RAM Comrades: Playthell, John Bracy, Muhammad Ahmed, Askia
Recovering Crack heads shouldn’t Rewrite History!
Yo Marvin, when I posted my critique on the misguided, silly and dangerous blather of Glen Ford – who said it didn’t matter if Afro-Americans voted in the Presidential election – I received a note from the great writer Ishmael Reed. He warned me that since none of the people that I am critiquing on the left could prevail in a debate with me, they would resort to personal attacks. Now I see what he means.
You say that I was never a member of the Revolutionary Action Movement aka RAM? You say you talked to former RAM members and they don’t know me? Well either you are lying or they are lying. But you should know better than to lie about things that are a matter of historical fact, and can be easily verified as such. As a former history professor I sure as hell do!
But then Marvin, since the only things I know about you, or what you believe, is based on the things you have written about yourself and my encounter with you on FB, enriched by things I have heard from people who do know you well in the Bay area. Early on I was forced to conclude you are a hapless fool stuck on stupid. And everything you do confirms that conclusion.
For instance, when you wrote that mindless drivel on my page about “Negroes,” I recognized that you untended it as an insult…since the politically correct term is “black.” But that’s such an asinine move I just decided to play past it. But then you wouldn’t take no for an answer, you had to keep on pushing. I have decided that you are suffering from what the psychologist call “projection,” which is a process by which one projects one’s own vices and shortcomings onto others.
In this case it is all too clear. You are the one with the alter-ego named “Plato Negro,” who spouts pompous prattle that you evidently mistake for wisdom. However the more I listen to what you have to say I find myself thinking of Queen Mother Moore’s definition of the term Negro – “No, Nay, Never Grow!” – she would say. Hence it is the perfect term for you; since you are an intellectual anachronism, a poot-butt philosopher stuck in the past who never grows!
Maybe you are actually dumb enough to try and rewrite history while the actors in those events are still around. Perhaps that’s what smoking crack does to the human brain; since I have far better sense than to crack up I really don’t know. But I did win the first annual Tom Focade Award for honesty and accuracy in drug reporting, presented by High Times Magazine, for my columns and feature stories on drug addiction and anti-drug laws in my in the Village Voice, and the Editorial Page of the “New York Daily News.”
I concentrated a lot on crack addiction becausecrack headsand crack dealers were wreaking havoc in black community at the time. In my view both are enemies of the black community! And by the way, I was also nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Commentary, in 1995.
The nominating letter is on this blog, and anybody can read it – see: Playthell’s bio- A Thumbnail Sketch. It is easy to see that thequalities enumerated in the nominating letter are clearly present in the commentaries on this blog, of which there are nearly 500, ranging from 800 to 80, 000 words! And do note the fact that this is my second nomination for the Pulitzer Prize, the first was for political feature writing. That nominating letter is also on display.
The picture above was taken at a conference held at the University of Massachusetts about two years ago. It was a program hosted by the WEB DuBois Department of Afro-American Studies, of which I was a founder. The four men in the picture were discussing the founding of RAM, the Emergence of the Black Arts Movement, and the creation of Black Studies. And we were speaking from personal experience because we were principal actors in those historic developments.
From left to right they are Playthell Benjamin, John Bracey, Max Stanford / Dr. Muhammad Ahmed, and the great poet Askia Muhammad. Between the men in this picture are the founders of RAM, Black Studies and the Black Arts Movement. Max Stanford and I co-founded RAM in Philadelphia in 1962, John Bracey was a RAM cadre in Chicago, who became a professor of history, and Askia Muhammad was a leading force in the Black Arts movement, as well as a RAM cadre.
I presented some lectures at the University of Pennsylvania a few weeks ago, and I talked about the development of the armed black “revolutionary” movement of the 1960’s. There were several people in the audience who were there at the founding of RAM. One of them was Walt Palmer, who not only was a witness to it all, but was instrumental in putting together legal representation for RAM cadres arrested for trying to poison the Philadelphia police, a dramatic development at the time.
