Thankyou for your patience as we work out the kinks with “The Indie: Independent Art, Independent Business, Independent Thought”, my new radio show airing on the Paradise Radio Network, CBS Radio and http://www.alvinjones.com and notarapper.icom. This interview is just in time to lead into the celebration of Malcolm X’s Birthday! Feel free to read a long with the transcript, and check out the correlating music videos that go with the 3 songs I played during the radio broadcast including Love & Hate by Radio Rahim, Cold by Leftist and Destiny by Rae Shine. Thankyou!
Bomani Armah: Welcome everyone to the Even Place, my name is Bomani Armah. We are here doing The Indie show, it’s about independent thought, independent art, independent business. Our guest today is Dr. Jared A. Ball. I brought him here today to talk about a book. Actually, let me talk about the book that his book is about first, it’s a book called The Life of Reinvention: Malcolm X by Manning Marable. I read this book last year. I’ve been trying to study more about Malcolm X and like a lot of people, I was drawn into the whole idea that this might be the definitive work on the man’s life. It was endorsed by a lot of the, you know, leading black intellectuals and then I came to find out that a
lot of black intellectuals that I know personally and respect, did not particularly like Manning Marable’s take on Malcolm X and so actually Dr. Jared A. Ball and Todd Steven Burroughs came out with a book called and so after reading his book, I brought him in today because I definitely wanted to talk to him so—. How are you doing today Jared?
Jared Ball: As good as could be expected. Thanks for having me.
Bomani Armah: Alright, cool, cool. I actually known Jared for a while. I respect him a lot. He’s on top of being a professor, you know doing things in media relations. He does the—he did the voxunion mix tapes and all that other kind of stuff so between working on hip hop and black culture and stuff like that, I really respect all the work that you do and I’m really excited about this book, your response to Manning Marable’s Malcolm X. So, I would let you to set it up like what was the impetus for making this book?
Jared Ball: Well, you know it started with—first of all, it started with my colleague and I having this profound excitement for years over the work that we’ve been hearing about that was forthcoming from Manning Marable. And for those who had been sort of in black cultural spaces and conferences and who were just avid readers and lovers of Malcolm X, it was this persistent and long-term conversation underground about the missing chapters of the autobiography and all these research and Manning Marable was going to be bringing something new to the discussion and so we were excited, you know, we were excited and wanting to get the missing chapters and learn more and we had a deep respect for Manning Marable whose career we had obviously known about and followed for a long time.
But then as the book started to get close to publication, we started getting some early warning signs. First for me was the review that came out from Carl Evans who was a noted Malcolm X biographer and historian researcher. And then, you know, he was very harsh on the book. He wrote a very heavy critique of the book.
Bomani Armah: He’s not one of the people who was quoted on the back of the book?
Jared Ball: No, he’s not one of the people quoted on the back of the book.
Bomani Armah: And you would think if, you know Carl Evans—because he also did Elijah Mohammad as well like he’s very into the Nation of Islam.
Jared Ball: That’s right, that’s right. He’s very critical of the Nation of Islam.
Bomani Armah: But he knows that [inaudible 03:00].
Jared Ball: But he’s very intimately aware of the history and the assassination and the politics of Malcolm X and as he said and I would agree, a lot of what he wrote about shows up in Marable’s book without attribution, right. So, we started getting worried and then we’d use my little radio show to do—to have a discussion about it after we have read Carl Evans review and seen what Richard Prince, his online column Journalisms was talking about with some early criticism of the book, concern about the book.
Then my colleague Todd Burroughs got the book before I did and just looked at the some simple points about the method the way the book was put together and his eyebrows started raising, his flags started going off and then when I got the book, and as I do with books like that, particularly large books like that, I read the introduction and the conclusion first, and then I go back to the body. And once I did that, it was pretty clear that this was a political document one that was reframing Malcolm X for a more white mainstream liberal national audience and it was weakening his radicalism and I became greatly concern and so as we got into the book more and more of the problem started just rolling out.
