Abiding Faith Letter 31

Abiding Faith Letter 31


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



During this period in New Orleans, Yusef Komunyakaa and I became very close. I learned

a lot about poetry from him. Together we went through the Marcus Christian Collection housed

at the University of New Orleans. We must have looked at over eight hundred poems written

by Christian. I must have copied several hundred of these poems.



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 31


January 21, 1985


Dear Son,

Just a line or two let you hear From me. I doing Beter Now. I had that Flue. How is Every Thing with you OK. I hope. how is your Business Coming up.*

Well we got 4 inches snow last night. It Very Cold here Nothing to do But sleep and eat. I thank God I got Food and Wood as long as it last.

Von got to go to court 23rd of this month.** He took appeal. I dont Know how he is going to come out. Every Body is fine Far as I Know. Well Bunk is getting her Divorce From Rat.*** She told him. But I dont think he thought she meant it. So he still here. You take Care of your Self.

So Bye Now

From Mother

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* My “business” that Mama makes reference is the literary magazine, CRICKET, which was not really a business. I did, however, write a piece on Marcus Christian for a local monthly for which I was paid $50. It was the first time I was paid for my writing and the last time I received cash money for a published essay. It was a wondrous feeling. She may also be referring to the community cultural center that I helped to found on Piety Street in New Orleans. I purchased some quilts from her for the center, but that also was not a business. I lived off my salary and more money went out for these enterprises than came in. But I have no regrets on that account. One must always pay for one’s education and these projects were truly an education and a learning experience.

During this period in New Orleans, Yusef Komunyakaa and I became very close. I learned a lot about poetry from him. Together we went through the Marcus Christian Collection housed at the University of New Orleans. We must have looked at over eight hundred poems written by Christian. I must have copied several hundred of these poems. I have lost or misplaced the copies, which is one of the problems of continual moving. During my year in Baton Rouge I transcribed one hundred poems with my IBM typewriter. I made certain of the accuracy.

I also pulled diary notes and letters. I have been lugging that material around with me for fifteen years. Only a few years back was I able to get published fifty of the hundred poems I thought was the best of Christian. Yusef married an Australian girl and I never saw him again after he left New Orleans and we did not stay in touch. Yusef, however, went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for his poetry. I was proud of his accomplishment. We have not discussed Christian since I saw him in New Orleans in the mid-1980s.

I created CRICKET for the special purpose of promoting Christian’s poetry. Few writers and artists in New Orleans were interested in Christian’s work. The collection of poems in I AM NEW ORLEANS & OTHER POEMS (1999), however, attracted a lot of attention in Louisiana and received a half-page review in the Times-Picayune. Dillard Today (January 2000), the university’s alumni magazine, reprinted a revised form of my “Introduction” with photos of Christian. In 2000, the University of New Orleans also awarded me the Marcus Christian Community Service Award for my work. Though I got several more articles published on Christian’s work, he still has not received the broad attention he deserves.

In line with these previous activities and my rediscovery of Nathaniel Turner of Southampton after I quit my job at Pratt Library in 1999, I in 2001 founded ChickenBones: A Journal ( to promote the works of both Christian and Turner. Their work is the backbone of this website.

** Von is Susie Carter’s middle son

***Rat is Annie’s second husband and the father of Michael and Michelle.

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 – Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 – Don’t Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 – Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King

#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


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#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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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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Negro Digest / Black World

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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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