The Beautiful Struggle

The Beautiful Struggle


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



One’s will to succeed . . . to achieve or to pursue excellence must remain the direct pathway

to any accomplishment . . . there can be no short-cuts to tomorrow . . . no slipping

and sliding . . . shucking and jiving . . . because urban life in America can be brutally short



Books by Acklyn Lynch


Nightmare Overhanging Darkly: Essays on Black Culture and Resistance / Blueprint for Change


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The Beautiful Struggle

 A Father, Two Sons, and Unlikely Road to Manhood

By Ta-Nehisi Coates

Reviewed by Acklyn Lynch


This is a very moving autobiographical statement . . . a father-son exchange which is both contemporary and complex . . . the struggle is beautiful because it ends at the right place with integrity and love . . . a blues experience . . . deep in its pathos . . . but easy like a Sunday morning . . .

It is interesting that both father and son remained perched on the precipice of chaotic dissonance . . . perhaps, they are reflected as standing at the water’s edge . . . as one aspect of the legendary historic journey . . . the question remains . . . where will it take them?

This book has its roots in Richard Wright’s Black Boy, Claude Brown’s Manchild in the Promised Land and George Lamming’s In the Castle of My Skin . . . Even Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father manifests a certain relevancy to this youthful voice

 . . . The generation speaks . . . and engages us in a new discourse . . . granted that the world has changed fundamentally from the 20th Century, the construction of a young man’s life and its relationship to the father’s journey must be seriously examined . . .

Ta-Nehisi Coates invoked his Africanity by immersing himself in Djembe rhythms . . . but his authenticity emerges out of a “spoken-word” and “hip hop” consciousness rooted in the reality of poverty and oppression . . .

While glittering in the illusion of consumption and crass materialism . . . He is attuned to the style, vocabulary and language of his generation . . . but this blues sensibility evidenced in earlier poets and writers like Amiri Baraka, Larry Neal, Ted Joans, Sonia Sanchez, Toni Morrison, John Oliver Killens, Kalamu ya Salaam, Alice Walker, etc. . . . , remain decidedly engrained in the richness of his work . . . Furthermore, he has found contemporary compatriots in Sunni Patterson, Taalam Acey and Chuck D . . .

Ta-Nehisi is deeply respectful of his parents and their commitment to family . . . community as well as historic legacy . . . he preserves the deep intelligence . . . profound patience and uncompromising discipline, which are essential characteristics in the socialization process of young adults in metropolitan America . . . There can be no compromise in the discipline which is important in the shaping of character, courage and integrity . . .

One’s will to succeed . . . to achieve or to pursue excellence must remain the direct pathway to any accomplishment . . . there can be no short-cuts to tomorrow . . . no slipping and sliding . . . shucking and jiving . . . because urban life in America can be brutally short for young Black men . . . This book, therefore, remains a testament to that spirit of resistance, which manifests itself . . . not only in a commitment to the Black Panther Party or to the nationalistic urgency for the awakening of an African consciousness among young people at Nation House . . . but also a transformative voice which can be discovered in literature, history, dance, music, painting, sculpture, film, etc. .. . as we attempt to reshape visions of our people’s struggle beyond the shackles of yesterday’s deficits and tomorrow’s challenges . . .

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ The Beautiful Struggle has provided us with the clarity between illusion and reality as he recognizes his parents’ exemplary role in confronting the issues on tomorrow’s battleground . . . It opens the space for an intense intergenerational dialogue . . .

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Dr. Acklyn Lynch, Former Chair and Professor, Department of Africana Studies—Over the course of his quarter-century tenure at UMBC, Acklyn Lynch taught each class offered by the Africana studies department at least once.

Considered an expert on African American political thought, philosophy, popular culture, and Caribbean history and politics, Lynch is the author of two books: Nightmare Overhanging Darkly: Essays on Black Culture and Resistance, and Blueprint for ChangeUMBC

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More About This Book

An exceptional father-son story about the reality that tests us, the myths that sustain us, and the love that saves us.Paul Coates was an enigmatic god to his sons: a Vietnam vet who rolled with the Black Panthers, an old-school disciplinarian and new-age believer in free love, an autodidact who launched a publishing company in his basement dedicated to telling the true history of African civilization. Most of all, he was a wily tactician whose mission was to carry his sons across the shoals of inner-city adolescence—and through the collapsing civilization of Baltimore in the Age of Crack—and into the safe arms of Howard University, where he worked so his children could attend for free. Among his brood of seven, his main challenges were Ta-Nehisi, spacey and sensitive and almost comically miscalibrated for his environment, and Big Bill, charismatic and all-too-ready for the challenges of the streets. The Beautiful Struggle follows their divergent paths through this turbulent period, and their father’s steadfast efforts—assisted by mothers, teachers, and a body of myths, histories, and rituals conjured from the past to meet the needs of a troubled present—to keep them whole in a world that seemed bent on their destruction. With a remarkable ability to reimagine both the lost world of his father’s generation and the terrors and wonders of his own youth, Coates offers readers a small and beautiful epic about boys trying to become men in black America and beyond.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a former staff writer at The Village Voice and Time and has contributed to The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, O, and numerous other publications. He lives in New York City.

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

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 Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s 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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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

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

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The Warmth of Other Suns

The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration

By Isabel Wilkerson

Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a sharecropper’s wife, left Mississippi for Milwaukee in 1937, after her cousin was falsely accused of stealing a white man’s turkeys and was almost beaten to death. In 1945, George Swanson Starling, a citrus picker, fled Florida for Harlem after learning of the grove owners’ plans to give him a “necktie party” (a lynching). Robert Joseph Pershing Foster made his trek from Louisiana to California in 1953, embittered by “the absurdity that he was doing surgery for the United States Army and couldn’t operate in his own home town.” Anchored to these three stories is Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Wilkerson’s magnificent, extensively researched study of the “great migration,” the exodus of six million black Southerners out of the terror of Jim Crow to an “uncertain existence” in the North and Midwest. Wilkerson deftly incorporates sociological and historical studies into the novelistic narratives of Gladney, Starling, and Pershing settling in new lands, building anew, and often finding that they have not left racism behind. The drama, poignancy, and romance of a classic immigrant saga pervade this book, hold the reader in its grasp, and resonate long after the reading is done.

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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

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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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posted 30 June 2008 




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