ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
It is not a good sign for the region, despite its abundance natural resources to willingly allow most of its best to emigrate to the West.
The brain drain that has swept across Africa is a blow for development. For example, African scholarship students in the
West refuse to return to their respective countries after study.
Africa: 50 Years of Independence
By Hakeem Babalola
It is fifty years that most African States freed themselves from colonial exploiters who had sojourned to the then Dark Continent in a selfish attempt to introduce light to the region. Ironically, African rulers are doingif not worseexactly what these colonialists did to Africa in those dark days. It sickens.
Although a few African States like Ghana got independence before 1960, the year witnessed freedom en-sweep much of Africa. Nigeria and Somalia broke from British ascendancy. Fourteen nations (Cameroon, Togo, Mali, Senegal, Madagascar, Benin, Niger, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Chad, Central African Republic, Mauritania, Republic of the Congo, and Gabon,) ended French control, while the Belgian Congo became Zaire.
Liberia and Ethiopia meanwhile are the only two countries in Africa without roots in the European Scramble for Africa. Thus Liberia was the first African country to get its independence from freed American slaves on July 26 1847; and Ethiopia remains the only African country never colonized.
Whilst some got their independence on a platter of gold, some did by fighting for political freedom from unwanted strangers who had forcefully occupied their territories. These strangers who had found a fertile land in African nations refused to leave.
By the time they were bundled out, they had caused chaos that forever would impede the development of African States. Though an innate ambition, it was a master plan by the colonialists. The happening in the African region today is no doubt the result of a vow to destabilize the people by those strangers who had planned to conquer them forever. What seems to be the most painful is the collaboration of African rulers to further keep the continent in darkness.
The ghost of that brutal vision still taunts most of the African States today. It continues to re-appear in form of poverty, war, tribalism, religious intolerance and underdevelopment. It is disheartening to observe that majority of organizations claiming to be non- governmental (NGOs) around the world today use Africa’s poverty situation to solicit funds anyhow.
Consequently, it has become fashionable to create a blog and put the pictures of African children crying or looking dejected and/or bare-naked in an effort to make money rather than actually helping the needy. Why is Africa being subjected to a symbol of sorrow? And why is it difficult for African rulers to checkmate these NGOs innate intention to portray Africa as a hopeless continent? Hum, you may be surprised that some African governments may be collaborating with these NGOs as long as their palms are being rubbed.
These visionless rulersmilitary or civilianare in the habit of enslaving their people in form of IMF loans and other knavery acts. They are in the habit of siphoning the state wealth to foreign countries like Switzerland, England, America, and France. These African rulers lavish money anyhow, especially on unnecessary things. If they go abroad, they go with scores of delegation on tax payers’ money. They buy expensive mansions in foreign lands. They buy for their family and concubines worthless but exorbitant materials.
In preparation for Nigeria’s golden independent jubilee in October 1st, President Jonathan Goodluck had budgeted N16.4 billion for celebrations, reports say. He then slashed it to N9.5 billion following public criticism. Ghana was also reported to have spent up to 20 million US dollars for her own golden independent jubilee. This is just to cite two examples.
No wonder that Africa remains underdeveloped after the so-called independence. Or, can a nation be considered developed or developing when in fact, citizens cannot enjoy basic amenities like health care, education, good roads, constant electricity, and adequate water? Of course a few African countries are making progress in some respect; many remain stagnant and may remain so for another 50 years if care is not taken.
In fact, major publications have done an exposé on how African dictators are agents of American notorious CIA and other similar organizations in the West. According to several reports, America is in the habit of recruiting dictators who can advance its course. England and France until recent have been a haven for African political thieves.
There have been arguments in some quarters as well. Right thinking minds have been trying to understand the reason behind Asian countries rapid development and African countries continuous underdevelopment. Well, the perspective and the readiness of benevolent leadership may play an important role in the difference between the two continents.
It is not a good sign for the region, despite its abundance natural resources to willingly allow most of its best to emigrate to the West. The brain drain that has swept across Africa is a blow for development. For example, African scholarship students in the West refuse to return to their respective countries after study.
The decision and wisdom of these brilliant African students to stay put in their host countries in the West after their study says a lot about Africa. Instead of bracing the storm by coming up with ideas that can uplift the spirit of progress in their respective countries, these students are satisfied being second or third class citizens. It is a pit.
In the last decade, the West in another attempt to enslave Africa introduced a system whereby African highly skilled men and women are lured from the continent. They are now contributing to the development of their host nations while their countries of birth wallow in abject underdevelopment.
Is there even the need to celebrate? Well, it depends on whom you ask. But certainly, the masses who are bearing the consequences of bad policies would definitely tell you that there’s nothing to celebrate. Meanwhile the pertinent question is this: What will become of Africa in the next 50 years? Your guess is as good as mine.
