ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



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



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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Black 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 moonwalk.

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 country.”

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 Asa G. Hilliard III-Nana Baffour Amankwatia II,

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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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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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Negro Digest / Black World

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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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updated 12 July 2008



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