ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



Ahmose Zu-Bolton, Yusef Komunyakaa, and I remodeled a huge fish market on Piety Street 

into a community arts center. Yusef and I built a stage and a bar. I bought a few of Mama’s quilts

and hung them from the ceiling for visual and sound effect. To make the project work I even

moved into the building so that the bills could be paid.



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 32


February 25, 1985

Dear Doc,

These Quilts $15 Each. Are hand tack made in Va By Ella Lewis and Mrs. Jeralene Williams.*

Eight Quilts at $15 Each. 2 Quilts no Charge is For

Doc Lewis From his


Ella Lewis

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*Jeralene Williams is Miss Geraldine Williams, a neighbor of Mama’s who lived on the same road as Jerusalem Church. They were involved in a number of quilting bees.

Ahmose Zu-Bolton, Yusef Komunyakaa, and I remodeled a huge fish market on Piety Street  into a community arts center. Yusef and I built a stage and a bar. I bought a few of Mama’s quilts and hung them from the ceiling for visual and sound effect. To make the project work I even moved into the building so that the bills could be paid. We had a juke box and a pool table. Couches we found in alleys I had them restored. Unable to get a liquor license, Ahmose sold liquor illegally, which made Yusef nervous. Yusef eventually backed out of the arrangement and so Ahmose was unable to get cosigners for a grant to support the center further. It all folded. because of his excessive drinking. Then Ahmose, who first developed the idea of the center, became antagonistic toward me because I had gained power in the deal and he was unable to pay the $500 I gave him as a loan. He hired a band which I also paid out of my pocket. That money I also never recuperated. But I did not have a problem with that.

Ahmose became more and more belligerent. Eventually, I had to take the money out of his hide. In this matter, however, I was not the aggressor. But I have my limits. We began to duke it out. Every time I knocked him down he would pop right up and come for more. And I gave it to him. There was blood everywhere. I almost put his eye out from blows to the head. He was bold. But rather stupid from my point of view. But booze will make a person behave that way. Yet I gave him what he desired, a way out of paying his monetary debt.. I hate myself when I lose my temper in this manner. As a child, Daddy used to whip me terribly for my temper, my beating up on my cousin Norman.

The whole matter blew over and the law was not brought into it. His wife, a dramatic actor and a good one I am told, threatened to have me locked up. But she was just blowing off steam. On a later occasion, I visited Ahmose, who is an excellent but rather undeveloped poet, at his community center in the community of Marigny. We shook hands and behave as if nothing ever happened. I didn’t go there especially to see him. I went there with another New Orleans poet named Yictove, who published an excellent volume of spoken word poems, D.J. Soliloquy (1988).

I gave Yusef one of Mama’s quilts as a gift. I also had photos taken of the quilts, had them enlarged and framed and gave them to Mama as presents. They hang now in the family house. My greatest regret is that I eventually lost the friendship of both Ahmose and Yusef. Maybe they were never really my friends. These matters are difficult to assess. It is quite possible that my money temporarily bought me the friendship of both of them. Whatever the case, it was a small price to have paid and I would do it again. I learned a great deal through the experience and have stored away excellent memories. I hold no animosity toward either poet and if I meet them tomorrow I would greet them as long-lost brothers.

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books



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#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

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

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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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