Remarks of Dr. James C. McIntosh delivered on Sunday January 27th at Clarke House regarding the Book Sword Songs by Harlem Poet Laureate George Edward Tait.

One African Liberation Day in the early Nineteen-eighties. Elombe was overseeing the proceedings at Marcus Garvey Park. This was a straight up Harlem thing. It was so far back they might have still been calling it Mt. Morris Park. A Young man named George Edward Tait came to the stage and read his poem "The Black Brigade." The poem was an allegorical tale of a small band of revolutionaries who take out the greedy super rich, the families of the few and the entire infrastructure of communications, transportation and production of the United States." It brought the audience to their feet. An even Younger poet Brother D Nubiyahn read his poem that day too. It was called "How you gonna make the Black nation rise?" and its call response was "Agitate Educate Organize." If I recall right, he had a record player playing a vinyl Record of Cheryl Lynn's "What You Feel" as his background music. No it must have been a cassette. It was in the medium of the day, Rap. Both poems were adventure, history, music politics spirit and all at the same time. These poems did everything Amiri had said poems should do if they were not to be BS. They were "teeth trees, lemons piled on a step and Black ladies dying of men leaving nickel hearts beating them down" --all of that and a bag of chips. These two pieces of poetry were the strongest I had ever seen delivered. See, they were delivered together that day, on that day alone. Brother Amiri Baraka had written an essay I had read some years earlier called "Hunting is not those heads on the wall." It explains how I feel about that day, that African Liberation Day, in Harlem in the early early eighties. You can read the two poems I spoke about but you can never be there on that day. My life was changed. It was an intersection of two generations and the older revolutionary George Edward Tait could see that his fire was going to be carried forth in the torch of that next generation.

Here was Tait's Call laying it out like a blue print and here was the younger Brother D responding and himself laying it out like the youth wanted to hear it. Clearly a cultural revolution was about to occur and the world like me was never going to be the same. I had not anticipated the destruction of Black radio and the cooptation of rap.

But the radio never played Brother D's Record and Johnny Carson, David Letterman, Jay Leno and the other future pop propagators of American Culture never invited Brother George Edward Tait to discuss his work. Instead a cultural counterrevolution occurred. Do I over speak?

Arguably the number one past time of African American Male Youth is poetry and Music. That's what Rap is you know. You probably never looked at it that way. But our youth spend a large amount of their time involved in the arts. Many of them are all the time listening to and creating poetry and music.

When I was younger I could tell those people in the street who had been driven mad simply by --the observation that they would be on the street talking to themselves. It was quite a while before I realized that the rate of schizophrenia had not increased exponentially among Black males in Harlem-- No these were young poets doing what they call spitting rhymes as they walked down the street. They had the facial expressions and gesticulations of mad men but they were poets. Some people say poets are madmen.
Listen to this PG Version of one rap couplte
"I mess around and go hard core
C4 to your door no beef no more"

Maybe the rappers are madmen--not because they write and sing poems but because their poetry promotes the risk factors for the top 20 things killing Black people without even counting straight up homicide. This information is from a study that I have done that I will have to share on another occasion. No, I can't resist. I have to give you this example. The number 1 thing that kills black youth is not homicide but accidents with the vast majority of those accidents being automobile accidents and the vast majority of those auto accidents with one or more of the drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol. So the last poem that should be uttered by and/or to Black youth is a poem that promotes driving under the influence. Yet at all times at least one of the top 10 rap songs promotes drinking or drugging while driving. Here's a classic that is in no way exceptional. "Rollin down the street smokin indo sippin on ginand juice-- laid back with my mind on my money and (At this point Dr. McIntoshwaved his hand in the air and many members of audience completed the line out loud) and my money on my mind."

You all understand exactly where we are right now. We are at the Dr. John Henrik Clarke House. As Professor Clark would say, "Now I will get to my topic"

"Sword Songs." These Rappers These new poets give new meaning to the phrase "Sword Songs."Swords don't kill, Poets do. S- Word Songs. Swords don't sing unless you count the whistling air or crunching skulls and screaming flesh or thudding beat of the beheaded. Swords don't kill poets do. I have heard George Edward Tait kill the greedy super rich and the families of the few for 30 years and his latest book Sword Songs repeats the mission of the original Black Brigade /jazz band of the poem he recited that African Liberation Day long ago." Sword Songs resurrects those who should be resurrected. Richard Bartee, John Coltrane, Katherine Dunham and in Tait's words "The Lena who was a Horn".. the "Patti who was a Belle" and so many ancestors that few remember but many should.

No less than 25 of the titles of the poems in this book have the word Blues in the title. No fewer than 17 are called dances. At least 2 are called Dirges and 9 mention words such as jump, beat or rap in the title. There is even a requiem or 2. Is this book poetry music magic or ritual dance? Do not answer. This is a trick question. Just like the first George Edward Tait Poem I heard in Marcus Garvey Park this book is music, dance, adventure, politics, spirit, ritual and magic all at the same time, poly rhythmic. It does everything that the African Pledge popularized instantly in the early, early eighties when sisters like Afeni Shakur organized a rally of Tens of thousands in Harlem protesting the Atlanta child Murders. A young elementary school brother pledged in front of that crowd to do what this book does It memorializes "the humanity, glory and suffering of our ancestors and honor(s) the struggles ofour elders and bring(s) new values and new life to our people."

In addition this book elevates the English language. English, only because they robbed us of our Twi,Yoruba, Mende and even if Tait wrote it in those languages we couldn't understand. So in Sword Songs, Tait has to do to English what Coltrane did to the Diatonic Scale. Tait lifts "the raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, Brown copper Kettles and warm woolen mittens through the vortex of his genetic memory."These are few of my favorite things- Ba ba doo dop."

Read the book. Buy this book. You will get a history lesson if you only look up the names of the ancestors he honors by name in these poems. You will get a music lesson if you just listen to the records of the musicians he honors in this book . If you just follow the advice he gives in this book, you will free our political prisoners, overnight starting with yourself in minimum security and working your way up and deeper to Dr. Mutulu Shakur and Sekou Odinga and Dr. Acoli and Herman Bell, Free 'em All.

Did I mention that Brother Tait has degrees in English Literature. Did I mention that he was a bandleader and years ago ran a place called the Liberty Lounge in Harlem. Did I mention that he is a member of the political prisoner support group, "Family and Friends of Dr. Mutulu Shakur" and donates his time and art to raise funds for our political prisoners
Ayi Kwei Armah says that "giving and receiving all that lives is twin. Let he who would cast the spell of death separate the two." My request is that you Don't "cast the spell of death." Don't "separate the two." Don't just receive Brother Tait's gifts without giving. Choose Life. Give back. Buy the book. Buy Sword Songs.
Asante Sana