ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
The commonly held perception of Siki has persistently alluded to his been a child
of the jungle; a feeble minded and uncivilized interloper unable to properly
comprehend and adjust to his existence in a civilized environment.
Books by Adeyinka Makinde
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Review by Adeyinka Makinde
The written word is a most powerful tool. It has the capacity to mould, shape, build and destroy the reputations of both the living and the dead. But if there is any grain of truth to the cynical adage that historians are granted a power denied even to the gods; that is, to alter what has happened, then it is perhaps also true to aver the inverse proposition that historians are invested with the power to re-mould the distortions and alterations of the past. Such was the task faced by Peter Benson, an American academic, in his work on the first African to win a world title, Battling Siki.
Born Amadou MBarick Fall of the Wolof people in the French West African colony of Senegal, Siki made history when he mauled the world light heavyweight champion George Carpentier to defeat in 1922. He would continue to make headlines in the three years that remained of his life, many of which were not for the right reasons and many of which were manipulations of the facts. The story of Siki, transmitted through the pens of contemporary journalists and echoed through the decades by essayists, may in fact be one of the most troubling misrepresentations in the history of the sport.
The commonly held perception of Siki has persistently alluded to his been a child of the jungle; a feeble minded and uncivilized interloper unable to properly comprehend and adjust to his existence in a civilized environment. This is the man, after all who defended his title against an Irishman on St. Patricks Day in Ireland and promptly lost. The man who only beat Carpentier in a freak explosion of primitive inspired fury. A man, who was overly fond of a drink and by virtue of his uncouthness, facilitated his own death in a Hells Kitchen gutter in 1925.
But Bensons research challenges this. Far from being the uncultured child of the jungle, Siki was a man who spoke several languages including French, Dutch and English. And contrary to the postulated naïve buffoon who unwisely put his crown on the line in Ireland, Benson depicts Siki as a fighter in need of a healthy fight purse which was denied to him after he upset Carpentier. Indeed Sikis excursion to the troubled and battle scarred environs of the newly independent Irish Free State was done under the desperate plight he found himself in because of the racially motivated backlash which saw him banned from fighting on the European continent and on British soil. Bensons work also confirms beyond doubt that Sikis apparently sudden destruction of the Orchid Man was based not so much on a fluke, but was down to Sikis decision to abandon a script which had been designed to assure Carpentier of victory.
When he came to fight in America after losing to Mike McTigue, the perception that he was overanked gained credence with his points losses to Kid Norfolk and a rising Paul Barlenbach. Yet, the evidence appears to be that Sikis career derailed not so much due to the paucity of his pugilistic skills as it was to the ineptitude of his American manager.
Of course, Siki played a part in his own downfall. He liked to party and he often neglected to train, but he persevered on more than natural talent having learned his trade as a pre-World War One fighter in the sporting halls of Marseilles and Toulouse, beginning when he was barely into his teens. He was a highly skilled operator with a penchant for what contemporarily would be termed as showmanship on par with the antics of Muhammad Ali, but which was misconstrued in his day as a manifestation of his primitiveness.
His courage was undoubted; winning the Croix de Guerre and Medal Militaire when fighting in the battle trenches of France, Turkey and Romania.
But while Siki was able to survive fighting in a war in which tens of thousands of his fellow Senegalese laid down their lives on behalf of the French empire, he was unable to avoid a brutal death, persuasively argued by Benson to have been the likely work of the Hells Kitchen Mob who may have had him murdered in retaliation for his not going along with a fix in one or several bouts.
There is much to marvel about in relation to Bensons book, not least of which are the depth and breath of his research and his eloquent and engaging style of writing. It is less of a rebuke and more of a reminder to note the authors error in referring to the Rumble in the Jungle, Muhammad Alis 1974 heavyweight title fight with George Foreman as having been the first of its kind on the Africa continent; that honorific, of course, belongs to the world title bout staged eleven years earlier between Nigerias Dick Tiger and the American Gene Fullmer in the city of Ibadan.
That, however, is but a minor blip in this authoritative and incisive book. Peter Bensons achievement is to empirically question and re-assess the interpretations of the past and in so doing has cast a light into the dense and dark labyrinth of obfuscations and distortions, whether deliberate or unconscious, about the life and significance of the man Louis Mbarick Fall; the boxing pioneer, Battling Siki.
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Peter Benson. Battling Siki: A Tale of Ring Fixes, Race, and Murder in the 1920s (Arkansas University Press)
posted 24 July 2006
Adeyinka Makinde is Nigerian by birth and British by nationality. He was born August 1966 at Yaba Military Hospital, the fourth child of Lt. Emmanuel Oladipo Makinde and Grace Makinde. He was named ‘Adeyinka’ (Ade yi mi ka) which means “crowns surround me.”
As a child he was always surrounded by books and have always held a fascination for the written word. His main interests were in biographies of historical figures and histories of nations. He has been a student of boxing for a long time and the story of the boxer Richard Ihetu, better known by his ring cognomen Dick Tiger.
He relocated to England in 1980 were he completed ‘O’ Levels and ‘A’ Levels. In between these, he obtained a National Diploma in Business Finance. He read Law at the Polytechnic of North London graduating, with honours, in 1989. In the autumn of that year, he enrolled on to the inaugural Bar Vocational Course at the Inns of Court School of Law. He was subsequently called to the Bar at the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple.
Since then he has worked as a Law Lecturer at a number of colleges and universities in the United Kingdom and as a Company In-House Counsel. He is the Managing Director of his company, the Law Academy Ltd. Along the way he married and has two beautiful daughters. In many ways, he feels that he is about to ‘take-off’ and fulfill his manifest destiny: To secure the future of his children and to contribute in a meaningful manner to the development of his country of origin and indeed to any community within which he lives.
A student of boxing, Adeyinka has written many articles and match reports for a number of boxing sites on the World Wide including cyberboxingzone.com. He has also contributed to the journal, African Renaissance.
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For July 1st through August 31st 2011
#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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Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis
Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as “the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field ‘cut their teeth’.”
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By Melissa V. Harris-Perry
According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless Mammys behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own familys needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.
As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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posted 2 November 2007
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