By Scotty Boman, Editor
On Friday April 16th Michigan freedom activists lost a friend: Marvin Surowitz (AKA Marvin-Marvin). In 2000 he was the Libertarian Candidate for the University of Michigan Board of Regents, and before getting involved with the Libertarian Party he was a Democratic candidate for State Representative (District 26 in 1984). While he only ran for office under the Libertarian Party banner once, he was supportive of the Libertarian Party and many of its candidates.
Marvin was outspoken on a number of issues, dear to Libertarians, but the most obvious one was cannabis legalization. He probably attended every single Hash Bash and spoke at most of them. He was also an organizer for NORML. Even though he was only balloted as a Democrat and then as a Libertarian, the party he most identified with was the PARTIE Party. He never got it on the ballot but, like many of his projects, it took on a life of its own and it was core to his love for recreational politics.
His political science classes would feature guest speakers from a variety of different movements and affiliations. I had the honor of being a guest speaker in a couple of his classes.
His daughter, Molly, posted this about him…
Professor Marvin Marvin of the Partie Party (People’s Alliance To Reform Transform and Improve Everything) whose projects included the Earth Community-You’re Already a Part of It, The Earth Center, The Forrer House, and Temples of the Holy Smoke, just to name a few, left us for a big old party in the sky yesterday. He impacted so many lives with his vision, love and playfulness. May his memory be a blessing to us all. We will be holding a celebration of his life and legacy in August in Detroit, with concerts and speakers, on what would have been his 80th birthday. He always wanted it to be a global holiday…he thought big. He will be buried on 4.20, in a fitting Green Jewish burial. We loved you madly Mad Marvin.
In addition to having a daughter, he was husband to Edith Winter, grandfather of Jeremiah and Joshua Horton, and brother of Arnold (Rebecca) Surowitz. But his family was much larger than this; he treated everyone like family. While many people seem to put on different faces at different places, Marvin ignored those boundaries. He was always the same fun-loving, and out-spoken person wherever he went.
I believe I first met Marvin in the late 1980’s at a Community Concert Series, in Detroit. These were open mic events where anyone with a song to play, poem to read, or skit to perform could take the stage. The crowd was an interesting mix of hippies, punks, and anyone else who didn’t seem to fall into the mainstream… and Marvin fit right in. My first impression was that he was a a flamboyant hippie with no hair. Of course these are simplistic categories that don’t really tell the whole story, and Marvin was better at defining himself than being defined.
He was well known in Detroit’s Cass Corridor (That’s what they called it before it was called “Midtown”). The Community Concert Series was frequently held in a music school that used to be a funeral home (The one where Harry Houdini was embalmed). While he frequently attended the Concert Series, he had a project of his own called “Earth Community.” The Earth Community House looked more like a castle and was also in the Wayne State area. While he was deeply concerned about social causes, he always made sure everyone was having fun. It wasn’t until reading his obituary that I learned that he once studied with R. Buckminster Fuller, author of “Spaceship Earth.” In hindsight, I believe Fuller may have inspired the slogan he adopted for Earth Community, “You’re already a part of it.” Just as we are all passengers on Spaceship Earth.
He organized some of the first Erotic Poetry Festivals. These events become an annual Detroit tradition, and this was the first year we didn’t have one (Due to COVID-19). I have read at these events since first taking the stage around 1990.
Perhaps one of my fondest memories of Marvin was when we took a road trip to an event called the “Roach Roast” at Rainbow Farms. If it wasn’t for Marvin’s invitation I would never have experienced it. It was like a scaled down version of Woodstock in Michigan. Naturally Marvin was one of the speakers. We ran into plenty of common friends and made some new friends there. Two of them were Rainbow Farms Founders Tom Crosslin and Rollie Rohm. A year later Crosslin posthumously received the 2001 Promoter of Liberty Award after an FBI sniper assassinated he and Rohm that Labor Day, during a siege of the property, after they refused to capitulate to asset forfeiture laws. Fortunately, Marvin and I left the 2000 event safely with no idea that tragedy would strike a year later.
Marvin will continue to be missed, loved and remembered. Also, there will likely be a large celebration of his life close to his 80th** Birthday in August.
* I always thought he was at least 10 years younger than that.
Link to the May 2021 Michigan Libertarian