Bomani Armah: I think I was initially, and not being nearly the Malcolm X scholar that you were. I think I was initially drawn into the idea of how in depth he went into the society that Malcolm X was a part of. But, until I was hearing people bring it up—like he does make a lot of statements on, yes this was what Malcolm was saying in public but this is what he really meant.
And he did a lot of that especially towards the end of the book and one of the things I want to bring up, I mean you’re opening to your book because it’s actually a compilation. Let me talk about the people you have on here. So these are different contributors, it just sounds like, it seems like—were there are a lot of articles submitted specifically for this or this was basically you were just pulling it from these people who had already written and then just putting them all in the same place?
Jared Ball: Well, a little bit of both. Some of them are previously published essays online.
Bomani Armah: I saw that in the notes. So we have Mumia Abu-Jamal, Kali Akuno—some of the names I recognized immediately. Amiri Baraka is on here, let’s see Carl Evans; like I said, I read his other biographies that he’d done. And so these people, and there’s like twelve people on here—fifteen people on here who had serious issues with it and one of the main points that you bring up in the introduction to the entire book is, you know because there’s one thing to disagree with someone about their perspective on someone’s life but the problem is that Manning Marable and the University he works for and the printing company that he works for are branded as authorities and so this is going to take precedent over a lot of other people’s opinions of what happen to Malcolm X. So it’s not—he has a long opinion and he has a long and loud opinion which is going to be hard for people to debate against, [inaudible 05:55].
Jared Ball: Well, one of the reasons that we wanted to have a collective response was that we didn’t think that or certainly I didn’t think this was something that I as an individual could take on or should take on.
Bomani Armah: Right, right, right.
Jared Ball: And we wanted to have a group, again a collective response is Margot Arnold, one of our contributor’s points out, she says that the black radical collective consciousness which is a concept I really come to like, deserved a response. Now, so Mumia wrote us an original essay. He had published an initial response that—.
Bomani Armah: It’s klnd of a recanting of his own life.
Jared Ball: He kind of does and he actually has one of the—actually his piece is the only one we have in our book that is at all appreciative of Marable, but you know, it’s Mumia and he’s in prison. So, it’s not like you could just easily go back and forth but he does refer to the book as his tragic in terms of its—Marable’s book in terms of its absence of discussion of the counter-intelligence program and more accurately situating the political context in which Malcolm found himself. Carl Evans, we have an original interview with him as with Bill sales, and some others who have obviously contributed something new. One of the issues that we ran into was that a. we wanted people who were going to be critical of the book, I mean Paul Coates at Black Classic Press when he called me, that was exactly what he wanted and he knew where I stood so we agreed on that. And of course you had to have read the entire book and we wanted to—.
Bomani Armah: Right, and it’s like 600 pages.
Jared Ball: And it’s 600 pages and we wanted it to be focused on the book. We didn’t want this to be too much about personal reflections on Malcolm or a total attack on Marable as a human being. We wanted to stay focused on this book, this piece of work because one of the issues that I had is that I find it to be a serious departure in many ways from Manning Marable’s body of work; both in terms of method and political perspective and that was something we wanted to address.
Bomani Armah: One of the things I thought about though, so does this mean you have to go back and look at Marable’s previous work? And maybe he’s—because I know the people who have issues with what Marable did and the people who are writing in the collaborative book that you have here, have a personal and have studied Malcolm to the point where you can’t just say things about Malcolm without it going over their heads. So now, do you have to go back and look at Manning Marable’s work and be like you know, I don’t know about these people. Maybe he’s doing the same thing to them that he did to Malcolm.
Jared Ball: I mean that’s a legitimate question, I mean now that you put it that way; that’s a legitimate question. You know A. Peter Bailey who contributed an original essay for us which is something that for those who follow Malcolm’s history is very rare.
This was somebody who knew Malcolm, worked with him in the OAAU and as an expert, has refused many opportunities to contribute to projects like this because he has been distrustful with academics and journalists who have wanted to sort of play on the name of Malcolm X for their own career. He gives us an original essay and one of the things he mentions in that is that he has so grossly misquoted because he was interviewed—.
