The MOVEMENT, newsletter of the BAMBD--Special Editorial by Marvin X
The Movement Newsletter
Black Arts Movement Business District
June 3, 2016
Will We Resist America's Black Removal Plan?
The next Black Arts Movement Business District Town Hall is scheduled for Sunday, June 12/2016, 3-5pm at East Side Arts Alliance, 23rd and International Blvd, Oakland. Table of Contents 1. Summary of BAMBD Town Hall Meeting, 5/13, Aries Jordan 2. Touchstones to stand on, Dr. Ayodele Nzinga 3. Letter from City Council President, Lynette McElhaney 4. Letter of invitation for Cultural Keepers meeting, Alessia Brisbin 5. BAMBD Notes, Marvin X 6. Reply to Marvin X, Eric Arnold 7. Business Improvement District BID, Denise Pate 8. Africa Town, Zahieb Mwongozi 9. Black Bourgeoisie Art and Opportunism, Marvin X 10. Talks at Yenan Forum on Art and Literature, Mao Tse-Tung 11. BAMBD Tour, Ashley Chambers and Paul Cobb 12. Call for Papers: Black Arts Movement South Celebration, Dillard University, Kim McMillon
BLACK ARTS MOVEMENT BUSINESS DISTRICT
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
BAMBD Town Hall, Sunday, June 12, 3-6pm, Eastside Arts
San Francisco Juneteenth Festival, Saturday, June 18
Berkeley Juneteenth Festival, Sunday, June 19
West Oakland Juneteenth, June 25, San Pablo and Brockhurst
25th Oakland Black Expo, Saturday, July 23, Frank Ogawa/Oscar Grant Plaza
City of Oakland Cultural Keepers, Tuesday, July 26, 6-8pm, Oak Center Cultural Center, 14th and Adeline
Black Arts Movement Theatre Festival, Sept, Flight Deck Theatre, Broadway
Donald Lacy's play Color Struck, Laney College Theatre, Sept.
Black Arts Movement South 51st Celebration, Dillard University, New Orleans LA
September 9-11, 2016
Movement Editor, Marvin X
WILL WE RESIST AMERICA’S
BLACK REMOVAL PLAN?
North American Africans in the Bay Area and nationwide are at a critical juncture, although our history is the history of migration, especially since we had to flee Egypt. In his classic The Destruction of African Civilization, Chancellor Williams taught us the constant theme in our culture was migration whether due to succession rites (fights), ecological factors, i.e., famine, drought or wars over land, grazing rights or foreign invasion. The Semitic and later European invasion of the Motherland forced us from Egypt to the interior and ultimately to the West coast of Africa. Once there we reestablished the classic civilizations we had created in Kemit or Egypt. Cheikh Anta Diop revealed the similarity in Kemitic and West African linguistics and other aspects of culture such as the matriarchal family structure, burial rites, religion, etc. See Diop’s classic Cultural Unity of Africa.
Diop discussed differences in the Northern Cradle (Europe) and the Southern Cradle (Africa/Asia), expressed by the settled culture, including agriculture. The nomadic tradition is Northern with cremation the burial custom. We North American Africans adopting cremation as a burial custom, we see the level of their addiction to Northern Cradle culture.
The Southern Cradle people buried the dead along with the tools of life, for they believed in the resurrection and after life, thus their dramatic tradition was comedy as opposed to the Northern tradition of tragedy. Alas, the major theme in Northern Cradle drama is murder! Even today, this is their central theme. Check out the greatest plays of Shakespeare, Othello, MacBeth, King Lear, Richard III.
Of course the original drama of the Southern Cradle was comedy, expressed in the Osirian drama of Resurrection, based on the annual inundation of the Nile or Hapi River and the seasonal harvesting of crops, along with Ra, the Sun, and his opposite Seth or Sunset, i.e., darkness, evil. The Osirian drama of Resurrection is the prototype crucifixion drama, signifying the comedic nature of life, i.e., after darkness comes light. The Muslims say after difficulty comes ease, thus tragedy has no place in the Southern Cradle. The Southern Cradle insists there must be joy and happiness after sadness. Check out the joy of the Second Line New Orleans funeral rites. The Osirian resurrection drama is the prototype of the crucifixion ritual, but the drama ends with resurrection and ascension, a joyful rather than sad affair. See Kersey Graves The Sixteen Crucified Saviors.