Hakeem Babalola is currently teaching English Communication in Budapest, Hungary. He loves writing, a vehicle by which he rides to relieve himself of certain emotions. His articles have appeared in Nigerian newspapers including Nigerian Tribune, Daily Champion, Vanguard, Daily Trust respectively. He is also a contributor to several online magazines like Nigeriavillagesquare.com, Chatafrikarticles.com, voiceofnigerians and a host of others. Hakeem is a member of Association of Hungarian Journalists.
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Interviewed by Lola Balola
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of My Ten Years in Captivity and My Journey to Freedom in America
By Francis Bok
Seven-year-old Francis Piol Bol Buk was living happily on his family’s southern Sudan farm. One day in 1986, he was sent on errands to the marketplace. There, a slave raid ripped him from his contented life and threw him into a wretched existence serving under a northern Sudanese Arab. After he escaped at age 17, Buk made his way to Cairo with a black market passport incorrectly listing his name as Bok and became a U.N. refugee allowed to settle in the U.S. in 1999.
Although he found contentment in Iowa among other refugees, the following year Bok decided to work with an American antislavery organization, and testified before Congress about the atrocities in Sudan. While this is a remarkable story, its power is conveyed most effectively through Bok’s simple retelling. His sincerity compels, especially when he describes the decade of mistreatment he endured. After two failed escape attempts, he’s told he’ll be killed in the morning, and while bound, he thinks of the morning ahead: “I would be dead and finally through with this place and this family. My mind preferred death.” Yet when his master changes his mind, Bok immediately starts plotting again. For all his emotional strength, though, Bok remains humble. He thanks God and everyone who helps him escape slavery. This is a powerful, exceptionally well-told story, equally riveting and heartbreaking. Although legal strides have been made, with the help of people like Bok, the persistence of slavery in the world makes this a work that can’t be ignored.Publishers Weekly
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As a seven-year-old boy growing up in the southern Sudan, Bok was caught up in a raid on a regional market center when marauders from the north set upon the market, killing the men and kidnapping the women and children to work as farm slaves. He went from a loving and supportive extended family to the brutality of slavery in a strange land and culture, dominated by Muslims who considered him a Christian infidel. After enduring 10 years of slavery, Bok escaped to freedom in Cairo, where he became a U.N. refugee, eventually making his way to the U.S. at the age of 21. Having learned Arabic in Northern Sudan and English in America, Bok, with incredible determination, became involved in the antislavery movement, speaking around the country while seeking to earn a high-school degree. Yet it is his simple account of being a child cut off from his family and culture that shows the inhumanity of slavery. Bok’s saga provides anothermore contemporaryperspective on slavery for Americans reckoning with their own troubling history of such inhumanity. Vernon FordBooklist
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By Mende Nazer
Born into the Karko tribe in the Nuba mountains of northern Sudan, Nazer has written a straightforward, harrowing memoir that’s a sobering reminder that slavery still needs to be stamped out. The first, substantial section of the book concentrates on Nazer’s idyllic childhood, made all the more poignant for the misery readers know is to come. Nazer is presented as intelligent and headstrong, and her people as peaceful, generous and kind. In 1994, around age 12 (the Nuba do not keep birth records), Nazer was snatched by Arab raiders, raped and shipped to the nation’s capital, Khartoum, where she was installed as a maid for a wealthy suburban family. (For readers expecting her fate to include a grimy factory or barren field, the domesticity of her prison comes as a shock.)
To Nazer, the modern landscape of Khartoum could not possibly have been more alien; after all, she had never seen even a spoon, a mirror or a sink, much less a telephone or television set. Nazer’s urbane tormentorsmostly the pampered housewifebeat her frequently and dehumanized her in dozens of ways. They were affluent, petty, and calculatedly cruel, all in the name of “keeping up appearances.” The contrast between Nazer’s pleasant but “primitive” early life and the horrors she experienced in Khartoum could hardly be more stark; it’s an object lesson in the sometimes dehumanizing power of progress and creature comforts. After seven years, Nazer was sent to work in the U.K., where she contacted other Sudanese and eventually escaped to freedom. Her book is a profound meditation on the human ability to survive virtually any circumstances.Publishers Weekly
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By Alek Wek
“When I cleaned toilets, I only saw it as work to give me the means to achieve my goals. Of course I hated it,” the Sudanese supermodel exclaimed. “Waking up at 4 a.m. when it’s freezing cold is not easy, followed by Uni, coursework and my evening baby-sitting job, but it made me disciplined and gave me a huge sense of self-appreciation.”
Born the seventh of nine children Alek, meaning ‘black-spotted cow’ (one of Sudan’s most treasured cows, which represents good luck), never dreamt of becoming a model. Both in her motherland, where she was considered to be inferior due to her Dinka tribe (dubbed as ‘zurqa’, meaning dirty black) and again in Britain when she arrived in 1991, she faced hostility.
