Archive for Black Panther Party.

Yo Poot-Butt Poets: Step Off!

Posted in Cultural Matters, My Struggle On the Left! with tags , , , on November 24, 2012 by playthell
At Dr. J’s Country Club: The “Step Off Poot Butt!” Stare

Playin the Dozens with Leroi and Marvin

Although, like Pontius Pilate, I publicly washed my hands of one Marvin X of Oakland, a recovering left coast crack head and shameless sophist with an alter-ego bearing the curious name of “Plato Negro;” a pompous wag who confuses mindless mumbo jumbo with profound wisdom, alas I have been dragged back into an ethnic kerfuffle of the sort they love to wallow in but I eschew.  As those who read me regularly well know, I write about all the great issues of our time, and I’m interested in the whole world.

Yet I have spent a half century chronicling the triumphs and studying the problems of the black world.  Indeed I was a co-founder of the first free standing, degree granting, Black Studies Department in history – the W.E.B. DuBois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Mass, Amherst.  I also spent quite a few years as an activist trying to solve those problems, beginning with the explosion of the black student movement in the south during the spring of 1960.  Since then my life story would make a spectacular read even by the standards of a romance novel.

Hence when an obnoxious churl steps to me and challenges my story, accusing me of fabricating my personal narrative, the small part of it that he pretends to know, I am forced to respond at least once more.    Curiously, I hardly knew who Marvin X was a few weeks ago; I know him mainly through mutual friends in the Bay Area.

However we had a clash over President Obama, when he wrote some dumbass shit on my wall dissing the Pres.  So I yoked the chump and challenged him to debate me on the issues he had with Barack.   But he punked out!!!   When he started talking shit out of school I stepped to him and publicly chastised his silly ass!

The reader can follow the progress of the discussion because they are all in my Facebook Notes, and the last essay is posted here on the Commentaries.  And I shall soon publish them in my forthcoming book “The Crisis of Black Leftist and Nationalist Intellectuals.” After reading his response to my questions about his specific policy differences with President Obama, and his suggestions for politically achievable policy options, I decided that Marvin’s brain is so fried from a decade of sucking the crack pipe he is incapable of formulating an intellectually rigorous argument.  Hence I just wanted to be rid of this nuisance.

But Marin X seems to have become obsessed with proving that my story is untrue….well, good luck with that dog.  Frankly I find it amusing, because I don’t give a fuck about his story….not even his bizarre adventures wandering around the Bay area whacked out on crack!  I just don’t find him interesting or relevant to anything I care about. And the only reason I am talking about him is because the chup keeps getting up in my face.

I stumbled into this protracted dust-up with Malevolent Marv because he took issue with some things I said in defense of President Obama while smacking around one of his intellectual heroes, Glenn Ford. Then he got huffy about some of the science I dropped on his silly ass about the founding of the Black Panther Party of Oakland.  He didn’t know shit about it and yet he fancies himself an authority on the history of the Black Panther Party.

So he has been running around telling lies on me, saying I am claiming to have founded the BPP of Oakland, when I have claimed no such thing.  What I said was that the Oakland Party was founded by a cadre of the Revolutionary Action Movement / RAM named Kenny Freeman – whom I knew as Mamadou Dia. Freeman was a sociology teacher at Merritt Jr. College, and recruited Bobby Seales and Huey Newton who were students there.

Marvin #10
A Glutton for Punishment?

I interviewed Bobby for an award winning cover story in Emerge Magazine titled “Radical Changes: Sixties Militants, Where are they Now?” in which bobby verifies my version of events.  I think I have a copy of the magazine in my files so I shall scan the article and post it on my Facebook page within the week. I also said that I was a co-founder of RAM with Max Stanford/Dr. Muhammad Ahmed in Philly.  AND I STAND BY THAT!!!!!!!

