ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
Only of late have we made the Maafa pilgrimage to the ocean, dressed in white to let them know
we know, only now have we said forgive us for we know not what we have done by forgetting you.
Books by Marvin X
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Ancestors and Spirituality
By Marvin X
They are in the land. We ask permission to come on the land. We bring the medicine man, the Yoruba priestess, the imam to ask permission, to bless the land. We know they are there. We hear them, we know they hear us. Ancestors speak, speak to us this day. Forgive us our sin of not liberating the land, of leaving you unfed, unacknowledged, as though unwanted, yet you carried us all the way to this moment, you were there, are yet there, in the creek, swamps, rivers, oceans, forest, woods.
I see you now as I sit on the train. I look out the window at you running through the woods, the forest, swimming the lake, I bathe with you while sitting on the train. I see you on the plantation, in the hut making love to your lover man. I see you making love to the master. You fight as he rapes you, you resist until he is gone, you resist. I hear you in the hut, there is hate in the hut.
I see you in the window of my train coming through the South, heading West to my home. The trees speak to me and haunt me. I turn away in tears. I cannot bear to look at the pine trees, the moss-wood in the swamp. I am transfixed, cannot move, frozen in time, in centuries of time, of cotton, rice, sugar cane. I must make peace with you, O trees, O ancestors buried in unknown graves. For I have sinned, I have forgotten you. I have not talked with you, even when you spoke to me, tried to make me understand all that happened, how you got here, the terror, the red flag leading you down to the shore, to the boat out to the big ship, the Middle Passage. You screamed and I screamed, screamed in denial because I didn’t want to hear, hear the truth, the pain, the fire, the bones, ashes, the wail, the toil, the sun, moon, stormy nights, words in your language, forbidden to utter a sound in our Mother tongue.
I cannot look out at the trees, there is guilt, for what am I doing now to avenge you, what? Only of late have we made the Maafa pilgrimage to the ocean, dressed in white to let them know we know, only now have we said forgive us for we know not what we have done by forgetting you.
We forgot ourselves, and so our children forget us, do not acknowledge us, disrespect us, for the chain is broken and must be repaired. We hold hands and pray as the ocean tide comes upon us, as our white robes become wet in this baptism by water in remembrance of those many thousands gone, the millions gone whose shoulders we stand upon, without whom we would be nothing, less than clay, sand, mud. Yet we are what we are today because of you and all you did in the night and in the day, from can’t see to can’t see.
Such is the gift of ancestors. There is no spirituality without ancestors. Without ancestors there is nothing, no air, no sun, no bone, no blood, no night no day.
We can imagine we are all that and all this but we are not. They are the reason for our season. So we salute them and let them know in our daily prayers, in our food, in our walks and talks for they are talking to us and most of all, they are listening.
They want us only to be our Divine self, nothing less, no animal, no beast, no fiend, no dog, no bitch, no pimp, no ho, but Divine self, beyond human, Divine. That is why they came, that is why they endured all the terror all the trauma, to raise up a Divine people for eternity, not fools, clowns, buffoons, toms, Divine people who see with the Third Eye, the eye of the Spirit that cannot be deceived.
Source: Toward Radical Spirituality, Black Bird Press, 2007 (c) 2006 by Marvin X (El Muhajir)
Marvin X has given permission to Harvard University to publish his poem “For El Haji Rasul Taifa” from Love and War: Poems by Marvin X (1995). The poem will appear in The Encyclopedia of Islam in America Volume II, Greenwood Press, edited by Dr. Jocelyne Cesari of Harvard’s Islam in the West Program. Mr. X is co-editor of the forthcoming anthology Muslim American Literature, University of Arkansas Press, edited by Dr. Mojah Khaf. He is also in the forthcoming Muslim American Drama, Temple University.
posted 20 June 2006
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#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
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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
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Wilderson, a professor, writer and filmmaker from the Midwest, presents a gripping account of his role in the downfall of South African apartheid as one of only two black Americans in the African National Congress (ANC). After marrying a South African law student, Wilderson reluctantly returns with her to South Africa in the early 1990s, where he teaches Johannesburg and Soweto students, and soon joins the military wing of the ANC. Wilderson’s stinging portrait of Nelson Mandela as a petulant elder eager to accommodate his white countrymen will jolt readers who’ve accepted the reverential treatment usually accorded him. After the assassination of Mandela’s rival, South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani, Mandela’s regime deems Wilderson’s public questions a threat to national security; soon, having lost his stomach for the cause, he returns to America. Wilderson has a distinct, powerful voice and a strong story that shuffles between the indignities of Johannesburg life and his early years in Minneapolis, the precocious child of academics who barely tolerate his emerging political consciousness. Wilderson’s observations about love within and across the color line and cultural divides are as provocative as his politics; despite some distracting digressions, this is a riveting memoir of apartheid’s last days.Publishers Weekly
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 29 December 2011