Friday, July 15, 2011
What did Sun Ra teach?
He taught the need for discipline in the artistic life, not freedom. He told me to stop teaching my actors freedom when discipline was needed. He demonstrated discipline by keeping his band together for over twenty years. When I got him to take a young actor of mine on European tour, he sent the very talented singer/musician home because he lacked discipline. He taught me not to be so moral, especially when I took a scene out of my musical with a sex scene. He was horrified that I had done so. He said, "Marvin you so right you wrong. That scene was the best one in the play. That's what people want, a little dirt. They don't want to truth, they want the low down dirty truth."
Most importantly, he taught the importance of mythology and ritual theatre, breaking down that fourth wall and merging with the audience, becoming one and indivisible, thus reaching the level of African communal theatre wherein there is no audience, only the community. His Arkestra, including poets, singers, dancers, and mixed media, expanded the potential of black theatre. It was a great experience performing with an Arkestra as opposed to simply reading solo or even with a small band. This is no doubt why I can only conceive of theatre as extravaganza in terms of performance, space and time.
Imagine being able to work with some of the greatest musicians in the world, aside from Sun Ra himself, there was John Gilmore, Danny Thompson, June Tyson, and Marshall Allen. See my DVD Live in Philly at Warmdaddy's, which I call 39 minutes of Jazz history. The set included Marshall Allen and Danny Thompson, along with bagpipe legend Rufus Harley and myself reading poetry. Also Elliott Bey, Ancestor Goldsky and Alexander El.
We can say that Sun Ra had a profound influence on the Black Arts Movement coast to coast. He was a founding member of Amiri Baraka's Black Arts Theatre in Harlem as well as a worker at my Black Educational Theatre in the Fillmore.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Those who have a problem understanding the complexity of Marvin X, need only understand he was a student and colleague of Sun Ra, the bandleader of the Arkestra that Marvin X performed with on the east coast and west coast. Sun Ra worked with Marvin X at his Black Educational Thearte in the Fillmore, 1972. Sun Ra did the musical version of his play Flowers for the Trashaman, retitled Take Care of Business.
Sun Ra and Marvin X did a five hour production of Take Care of Business at the Harding Theatre on Divisadero Street in San Francisco, 1972. Sun Ra also told Marvin X he would be hired to lecture in the Black Studies Department at the University of California, Berkeley. Marvin X doubted Sun Ra since Gov. Ronald Reagan had banned him from teaching at Fresno State College in 1969, the same year he banned Angela Davis from teaching at UCLA. Marvin X did indeed teach at UCB and his off campus class was at his Black Educational Theatre in the Fillmore. Sun Rn worked with him and the Harding Theatre concert was a five hour show without intermission, that consisted of a fifty member cast, including the Sun Ra Arkestra, the Ellendar Barnes dancers, along with the Raymond Saywer dancers and the Marvin X actors.
As salaamu alaikum,
Prepare for a day of Fun &
Enjoying the presence of each other.
Please save the date of July 16, 2011. As this is a day that has been set aside for members of our Community to gather in Unity.
This is a POTLUCK event, so bring food to feed at least 5 people. Some food & drinks will be provided by the planning committee of this event.
We have a line of entertainment that will be provided at this event:
A day organized from 11am to 5pm
Location: Defremery Park
Street: 18th & Adeline Street
City/Town: Oakland, California
Phone: Khalid 510-927-8055; Qualaam 510-776-9199
Event Type: social, historical
Organized By: Unity "N" The Community Brotherhood
A day where we can revitalize, socialize, and revitalize our relationships through eating together, praying together and enjoying the presence of everyone.
A day starting at 11:00am. A Day called: MUSLIM UNITY;MEETING & REUNION
Inviting those contributing, living, and working From 1950-2011;But of course all are invited
Again Save the Date to join us as we:
* Recognize from our Ranks Pioneers
* Embrace The Diversity of our Communities
* Empower One Another through Social Bonding
1. Muslims from Different Communities
2. Pioneers from The Nation of Islam
3. Current Members of The Nation of Islam
4. All Faith Based People
Please come with your Families,your Friends your Blankets and chairs for your personal comfort or the comfort of others and be sure to bring your Table Spread (Food)
I was talking with my barber, a young man in search of his Lord, Jesus Christ. I know he is a baby spiritually, so I am gentle with him. Unless he asks, I don’t tell him anything, specially about religion--people can get real crazy about religion--fanatic is the word.
