From the archives: Salaam, Huey Newton, Salaam, Marvin X play in New York; Amiri Baraka's The Toilet

Salaam, Huey Newton, Salaam

Marvin X Play in New York

Actor Ganno Grills (Marvin X), Marvin X and Amiri Baraka

Marvin X’s one-act play (with co-author Ed Bullins) Salaam, Huey Newton, Salaam, has been running at Woody King’s New Federal Theatre since October 23. It ends Sunday, November 16. Salaam, Huey Newton, Salaam is a scene from X’s full length docudrama of his Crack addiction One Day In The Life, performed coast to coast during the late 90s.Ishmael Reed says One Day In the Life is the most powerful drama he’s seen.
After viewing the current production of Salaam, Huey Newton, Marvin X says it is powerful beyond my expectations. The dramatic structure provided by Ed Bullins, the direction of Mansoor Najee-ullah, and most of all the acting of Harrison Lee as Huey P. Newton, Michael Alcide as Young Brother and Gano Grills as Marvin X was high quality which took my writing to another level. Even the mixed media prologue with a historical video and sound track was excellent. It was great to see Elijah Muhammad in proper perspective within the black liberation movement. We see clips of him speaking, pictured with Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.. And there were clips of Kwame Toure, Angela Davis, Eldridge and Kathleen Cleaver, Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton.

But have no doubt, this play says more about Marvin X than Huey Newton. Yes, we see Huey in his last days as a drug addict in conversation with Marvin X at a West Oakland Crack house, scene of their last meeting before Huey was murdered by a youth. It is indeed ironic that Young Brother repeatedly told Huey how much he respected him, yet it was a young brother who murdered Huey for allegedly taking his Crack. Huey was known to shake down Oakland Crack dealers. His last days were the tragic end of a revolutionary who nevertheless made a profound contribution to black liberation. 

But the prophetic words of Marvin X dominate the play, challenging the audience to recover from our myriad addictions and afflictions as a result of white supremacy. Thank you, Woody King for making this production possible. 

Two other one-acts fill the evening: Amarie by Hugh L. Fletcher, about adult sexual abuse and Amiri Baraka’s classic The Toilet, which deals with the theme of racial homophobia.

Both are excellent productions which add to an evening of black power theatre, letting us know the Black Arts Movement is still relevant. Wednesday night’s performance was attended by Mr. and Mrs. Baraka, along with actors Glenn Thurman and John Amos. These veterans of theatre applauded the cast and praised them as the next generation of theatre “magicians,” the term used by veteran director/actor Hampton V. Clanton who directed The Toilet.

Marvin X’s remarks ended the evening when he said

“These young actors, in order to really be successful and avoid some of the pitfalls of BAM (the Black Arts Movement) must not only be skilled actors but must detoxify and decolonize their minds of white supremacy notions, such as egotism which is the tragic flaw of artists everywhere.”

Marvin X. Jackmon

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