Bomani Armah: He was actually interviewed and his words were—.
Jared Ball: By Marable.
Bomani Armah: And his words were [inaudible 09:07].
Jared Ball: And he said to the point where he is not, he is even less trustful of academics and journalists, and others who are doing these kinds of books, which could lead one to maybe, you know to more seriously address your question, do we need to go back and look carefully at Marable’s body of work? I think in general, not that, in the sense that some of what our contributors deal with including my colleague is that this was a particular sort of the tragedy that is his last book. It sort of particular to the press he was working with, the topic being Malcolm X specifically and of course his illness and untimely death which—I can only really speculate on I think had more of an impact on him not being as involved in the final product as we would have liked.
Bomani Armah: Was Marable—the criticisms were happening before the book was even released.
Jared Ball: That’s right.
Bomani Armah: aHe died before the book was released.
Jared Ball: Just, like the week end of.
Bomani Armah: Right, but was he aware of the criticisms like, he must have been preparing himself for them [inaudible 10:10]?
Jared Ball: Well, yeah I don’t know. There’s no evidence that I have that suggest that other than that he had always been willing to engage people throughout his career, so I suspect that had he lived, he would have been honest and principled and willing to deal with the criticism or particularly the principle of criticism that I think the kind that I think we’ve martial in our book unlike by the way, his key researchers and spokes people.
Bomani Armah: I’m reading here that you know you’ve been trying to have public debates on the facts in the book that they’ve been completely [inaudible 10:41].
Jared Ball: I mean right after I started reading the book, I emailed Zahira Lee who has obviously no problem going around the country and accepting speaking engagements to promote the book and his other work. I wrote him an email and I said I’m inviting you and your full research team to come on my radio show with questions I would provide you weeks in advance so you’re prepared and he said no and when we’ve see each other in person, he more or less made it clear, not more or less; he made it clear he would not be interested in doing that. But I think the reasons for that need to be publicly discussed and he should be questioned on it.
Bomani Armah: We’’ll see, well then that’s the things we’re going to discuss when we come back from this break. So here we are, we’re talking about A Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marable’s Malcolm X. I’m excited about this, it’s by Jared A. Ball, Todd Steven Burroughs. I will go through the contributors and then we’re going to go to a break. It’s Mumia Abu-Jamal, Kali Akuno, Margot Arnold, A. Peter Bailey, Amiri Baraka, Sundiata Cha-Jua, Karl Evans, Kamau Franklin, Zak Kondo, Rosemari Mealy, Eugene Puryear, Patricia Reid-Meritt, William W. Sales, Jr., William Bill Strickland, Greg Thomas, Christopher Tinson, and Raymond Winbush. I feel like y’all did like a drop squad on a book.
Jared Ball: We were trying.
Bomani Armah: Which I’ve never seen, so this is very exciting and we’re going to come back in a minute to The Indie to talk to Jared Ball. Thank you.
Welcome back to The Indie with Bomani Armah where we discuss independent business, independent thought, independent art. We are here with Jared A. Ball, one of the co-authors or should I say editors of A Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marable’s Malcolm X.
So we were going to get more in depth into some of the things that Marable and his team of researchers did to the legacy of Malcolm X in his book. And I know one of the most egregious ones and it maybe I was caught up in reading it but once it was pointed out, you know saying that Malcolm X was softening on his ideas of being a black nationalist of not being for gun clubs and stuff like that. I mean there is a lot of things in Manning Marable’s text that are like this is what Malcolm’s was saying publicly but this is what he meant personally and he would have told everybody this publicly if he had survived which is of some very like harsh speculations on changing from being a black nationalist to somebody who would be happy that Obama was elected, that type of thing.
Jared Ball: Right, right.
Bomani Armah: And so, how have you and your group, your drop squad group here, you know address that issue?