Now the hapless Marvin has interrogated his bosom buddy, the venerable Newark poet Leroi Jones/aka Amiri Baraka about me, and the over-the-hill fabulator bad mouthed me alas.  I am not surprised by this, and yhall won’t be either…once you read what I have written about him over the years.  Marvin said that Little Leroy told him that I was a self-confessed army intelligence agent, and our intrepid Oakland investigator and self-confessed crack head wants to know if I was in military intelligence before or after the founding of RAM.

Well first of all, little Leroi got it wrong.  I was never in the army at all.  I was in the Strategic Air Command, where Leroi was a bombardier, trained to drop nuclear bombs on innocent populations. I was in combat defense with the 91st Strato-Bomber Wing stationed on the DEW (Distance Early Warning) Line stretching from the Canadian border to Tule Greenland.  My unit’s job was to protect America’s nuclear arsenal – including the B-52 bombers that Leroi was flying on, programmed to commit a monstrous crime against innocent civilians – from Russian saboteurs or their American agents.

Since I went in the service to get away from the brewing race war in my home town of St. Augustine Florida, upon my grandfather’s advice, I chose the air-force because I figured I would have no chance of ending up in a combat situation.  But, alas, I ended up in the only unit in the Command that was trained for ground fighting.  It was an intense experience for a teenager who came of age during the cold war and had participated in atomic attack drills in school.

I didn’t question anything my military teachers told us about the evils and dangers of Communism, and I was committed to our mission.  We were called “SAC Trained Killers,” and I was trained in the use of a variety of weapons, as well as how to kill people quickly and efficiently with my bare hands. And I am more dangerous with a knife than most thugs are with a gun!  Although I am seventy now, I’m still a rock and “once a SAC Trained Killer…always a SAC Trained Killer!

However once I attended classes on the destructive capacity of the weapons we were protecting, and considered the implications of my base’s mission, I was troubled by it and began to openly question our mission.  I once even asked the chaplain how he could teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ yet bless our mission.  These kinds of questions got me in trouble and eventually a Convenience of The Government Discharge under Honorable Conditions.

It is interesting that Little Leroi, who was charged with dropping these bombs on helpless civilians, did his whole stint…didn’t seem to bother him none.  This probably explains his ruthlessness and lack of a conscience in some of the things he has done since. Ironically, I actually became a radical while serving in the military.

Stationed out in the Great Plains, I witnessed the plight of Native Americans, and I saw first-hand the horrors of their condition.  And when I put that together with my experience in Florida, and the mission of my SAC base, I saw  just how evil the white man could be.  That’s what set me on the road to participating in the founding of RAM, when Max Stanford presented me with his blueprint for building a revolutionary movement!    And by the way, I was the one with actual military training.

So the answer to your question Marvin is yes I was a SAC Trained Killer before the founding of RAM.  Now since we are talking about things people said, I have a question for you Marvin.  Somebody told me that during the decade that you were on your “long journey into night” as you describe it, when you were strung out on crack, you used to hang out in the all  night porn theaters in San Francisco sucking dicks to get money for crack!

Everybody who knows anything about the subject knows that crack heads will do anything to get it. And I wondered how you financed a crack habit for a decade.  Conventional wisdom has it that if you will suck on the glass pipe you will suck on the skin pipe.  So my question for you Marvin is was you sucking dicks before or after you got strung out: Was you a dick head before you became a crack head?  Jes askin….ain’t no skin off my teeth.

 ******************

As for our Newark poet, Little Leroi,  he was a beatnik poet, living with his white wife in the milky white prescints of Greenwich Village – where the great militant writer Richard Wright had been constantly insulted and driven out of the country just a few years earlier – so he don’t know shit about the founding of RAM…he hadn’t been “blackified” yet.

Since I have decided to dismiss Marvin X, and waste no more time intellectually sparring with him because he is a dullard and a bore, I must resist the temptation to engage him in his foolish rantings and waste even more time that I am squandering now.  But to those who read Barakas’ comments to him,  I ask that you consider the source.  You see Amiri Baraka and I have a history.  I have flogged his ass repeatedly in print over the years for his myriad follies and foibles.

