Saturday, March 27, 2010

Parable of the Man Who Left the Mountain

Parable of the Man
Who Left the Mountain
On April 4, 2008, forty years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I found myself packing to return to the Bay Area, a killing floor for black people. During the past five years, I was blessed to write and publish five books at my retreat in the rolling hills of Cherokee, California: (In the Crazy House Called America, Wish I Could Tell You the Truth, Land of My Daughters; Beyond Religion, Toward Spirituality; How to Recover from the Addiction to White Supremacy.

I thank my patron, Abdul Leroy James, for making it possible for me to write the books. I appreciate the wonderful care doctors gave me at the hospital in Paradise, especially Dr. Linda Valles, who urged me to take care of my health because she realized I had great work to do. I shared my writings with her and she shared them with the other doctors who treated me.

She was seriously concerned that nothing happen to me “on her watch,” such as a heart attack or stroke. She admonished and inspired me to keep my blood pressure under control, along with my cholesterol (LDL) and enlarged prostate. I encourage my brothers to do the same. It takes time and work, but as they say, our health is our wealth.

And as the brothers told me when I entered prison, “Don’t get sick!” But it wasn’t the fortieth anniversary of MLK’s transition that made me sit at the computer to pen this article. Of course I can never forget that day. I was underground in Chicago when he was killed, having returned to the US from Canada as a resister to the war in Viet Nam. The west side of Chicago burned, as did one hundred American cities.

I got up the next morning on the south side to find it under occupation by the National Guard. A few days later, in reprisal to the murder of King, on April 8, 1968, my friends in California in the Black Panther Party staged a shootout with the Oakland police. Eldridge Cleaver was wounded and 17 year old Lil’ Bobby Hutton was murdered by the pigs after his surrender.

But as I packed for the return to the city, it reminded me of when I returned to Oakland in 1979, specifically to help stop the killing of black men by the Oakland police. I was teaching at the University of Nevada, Reno, and was treated royally by the people of Nevada, even though it is considered one of the most conservative states in the Union.

In mockery of the sign Welcome to the Biggest Little City in the World, I’d written The Biggest Little Mississippi in the World. Was I ungrateful? But my friends in Oakland urged me to give up the “good life” and return to the battlefield, especially after my best friend’s 15 year old brother was killed by the police, Melvin Black, shot twelve times.

The OPD had been killing a black man per month. Melvin was the last. I returned to help plan and organize the Melvin Black Human Rights Forum at the Oakland Auditorium. I invited Minister Farrakhan, Angela Davis, Donald Warden, Oba T’Shaka, Eldridge Cleaver, Huey Newton, Paul Cobb and others. Five thousand people came and stayed from twelve noon to midnight without incident. Journalist Edith Austin wrote a classic review of the event in the Sun Reporter newspaper.

Oakland’s first black mayor Lionel Wilson and Congressman Ron Dellums refused to come. Farrakhan blasted them in his keynote address. But after this event, the police killing of black men ceased. But our relief was short lived because what followed has continued since 1979: black on black homicide. At first it was turf wars over Crack, drive-by killings with Uzi’s.

These days, assault weapons are en vogue, but thirty years later the slaughter continues.
But I am not returning as the self-appointed savior. I am older and wiser now. I see the matter as an economic problem, but equally a spiritual disease or mental health issue, for only sick souls desire to murder each other, and once it starts, after a short time it becomes an addiction, a pandemic—yes, worldwide.

Are we not spending twelve billion dollars per month to maim and murder in Iraq? Do we not have a trillion dollar annual defense budget. It is predicted the total cost of the war in Iraq will be three trillion dollars. Do we yet expect peace at home? Bush says better over there than here, apparently he is blind to the slaughter outside the White House where disease, ignorance, drugs wars and murder fill the streets of Washington, DC and other cities coast to coast.

In Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, there is one murder or more per day. The mayor called for one hundred thousand peace keepers to help make the streets safe. What if the defense budget was truly spent on homeland security: for economic parity, health care for all, educational upgrade in science and technology, reformation of prison inmates so they can be productive members of society?

What if, what if, what if? And so, in the fourth quarter of my life, I can only attempt to finish the work of being active in the cause of social justice, of using my pen to speak truth, to put my body in the battlefield for the freedom we all deserve. The true test of the holy man is not up in the mountains but down on the ground, on the streets of the wicked cities where the devils roam in the day and in the night. We must embrace them with unconditional love, for if there is one thing a devil needs, it is love, to learn to love and to be loved in return.

Yes, the old soldier is going home to Oakland, the town that consumed those wonderful years of his childhood and most of his adulthood, from 7th Street in West Oakland to Grove Street (MLK) where he obtained black consciousness on the steps of Merritt College, along with Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale and others. Perhaps it is possible the City of Oakland needs to be reminded that to win over the insurgents in Iraq’s Anbar Province, the US gave them jobs securing their neighborhoods. Maybe if our youth were given similar jobs, crime, including drug selling, homicide and prostitution would decline, maybe overnight.

Certainly it’s worth the try. Mayor Ron Dellums has made a start by not asking the criminal history of job applicants. He can immediately train and hire unemployed youth, including former prison inmates, to secure the hood, block by block. They should be trained in conflict resolution and anger management. It is obvious the Oakland police are unable, unwilling or unqualified to stop the killing. Isn’t it time to try Plan B?

Do it in the name of our brother, the Prince of Peace, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Just remember, he wasn’t a glorified social worker—he was a revolutionary! He didn’t try to maintain the status quo, he caused a radical change in the status quo. We have the same task, youth and elders, for we stand on the shoulders of MLK and all the ancestors who resisted through the centuries.

--Marvin X

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