Abiding Faith — Letter 6

Abiding Faith — Letter 6


ChickenBones: A Journal

for  Literary & Artistic African-American  Themes



In 1969, I joined Local 1199’s hospital union drive and served as body guard for Coretta

Scott King, wife of the assassinated civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., while

she stood outside Johns Hopkins on Madison Avenue. The Kings were friends of labor.


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 6


March 16, 1978 


Dear Son,

I received your letter to day always glade to hear from you. Glade you was doing OK. Listen Child dont Give up.* Die trying to do right. Dont you know the Lord say if you Make One step he make two. He no Better than his Word. The devil want you to give up. You told me not Send you no money. Listen Doc I am your Mother. What kind of Mother I Be know you are in need I cant help you. Yes it true I need the money. But Just think maybe Some day you will pay me Back. If not it OK. I am your Mother. And I love you. Also I send you Some Food By Lucinda. She Be down for Easter she Say. I enclosing a check for one hundred dollars. Excuse all mistakes. I in a hurry. 

Your Mother

Ella Lewis

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*I am uncertain of the circumstances to which the letter responds. I had given up my apartment near St. Paul and Preston. Majoring in English, I was going to school full time on a Frederick Douglass scholarship and supporting my self on work study at the Education Department library. Half of my course work was accepted from Morgan State, which I had attended from 1965-1968.

I dropped out to join the black consciousness movement headed up by the Student Non-Violent Coordination Committee (SNCC). It was during that period I became a draft resistor and gained the friendship of Walter Lively and Bob Moore, who became my political mentors. From them I gained a political and social knowledge of Baltimore. I became a voracious reader of racial and socialist literature.

SNCC had an office at 432 E. North Avenue. It later became the office of Liberation House Press, out of which we operated a printing press for movement activities. I also during this period worked as an organizer for a Community Action Program, named MUND (Model Urban Neighborhood Development).

During this period, I met Danny Gant of the local Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and his wife Andrea who aided me in my draft resistance. In a meeting, with the then Mayor Delasandro, I saw Gant perform the outrageous act of putting his feet up on the mayor’s desk. Being from the rural South I had never seen black men so militant and so bold. In Washington, I met Stokeley Carmichael; in New York, I met Rap Brown. At Rap’s trial in Belair I met his famed civil rights lawyer William Kunstler in Havre de Grace in a house on Revolution Street. During the trial, two black men from D.C. (Che and Featherstone) died in a car bombing. We received a call in Havre de Grace and several of us (Walter Lively, Fred Mason, and Tiger Davis) went to the state troopers barracks for identifications. I knew the owner of the car.

In 1969, I joined Local 1199’s hospital union drive and served as body guard for Coretta Scott King, wife of the assassinated civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., while she stood outside Johns Hopkins on Madison Avenue. The Kings were friends of labor. Mrs. King came to town to encourage black women to join the union for dignity and better wages.

I later became a paid organizer for the Baltimore Local 1199, during Fred Punch’s presidency. I trained union workers and handled grievances for workers at Sinai, GBMC, Levindale, and House in the Pines nursing homes. It was at the 1199 office that I met my wife Evelyn Duncan, who was Punch’s executive office secretary. Our marriage lasted four years. These were hectic, though fruitful times. The center would not hold and I left 1199 after two years. Though I disagreed with the internal politics of the local, this hospital union for numerous years, was my favorite labor union. In 1969, five thousand workers had been organized in Baltimore in six months time. A lot of good had been done economically; in addition, the consciousness of the people was raised to an extraordinary level.

Letter 5 < > Letter 7

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Ella Jackson Lewis

(August 11, 1910–December 28, 2009)

Makes Her Transition

*   *   *   *   *’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


#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#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

*   *   *   *   *

Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label ‘trafficked’ does not accurately describe migrants’ lives and that the ‘rescue industry’ serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. “Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality.”—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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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.—WashingtonPost

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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 1 January 2012




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