Baraka and I were once on the same side, black revolutionary nationalist/Marxist.  But over the years we have had a parting of the ways. We even had some of the same fiends, like the brilliant Philadelphia poet/critic/essayist/dramatist Larry Neal,and Max Stanford aka Dr. Muhammad Ahmed, with whom I co-founded the first branch of the Revolutionary Action Movement /RAM in Philly.

Larry was one of my best friends in Philly before he ever met Baraka, and although Little Leroi piggybacked off of Larry’s broad knowlege of literature and critical gravitas as co-editor of the seminal anthology of the literary component of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960′s, he is taking the bows and Larry is practically forgotten

Leroi has shamelessy hogged the spotlight.  He even came to Larry’s memorial service and talked mostly about his own importance.  That’s not just my opinion; it was a subject of much derisive comment from those in attendance.  But Larry was every bit as good a poet as Leroi, and came to a revolutionary position on black culture before him.

Larry was teaching Literature at Drexel University in Philly before he moved to New York and hoked up with Leroi, and he died of a massive heart attack while lecturing to his class at Yale.  His importanc in the development of the Black Arts Movement was second to no one – except perhaps the Braithwaite brothers and Max Roach, who set a lot of the forces in motion that became the Black Arts Movement. (See, On Amiri Baraka: Thought Policeman.)

However Larry and Leroy had become estranged and were barely speaking when Larry danced and joined the ancestors.  I know this because we remained good friends until the end and lived around the corner from each other.  And we talked all the time.  He had become turned off by Leroi’s egotism, dogmatism, and refusal to admit that he had led a lot of people astray with wrong headed ideas that he had abandoned.

Baraka and I had a dramatic parting of the ways for similar reasons.  Our first dustup came when I published a complex essay on the proper relationship between politics and art, inspired by Baraka’s petty and vicious attacks on Spike Lee when he was making his great bio-pic of Malcolm X.  Although he tried to camouflage his true intentions in the high flown rhetoric of leftist “revolutionaries,” it was readily apparent to me that the mad poet was fueled by the basest of motives: egomania and envy!

In his fevered megalomaniacal mind he felt that somehow he was the one who should be chronicling Malcolm’s story.  He, the great Imamu, should spin this narrative for posterity.  And thus he called Spike Lee everything but a child of God – impugning his motives and traducing his character!  When I could bear no more of his abominable bullying – opportunistically flaunting his history in the movement to try and discredit Spike, although nobody had prevented him from writing his own book or play in tribute to Malcolm –  I took up my pen and chastised the pompous scoundrel!

The title of the essay is “Bearing the Cross: Spike Lee and the Malcolm X. Movie Mess,” It was first published as a cover story in Emerge, a nationally distributed hard news magazine published by Afro-Americans.  The features editor at the New York Daily News liked the essay so much they bought the reprint rights and published it on the cover of their Sunday Magazine.  So this was a widely read piece…and I whipped little Leroy like a runaway slave!

A couple of years later we ended up on a panel at a writer’s workshop during the International Black Arts Festival in Atlanta, which I chaired.  Baraka made such a complete ass of himself at the conference that I thought Ishmael Reed was gonna smack him. Avery Brooks had to make a special speech defending the purpose of the conference from Baraka’s incendiary attacks on everybody as “compradore intellectuals,” while declaring that only he was a true “revolutionary artist.”

As Chairman of the Panel

I had to put Little Leroi in check!

 I had to fire his ass up from my position as chairman of the panel and put him in check.  Little Leroi was such a pain in the ass that his wife felt the need to apologize to the conference for his behavior.  I was an Editorial Page columnist at the New York Daily News at the time and upon my return to the Big Apple I wrote a column about the conference in which I whipped his head again in print for millions to read!  The column was titled “Artist Should Obey Inner Voices…Not Politics.”  It is posted on this blog.

