Mark returned from sea in 1990, armed with
a command of language acquired from six hours per night of
reading and writing on the ship. He took up a job in marketing
and went to college to study business and finance. His high
grades got him into University and despite the lack of formal
education whilst in the so-called “care of the local
authority”, Mark graduated with honours in 1996, returning
to read for an MSc. in 2000.
However, Mark’s life was to take another dramatic turn
before entering University. His unending quest for “the
truth” which had guided him to Gil, was now leading
him further back to those who had influenced his very mentor.
In 1986 Mark had had a chance encounter with “Jalal”,
leader of the 60’s band “The Last Poets”
after a gig in Liverpool. He told Jalal that he had worked
with Gil and Jalal said “Stay with the righteous and
you shall surely prosper”.
Another chance meeting with Jalal happened in 1988 at the
Town and Country venue in London where the Wailers (Bob Marley’s
band) were playing. Mark asked him, “How will I know
who the righteous are?” And Jalal replied” They
won’t be surrounded by the un-righteous”. Mark
had taken the advice of both Gil and Jalal and was now trying
to retrace history in order to comprehend the injustices of
racism, power and politics.
He was inspired by works like Gil’s “The Revolution
Will Not be Televised”, “Cane”, “B-Movie”
and “We Beg Your Pardon America”. Also the Last
Poet’s, “When the Revolution Comes”, “The
Mean Machine”, “Beyonder” and the “Hustlers
The poetic works of Langston Hughes, Paul Roberson and Maya
Angelou and the literary works of Bell Hooks, Rosa Guy
and Zora Neil Hurston to name but a few, gave him a sense
of how he came to be a black man in England, via Afro-Caribbean
slavery. However, it was to be the works of Alex Hailey that
would mark a turning point for Mark. After reading “Roots”,
his curiosity turned to rage and when followed up with the
“autobiography of Malcolm X” suddenly it all made
sense, racism, slavery - the lot.
Having read the autobiography of Malcolm X whilst on holiday
in the Christmas of 1991, upon his return to the UK, he again
met up with Jalal of the Last Poets, who after much questioning
and providing comprehensible answers to all the outstanding
mysteries of “life the universe and everything”
(to coin a Douglas Adam’s phrase)
Jalal introduced Mark to the faith of Islam.
Mark passed through University as a fledgling Muslim and
wishing to put something back into those who had helped him
in life, he introduced no fewer than 50 people to Islam in
the first 10 years of his conversion. Three of these were
members of Gil’s band. Still feeling that he had unfinished
business with the State who had so harmed him whilst in their
care, Mark, - now named Malik Al Nasir - took legal action
to sue the government for negligence. After much sacrifice
and with the help of Allah, the government capitulated after
10 years of litigation and settled on the day of trial, before
Judge Moreland at the High Court. He also received a public
apology from the Lord Mayor of Liverpool.
This book is the first project that Malik has undertaken
since then and is a tribute to Gil Scott Heron and Jalal and
the late Suliman El Hadi of The Last Poets, for their selfless
pursuit of truth and their unwavering stance for justice in
the face of adversity but moreover for their compassion and
spiritual guidance for someone like Mark, who was after all,
just an “Ordinary Guy”.