After the Hurricanes

After the Hurricanes


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



 Kidnap our cultures and dreams, wondrously aged, / Transport and auction them for abuse. Against such tragedy within tragedy we stand / In solidarity for life, for liberty, for return to happiness.



Books by Jerry W. Ward  Jr.

Trouble the Water (1997) / Black Southern Voices (1992) / The Richard Wright Encyclopedia (2008)  / The Katrina Papers

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After the Hurricanes

                 (for the radical writers in New Orleans)

By Jerry W. Ward Jr.


Poverty is not devoid of its dignity, Nor is the Ninth Ward a fractured mirror For minor gods to behold factitious laughter. Beware of aliens, of inside agitators, of vultures Who would batten on grief and broken hearts, Kidnap our cultures and dreams, wondrously aged, Transport and auction them for abuse. Against such tragedy within tragedy we stand In solidarity for life, for liberty, for return to happiness.

Saints and soldiers creative Be not blindly meditative, Seeking at noon An impossible drinking gourd.

Hope is not devoid of its deceit, Nor immune to misleading into swamps. Careful.  Don’t move left. Quicksand be there. Don’t move right.  Gators will kiss you. Learn from the fugitive enslaved. Befriend moccasins. Capture and coffle the cruel, The arrogant, the mammon cold. Send them on middle passages into the blues.

October 19, 2005

posted 21 October 2005

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The Katrina Papers, by Jerry W. Ward, Jr.   /  The Richard Wright Encyclopedia (2008)

The Katrina Papers is not your average memoir. It is a fusion of many kinds of writing, including intellectual autobiography, personal narrative, political/cultural analysis, spiritual journal, literary history, and poetry. Though it is the record of one man’s experience of Hurricane Katrina, it is a record that is fully a part of his life and work as a scholar, political activist, and professor.  The Katrina Papers provides space not only for the traumatic events but also for ruminations on authors such as Richard Wright and theorists like Deleuze and Guattarri. The result is a complex though thoroughly accessible book. The struggle with form—the search for a medium proper to the complex social, personal, and political ramifications of an event unprecedented in this scholar’s life and in American social history—lies at the very heart of The Katrina Papers. It depicts an enigmatic and multi-stranded world view which takes the local as its nexus for understanding the global.  It resists the temptation to simplify or clarify when simplification and clarification are not possible. Ward’s narrative is, at times, very direct, but he always refuses to simplify the complex emotional and spiritual volatility of the process and the historical moment that he is witnessing. The end result is an honesty that is both pedagogical and inspiring.—Hank Lazer

Dear Jerry, The Richard Wright Encyclopedia (2008) is a marvelous resource! It’s not like any encyclopedia I’ve seen before. Already, I have spent hours reading through the various entries. So much is there: people, themes, issues, events, bibliographies, etc., related to Wright. Yours is a monumental contribution! The more I read Wright (and about him), the more I am amazed at the depth and breadth of his work and its impact on the worlds of literature, philosophy, politics, sociology, history, psychology, etc. He was formidable! Floyd W. Hayes

Dear Jerry,   I received my copy of The Katrina Papers this past weekend. I had to order it directly from UNO Press. This is a formidable volume! You write with such eloquence, passion, insight, and power. As survivor and raconteur of Katrina’s devastation, you give the reader your reflections on this event; you also provide us with informed commentaries about a broad variety of other issues that attract your attention and the people with whom you interact. As a student of politics, I guess I am just overwhelmed by the breadth and depth of your critical observations. Reading this volume and The Richard Wright Encyclopedia, I can comprehend not only the centrality of Richard Wright to your scholarly project, but I also can grasp your own intellectual power and clear vision. For example, your critique of Robert Lashley’ rant about Wright’s LAWD TODAY is the model of the art of critique. Marvelous!   Thanks for your generous comment on my paper on Robeson and Wright. I continue to read both of your books. As always, Floyd W. Hayes

Rudy, Jerry’s Katrina Papers, which I started reading last night, is, indeed, extraordinary. It’s not a new genre, however; it’s really set in the frame of a journal—not the 19th-century kind like that of Ida B. Wells and of so many other, primarily women writers of that period—but more like the “new diary,” described by Tristine Rainer as a “journal for self guidance and expanded creativity.” In many ways it’s similar to Frida Kahlo’s journal or notebook—in her case, designed for creative self-expression through the incorporation of sketches, notes, and symbols (primarily visual images); in his case designed for intellectual reflection through the incorporation of verbal images and symbols.

In many ways, his journal and the “new diary” finds its postmodern manifestation in the blog, particularly one like Ethelbert’s. The journal/new diary/blog is an extremely flexible genre that permits the inclusion of various other forms: poetry, Q & As, course syllabi, dialogs, prose pieces, doodlings, sketches, dramatic scenes, etc. I was particularly fascinated with Jerry’s piece about his body, suggesting as it does, separation and disconnection from the “life of the mind” that he lives. Jerry is an intellectual par excellence with little indication in the Papers  of his physical/pleasurable self. Maybe he’ll expand later in the book on his trips to casinos and enjoyment of Jack Daniels. But, then, the book is not a reflection on joy, but, as you say, of power and clarity in the midst of disaster and depression. Most people would have disintegrated under such trauma. More about this later as I get my thoughts together. Miriam

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Super Rich: A Guide to Having it All

By Russell Simmons

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 /

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 2 January 2012




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