In The Crazy House Called America
ESSAYS BY MARVIN X
BLACK BIRD PRESS, $19.95
by James W. Sweeney
For the past decade I have devoted my life to working with the multi-diagnosed, mentally disabled, and homeless population at the Oakland Independent Support Center, Inc. in Oakland, California. After a time, many of my clients show vast improvement. Most do not suffer from self-hate but do evidence self-dislike. Because 95% of my clients are black, knowledge of our history and past has passed them by and too many clients are not aware of their potent and powerful possibilities. Too many can't read and most did not do themselves much good in traditional schools. Enter Marvin X. He is a living, breathing illustration of a black man with meaning, imbued with legitimate and multi-faced black perspectives, not some Negro intellectual who buck dances and bows to whatever view might curry favor with the white establishment.
Do not get me wrong, there is much that Marvin writes, however lucid, that I disagree with, but like Voltaire said, "I wholly disapprove of what you say but defend until death your right to say it." What is special about Marvin X is not his world view but his unique life. Simply put, he shatters the glass ceiling in place for the homeless, the addict, the ex-offender, that consigns many to the perpetual demons that keep clients in social quicksand, mental manacles and devoid of other than subsistence dollars.
Marvin is about mending his life, the lives of other blacks, and humanity in general. He misses little, whether the topic is the Million Man March or intimate partner violence. Because he crossed the road from hell, his example makes a difference as he pointedly bull's-eye the real deal: we all need love and acceptance, even in his relationship with the sex worker. Indeed, Marvin is about giving you the unexpurgated version of his and your life. He walked through the muck and mire of hell and came out clean as white fish and black as coal. If Marvin X can transcend the muck and mire, so can other clients and African Americans in general--in fact, every man/woman can, no matter your ethnicity, religion, gender and/or sexual preference.
Yes, Marvin is clean, sober, sane, sharp, cogent and aims his unflinching criticism at black and white humanity--and despite himself, he imparts wisdom and insight.
He is a black man who did it all with his son, yet today we feel and identify this dad's pain over his son's abrupt and untimely suicide. His son was not just another statistic, but a young man whose plenary potential was not fully realized. This theme of unrealized potential is consistent whether Marvin's pen is turned toward black liberation, power, love, mental health, racism, politics, drugs, poverty, illiteracy, family, war, and a plethora of other topics.
I agree with Marvin's exhortation to look within and find peace in spirituality, balance and the realization that in the final analysis we can be and do anything because we all have a calling from the Most High.
I recommend this book to the mentally disabled, drug addicted, homeless, and those suffering from any addiction, especially racism, greed, lust and the one billion other illusions of life. All of us can gain from Marvin's gamut of emotions from laughter to pain, from insight to what some may call "garbage mouth profanity."
The real Marvin is both courageous and outrageous, but keep turning the pages in this engaging, engrossing and enabling collection of essays IN THE CRAZY HOUSE CALLED AMERICA.
James Sweeney is executive director of the Oakland Independent Support Center, Inc., an outpatient center for the grass roots who suffer mental disabilities. Marvin X is grateful for the assistance OISC gave him.