The position I took in this essay was what Little Leroi was referring to in his speech at the Georgetown Conference, where he misrepresented my position on the relationship between art and politics.  And it inspired the essay “On Amiri Baraka: Thought Policeman,” on this blog.  The Daily News column is directly below this essay, just scroll down.  After you read them you will know why Little Leroy will jump at any chance to throw stink on my name.

Finally, let me say without fear of contradiction, that in truth I have led a remarkably honorable life in a nation that rewards thieves, hustlers and whores – just look at Mitt Romney and his crowd – and it has cost me dearly in terms of wealth and status.  I have repeatedly spoken truth to power, and only beat up on those who deserve it.  I have defended the defenseless and gave a powerful voice to the voiceless.  I did what I wanted to do and I have no regrets.

I have made many wonderful friends…and some enemies too.  But no matter…as my uncle Jimmy said: “A man who never makes any enemies is a man who don’t stand for nothing!”  Well I have stood for many things…and I have made some enemies.  But like we use to say down south: “My name is Buck and I don’t give a fuck!!!!”

However I make no claim to perfection…only the Lord is perfect, but I declare without hesitation: The worse that can be honestly said of me is that I beguiled and enjoyed the favors of women who were forbidden to me by the laws and strictures of church and state. And that this roguish behavior has driven wounded cuckolds to wish me harm, a couple shot at me and others refuse no opportunity to throw mud upon my good name.

Alas, their hostility is justified because I was guilty.  All I can say in my behalf is that the women thought I was fine, and I found them irresistible….and I could not prove stronger than David Samson and Solomon! But beyond these transgressions, weaknesses of the flesh, I have been like Caesers wife: pure as the driven snow.

Unless you want to hold the fact that I used to piss in the lemonade when I worked in the kitchen of a restaurant that served “whites only” as a teenager in apartheid Florida. But if you think it would have been appropriate for Jews to put poison in the food of Nazi’s then you are subjecting me to a double standard.  Nazi’s got their ideas about race from the US, and based their discriminatory laws against Jews on the Jim Crow legal system of the American South that I was living under at the time.  Beyond these transgressions any charges brought against my character and conduct is baseless lies!

Since I don’t remember ever taking a girl from Little Leroy, I can only speculate that his hostility derives from the fact that I have repeatedly whipped his head and ass in print…and he has never had the balls to respond to my substantive critiques of his silly wrong-headed ideas, so he resorts to misrepresentations of my views and personal attacks.

Alas, that marvelous man of letters and peerless wit Ishmael Reed warned me that these leftist ideologues can’t defend their positions against my intellectual assaults, so they will resort to character assassination. More prophetic words have rarely been spoken.  In the present case the antagonists are two poot-butt poets – Fatty Jackmon aka Marvin X, and Little Leroi aka Imamu Amiri Baraka.

Fatty J is a recovering Crack head who is in constant danger of slipping back on the pipe – as they say “once a crack head always a crack head” – and his arguments show definite symptoms of scrambled brain syndrome.  Like the old folks down home used to say “Dat boys understandin is bad.”  While I have no knowledge that Little Leroi has abused drugs, he suffers from handicaps that are just as debilitating in terms of being able to see the world clearly and think straight: A Napoleonic Complex and a Messiah Complex.  The former is fueled by the fact that he is a runt, and the latter by a tragic overestimation of his importance as a political thinker.

 Not content to be A good poet…

 Leroi Jones insist on being a bad political Theorist

 As poets their verse runs from mediocre to great.  While I have never read anything by Marvin #10 that made me go “Wow!” Amiri Baraka has written some great poetry, he is an original and important voice among American poets.  And in the first essay the reader will see that I have given this mad poet his due, as is my habit.   I especially like his Jazz poems.  Not that long ago I was on a program with him at the Iridium, a famous Jazz club in Manhattan.

