When asked how he came to possess such great wisdom, Lokman replied: "It is in seeing the actions of vicious and wicked people and comparing them with what my conscience tells me regarding such actions, that I have learned what I ought to avoid and what I ought to do. The wise and prudent man will draw a useful lesson even from poison itself, while the precepts of the wisest man mean nothing to the thoughtless."
--from Lokman,World's Great Men of Color, J.A. Rogers, Vol. 1
Plato: Baldwin objected to Richard Wright's thesis that Bigger Thomas represented twenty million blacks who would one day strike out and murder to avenge their oppression.
Simone: I agree with him. To me, he was mentally ill, not thoughtful, intellectual. But in the Outsider, Wright gave us a more developed character with intelligence.
Plato: Well, in Baraka's Dutchman, we have Clay, a black middle class intellectual who again suggests murder or violence as the solution to oppression. Plato reads Clay's monologue:
...And I sit here, in this buttoned-up suit, to keep myself from cutting all your throats. I mean wantonly. You great liberated whore! You fuck some black man, and right away you're an expert on black people. What a lotta shit that is. The only thing you know is that you come if he bangs you hard enough. And that's all. The belly rub? You wanted to do the belly rub? Shit, you don't even know how. You don't know how. That ol' dipty-dip shit you do, rolling your ass like a elephant. That's not my kind of belly rub. Belly rub is not Queens. Belly rub is dark places, with big hats and overcoats help up with one arm. Belly rub hates you. Old bald-headed four-eyed ofays popping their fingers...and don't know yet what they're doing. They say, "I love Bsssie Smith." And don't even understand that Bessie Smith is saying, "Kiss my ass, kiss my black unruly ass." Before love, suffering, desire, anything you can explain, she's saying, and very plainly, "Kiss my black ass." And if you don't know that, it's you that's doing the kissing.
Charlie Parker? Charlie Parker. All the hip white boys scream for Bird. And Bird saying, "Up your ass, feeble-minded ofay! Up your ass." And they sit there talking about the tortured genius of Charlie Parker. Bird would've played not a note of music if he just walked up to EAst Sixty-seventh Street and killed the first ten white people he saw. Not a note!
And I'm the great would-be poet. Yes. That's right! Poet. Some kind of bastard literature....all it needs is a simple knife thrust. Just let me bleed you, you loud whore, and one poem vanished. A whole people of neurotics, struggling to keep from being sane. And the only thing that would cure the neurosis would by your murder.
Simple as that. I mean if I murdered you, then other white people would begin to understand me. You understand? No. I guess not. If Bessie Smith had killed some white people she wouldn't have needed that music. She could have talked very straight and plain about the world. No metaphors. No grunts. No wiggles in the dark of her soul. Just straight two and two are four. Money. Power. Luxury. Like that. All of them. Crazy niggers turning their backs on sanity. When all it needs is that simple act. Murder. Just murder! Would make us all sane...
Simone: That was a great reading.
Plato: Thank you. But the subject of violence is a motif in our literature. Franz Fanon talks about it in Wretched of the Earth, that it is therapeutic for the oppressed, but not internal violence, only that directed upon the oppressor. When Louvell Mixon killed four policemen, Dr. Fritz Pointer said the black community experienced an obscene pride.
Ramal: Yes, and it happened on the Spring Equinox or the true New Year celebration. In contrast, the murder of Oscar Grant, his crucifixion, happened on January 1st, the European New Year.
Plato: So it's a difference in mythology.
Rashidah: January 1st is a day black people did not celebrate because it was the day blacks were sold during slavery. It was a day of dread, for on that day we would likely be separated from our family, our mates and children, parents. We went on the auction block on New Year's Day. Growing up, my family did not celebrate January 1st. We prayed or went to church. So our celebration of January 1st shows our addiction to white supremacy.
Simone: What about the 4th of July?
Plato: Of course, you must read the classic statement on that day, the speech by Frederick Douglas. No one has better described what that day means to us.
Simone: I haven't read his speech.
Plato: You must read it, if you never read anything else in black history! But myth is all there is. The word or myth, the story, and then the ritual or enactment of the story. Ritual is the drama. We have the original Osirian drama of Resurrection based on the ancient myth, and of course the myth is based on nature itself, the annual inundation of the Nile River. Also the renewal of crops such as corn.
And a little later in time a guy named Jesus enacts the same myth, the savior myth. He is born in purity, the virgin birth, teaches and preaches in opposition to the powers, then is betrayed, crucified, resurrected and ascends to heaven. The black man's story is similar: born a virgin in Africa, betrayed by his brother's, i.e., sold into slavery (Joseph's story is the same), after centuries of slavery is emancipated by his own effort--after resisting and rebelling constantly (see Negro Slave Revolt's by Herbert Aptheker), then again betrayed by Reconsruction, but slowly resurrected from the grave of ignorance, especially after Garvey, Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, Fannie Lou Hammer, et. al. But his story is also the myth of Sisyphus, up and down the mountain.
In the 60s ascended to new heights, regained his collective black consciousness and stood tall as never before. Then he relapsed, went into reaction, actually a reverse evolution. We might say he advanced and retreated simultaneously, yes, defying the law of physics. How the hip hop brothers keep up their sagging pants is symbolic--they defy the law of physics!
This generation became the most affluent in history and the most poverty stricken at the same time, the most intelligent or conscious, and yet the most ignorant and mentally dead.
Ramal: But I have hope for this generation. As a teacher of youth, I have hope. I see them everyday. They can come back. We see them shaking up the world with hip hop. They are powerful.
Plato: Yes, even in their negocities, as Baraka says. The world loves the Negro and hates him as in the poem by Paradise.
Paradise: Yeah, they love everything about us but us. They love the black style, the smile, the black music, the black meat, the black body, the black feet. They love everything about us but us.
Rashidah: We are critical to the world. We are why the world exists, those black boys and girls, they are the savior children, that's why they are under attack, crucified. But in the end, these children will be the reason for the season.
Plato: Ancestor John D. used to teach that the black man and woman, and especially that black man, was the vortex, that the world orbits around him. We must therefore protect him and surround him with love because he is precious.