Jared Ball: Well, I don’t know if I can say his name because this was an off the record conversation but my colleague Dr. Burroughs had been speaking with the friend of his a little while ago who told him that in the post Obama era, particularly for black authors, if you want to get published and be well received, you have to include something—you have to have a concluding chapter about Obama.
Bomani Armah: Got you.
Jared Ball: And in sort of a positive reflection about—.
Bomani Armah: Because he’s the culmination of everything we’ve been doing.
Jared Ball: That’s right. So, this is what I first found in the epilogue to Marable’s book, was the greatest problem for me where he clearly, he and the editors of Viking press clearly wanted to resituate Malcolm X as part of this continuum.
This is part of a larger problem, I mean I’ve debated Peniel Joseph, who’s a protégé of Marable on this, equating the black power movement to Obama and someone were saying that Obama is an extension to Black Power Movement, and you know, which is extremely problematic but if I can try and channel my colleague, you know he breaks down—Todd breaks down four points of biography that Manning Marable breaks, and the first is that, you have to over research, and as he breaks—as he explains Marable only really refers to four books as his central sources throughout his book, which is for a major biography which claims to be the [inaudible 14:41].
Bomani Armah: A 600 page [inaudible 14:42], yeah.
Jared Ball: Yeah, and one of the saying is the new and definitive book that is looking to literally and overtly supplant the autobiography from Alex Hailey as the definitive text. That’s just not acceptable. Then you have to go where the subject went and nobody went where Malcolm X went. There was no evidence that Marable or his team travelled throughout the African and Islamic world where Malcolm X had travelled to [inaudible 15:08]
Bomani Armah: Where these people is still alive.
Jared Ball: Where a lot of these people are still alive. And that’s the other point with the interviews, he really only interviews and Ray Winbush in our book highlights this I think more than anyone, he only really interviews eighteen people and like my colleague Dr. Burroughs says, you know in comparison to for instance the Taylor Branch volumes on Dr. King, which are themselves have issues politically and otherwise. He interviewed thousands of people, you know, and you’re talking about Malcolm X. As Winbush points out, Marable didn’t interview Betty Shabazz, who was living in New York.
You know, at the time that Marable who said have started to do the work, he doesn’t interview—there’s so many people, particularly a lot of the women that Malcolm X worked with including a number of people, one in particular—well Rosemary Mealy, he’s not interview— which is one reason why we have her in our book. She worked with Malcolm X, she was in the OAAU with Malcolm. Grace Lee Boggs is another huge omission, somebody that should’ve been central to a piece like this on Malcolm X.
Bomani Armah: Did he interview Maya Angelou?
Jared Ball: No, he did not interview Maya Angelou, who obviously is still alive and very well-known and knew Malcolm.
Bomani Armah: Right. Do you think Manning could call Maya and they’d be able to link that [inaudible 16:28]?
Jared Ball: You would think so, you would think so. But he does not have a problem in the book in saying that Malcolm X did not trust any women without any attributes, no citations, you know things—.
Bomani Armah: Now, but even Bill Strickland said there was—I mean I guess this kind of runs through the entire organization. There is some sexism in Malcolm X but do you think he just addresses it wrong or doesn’t he give you an honest, you know what I’m saying?
Jared Ball: Well, I don’t think he does a fair enough job in dealing with what Malcolm was trying to do and himself deal with in terms of the role of women and the struggle, were most people associated with the OAAU make it clear that Malcolm was making—and some said he was going too fast and trying to promote women’s involvement in that organization. And the last thing, just very quickly that Todd Burroughs mentions is the four errors, a biography that Marable makes, the last one is that he does not separate his own politics from that of his subject. So this is the major point that I and many others take up that what you end up reading is a very democratic socialist liberal version or interpretation of Malcolm X which must then as the book does throughout, attack black nationalism, [inaudible 17:44].