Sun Ra, the Master Black Arts Movement mystic, musician, said North American Africans are the “Latter Day Egyptian Revisionists,” He understood NAA culture is essentially Egyptian religion whether Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Yoruba, or Vudun. Dr. Ben taught us the African Origin of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
And so we come to the present moment in our eternal sojourn that has brought us to North America as Africans caught in the American slave system (Ed Howard term). We have migrated Up South and back Down South and West, seeking freedom, justice and equality but finding only gentler, kinder versions of slavery, suffering and death, even with a smile.
We have surely enacted the Osirian drama in our sojourn in this wilderness of North America. Rev. Cone called it the ritual of the Cross and Lynching Tree (See his interview with Bill Moyers, PBS). He insists we and "they" cannot understand the American Tragedy until we come to terms with the cross and lynching tree, until we appreciate the Strange Fruit Billie Holiday told us about. When we understand that the central theme of North American African literature is how I got ovah, how I survived, then we can appreciate we are of the resurrection tradition, alas, it is in our past, present and future. What did Maya say, "And still I rise...."
In the 1950s and 1960s we suffered Negro Removal (Urban Renewal) and today we are knee deep in gentrification or ethnic cleansing. Have no doubt we are being cleansed from traditional neighborhoods coast to coast, from Fillmore and Hunters Point to Harlem and Brooklyn. Our condition is not solely caused by white supremacy but rather Global economic forces or the new imperialism that is, yes, multicultural. We are being removed by global corporations and nations who arrive alongside the neo domestic-colonial children (Hipsters or cleaned up hippies) and the developers whose mission is solely economic in the most capitalistic definition of the term. We are being displaced so rapidly that most communities are simply overwhelmed by the invaders in their midst (remember Kemit or Egypt, Chancellor Williams noted we were doomed when we welcomed the invaders into our lands 6,000 years ago. Diop makes it plain the Northern Cradle Tradition was to kill the stranger, but our tradition was to welcome the strange to our very destruction.
Alas, the invaders impregnated African women and her mulatto children suffered the classic mulatto syndrome of identity crisis best expressed by Prince "Am I Black, Am I white?")
In present times, market forces cause us little time to think, plan and act, especially since we live disorganized and insecure, trusting no one, no even ourselves and our lovers, thus we cannot rally around the flag to resist the onslaught of rapidly changing demographics even while we sleep, for rents are rising, new property owners have arrived, not necessarily white, Chinese even, or Russian, Arab, African, no matter, we must adjust to market forces or move, or seek shelter under the overpasses of our lives, now pushing the shopping carts of our lives to God knows where. Remember our tradition of migration (el muhajir, the migrant).
San Francisco’s Tenderloin District has been able to resist gentrification only because they are organized as a community, unlike the Fillmore, Mission and Hunters Point, or West Oakland, North Oakland, East Oakland, Berkeley, even Richmond, can you imagine, Richmond suffering gentrification and market rate rents.
But Negro Removal or gentrification or ethnic cleansing has been going on for decades and while politicians are guilty, many of our own people were on redevelopment boards and thus guilty as well. A Haitian taxi driver told me back east, "Broder, they sold us once, seem like they want to sell us again." Amiri Baraka's poem says,
"The king sold the farmer to the ghost.
In the middle of the Atlantic ocean
is a railroad of human bones...."
At least former San Francisco Mayor Joe Alioto apologized for “destroying the cultural and economic vitality of the Fillmore.” Do we need to name the Black politicians and Black capitalists who sold out Harlem and other cities? Can we blame politicians for being corrupt when corruption is the name of the game?
We thought Black Power would save us but Black Power morphed into green power for many elected politicians and black capitalists. Many went to jail and prison for corruption. The Black mayors of Newark, New Jersey are models of corruption. We are confident the current Mayor Ras Baraka will defy the Negro political tradition.
So where do we go from here, those few of us still remaining? Our condition in San Francisco is dire, at the precipice: simple market forces are pushing us on the freedom train to nowhere, a fellow traveler with our brothers and sisters who’ve been forced to evacuate Oakland, Richmond, Berkeley, fleeing to the interior of towns in the central valley, Sacramento, Stockton, Tracy, Modesto, Merced, Madera, Fresno. If we don’t learn Spanish, our condition will be problematic in these towns rapidly becoming under the political/economic control of Latinos/Latinas, but even worse is our disconnection from the land, from agribusiness.
After fifty years of Black Studies, how many students do we have who minored or majored in agribusiness in California, the richest agricultural valley in the world, that canal running north to south is like the Nile or Hapi River, yet we are deaf, dumb and blind to DE NILE thus we are not HAPI!
The major business in the central valley is agriculture, so how do we fit in? And then there’s the critical issue of water. When we move to the central valley, how long are we going to be in the valley without water? The farmers consume 80% of the water and the almond farmers use most of that for export. This may change with the coming marijuana industry. But even that will be a corporate affair.