We had both been invited to participate in a tribute to the great saxophonist Jackie McClean, who had lately danced and joined the ancestors, by his son, Renee Mclean, a virtuoso saxophonist in his own right.  I told him about the latest spanking I had laid on him in the essay “Amiri Baraka: Thought Policeman” and challenged him to come on WBAI and debate me, or otherwise respond in writing about my views on politics and art.  He has never said a mumbling word.  And although his non-response was cowardly…it was wise.  Being brain damaged Marvin #10 is obviously not smart enough to just go away and shut the fuck up!

As far as I can see, both of these poot-butt poets are completely out of their element when they dabble in political analysis – a complex science for which versifiers are ill suited – or historical reconstruction, a task for which they are perhaps even less suited given their tendency to fabulate.  Hence for their own safety they should stick to writing poetry and leave these other matters to those of us who have paid their dues by laboring in the archives of ancient prudence.

And most of all, unless they get off on being publicly flagellated by being exposed as fools and charlatans before a candid public, they should leave me tha fuck alone!   Read my two essays on Leroi Jones – if he doesn’t like that name blame his parents not me – and you will see why he has no kind words for me….BUT HE HAS NEVER HAD THE BALLS TO RESPOND MY ASSAULTS INTELLECTUALLY!!!!!!

There is something about me Marvin that you obviously don’t understand.  In trying to figure out just how to explain it to you succinctly, I decided I would just quote Ralph Ellison’s remark to the critic Addison Gayle, who was all up in Ellison’s face talkin smack: “I’m a street boy, I’m mean, and I’ve got a very dirty mouth!”

Yo Poot-Butt Poets!

Get tha fuck outta my face yo!!!!

**********************

Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
November 23, 2o12

My Life Among the Chattering Classes

Posted in Cultural Matters with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2012 by playthell
 
On WBAI FM, Live and Direct from New York City

 Why I love the Radio

On May 25, 1962, my 20th birthday, I made my debut in the wonderful world of radio.  It was a live broadcast over WDAS AM in Philadelphia.  I presented an hour long lecture on African history, analyzing the African character of Egyptian religion and Divine Kingship.  At the conclusion of my lecture the producer opened the phones and I took questions for two hours.  The response was sensational and I presented a series of history lectures twice a week for four years.  My life has never been the same.

The show was called “The Listening Post,” and was hosted by Mr. Joseph H. Rainey.  Judge Rainey, as he was known through-out the city, was a retired Magistrate in the Civil Court, a political player in the Democratic machine, which allocated power and privilege in the city, and a militant advocate for Afro-American rights.  Judge Rainey was the grandson of Congressman Joseph H. Rainey, the first Congressman seated from the defeated confederate state of South Carolina after the Civil War.

Judge Rainey had deep roots in the Afro-American elite, but the militant fighting “Talented Tenth,”who answered the call of Dr. DuBois to assume the leadership of the black community, and guide the masses to higher ground.  One of the benefits of my association with Mr. Rainey on “The Listening Post,” was that it was the show all the smart progressive Afro-Americans listened to in Philly, Southern New Jersey and Nothern Delaware.  It also had a smaller white audience composed of leftist intellectuals and civil rights activist.  The Listening Post would have been right at home on WBAI.

My involvement with the show transformed my life; it was a gift that keeps on giving.  Among the highlights of my participation on the show was the fact that Judge Rainey was good friends with Malcolm X.  And whenever Malcolm spoke in Philadelphia, Wilmington Delaware or Camden New Jersey, he came on the show the day before his speech.

Hence I got to know Malcolm quite well, and had a bird’s eye seat during the last three years of his life as he went through radical changes and ultimately assassination.  I was there for the broadcast that Dr. Manning Marable describes in his Pulitzer Prize winning biography: Malcolm X, A Life of Reinventions.