He attacks Kwame Nkrumah, he attacks Guerrilla warfare, anti-imperialism, and as I was just reading in the new book by political prisoner Russell Maroon Shoats, Marable does dismisses Malcolm Xs defense of [inaudible 18:03] self defense and even Guerrilla warfare development by promoting this idea of non-violence which is Shoats makes the point is not the antithesis of violence. Counter violence is the antithesis of violence. Non-violence is not movement at all and therefore—so I mean it’s a brilliant point saying that what is often required is the equal and powerful response to what is happening to you, and this is what Malcolm X was saying.
And then if you look again very carefully, if you just look at the way Manning Marable truncates quotations, quotes Malcolm X out of context and without the full context of the statement, which takes some level of awareness of the history, of the literature, and the need to read very closely what Marable does because he does it with great skill and nuance.
He was a brilliant writer and obviously a confident historian, which is why this final product, I think has to be seen as a political one and the product of the established in the press, University and so on for political purposes that maybe we can talk about later but I think should be address or at least acknowledged.
Bomani Armah: Now, is the issue that Marable doesn’t specifically call out the co-intel program by name? Because I felt like he went very in depth into how he thought—I got from reading the book that he thought the FBI and the New York police department will either intricately involved or knew and stepped out of the way.
Jared Ball: Well, but the problem with not mentioning the counter-intelligence program is that it’s part of what I think is Marable’s overall narrative in the context that he builds where the FBI and the New York City police department, even though he mentions them are given a diminished role. They’re made a seen like innocent by-standers in the background of this conflict between Malcolm and the Nation of Islam.
Bomani Armah: So the idea that—because I think he says like, you know if you were tapping everyone’s phone, then they had to have known this was going to happen. But, you think that it had to be it like, saying that is even too weak. Saying that they knew and didn’t do anything [inaudible 20:08].
Jared Ball: Well again, in the [inaudible 20:08] papers book that Vanderwall and Churchill put together, they point to FBI memorandum that suggest that the FBI even took credit for the assassination in having fostered the hostility between the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X. There are others including Dick Gregory, who have talked about that they think it’s an overt CIA operation that the assassination is completely misunderstood and the Nation of Islam had nothing to do with it. I don’t know about that, I wouldn’t say that I go that far. But as Zak Kondo has pointed out, I think more importantly in his book in the early 90’s conspiracies, which by the way Marable refers to without attribution and then summarily dismisses on page 490 as saying all books written in the 1990’s were more or less useless.
Bomani Armah: Right, which includes Dr. Clark which is like—.
Jared Ball: Wel, andl that’s another thing, I mean, now that’s a good point. That deserves a whole show in itself. But, just that in creating this new narrative where the state is diminished and the context is not fully appreciated or explained, when you do reference the FBI or the NYPD or the undercover agents that were working closely with Malcolm at the time of his assassination, it reads it is diminished, the impact of it is weakened. It’s not made central to the story, which is what you would have to do if you wanted it to be a New York Times bestselling book.
Bomani Armah: Got you, yeah you can’t do the anti co-intel book?
Jared Ball: No, and you can’t situate the state and you know Marable says that Farrakhan was the greatest beneficiary of Malcolm’s assassination.
Bomani Armah: But, doesn’t indite him on the assassination?
Jared Ball: But lets him off the hook in many ways, but I think that statement is entirely incorrect and I think it’s the United States, its Western imperialism that were the greatest beneficiaries to Malcolm’s assassination, and as Malcolm said to himself before he was killed, it was not the Nation of Islam that blocked him from going to France. It was not the Nation of Islam that could have the resources to follow him all around the world and tap all of his phones. So the state was highly involved and was the greatest beneficiary and that needs to be addressed because that apparatus is still intact and is still doing all of the things that Malcolm was trying to get us to eradicate, so.
Bomani Armah: Now, the things that come out of this book and we’re going to close this segment out. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time but I wanted to address it. The things that come out of this book that hit everybody most immediately was the sex relationship, marriage, homosexuality, stuff that Marable was talking about and it ends up being, even for Marable from what I understand, like he said from what I’ve heard that he was surprised that that became such a big story, that’s not even the big chunk of the book. But that goes to American you know how we love that kind of stuff.
Jared Ball: How else are you going to promote it?