Walt is a towering figure in Philadelphia. He knows who was who and where all the political bodies are buried. He is a remarkable man whose career includes radical activist, pioneering medical researcher, lawyer, writer, and a teacher at the University of Pennsylvania, and he recently ran the 100 meter sprint in the senior division of the Penn Relays at 73 years old!
At present he has designed and founded one of the best charter schools in the country. He is a lucid and reliable witness…and there are others in Philly who attended my lectures and remember well who done what! If you want to set the record straight about my involvement in the founding of RAM I will send you Walt’s number by private message and you can interview him.
I can also provide numbers for others who were there at the beginning! You claim to be an intellectual so do your job chump! But I doubt that you will pursue this because you are not really interested in the truth. Ish pegged you clowns just right! You are not smart enough to win the debate with me. This is demonstrated by the fact that you are going through all of these changes to avoid answering the damn questions I put to you about how you intend to make this “revolution” you prattle on about ad- nauseum. Instead, you attempt to attack my character and deny my personal history.
That’s really some low life punk-ass shit Marvin, especially since my story can be easily verified. For instance, Walt Palmer has a “Wall of Heroes” in the multi-million dollar building that houses his “Learning and Leadership Charter School. It is very impressive, with life size oil paintings of great freedom fighters from the 20th Century. Walt gave me a tour of the Hall recently, and as I was perusing the handsome portraits of Kwame Nkrumah, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Mao, and then….I suddenly came upon a striking portrait of yours truly!
Walt Palmer by Wall of Heroes
Philly Activist, Educator / Griot 50+ years in Struggle!
It was quite a surprise; I thought the artist really captured the real me. Of course I photographed it, so you can check it out for yourself Dog. But I hear that you will be visiting Philly, so you can call Walt and check it out. You say you talked to people in Philly who don’t know me…you don’t say?
Playthell on the Wall of Heroes
Listen fool, I left Philadelphia in 1969, to go help build the first free standing, degree granting, Black Studies Department in the world: The WEB DuBois Department of Afro-American Studies, at U-Mass Amherst. This turned out to be quite an achievement, as we persuaded the University to purchase and preserve the voluminous papers of Dr. DuBois, publishing several volumes of them under the distinguished Marxist scholar Dr. Herbert Aptheker, who was Dr. DuBois’ chosen executor of his papers.
I had rejected the idea of an armed revolution in America for some very complex reasons, when I went to Amherst. That was 43 years ago Dog, and it was 50 years ago that Max and I founded RAM! But when I quit the “revolutionary” movement I became a professor, and Max took longer to reach a similar conclusion, after spending time in prison for “revolutionary” activities.
He is now a professor too, right there at Temple University – as is Dr. Anthony Montiero, who also spent time in jail for “revolutionary” acts. Hence it seems that Ram cadres were not only way ahead of the BPP of Oakland in political development….but we evidently had far better character too. The book below was recently published by the Palmer Foundation; it istitled “Unveiling 150 Philadelphia Iconic Figures from 1950-2002.” When you interview Walt Palmer ask him to sell you one: Me, Max and Tony are all there!
It’s on the Record
Prominent Philadelphians of the last half century
So what if people you talked to don’t know me. There are plenty who do, and they were the ones who were around at the time. I know fuckin well that Dr. Ahmed didn’t tell you no shit like that; so don’t lie on him Dog. Because everything I am saying can be verified by neutral sources. What they will tell you is that I was the one with the big following in Philly, because I was presenting black history lectures on the radio; plus I was a highly skilled orator who could move a crowd. Max was the theoretician who had read widely in the works of Mao, but he was a boring speaker then and now, and he had no following.
So max conceived the organizational structure and was the chief theoretician, but I attracted the crowds from which the cadre was recruited with my black history lectures, which increasingly centered around the history of our struggle for liberation. We made an effective team, and when I began speaking around the country through the OIC network, whose centers were located in the black ghettoes all over the country, I was by far the most effective national recruiter for RAM. These were the years between 1962 and 1969, when I left the movement and became a professor.