Brothers are still being arrested for selling marijuana even after buying it from white boys operating legal weed stores.
A brother who has a restaurant business he inherited from his mother, is being sued by a patron who was asked to depart with his dog, even though the customer had an official card declaring his dog was for emotional support. The brother said he was going to close down because he knows he can't win against a white man and his dog! We must resist, Sonia Sanchez said resist, resist, resist. I remind people what we used to say at high school football games, "Push 'em back, push 'em back, way back!"
What then, is our Master Plan for the next five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years? Is our cause lost or can we organize to resist and get qualified for the new economic reality. We will need to become politically engaged immediately, casting away our fears of the political process and forcing the political structure to deliver equity and the benefits due us as citizens. We should not only demand subsidized housing but the jobs that will qualify us for market rate housing. Otherwise we should shut down City Hall and all businesses that don’t hire us, especially businesses in the new technology and the restaurant business since Oakland is a five star restaurant city but how many of us are employed? Oakland, on the 50th Anniversary of the Black Panther Party, where is your radical spirit? Don't be afraid of City Hall, we, the people, own city hall. City Hall exists at the consent of the governed. You govern City Hall, City Hall doesn't govern you! The best thing I heard President of the City Council say is, "Don't exclude yourself!" Sometimes we do so because we know City Hall is full of bullshit, politricks. And they only respect the people when they come two thousand strong and pack city hall. Suddenly, they want to hear what you have to say, especially around election time which is now!
It’s shameful to travel throughout the Bay Area and rarely see Black men working. Remember Dr. Julia Hare’s book How to Find A BMW (Black Man Working)? How can men from every ethnic group work but not the Black man? The denied you union membership but somehow found a way to hire is others not even in the union? Malcolm X told you to not allow yourself to be hoodwinked and bamboozled. Elijah Muhammad used tricknology to trick the trick out of the trick! So stop being a trick and demand your equity and all the benefits due you even in the midst of Negro Removal, gentrification, ethnic cleansing or whatever this bullshit is we trapped in as the era of Obama ends and the white right wing payback era begins, whether Bernie, Hilliary or Donald. On the eve of the California primary, what is your agenda North American Africans? You better have your priorities and other items and make your demands known locally and nationally. Power concedes nothing without demands, Frederick Douglas told you, or do you remember? And remember what Harriet Tubman said, "I could have freed more slaves if they had known they were slaves!"
The City of Oakland approved the Black Arts Movement Business District but it reminds one of emancipation. We were set free but without a budget, yes, no 40 acres and a mule! So we have the BAMBD but so far no equity or benefits from developers claiming land,properties, housing, and those Hipsters who get employed every nano second, yes, while we sleep they are planning. I wrote a proverb that said, "The devil never sleeps, he just changes shifts." We need to learn eternal vigilance and stay on our posts until properly relieved. The Japanese taught me back in my dope fiend hustling days, "Business is war!" We can laugh, smile, but business is war and we need to get on war footing or we shall surely lose the battle and the war.
After months of requesting, including appeals to the President of the City Council and the Mayor, why can’t we get banners up proclaiming the BAMBD, to say nothing of our request that vendors be able to work in the BAMBD 14th Street corridor, for economic reasons so our people see they can do for self, and don't need to sell drugs or their bodies. Surely, merchants can't complain especially when there are few merchants in the downtown area.
Since we have been repeatedly told BAMBD is not a priority, we may need to be patient (Amiri Baraka said if we be patient too long we become a patient), at least until after the city council elections, unless we get the bright idea to protest those politicians who’ve been lagging and dragging for months. As the Black Panthers said, you are part of the problem or part of the solution. Don't push us to the edge or we'll run our own people for city council!
The BAMBD Town Hall meeting is a signal that the people want action on the district, but the district must be part of an overall plan for North American Africans in Oakland. We can’t have artists and cultural workers separated from the masses who are suffering basic issues of housing, employment, police abuse and homicide under the color of law, white supremacy curriculum in the public schools, perennial high rates of incarceration due to economic crimes.
For sure, the developers and politicians will try to buy out the artists with a few crumbs so they then feel elitist and separated from their people.
Either we jump out the box of passivity and come together to resist the storm of our removal, or pack our bags and hit the road, enacting that eternal theme of our cultural history: migration.
The next Town Hall meeting of the Black Arts Movement Business District is Sunday, June 12, 3-6pm, Eastside Arts Cultural Center, 23rd and International Blvd. Be there or be square! Stay tuned to The Movement, newsletter of the BAMBD.