Bomani Armah: How else are you going to promote it? But how have you and your team addressed those statements in the—?
Jared Ball: Well, just very quickly, we don’t spend that much time on them. They’re not that big deal, they’re not that bigger part of Marable’s book and they’re easily dismissed with the lack of evidence. So, we get kept it moving and focused on the greater political issues and the other more serious, I think the egregious problems in Marable’s book.
Bomani Armah: Right, I mean you’re right, there are some sections of it that get very Wendy Williams, you know what I’m saying? And to the point where—I remember parts in the book were he’s talking about the conversation that Malcolm had with his top lieutenant, I can’t remember his name right now, about the affair Betty was suppose to be having and they were putting the conversation in quotes. And I’m like why was this even—that seems incorrect by itself; how could you possibly—you could speculate that this conversation was going on but putting it in quotes meant that you had a microphone in there or a witness or something and it just seems very out of place.
Jared Ball: And then when you look for the source in the footnotes—.
Bomani Armah: Right, there’s nothing to be found. Alright, so we’re going to come back in a minute but what I do want to talk about is the process of making this. My audience is full of people who are independent artist, independent businessmen, and I’ll let you know, I’m for book reading, I’m for book writing, and I want you to talk about the process of putting this together. So we’ll come back to The Indie with Jared Ball. My name is Bomani Armah, we’ll be right back.
: Welcome back to The Indie, my name is Bomani Armah. We are here, we discuss independent thought, independent business, independent art. Our guest today has been Mr. Jared A. Ball—Dr. Jared A. Ball. He is one of the compilers of this book, A Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marable’s Malcolm X. We’ve been talking about the details of the book of what people were writing but I wanted to talk to you about the process of putting this together. So I know you this came as a phone call from the publisher at first just trying to get all this different, varying but dissenting views on Marable’s work together. Tell us a little bit about the process.
Jared Ball: Yeah, like I said we had started doing a few radio shows on the subject and then Paul Coates, who we knew a little bit previously. He’s a former Black Panther Party member in Baltimore and the publisher of Black Classic Press.
He called me one day and said, “Man, you know basically, we have to do a response” and he talked about John Henrik Clarke’s Ten Black Riders respond to William Styron as a model, you know when Styron put out his madness about Nat Turner back in the late 60’s. And then they re-issued it on Black Classic Press as the second crucifixion of Nat Turner and this idea of again of Black Radical Scholars coming together to respond to something the establishment had produced that inaccurately portrayed heroes and important histories and he had heard that I was already very hostile to Marable’s book and he said he wanted—let’s be very clear, I don’t want to be balanced, I don’t want to be unbiased, we’re going to attack the book but we want to do it with substance and with accuracy, and so I immediately called Todd.
And we started putting a call out and sent emails out, made phone calls, tried to target a few people in particular and put a more broad call out more generally, and then it was just a task of again, you know it’s not easy to find people who have the time to read the 600 pages who were willing to publicly be critical of Manning Marable.
Bomani Armah: I was going to ask you about that, yeah.
Jared Ball: That wasn’t easy, a number of people were like, I agree with you but I’m not going at Marable and a number of other people were quite frankly, were just too sympathetic to what Marable had done so we couldn’t do that and then other people didn’t, either didn’t want to or were not willing to read the whole book but still wanted to comment on Marable or Malcolm X, and we said no—.
Bomani Armah: And [inaudible 27:04] couldn’t work.
Jared Ball: We didn’t— and can’t do that, but I think what we’ve ended up with is a strong collective, some people who knew Malcolm and worked with Malcolm, some people from successive generations who have carried on the work of Malcolm X and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement in particular. Activists, journalists, scholars, we have a nice crew of people you know but it took some time to get everybody to meet deadlines, extend deadlines, get the editing process together because we wanted to make sure that we weren’t going to make some of the same mistakes that were done with the Marable book.
So I’m very proud of what we have in that, not only is the contents strong, well argued, well written, well sourced, and well edited, but something that I think is politically what we needed, you know, something that not only is a response to Marable but something that encourages a reflection of Malcolm X an updating of Malcolm X, and the reincorporation of Malcolm X into our work today.
