Abiding Faith Letter 30

Abiding Faith Letter 30


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



Mr. Jim and Miss Lula Bell came to the house often when I was a child to sit and talk with

Mama and Daddy. Her pet name for me was “Ru-baby.” At ninety she still drives her old car

to church. Like Mama, she likes pretty clothes to wear to church. Both like dazzling hats.

Their backs straighten when they are in their Sunday clothes



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 30


December 1, 1984

Dear Son,

How are you I hope you are doing OK. As For me I not Feeling So well For last week my Back is giving me Trouble. It some Better now. I sorry I wait so long Before answer your letter But I got the Check. I think you From the Bottom of my heart. I always got a place to put it. I paid Bills. You Know we all ways got Bills. So you is all my help. I do preshate it you know that.

Well it is Dec. Xmas not far away. Well I not planning nothing. Just thank God if I see the day. I am Sorry you are not coming home For Xmas. But I can under stand. Bunk was here Friday Nov. 31 She OK. Still working. Well Von Carter got caught driving drunk Wednesday night. He out on bail until next month. So I guess he come out OK. I hope so.

The rest of the Family is OK Send love to you. And you take good care of your self. Lula Bell sent love to you.* She is staying with her Son at night. James Wesley Jones That his name. Kay’s got a dog want to keep him in the house. Chicken throw the dog out.* *

It just a mess But I dont Fault him. Dog messing all over the house. He not a pet, old hound dog. Peter lost his good Job. He still on the Run. The law was looking For him last Week. Amos got him a 71 Cadillac Car. I dont know What’s going on. Bunk is getting her Divorce she say.*** So I guess you tired of trying to Read this Bad hand riten.

So Bye For Now From Mother 

PS I love you

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*Miss Lula Bell is one of my most favorite people in the world. I love to hear her a raise one of those old church songs during August revival. Her deceased husband Jim Givens was a deacon at Jerusalem Baptist Church. Mr. Jim and Miss Lula Bell came to the house often when I was a child to sit and talk with Mama and Daddy. Her pet name for me was “Ru-baby.” At ninety she still drives her old car to church. Like Mama, she likes pretty clothes to wear to church. Both like dazzling hats. Their backs straighten when they are in their Sunday clothes, like they walking through the pearly gates.

**Peter left Kay and her three children and she and the kids moved next door with Cleveland, called “Chicken,” Edith’s youngest son, who lives alone in his mother’s house. Key eventually ended up in California with her three sons I suppose they are grown by now. But I have not seen Blue Eyes since he was a little boy. I suspect all three boys will have a difficulty time coming to grips with their identity, having a white mother and a black father, alienated from their white grandparents and to an extent from their Negro grandparents. 

This continuing rift between peoples is one of those peculiar remnants of America’s slavocracy and institutionalized racism. Generations have to pay for the immorality of our country’s past. I believe in free will and grace. It is thus possible that all three boys will come to grips with our troubled and perplexing past and make the best use of it to build a world on their own terms that will be more just and forgiving.

***Annie and Amos were unable to reconcile their differences. She found him no longer trustworthy or willing to respect her mother’s house. When they parted, she probably still loved him. But everyone has her limits even in love. Amos, I suspect, will be the ultimate loser in all this. For he has probably lost his children true and loving affections

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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

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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

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

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