Judge Joe Rainey Interviewing the Great Jackie Robinson

 The “Listening Post” was a pioneer in Progressive Talk Radio

But it was also on The Listening Post that I met Queen Mother Moore, an indefatigable freedom fighter whose resume included a stint with Marcus Garvey and the American Communist Party.  A New Orleans Creole who had settled in Philadelphia, she was 65 when I met her and she took me under her wings just days after my birthday broadcast, and tutored me in the art and science of politics and mass struggle.

The Queen Mother aka Audley Moore was one of the great women of the 20th century, and she left an indelible mark on me.  I also met the Reverend Dr. Leon Sullivan, “The Lion of Zion,” who was to become one of the most powerful men in America by the end of the turbulent 1960’s.

Queen Mother Moore

My first political Tutor

 The Lion of Zion!

 

 A visionary and servant of the people

Suffice it to say that Reverend Sullivan hired me to teach a course on black history in the basement of his church, Mount Zion Baptist.  Me and Max Stanford would organize the Revolutionary Action Movement from that class. And it was RAM cadres who went on to organize the black Panther Party of Oakland. Bobby Seales and Huey Newton were students at Merritt Junior College, where one of our Cadres’ got a job teaching sociology, and they were his first recruits.  Bobby refers to his teacher and revolutionary tutor as “Kenny Freeman,” but that was his “slave name,” we knew him as Mamadou Dia.

When the War on Poverty began Reverend Sullivan founded The Opportunities Industrialization Centers, which began in Philadelphia and spread to over 100 cities.  He hired me to each in the main center in Philadelphia, and develop a black history curriculum for the national program.  The Philadelphia Board of education hired me as a consultant to work with cirriculum specialist and conduct seminars with history teachers in the school system in the teaching of African and Afro-American history in 1966.

Other school boards around the country also began to hire me to conduct seminars or present a lecture series on the subject ranging from witchata Kansas, Minneapolis and Saint Paul Minesota, and Riverside California.  By 1969 I was a founding member of the WEB DuBois Department of Afro-American Studies at U-Mass Amherst, he first degree granting Black Studies in the World.  That’s what my first foray into radio did for me.

When I left the university and moved to New York, after a stint in the music, boxing and construction business I returned to radio at WBAI around 1986.  That’s when I began the series “Commentaries On The Times.”  This brought me to the attention of Terry Johnson, the City Desk Editor at the Village Voice, who invited me to write for the paper.  The second article I wrote was an 8000 word feature that was publshed as the cover story in 1988 titled “Jive at Five: How Big Al and the Bully Boys Bogarted the Movement.” 

It was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Journalism. ( see the nominating letter in my bio on this blog)  This article brought me to the attention of the Senior Editor of the Manchester Guardian in England who commissioned me to write a feature for the Guardian.  Thius began an association that lasted several years, in which I wrote for the front and the back of the paper – politics, the arts, and boxing.

When the Arts Editor, Joslyn Targett, became the Editor of the prestigeous Sunday Times magazine “The Culture,” he invited me to come along for the ride.  I was given carte blanche to write as much as I wanted to.   When two of my feature stories from the Village voice were selected for study at the Columbia School of Journalism, the top of the food chain for training professional journalists, I was recruited to write by the New York Daily News. 

From there I was recruited to write commentary and features for “Emerge” magazine, a nationals Afro-American hard news publication.  I was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Commentary at the News, and I was nominated for Foriegn Correspondent of the Year several times.  And I won awards at ever othere one of the publications I wrote for.   And eventually I held an Adjunct Professorship in Journalism at Long Island University.

All of this grew out of my work at WBAI FM in New York, where I would also host two different talk shows.  Radio has been as good to me as baseball was to Chico Consuello!  That’s why I’m still droppin science on the radio 50 years after my first broadcast on the Joe Rainey show on May 25th 1962.

Double Click on the link to see Playthell Live on Air at WBAI

http://youtu.be/pnpR9p7Sl1U

*******************

Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York

May 25th, 1942

 

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