These facts can be easily collaborated by both living witnesses, and the very accurate FBI Co-In-Tel-PRO documents. If you really want to know my story chump: DO SOME FUCKIN RESEARCH!!!!!! Beyond that you will have to await my memoir! I don’t generally make a point of emphasizing my role in RAM, because unlike your experience in the Black Panther Party, I don’tdefine myself by it. In fact, I consider it the folly of my youth…well intentioned folly, but folly no less!
Of course it does not surprise me that your approach to research is sloppy, because you have a history of undisciplined sloppy thinking. This is very clear from the revelations you share in your book: “Wish I Could tell you the Truth.” Well, if there is more to your story I can’t wait to hear it. However what you tell is damming evidence. I ask the readers to consider the following passage, where you and Huey Newton are sitting in a Oakland crack house contemplating the “Revolution.”
“…it had been a long day’s journey into night but it was ending. In 1989 I lost my comrade Huey Newton, killed by a young crack dealer in West Oakland. I was happy to have one last conversation with Huey, even though it was in the crack house. It was one of those rare times in the crack house when conversation was more important that smoking.” Then Marvin recreates the voice of Huey, who asks
Huey:“Jackmon, what we gonna do about the present situation?
To wit Marvin replied: “Well, it’s a pretty bad situation: the black army’s on crack – –the generals are on crack, man this is pitiful”
Huey replies: “We can come out of this, Man, we came out of slavery, see what I’m sayin?
Marvin: Yeah, we gonna come out of it or die…Being about five years for me, Huey, caused my family great pain and suffering. I’m sure you did too.”
Marvin X: “For what? Some hot air…?”
Huey: “Ah, don’t beat yaself, Jackmon, enjoy yourself…On a lighter note, have you seen you- know- who- lately?
Marvin X: “You mean your buddy?”
Huey: “Naw, Jackmon, your buddy!”
Marvin X: “I don’t see Eldridge much anymore, not after our little escapade driving down the street with the Damned desk on top of the car.”
Huey: “Yeah, that was some funny shit, Jackmon, that shit made Jet magazine. “
Marvin X: Huey, on the real, think you and him will ever get together?”
Huey: Not in my life time.”
Marvin X: “Why?”
Huey: “Too many people lost their lives behind Eldridge. Just too much blood on the path between us, man, too much blood. So even though I might want to get together with him, out of respect to the loved ones of those comrades who went down, I cannot deal with him, I will not deal with him.
Marvin X: Huey, fuck all that. Arabs kill each other in the Middle East every day, but the next moment they are hugging and praying together in the Mosque.”
Huey: “We ain’t Arabs… “
Huey was right Marvin, yhall ain’t Arabs, because Arabs would have actually committed “Revolutionary Suicide” to destroy the enemy and make a statement…not sit around in a crack house conducting a pity party, crying about how yhall can’t fight because the “army” and “the general” is on crack!!!!!
I have nothing more to say to you Marvin, you are just a sad little fat guy, an intellectual mediorcity living in the past. I shall let the readers reach their own conclusions. Alas, this exchange has degenerated to the level of what the wise old folks in Florida, who were sober as judges, used to call “a damned nigger mess!”
Every move you make justifies my view of you as a pretentious, hapless, fool. The proof of it is that you keep picking fights with your intellectual superior in public – anybody who doubts that you are my intellectual inferior should just read my broadly learned essays and compare them to the mindless prattle you write. Maybe you just get off on public humiliation. But I don’t want to play your jaded game anymore. Find somebody else to whip you for your sins!
Henceforth I shall follow my grandfather’s advice: “Never argue with a fool in public, because the people looking on can’t tell who’s who!” You, on the other hand, would do well to understand that while Shakespeare was right, “All the world is a stage,” you are not writing the script! Rather you should heed the warning of Mark Twain: “Tis far better to be thought a fool….than open yo mouth and remove all doubt!!!!!”
Pootbutt Poet Marvin X
The wisdom gained from 12 Years on CRACK!
Alas, Plato Negro I had to spank yo literary mentor too!
Chairing the Writers Panel with Sanchez and Baraka, Black Arts Festival
*** For my critique of Baraka read: ‘Amiri Baraka: Thought Policeman” on this blog.
Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
November 10, 2012