Once he asked my advice on women since he was having problems with his girlfriend.
I told him not to worry, stay on the straight path and eventually his woman would do the right thing. I laid in out for him in stages or as we say in theatre, in acts: act one, two and three. I even broke it down to him in scenes, telling him what would happen in Act Three, Scene One. Of course he didn’t believe anything I said, but weeks later when I saw him, he smiled and told me things happened exactly as I had told him, from Act One through Act Three. His woman stopped messing with the other dude and reconciled with Johnny, and eventually they had a baby daughter and she joined church with him. Johnny often recalls the dramatic structure I laid out for him. I’ve said all this to say Johnny has confidence in me as a teacher.
So when he asked me about religion, I told him how I see it.
Johnny, religion is one thing, God is another. Never confuse the two. There are many religious, but one Supreme Being, One Universal Force or Higher Power that is in all things: man, animals, nature, the universe. Johnny, religion is a way to God, laws, rules, a path to God, a roadmap up the mountain where God awaits at the mountaintop. Now you may have budding God consciousness as you make your way up the mountain to have intercourse with God, but it is only when you reach the top that intercourse happens, let’s say that is when you climax, before that is the chase, the ordeal by fire, then the joy of completion--it is a lifelong journey. Now people in these various religions attempt to go through the degrees to reach ultimate God consciousness, but few make it up the mountain. They are like Sisyphus, the man in the Greek myth who was doomed to fall back down the mountain holding a rock for eternity. Most people start the climb but fall back down and must begin again until they get it right, but only a chosen few are able to make it to the top to receive the Divine blessing of light, truth and love.
Many of these religious people can be seen going up the mountain fighting, hating, even killing along the path, thus they fall down and must begin anew. They wonder why they never make it to the top. Sometimes their fists are balled up so when they reach a station on their path, they cannot reach into their pocket to pay the toll and cannot continue. They are stuck and cannot go farther. They may wail, shout, get the holy ghost, but they will not reach their destination. Some lack direction, discipline, understanding, so again like Sisyphus, they slip and fall to the bottom. At this point they may become disillusioned and give up, falling into the ditch of illusions, addictions worse than their spiritual blindness caused by dogmatism, sectarianism and narrow-mindedness. They were overly concerned about what the others were doing on their paths, so they lost their focus, concentration. And one cannot reach the mountaintop with ignorance, no matter what religion, whether monotheism, polytheism; whether Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, or traditional African religions.
Of course by their very nature, religions breed ignorance and dogmatism. Every religion claims absolute truth based on holy words or books, thus if one is not the member of a certain faith or sect, one is doomed to hell, and of course only devils live in hell, so the non-believers can be stoned, burned, lynched, or killed, then sent to hell properly.
All the while, these religions teach and preach love, but it is a strange love, especially when one does not have a membership card in the Club of Heavenly Faith or the Holy Ghost Muslim Word.
There are interfaith and ecumenical movements attempting to spread toleration and understanding, but they are a small voice in movement toward spiritual enlightenment. Such enlightenment seems reserved for those with mystical inclination, such as the Sufi and others seeking spiritual consciousness that transcends sectarianism.
We say with a surety that ultimate spirituality can only be achieved when the believer is totally without prejudice in matters of Divine, when it is immaterial whether a person is of this or that religion, sect, cult or denomination, no matter what is said in various scriptures. The Sufi says, “The only religion is the religion of the heart.”
It is of no matter what is in books or in the heads of believers when there is no sincere love in their hearts. The heart is the acid test of spirituality. When God is alive in the hearts of men and women, it matters not what is in books or in their heads, for if we followed the books, this discussion would be unnecessary, and if we followed our natural intelligence it would be unnecessary. Thus, we must close the books, jump out of our heads and dwell in the region of the heart in order to arrive at radical spirituality.
Traditional religions are of no value in the global village of today. We need only look at the nightly news to see the strife and killing being done in the name of various religions.
We need the wisdom of Solomon to see our way to the mountaintop: religion is vanity and vexation of spirit. Let not our fate be the same as Sisyphus: to eternally approach the Divine, yet slip and fall as we near intercourse with the Eternal Light.