ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



 Flowing from a seemingly endless well, Marvin’s  eye moves like water from

the intricacies of love, to the nurturing of youth, into the spiritual aspects of music,

as his  pen makes the  leap from the personal to the universal.



  Marvin X/El Muhajir, Beyond Religion toward Spirituality, Essays on Consciousness.

Black Bird Press, Paradise Ca, 2007, 281 pages, $19.95

Review by Ayodele Nzinga


In his introduction to, Beyond Religion Toward Spirituality, the X man says: “How you begin is how you will end.” He goes on to describe a new relationship with himself and joy. Full circle, the boy from Fresno is a man of the world, master of the small story, in possession of his joy and a child like wisdom, simple, honest, and fresh.

The world according to Marvin X is in beautiful place to visit but it is also in serious need of a more spiritually imbued story of itself.

El Muhajir has been teaching us through the medium of poetry, drama, lecture, and essay for four decades; this offering signals his attention to his continuing personal evolution. One of his greatest strengths as a storyteller is he is never afraid to share what he has learned. In the pages of Beyond Religion Toward Spirituality Marvin celebrates the spiritual nature of man and the world in a series of moving non-fiction essays. 

He speaks in an authoritative voice in what he calls the fourth quarter of a remarkable run. X is clear, concise, and straight razor sharp. His lyrical use of North American African vernacular remains as clear and as musical as his poetry and his undiminished power of observation touches all the nooks and crannies of his life and our own.

As usual Marvin’s view is a wide one that takes in his subject from a variety of vantage points. This volume is simple, yet thorough in its scope. Flowing from a seemingly endless well, Marvin’s  eye moves like water from the intricacies of love, to the nurturing of youth, into the spiritual aspects of music, as his  pen makes the  leap from the personal to the universal.

In Beyond Religion Toward Spirituality Marvin has compiled an “All you ever need to know” compendium for anyone with a mind, heart, and soul living on earth. These are the musings of a well-seasoned life traveler with stories that instruct and inspire. In the tradition of “I wish I could tell you the Truth”, essays, 2005, and “Something Proper,” autobiography, 1998,  Marvin blesses us with the gift of his scholarship embodied in our lived reality. Here philosophy is given flesh we understand, for here is a philosopher of and from us, bold enough to tell us the truth, continually serving us something proper, and ready to move us beyond religion to an enlivened spirituality.

“Let it be said that we tried to expand our consciousness, to get high with the Most High (Ali). And if we only touched the hem of His garment, it is better than not having touched Him at all.”

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Marvin X/ El Muhajir, Beyond Religion Toward Spirituality, Essays on Consciousness.  This collection of “small stories” is another well-written chapter in the ongoing grand narrative of Marvin X, available from Black Bird Press, POB 1317, Paradise CA 95967 , $19.95.

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Ayodele Nzinga is a dramatist, arts lecturer and performance poet living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the Artistic Director of The Lower Bottom Playaz and The Sister Thea Bowman Memorial Theater in West Oakland. She is a force to be reckoned with on the West Coast spoken word circuit. Well known for her take no prisoners style as the WordSlanger she is loved by vets and admired by young poets. She is affiliated with Marvin X’s Recovery Theater.  She holds an MA and an MFA in Writing and Consciousness. She is currently a candidate for PhD at the California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco CA.Ayodele Nzinga is doing her PhD thesis on Marvin X and the Black Arts Movement.

posted 7 March 2007

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books

For July 1st through August 31st 2011  


#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 – Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 – Don’t Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 – Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King

#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.” We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

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The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788

By Pauline Maier

A notable historian of the early republic, Maier devoted a decade to studying the immense documentation of the ratification of the Constitution. Scholars might approach her book’s footnotes first, but history fans who delve into her narrative will meet delegates to the state conventions whom most history books, absorbed with the Founders, have relegated to obscurity. Yet, prominent in their local counties and towns, they influenced a convention’s decision to accept or reject the Constitution. Their biographies and democratic credentials emerge in Maier’s accounts of their elections to a convention, the political attitudes they carried to the conclave, and their declamations from the floor. The latter expressed opponents’ objections to provisions of the Constitution, some of which seem anachronistic (election regulation raised hackles) and some of which are thoroughly contemporary (the power to tax individuals directly). Ripostes from proponents, the Federalists, animate the great detail Maier provides, as does her recounting how one state convention’s verdict affected another’s. Displaying the grudging grassroots blessing the Constitution originally received, Maier eruditely yet accessibly revives a neglected but critical passage in American history.—Booklist

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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

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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 1 July 2008 




Home  Marvin X Table   Black Arts and Black Power Figures   The Claude McKay–Romare Bearden    Literature & Arts

Related Files: The Ground on Which I Stand   Professor Sandra Shannon   Situating August Wilson   The Dramatic Vision of August Wilson    Ayodele Nzinga Directs Gem of the Ocean   Duet for The Godfather  

Blessings Are Due  Leonard Peltier: Letter to a Relative  Beyond Religion toward Spirituality