Plato Negro got up early to prepare for a talk with students at the California College of the Arts, at the invitation of San Francisco poet laureate emeritus devorah major. The route by public transportation was complicated so he started out early that morning for the noon session in San Francisco.
By ten a.m. he was downtown Oakland at his academy of da corner, just hanging around before the trip into San Francisco. A few minutes later he departed on the BART train to the City, getting off downtown at Market and Powell. He ascended upstairs to chill at the Cable Car turn around, his old hustling spot back in the day when he was a drug addict, but was called the richest negro in downtown San Francisco for his hustling prowess, according to the old men who stood around watching the goings on at Market and Powell. They estimated he made three hundred dollars per hour hustling near the Cable Car. That was the old days, back in the 80s, but it all went to the dope man, so it was all for naught, a hot air balloon ride to nowhere, flying high in the friendly sky, never leaving the ground.
This morning he stood at the BART rail observing the people, the tourists lined up for the Cable Car ride to Fisherman's Wharf in the most wonderful city in the world. Weaving in and out of the tourists were the derelicts, mental patients, hustlers and workers. Not much had changed, maybe the cast of characters, but the roles continued.
He watched the tap dancer getting down to James Brown on his boom box; dancing on the side of his shoes, on the tip, the back, on the sidewalk, the metal grate, a wooden circle that was his stage. The tourists photographed him and put a dollar into his donation box. Plato dropped a dollar and continued on his journey to the college.
He descended the BART stairs and boarded the train to 16th and Mission, another old spot from his hustling days. Sixteenth and Mission was another world from Market and Powell. The Mission was the Latin district mainly, but at 16th it was a multi-cultural crowd of dope fiends, hustlers, workers and all points in between. It was the major crossroads of the Mission, long known for drugs, homicide and prostitution. The sex workers passed in their inviting outfits on a sunny day.
A heroin addict sold bus transfers for his hustle. Latin and black men sat on the benches at the BART station. It was a hot day so people were out and about, also it was Friday, so the crossroads was packed.
Plato hung around observing for a minute, stalling for time before his talk. He eventually boarded the #22 bus to the college, still early. He went to the building where he had to sign in, but was misdirected to another building for the class. He bought coffee and sat down. Security in the second building directed him back to the first building after calling his host and getting the correct location.
He saw the professor pass but didn't disturb her. A few minutes later she appeared. He greeted her and told her to handle her business. She told him of her problems with the college, second class treatment, something Plato was aware of since it is typical with white supremacy institutions, including black face white supremacy institution, as in the case of Chicago State University that recently forced BAM poet Haki Madhubuti out.
When he arrived at the classroom of graduate students, he began his presentation reading from The Wisdom of Plato Negro, his new book of parables and fables, specifically, Parable of the Poor Righteous Teacher, Parable of the Parrot, Parable of the Madpoet and Parable of the Cell Phone.
The class of mainly white and Asian students had a few questions, but the professor asked him to tell of his work in theatre, so he did, describing the Black Arts West Theatre he and playwright Ed Bullins established in the Fillmore, 1966, and later the Black House with Eldridge Cleaver, Ed Bullins and Ethna W'yatt (Hurriyah Asar). He told of his work at the New Lafayette Theatre in Harlem, and how the Black Arts was the mother of those who joined the political revolution, citing members of the Black Panther Party, including Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, Emory Douglas, Samuel Napier and George Murray--all went through the consciousness raising Black Arts movement, then joined the BPP. This shows the necessity of the cultural revolution.
A student asked how was he able to multi-task? He said being a Gemini, he had multiple personalities and always traveled with at least ten people, even when he was at home there were ten people in the house at all times. Another student asked about his daughter who was into hip hop and how he dealt with her as a parent? He quoted his daughter who said, "You may not like hip hop, but if you want to understand me, you better understand hip hop!"
He said while in the lobby of the college sipping coffee, he observed some young men with sagging pants, so he questioned himself on how he would handle such cultural phenomena if he were to establish Plato Negro's Republic. Would there be freedom of speech or censorship? Would there be freedom of dress or uniforms? Would there be freedom of sexuality, including gay, lesbian and transgender equality with heterosexuals, or suppression? Would he be conservative or liberal, radical? Or would he institute a Talibanesque reactionary regime? Would there be freedom of religion or would he force people to accept his notion of spirituality?
These were his thoughts as he sipped coffee and observed the young men. He told the class he would need to ponder these issues further, although he had written some initial thoughts on the concept of a nation in an essay Imagine a Nation.
A student asked about Plato’s use of parables and fables. He said it has been known for some time he was master of the short short story (Ayodele Nzingha). This form seems perfect for people with short attention span, the video generation, additionally, he wanted to move past the poetry genre since everybody and their mama is a poet.
The last thing I wants to be is what everybody else is. I beg to be different. I want to stay ahead of the pack. I run while the dogs are sleeping and sleep while the dogs are running!
The parable fits my moral or ethical prerogative, allowing my didacticism to run full range. Woody King of
Plato ended the session reading three poems that were his favorites from his collection Land of My Daughters, 2005: Dreamtime, What is Love and You Are Spirit. The poems charged the room with love and spirituality. The professor, poet/novelist devorah major seemed to be in a swoon, taken somewhere else by the love poems, in contrast to the highly political parables. Today is her birthday, so Plato presented her a copy of the poems Land of My Daughters.
Plato departed back to Oakland to his Academy of Da Corner, 14th and Broadway, where he was soon approached by several people who lined up for spiritual counseling. A brother had come saying he only had soldiers around him, yet he said he came into his house and his woman's friends were all over the house, totally dissing him. He corrected the sisters by telling them he was the king, but clearly the problem began with his woman rather than her friends. Was she a soldier as he claimed?
One brother came by very anxious and Plato wanted to help him but told the brother to be patient, that he was attending a mother trying to save her daughter. She had purchased several of Plato's books for her children, but this daughter was so wrapped up and entangled with men that she was lost and her mother was concerned. How can you be out all night with a man and come home without money for baby pampers?
The mother wanted Plato to help the 30 year old with her baby daughter at her side, but the young woman was busy on the cell phone so Plato didn't press her, instead he told her he would talk with her after she read Mythology of Dick and Pussy that her mother had just purchased for her. Her mother had already purchased copies for her sons. She said the pamphlet improved their behavior.
When the mother and daughter departed, Plato turned to the anxious brother but he was trying to catch the bus. Plato tried to decipher his problem which was with his woman. Other than the white man, black men have no other pressing problem--maybe with another brother, but 90% of the brothers come to Plato with male/female problems.
Plato asked the agitated brother if his woman had read Mythology, the brother said no because he didn't want her to read it. Plato said maybe that was why he was having problems with her, keeping her in the dark. Young women claimed MOD and P empowered them. The brother was troubled but had to run, so he departed.
And so the day ended. When the mother read at the bottom of the parable poster that 14th and Broadway was his classroom, she said she didn't realize it was his classroom. Plato whispered to her, "Classroom/clinic!" And so it is.