ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
www.nathanielturner.com When a police dog bit a black woman in West Baltimore and took out a sizable chunk of her thigh, there was Sharif again, among a group of activists who protested the mauling and got arrested and charged with inciting to riot for their trouble
Activist Works on Next Level of Change
By Gregory Kane
The Sun, 15 December 1999
Ulysses Bagwell, book editor? The query will mean nothing to most of you, of course. But it will no doubt pique the interest of those who graduated from Baltimore City Colleges Class of 1969, which the faculty probably would have voted the schools looniest if such a tally had been taken.
Seventh District Congressman Elijah Cummings is one of the shining stars of that class, as is state Del. Tony Fulton. Bagwell now goes by the name Amin Sharif, the result of a conversion to Islam. None of us in Citys Class of 69 figured Sharif would go into politics. (Hes now a correctional counselor at the Baltimore City Detention Center.) But what we did know was that Sharif, single-handedly, made the 1968-1969 school year a helluva lot more exciting than in most other schools.
The fall semester found Sharif elected president of the schools new Afro-American Club. Interviewed in The Collegian, the schools newspaper, Sharif expressed the then-common notion among black militants that there were few, if any, good white people. The sentiment did not endear him to that segment of the City faculty who figured black students had already committed an offense simply by showing up at the school.
On Jan. 15, 1969, Sharif led a small but vocal band of students out of the school.
Were declaring Martin Luther Kings birthday a holiday, he and other students announced, years before Congress and the rest of the country caught up. But the students spend the day goofing off. They went to Hopkins Plaza and conducted a teach-in on King and the civil rights movement. They didnt consider themselves truant. They simply figured they had taken their education outside the walls of City College.
Later in the year, Sharif and other students went before the school board to urge it to give students options of taking the day off on Malcolm Xs birthday. In a close vote, the board agreed.
When a police dog bit a black woman in West Baltimore and took out a sizable chunk of her thigh, there was Sharif again, among a group of activists who protested the mauling and got arrested and charged with inciting to riot for their trouble. Out on bail, Sharif was in a car using a bullhorn to urge a crowd of people near Murphy Homes to protest the injustice when police grabbed him out of the car and arrested him again.
So we figured this Sharif guy might end up in the Nation of Islam or the Black Panthers or get some job as a professional rabble-rouser. But a corrections counselor and part-time book editor?
Well, he is, Sharif showed up at The Sun last week, dressed in a suit and tie, looking tres Establishment, to talk about the book. With him was Rudolph Lewis, who is co-editor of I Am New Orleans and Other Poems by Marcus B. Christian. How does a Baltimore guy end up co-editing a book about a New Orleans poet? Thats explained by the friendship between Sharif and Lewis.
After Sharif graduated from City, he and Lewis were roommates who shared a common philosophy.
We were part of the black consciousness movement that lasted from the 60s to the early 80s, Lewis explained. In the early 1980s, Sharif went abroad for a spell, and Lewis headed to New Orleans. While there, Lewis learned of the literary workspoems, letters, and history essaysof Marcus Christian. Impressed by what he read, lewis obtained some of Christians diaries, poems, and letters and lugged them around for ten years, trying to find a publisher.
In 1987, Lewis returned to Baltimore. He bumped into Sharif by accident. During the reunion Lewis told Sharif about Christians work, and the two worked together to find a publisher. Xavier University Press of New Orleans published 500 copies of the book in June, which have sold out.
Were ultimately interested in Marcus Christian being considered in the canon of African-American poets, especially at black colleges and universities, Lewis said.
The editing duo managed to get 50 of the 2,000 poems Christian penned into the book. Christian wrote poems about love, racism, war (a couple of poems criticizing World War I and a few praising Ethiopians resisting the 1930s Italian invasion) and police brutality.
Lewis and Sharif consider Christian an unsung contributor to what Lewis insists should be called the Negro Renaissancerather than the Harlem Renaissanceof the 1920s and 1930s.
Hes different from most of the major figures in that he didnt go to New York or Chicago, Lewis said. But Christian was in frequent communication with the likes of W.E.B. Du Bois, and Langston Hughes and was a close friend of Arna Bontemps.
It took 30 years Ulysses Bagwell to make the journey from militant firebrand to Amin Sharif book editor and preserver of a portion of black Americas cultural legacy. You have to figure the ghost of Marcus Christian, who died in 1976, is most appreciative.
* * * * *
#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 Eroticanoir.com 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
* * * * *
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
* * * * *
A Novel by Jesmyn Ward
On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family thats 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 Katrinas inexorable winds is the voice of Wards 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 familys raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brothers blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt. Her fathers hands are like gravel, while her own hand slides through his grip like a wet fish, and a handsome boys 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 isnt usually just metaphor for metaphors sake. She conveys something fundamental about Eschs 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, whats salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.WashingtonPost
* * * * *
From The World and Africa, 1965
* * * * *
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
online through PayPal
* * * * *
Browse all issues
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
posted 20 August 2005 / update 1 January 2012