware the day
Beware the night.
, Marvin X, BBP, 2005. Reprinted in Mythology of Pussy and Dick, toward Healthy Psychosocial Sexuality, Marvin X, Black Bird Press /1222 Dwight Way, Berkeley Ca 94702, 2010, $49.95 / firstname.lastname@example.org
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Black Men on Masculinity and the American Dream
Edited by Don Belton
It is rare in America for African-American men to have the opportunity to express who they are, what they think, or how they feel. As the nemesis in the American psyche, they have been silenced by an image that is at once celebrated and maligned. In this first anthology of contemporary African-American men’s writing, black men share their experiences as the revered and reviled of America. Through the voices of some of today’s most prominent African-American writers, including August Wilson, John Edgar Wideman, Derrick Bell, and Walter Mosley, Speak My Name explores the intimate territory behind the myths about black masculinity. These intensely personal essays and stories reveal contemporary black men from the vantage point of their own lives – as men with proper names, distinctive faces, and strong family ties.
Writing about everything from “How it Feels to Be a Problem” to relationships between fathers and sons, these men reveal to us both great courage and in an amazing love for each other and themselves. In a stunning tribute to a centuries-old brotherhood of heroes, black men come together to challenge America finally to see them as individuals, to hear their long-silenced voicesto speak their names.
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This diverse anthology, mainly of original essays, serves as an excellent counterpoint to media stereotypes of black men. Topics include black male images, relations with women, family life and heroism. Some favorites: soft-voiced scholar Robin D.G. Kelley recounts how his newly shaved head scared people; novelist Randall Kenan recalls a mysterious, kind and loving mentor; Quinn Eli faces the tendency of black men to accuse black women of not being supportive; filmmaker Isaac Julien and poet Essex Hemphill debate whether black unity can include gay men; novelist Walter Mosley muses about why his PI protagonist, Easy Rawlins, needs the backup of the remorseless killer Mouse to survive in an oppressive world. Belton, a former reporter for Newsweek who teaches at Macalester College, contributes his own touching effort, which treats the gap between himself and the ghetto-trapped nephew he loves.Publishers Weekly
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Black masculinity has built and shaped America. It is an old story which our fathers taught us; it is measured by their quiet dignity as well as their fears. What is heroic about Speak My Name is the fact that the contributors are men who decided to become writers. They all made the decision to use words instead of fists. They are writers shaped by the 1960s, like Arthur Flowers, who writes:
And, understand, the 60s were more than street battles or sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, the 60s were about commitment. We cared. We tried. It was important (and do-able) for us to make a better world. It was important to save the race. And it still is.
While our society still attempts to come to grips with the lyrics of tappers, Don Belton’s book is a gift which offers insight into how a few Black men think and feel. For sisters who are still waiting to exhale, it serves as testimony that there are good men in the world and we only have to speak their names.
Belton’s purpose for editing the volume was to “experience a richer sense of community and communion among other Black male writers.” This is evident in the interview conducted by Lewis Edwards of Albert Murray. Here, a young writer sits at the feet of an elder with an acknowledgment of inheritance and a respect for tradition. When Murray (author of The Omni-Americans and Train Whistle Guitar) talks about his friendship with Ralph Ellison during their days at Tuskegee, he conveys to Edwards how two Black men enjoyed reading and developing their intellect.
Speak My Name , according to Belton, is structured in “jazz music’s compositional model of theme and variation, giving my contributors a series of extended solos that develop toward visions of masculinity as a struggle for hope.” Belton divides his book into five sections, although these categories are unnecessary. One can enjoy the entire volume the way one appreciates the old Ornette Coleman “Free Jazz” album; just open the door to the studio and let the brothers play. The music will find its own center.
Black Issues in Higher Education, March 7, 1996 by E. Ethelbert MillerFindArticles
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By Hazel V. Carby
Race men is a term of endearment used by blacks to signify those high-achieving African American men who “represent the race,” disproving bigoted notions of black inferiority. In this engaging study, Yale African American Studies Professor Hazel V. Carby seeks to ask “questions about various black masculinities at different historical moments and in different media: literature, photography, film, music, and song.” She does so by discussing the lives and works of myriad types of race men. Frederick Douglass’s uncompromising fight against slavery, W. E. B. Du Bois’s masterful The Souls of Black Folk, Martin Luther King‘s nonviolent struggles, and Malcolm X’s fiery rhetoric articulate the intellectual-political prisms of black activism, for example, while actor Danny Glover represents the dilemma of the black/white sidekick and the fight for a more multidimensional Afro-American image.
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Carby compares Toussaint L’Ouverture, the ex-slave who liberated Haiti from the French in the 19th century, to Trinidadian writer C.L.R. James, whose Marxist interpretation of the Haitian Revolution, the Black Jacobins, unveiled the complexities of colonialism, class, and the sexist aspects of radical black leadership. She discusses jazz icon Miles Davis‘s quest for freedom and his misogynistic persona articulated in his autobiography, then praises science fiction writer Samuel R. Delany’s Motion of Light in Water as “an effective counterpoint to Miles … a magnificent attempt to reject the socially created obstacles separating desire from its material achievement, and in the process demolishing and transcending the limitations of heterosexual norms.”
Indeed, for Carby the major flaw of race men is that their upholding of “the race” does not prominently address the concerns of African American women as well.Eugene Holley Jr.
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In a discussion of “The Body and Soul of Modernism” Carby reads Nicolas Murray’s nude photographs of Paul Robeson, as well as black male nudes by other European and American artists, and argues that for these modernists the black male body represented “essentialized masculinity.” However, because the black subject was unable to “gaze back at the viewer,” these photographic texts reproduced “the unequal relation of power and subjection of their historical moment” in the early twentieth century. Carby also discusses Robeson’s roles in Eugene O’Neill’s Emperor Jones and All God’s Chillun Got Wings, concluding that, in contrast to the character Robeson portrays in Oscar Micheaux‘s film Body and Soul, O’Neill utilized a “strategy of inwardness” to present racialized emotional conflicts for Robeson’s character, rather than outward resistance and rebellion. Carby’s notes that, with his expanding political consciousness and increased commitment to the advancement of the working classes worldwide in the 1930s, Robeson rejected these types of roles. Unfortunately, how these ideological changes were reflected in Robeson’s racial consciousness (was Robeson a “race man”?) are left unexplored.
Carby describes the authentic and inauthentic nature of the relationship between ex-convict and folk singer Huddie (Leadbelly) Ledbetter and folklorist John Lomax and his son Alan. She believes that this unusual partnership demonstrated an attempt to use “the aesthetics of the folk” to create a “fictive ethnicity of blackness” that allowed the incorporation of potentially threatening black males into the national community. For C. L. R. James the cricket field in England’s colonial territories not only was the space where “ideologies of masculinity” were put to the test, but also was “the battleground out of which nationhood . . . [had to] be forged.” Carby argues that in James’s Beyond the Boundary (1963) and the novel Minty Alley (1936), “intellectual practice, racial politics, and cricket were . . . unquestioningly imagined within a discourse of autonomous, patriarchal masculinity.” In Black Jacobins(1938) James posits the existence of a “revolutionary black manhood that, both individually and collectively, gives birth to an independent black nation state.”
African American Review, Fall, 2000 by V.P. Franklin, FindArticles
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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posted 15 October 2010