History and Spirituality

History and Spirituality


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



What we learn from Mr. Joseph is that the Black Power revolution was painful, stressful, traumatic,

suicidal, homicidal, but often liberating, such as the 1972 convention and Congress of African People.

Just meeting together was a victory.



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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History and Spirituality

By Marvin X


The history of a people is by definition a long process of advance, reversal, triumph, defeat, betrayal, contradiction, hope, etc. Too often we reinvent the wheel, totally ignore past mistakes, even past glories in our youthful exuberance, after all, the history of revolution is mainly a phenomena of youth.

Waiting Til the Midnight Hour  by Peniel E. Joseph is a narrative history of the Black Power movement, that 60s surge of North American Africans toward freedom.

It’s a forward moving narrative but the nature of events and personalities force the writer to reveal a non-linear story of tragedy and triumph, of consciousness gained and lost.

The story of Black Power in America is the most important even in American history, aside from the Civil War. Perhaps Mr. Joseph should have begun there, or at least summarized the 19th century black nationalist meetings and conventions, just to give us historical roots of our struggle for liberation: the problems, solutions, themes, contradictions.

After all, the 19th century brothers and sisters dealt with black to Africa or not, separation or integration, nationhood or American citizenship, the same issues the Black Power movement confronted in the 60s.

Too much time during the 60s was spent mulling over issues that should have been resolved. But for those ignorant of Black Power, Joseph informs us of the major players, themes, contradictions. Personalities included Kwame Toure, Robert F. Williams, Amiri Baraka, Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, Eldridge and Kathleen Cleaver, Queen Mother Moore, Mae Mallory, Francis Beal, Sonia Sanchez, Askia Toure, Larry Neal, Ron Karenga, Max Stanford, Donald Freeman, Rap Brown, Ron Walters, Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad, Clara Muhammad, John Oliver Killins, Maya Angelo, Audre Lord, et al.

Major themes: Black power or integration, separation, role of African culture, nationalism or internationalism, Pan Africanism, American nationalism as in civil rites, gender liberation and equality, revolution or reform, Marxism or black nationalism, alliance with whites or black unity, independent politics or reform politics, elected politicians or independent political struggle, vanguard versus mass party.

Contradictions include internal violence or external violence, family liberation or abuse, sexual freedom or slavery, revolutionary discipline or drug abuse, spirituality or materialism, black or European aesthetics, European or African philosophy.

Most of these points are discussed, although some are not, and one must say if you weren’t there, one simply cannot understand the passion, emotion, even the logic or illogical, the sanity and insanity.

What we learn from Mr. Joseph is that the Black Power revolution was painful, stressful, traumatic, suicidal, homicidal, but often liberating, such as the 1972 convention and Congress of African People. Just meeting together was a victory.

But what was accomplished? Did we inch forward as a people, not as personalities, not as organizations, but as a people? Did Black Power advance the African liberation struggle, did the African liberation struggle advance our struggle? Did internationalism expand our consciousness: the trips to Cuba, China, North Korea, Ghana, Tanzania, Algeria?

What did we learn from prison, jail, exile, death even? Waiting Til the Midnight Hour   explores some of these questions and attempts some answers. For those who lived this history, there is not much to learn. For those who don’t know this history, this book is a great narrative, and it is especially important for the hip hop generation to understand that Black Power was the movement of young people, students especially, also street people or the lumpen, prisoners and poets, all dedicated to the dream of freedom and power, Black Power.

Although Mr. Joseph gives us an understanding of how Black Power and the Black Arts Movement interfaced, it is suggested one read THE BLACK ARTS MOVEMENT by James Smithurst, University of North Carolina Press. In this study we see how the arts and politics were one, in the holistic tradition of African culture and civilization.

The activity of poets Amiri Baraka, Askia Toure, Larry Neal, Sonia Sanchez are a clear example of the poet/politician, of art and politics as one. Even the music was political: Sun Ra, Coltrane, Nina Simone, Archie Shepp, Milford Graves, Charlie Mingus, et al.

Finally, Mr. Joseph notes the role of liberation theology in the evolution of Black Power, from Dr. King to Rev. Cleage, from Elijah Muhammad to Malcolm X. This spiritual journey must continue, for we are yet caught in the trap of religiosity that impedes our progress toward true spirituality.

Just as we saw how the arts and politics functioned, and the church and mosque was an essential part of the Black Power movement, but the religious, at times, seemed to be reactionary, including Ron Karenga’s Kawaida, but yet it was indeed ironic to see Huey Newton’s journey through Marxist materialism to ultimately return to the church to expedite his programs.

In short, our religiosity may not save us because of sectarianism, dogmatism and authoritarianism, but if we advance to Spiritual consciousness without the trappings of religiosity and its reactionary myth-rituals, we may yet arrive at the mountain top of full and complete liberation as a people with national and international consciousness.

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Marvin X in German, Spanish and Italian

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.

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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 Vietnam.

The poet is available for lecture/readings. To obtain copies of his books, write to Black Bird Press, 11132 Nelson Bar Road, Cherokee CA 95965. Email: mrvnx@yahoo. com.

30 September 2006

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Mockingbirds at Jerusalem (poetry Manuscript)

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

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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 15 December 2011




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