Bomani Armah: There was an interesting point, one of the authors made in the book about how Marable makes this claim that Alex Hailey softened Malcolm X in his biography and he was like how was that possible? I read it and became Black Radical, like that defies that thinking right there immediately and so why is it important to not try to soften Malcolm to make sure that we understand him as problematic as he was for the American system as he was.
Jared Ball: Well, I mean I think, you know part of it is just that anyone deserves to be heard in his or her own voice. Exactly, so if you say it and this is what you believe, put it out there and that should be the standard document or text. I do understand that biography is important and history is important, but initially that was our main concern that Malcolm—and people could just go to Youtube, we even advocate this, go to Youtube and listen to Malcolm X. You know, one of the first things I did was go back and listen to his Ballad or the Bullet, which was quoted in Marable’s book in several instances in truncated form, and then it was like how could you not understand what he was saying?
It’s so clear but I also made the arguments, several of us made the argument that Malcolm was a problem for the state when he was alive. He was a problem—his image was a problem, and if we look at what many people who—look at the condition of people who took up his argument and his struggle after his assassination. Look at the development of the Black Panther Party, look at the development of other organizations or the expansion of other organizations like the Revolutionary Action Movement, the Republic of New Africa; all these different groups claim in some way or another Malcolm’s lineage and legacy, and look what happens to those people—assassinated, imprisoned to this day, they’re still political prisoners.
Bomani Armah: Fight against each other.
Jared Ball: Pitted against each other, exiled, forced out of the country, so the idea that Malcolm X could be resituated as Marable and Viking Press have done into somebody—.
Bomani Armah: As a pre-cursor to Obama.
Jared Ball: As a pre-cursor to Obama or who would have been equally critical ala Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell and George Bush of the 9/11 attacks, you know said to have been pulled off by radical Islamists that he would have been used, be pitted against radical Islam—is itself silly. But it’s also I think done because if people are reconnecting to political struggle today, whether it’s the occupy movement or the new formations around a mass incarceration of Black America, so on and so forth. The ideas that Malcolm struggled with are not to be taken up. That’s what I think is ultimately the point here that Malcolm is too big to omit so the need to reimage him into something safe and something that can be easily consumed by the liberal audience and that would I think negatively impact potentially radical young people is I think the political point here.
And one quick point here, we have to remember, one reason why I think it’s important to omit the counter-intelligence program is because they admit explicitly that one of their goals was to make sure that black youth were disconnected from the Black Radical tradition. So that was exactly what was an expressed goal. Malcolm X was intimately connected to that goal or to that mission and I think that’s how we have to interpret this kinds of reinventions.
Bomani Armah: This would—I guess this would get everyone in trouble then, I mean you made me think of it and the book made me think of it. I mean when JFK was assassinated, Malcolm famously said ‘the chick is coming home to roost’. So not explaining what Malcolm would’ve said because that would have been way too much but the 9/11 thing and Malcolm X, because everyone wants—I mean there is there is the argument of—okay that shouldn’t have happened but people are lying to themselves thinking that we haven’t always been at war with certain parts of the world.
And that they don’t even think of themselves as starting it with 9/11. That’s their response to what we’ve already been doing and how could Malcolm have situated himself safely in that situation being as hardcore anti-American Imperialism and as Muslim as he was with it, you know, when that went down?
Jared Ball: Well, as you said, it’s always tough to speculate and as I always argue it’s even tougher to speculate around people like Malcolm X because had he not been assassinated, the world would not look at all like it do today. 9/11, we don’t even know but a concrete example I think we can point to is look at what happened to Ward Churchill, the professor at University of Colorado, who after 9/11 took that same argument and said this are the chickens coming home to roost and saying look at what was the businesses in the trade towers, look at what this country is doing and look at the response that is ultimately, wildly, inadequate compared to the crimes United States has inflicted on the world. And his career has been at least paused. He’s kicked out at the University.