Since being scouted Wek has been in several high-profile music videos, done ads for Issey Miyake, Moschino, Victoria’s Secret and Clinique, as well as strutted the runway for fashion designers John Galliano, Donna Karen, Calvin Klein and Ermanno Scervino – to name a few. The Dinka beauty who was the first black model who didn’t conform to a Caucasian aesthetic also scored an acting role in 2002, debuting in The Four Feathers as Sudanese princess Aquol. . . .
“When I was granted permission to re-enter the country and I had the opportunity to revisit my old life, I realised that I need closure because my life has transformed so much. But with the closure I was seeking, I also realised that I had an open book to move forward. Once I returned to my new home in Brooklyn, I had a burning desire to transcribe my feelings into memoirs,” she said. . . .
Maintaining her Dinka traditions while living in the Big Apple, Wek always speaks to her mother in their traditional language and talks Arabic with her sisters. Wek lives with her boyfriend of four years, Riccardo Sala, an Italian who works in property but, most importantly, Wek brings her past life to the kitchen table by cooking traditional Dinka food such as okra stew and dried fish, creating aromas from her small town in Wau in her East Side, New York, kitchen.Jamaica-Gleaner
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By Anne Carroll
The author’s analysis of how the illustrations amplify and create tension with the writing and how they empower and sometimes disempower their subjects is the first critical work in this important area. Generously illustrated. Highly recommended. Choice
In tracing the formation of the idea of the New Negro through the vital interplay of literature, art, and social criticism, Word, Image, and the New Negro makes a superb contribution to scholarship on the Harlem Renaissance, the history of African American publishing, and modern American culture.Eric J. Sundquist, author of To Wake the Nations: Race in the Making of American Literature
The first detailed comparative analysis of the mix of text and illustration in the major African American magazines and anthologies of the 1910s and 1920s. It is a major advance in our understanding of what amounted to innovative collage forms articulated to race and politics. Carefully theorized and rich with persuasive readings, the book should appeal not only to literary scholars but also to anyone interested in modernity and the little magazine.Cary Nelson, author of Revolutionary Memory
A very welcome contribution to the contemporary rethinking of the period. By calling our attention to the images that consistently and significantly appeared alongside some of the well-remembered texts of the Harlem Renaissance, Carroll foregrounds the very modernity that the New Negro Movement sought self-consciously to embrace…. Carroll’s eye for the particular will have both a helpful and inspiring effect on readers who want to continue building on the work she has done here.Net Reviews
This book focuses on the collaborative illustrated volumes published during the Harlem Renaissance, in which African Americans used written and visual texts to shape ideas about themselves and to redefine African American identity. Anne Elizabeth Carroll argues that these volumes show how participants in the movement engaged in the processes of representation and identity formation in sophisticated and largely successful ways. Though they have received little scholarly attention, these volumes constitute an important aspect of the cultural production of the Harlem Renaissance. Word, Image, and the New Negro marks the beginning of a long-overdue recovery of this legacy and points the way to a greater understanding of the potential of texts to influence social change.amazon.com
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By Barbara Foley
A carefully argued, nuanced presentation of the genesis of the Harlem Renaissance. Foley’s breadth of knowledge in American radical history is impressive.American Literature
Foley’s book is a lucid and useful one… A heavyweight intervention, it prompts significant rethinking of the ideological and representational strategies structuring the era.Journal of American Studies
Foley does a masterful job of analyzing the racial and political theories of a wide range of black and white figures, from the radical Left to the racist Right… Students of African American political and cultural history in the early twentieth century cannot ignore this book. Essential.Choice
In our current time of crisis, when ruling classes busily promote nationalism and racism to conceal the class nature of their inter-imperialist rivalries, one can only hope that readers will not be daunted by Foley’s dedication to analyzing the ideological milieu of the 1920s that contributed to the eclipse of New Negro radicalism by New Negro nationalism.Science & Society
With the New Negro movement and the Harlem Renaissance, the 1920s was a landmark decade in African American political and cultural history, characterized by an upsurge in racial awareness and artistic creativity. In Spectres of 1919 Barbara Foley traces the origins of this revolutionary era to the turbulent year 1919, identifying the events and trends in American society that spurred the black community to action and examining the forms that action took as it evolved.
Unlike prior studies of the Harlem Renaissance, which see 1919 as significant mostly because of the geographic migrations of blacks to the North, Spectres of 1919 looks at that year as the political crucible from which the radicalism of the 1920s emerged. Foley draws from a wealth of primary sources, taking a bold new approach to the origins of African American radicalism and adding nuance and complexity to the understanding of a fascinating and vibrant era.
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posted 19 October 2010
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