ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



She came home the first night of the revival and I asked her if the church wished her happy birthday.

She said no. Did Florence? I asked No. Did Sistuh? No. the next day I called Florence and Sistuh

to reason with them. Both told me that the church had a policy against wishing members happy birthday.



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 38


March 6, 1986


Dear Doc,

How are you Fine I hope as for me OK. And the rest of the Family OK. How is the weather down there. We have warm days Cold nights. Every Body like the Book.* Thank it So interesting. They love to read it. Just riten to send you Sister address

Mrs. Va Rivers**

R 1, Box 34

Yale Va 23867

Von got him a new Car 1986. Much love please keep in touch.

Love you


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*The “book” to which Mama refers was a copy, I believe, of Lee Grue’s The New Laurel Review, for which I had written several articles and help to edit a couple of issues. Or maybe it was another issue of CRICKET

**The summer after returned home, in 1987, Cary Wyche, my supposed paternal grandmother, died. I went to the wake but not to her funeral. I helped, however, to dig her grave in the church cemetery. At the wake, Pat made a sorry statement. She claimed that because I did not have a gap in my front teeth that I could not be a Wyche. To his credit, Edler, my purported father, attempted to convince others at the wake that there was a facial resemblance between him and me. But none seemed to see it but him.

Later that summer of 1987, I also got into an argument with Florence Stith and Sistuh, Mama’s oldest daughter, during the August revival. Mama’s birthday is August 11 and the revival by tradition was the second week of August, so the two events overlapped. She came home the first night of the revival and I asked her if the church wished her happy birthday. She said no. Did Florence? I asked No. Did Sistuh? No. the next day I called Florence and Sistuh to reason with them. Both told me that the church had a policy against wishing members happy birthday. For, they pointed out, if you did it for one, you had to do it for all. So what? I asked. You only have fifty active members. What time would that take?

When Mama returned the next night I got the same answers. I was quite disturbed by this insult to Mama. I sat down that night and wrote out a statement. That summer I read the Koran, cover to cover, and also read much of the Old Testament and I was filled with a considerable amount of bombast and fury, and maybe a bit of the righteousness of the spirit. So I decided I would fix this injustice and lack of consideration for a woman who had been a member of the church for over a half century. I told Susie my intentions and she informed a number of people by phone what I intended to do, namely, to confront the church that night about this insult to Mama. 

That night, before the main sermon, I read my little sermon and had the church stand and sing happy birthday. My cousin Charlie “Nature Boy” Lewis, the grandson of Mary Lewis and the son of Irvin Lewis, was there. I believe that was the last time I saw him before he spent an extended period hospitalized and then died. Though I did not attend his funeral, I wrote a poem to honor him.

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Super Rich: A Guide to Having it All

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Russell Simmons knows firsthand that wealth is rooted in much more than the stock  market. True wealth has more to do with what’s in your heart than what’s in your wallet. Using this knowledge, Simmons became one of America’s shrewdest entrepreneurs, achieving a level of success that most investors only dream about. No matter how much material gain he accumulated, he never stopped lending a hand to those less fortunate. In Super Rich, Simmons uses his rare blend of spiritual savvy and street-smart wisdom to offer a new definition of wealth-and share timeless principles for developing an unshakable sense of self that can weather any financial storm. As Simmons says, “Happy can make you money, but money can’t make you happy.”

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama’s political success and Oprah Winfrey’s financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today… than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don’t know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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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 /

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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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