He’s got to go through court trials to prove that he was not a plagiarist and a false—a phony academic and that he was really a Native American. All this was thrown at him for taking up that argument so I think we could get an idea of what might have been aligned against Malcolm X in that situation, and we can see—and again, it’s another example of what happens when people extend the logic of a Malcolm X into the moment. They are condemned, not rewarded and that’s why a book like this from Marable has to be looked at very, very carefully and critically.
Bomani Armah: Has to soften them up. I thought at the time, I mean I was young when this came out. It was something that was mentioned in here how, you know his—the popularity of X came to [inaudible 34:04] blue height with the [inaudible 34:05] and everything. But, we’re talking about this stamp and I thought to myself when it happened, I would think Malcolm X would be violently mad that the American government issue to stamp with his face on it.
Jared Ball: Just as Dr. King would’ve been equally upset at the fact that they put a monument to him sponsored by militarist, military contractors in corporate America. So yes, but that’s the point.
Bomani Armah: Right and they’ve co-opted these people who stood against them firmly.
Jared Ball: That’s right.
Bomani Armah: Who cursed them out in public and they’ve been co-opted.
Jared Ball: There are few things worst than killing someone and then reimaging them after you’ve killed them into somebody who you would have liked.
Bomani Armah: Wow.
Jared Ball: You know, I think there are a few things worse than that and that’s one of the reasons why we wanted to be involved.
Bomani Armah: Like you can’t—it’d be at least more respectful to take him out and be like, we disagreed and we took them out.
Jared Ball: And we took them out and that’s what’s up and you look at what he said, this is what we said, and this is why we did what we did and then you judge for yourself.
Bomani Armah: Right.
Jared Ball: But, that’s not how propaganda and psychological warfare work and that’s not how the state is run and that’s why we get what we get from Viking Press, a subsidiary of Penguin Press, one of the 6th largest publishers in the world. A book heavenly edited by Wendy Wolf, who herself said she was afraid of Malcolm X and scared of his politics and ideas and—.
Bomani Armah: Oh wow, so she had to sweeten him up for everybody?
Jared Ball: Because she wanted to be able to buy and read the book and you can’t—she’s not going to be comfortable reading a book about what Malcolm X really was and what have wanted to see happen.
Bomani Armah: So is the Black Liberation Movement, is Black Nationalist Movement the way it was? Is that unsalvageable, will my children never really understand? Is there an ability to bring it back—you know what I’m saying? Like it still exist, I don’t say it doesn’t exist but it has been diluted very intentionally through these assassinations of both the actual people and their character like so, do you think it’s possible to bring that back some way?
Jared Ball: It is, we just have to do what autonomously.
Bomani Armah: Independent.
Jared Ball: Independently and even off air, in the ways it was built in the initial stages before becoming a popular force in the public’s fear. So, I think that the work that you’re doing here is important. Media work is essential but I think a lot of offline work has to happen as well if that movement got to survive.
Bomani Armah: You’re right, essentially one of the things I realized, I mean I guess it’s kind of counter-intuitive saying it on the radio but—.
Jared Ball: Go underground.
Bomani Armah: But yeah, go underground like you could have all these radical thoughts but the minute they—as long as you’re not making noise with it. If you can do it quietly, you know what I’m saying that [inaudible 36:35].
Jared Ball: We’ll, what made Malcolm a threat was that he was organizing around these ideas as opposed to people like me who are doing more just talking about them.
Bomani Armah: Okay, okay, well we’ll let the organizers stay quiet. We’ll be the voices and let the organizers stay in the shadow. That’s what’s up. Jared, thank you very much for doing this.
Jared Ball: No problem and thank you.
Bomani Armah: You got something else coming out soon? So I can have another excuse to bring you out? What’s going on?
Jared Ball: There are couple of things happening.
Bomani Armah: We’ll stay connected. My name is Bomani Armah. This is Jared A. Ball. We are here; this is The Indie, independent thought, independent business, independent art. Thank you very much.