Abiding Faith Letter 22

Abiding Faith Letter 22


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



Jim Givens was a deacon at Jerusalem Baptist Church and married to Miss Lula Bell who

outlived him and still up and about today. Miss Lula Bell is Mama’s best friend. She still drives

and takes Mama to Emporia, a town in Greensville County about ten miles away

south off I-95, to make groceries. They are both in their 90s.



Letters of an Abiding Faith:

Legacy of a Slave’s GrandDaughter to her Son

written by Ella Lewis to her Son (Rudolph Lewis)

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Letter 22


September 14, 1983


Dear Son,

Just a few lines to give answer to your most Kind and Welcomed letter I received a few days ago. I was So glade to hear from you. I hope these Few lines will Find you Well in health also in mind. And you stop torturing your self about Bills. If you live you get them paid. Think about But try not and worry. You probably Find you a Friend after While. Then again Some time you Better off Be by your self. *

The rent not so Bad. But dont you think it right steep I think. Wouldn’t it Be Better if you could Buy Some used furniture not too expensive. For $80 a month Count up For nine months. Still it want be yours.

Well it raining to night. We haven’t had no rain For 3 months. Just showers. Every Body ask of you and send their love. Millard Stith died last Saturday.** They are burying him tomorrow which is the 14th Sept. All his children is home. Also Mr. Jim Givens is in hospital in Emporia. He got sick at Church. He Better now. Bell was by here today. She sent you her love.

You told me not worry. I do Because I love you. I all ways want the Best For you. So now, I am proud of you more. Every day. But I do want you to take Care of your self. Peter was here Sunday. He going to school now in Petersburg Va. I guess Bunk told you Michael and Chicken got a Job at restaurant in Emporia. David Just Call. Say he looking For you to Call or rite him.**** 

So it 10:30 pm I getting sleepy. I hope you can read this bad riten. All mistakes take love Bad hand riten For Kisses.

I love you

your Mother.

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*I did make a friend while I was in Monroe, a young woman named Ella Jean. She was a good old country girl and I loved her. We became quite a pair for awhile. I was quite fond of her. But as in other relationships, it was not a pairing made to last Yet it was hot and steamy, which made up for any other shortcomings. I do not think I ever had any serious intent of staying ever so far away from my people in Virginia.

**Millard Stith married Florence Wyche, sister of Evelyn and Christine Ford. All are daughters of Cary Wyche and sisters of Edler Wyche. I went to school with most of Millard’s children: Shirley, Peter, Melvin, Brenda. There were others, younger ones whom I did not know very well.

 ***Jim Givens was a deacon at Jerusalem Baptist Church and married to Miss Lula Bell who outlived him and still up and about today. Miss Lula Bell is Mama’s best friend. She still drives and takes Mama to Emporia, a town in Greensville County about ten miles away south off I-95, to make groceries. They are both in their 90s.

****David, Annie’s oldest son, was living in Texas while I was in Louisiana. He had remarried and started another family. I never called. I had no interest in Texas. While living in New Orleans, I took a trip to San Francisco to see a young woman I met at a New Orleans club and stopped for a short period at the Houston airport for the plane to take on other passengers. That summer I had a rendezvous with that woman in Oakland whom I had thrilled for a night. Other than this airport experience, the closest I got to Texas occurred on the way to the Cane River area. A colleague at the university named Tom and I stopped at Cheyenne Lilly’s, a country and western bar in Shreveport, three hundred miles east of Dallas.

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—


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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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update 31 December 2011




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