ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
But there is no book, there is no manual to tell you how to deal with sexual
abuse. I saw Todd Bridges talk about being abused on Oprah. Something
that he said, or an expression that he made that gave me that little boost
I needed to be open about it and to talk about it as transparently as I did.
Big Fight Sugar Ray Leonard
One of the most prodigious pugilists of all time, Sugar Ray Leonard was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina on May 17, 1956 to Cicero and Getha Leonard. The fifth of seven kids, his family moved to Washington, DC in 1959 before settling down seven years later in Palmer Park, Maryland where his father was employed as a supermarket night manager and his mother as a nurse.
Though shy as a young child, Ray followed his brother Rogers footsteps into boxing, ultimately eclipsing his elder sibling in terms of potential and finding fame by capturing the gold medal at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. He went on to become the first fighter to earn over $100 million over the course of an enviable career, winning world championship titles in five different weight classes while squaring-off in classic showdowns with such formidable opponents as Roberto No Mas Duran, Tommy The Hitman Hearns, Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Wilfred Benitez.
Ray retired from the ring in 1997 with a record 36-3-1, with 25 of those wins coming by knockout. Today, he lives in California with his wife, Bernadette, and their children, Camille and Daniel. Here, he discusses his moving memoir, The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring.
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Kam Williams: Hi Sugar Ray, Im honored to have this opportunity to speak with you. Howre you doing, champ?
Sugar Ray Leonard: Im alright, Kam, howre you?
Kam Williams: Great! I understand our mutual friend, filmmaker Janks Morton, Jr., the son of your first boxing coach, gave you a call on my behalf.
Sugar Ray Leonard: Yeah, man, this kid was so special, although hes not a kid anymore, obviously, but he was there from day one of my rise through boxing. You know how the years go by and then, when you stop to reflect, you realize that someone was a part of your whole evolution as an individual? Thats what I share with Junior.
Kam Williams: Yeah, he told me you guys go way back. I have a lot of questions from fans who sent in questions for you. Editor/legist Patricia Turnier says: I am from Montreal where you won your gold medal at the 76 Olympics. What is your best memory of the city?
Sugar Ray Leonard: My very best memory of Montreal was the moment inside the Olympic arena when I was waiting under the stadium and those majestic gates opened up. It was a whole other world. Kam, I was just a youngster from the ghetto. I suddenly felt like a star. It was emotionally overwhelming. It was something Id wanted, but it was also something I didnt understand. It was a whole different world, and Montreal was an absolutely beautiful setting unlike anywhere Id ever been before. So, Montreal in 76 was an encompassing experience I will cherish for the rest of my life.
Kam Williams: Patricia also says: It is widely known that it is very difficult for men to talk about sexual abuse. What made you decide to go public with your story, and was it a cathartic and healing experience to write about it?
Sugar Ray Leonard: It was cathartic, Patricia. I only wish that I had had the courage and the knowledge to have gotten that out of my system, out of my mind or my heart years earlier. But there is no book, there is no manual to tell you how to deal with sexual abuse. I saw Todd Bridges talk about being abused on Oprah. Something that he said, or an expression that he made that gave me that little boost I needed to be open about it and to talk about it as transparently as I did. When I told my wife, she couldnt believe it. She was petrified, because its such a no-no, taboo, a hands-off subject. But Id have to say hearing Todd Bridges on Oprah was my watershed moment.
Kam Williams: Kate Newell says: I saw you on Stephen Colbert and loved it. She was wondering why a movie hasnt been made about your life?
Sugar Ray Leonard: Being on Colbert was a real treat for me, too. I didnt quite know what to expect, but it turned out to be pretty cool. In terms of a movie, were talking about it. Its on the table but, as you know, Kam, that type of thing doesnt just happen overnight, unfortunately. But I do look forward to seeing the story of my life onscreen someday.
Kam Williams: You should talk to Tyler Perry.
Sugar Ray Leonard: I would love that.
Kam Williams: Or better yet, Janks, if you could get him to switch over to drama from directing documentaries.
Sugar Ray Leonard: Janks could do it justice, and Im not being facetious. You know why? Because he knows the story. Hes been in the story. And its real. Its raw. Maybe a little too raw for people at times. But this generation raised on reality-TV might be ready for it.
Kam Williams: I agree. Boxing fan Mike Ehrenberg asks: Was Wilfred Benitez the best pure boxer you ever faced?
Sugar Ray Leonard: Yes, without question. He was a mirror image of what I considered myself as a boxer. That was one of my toughest fights, by far. Its sad that hes not mentioned in the same breath as Hearns, Hagler, and Duran. It always bothered me that he wasnt considered in our league, the reason being that he never beat any of us. But he should be right up there.
Kam Williams: Mike also asks: Was the Dicky Eklund knockdown, highlighted in the movie The Fighter, legit?
Sugar Ray Leonard: It was legit that I was knocked down, or pushed down. [Chuckles] But I remember that fight like it was yesterday because that guy, Dick Eglund, was so unorthodox. And it was the first time in my life I really experienced racial hatred from the fans. Were talking about Boston back in 78.
Kam Williams: I lived in Boston from 75 to 78. Its the most racist city I ever experienced before or since. You couldnt step foot in white neighborhoods . . . they wouldnt serve you in some restaurants . . . and you couldnt go to Fenway Park or the Boston Garden.
Sugar Ray Leonard: I can believe it. When I arrived at the airport, I had a priest or a pastor greet me with, Hey boy, welcome.
Kam Williams: I could go on and on about Boston.
Sugar Ray Leonard: I could, too. Thats what it was like back then.
Kam Williams: When I interviewed Governor Deval Patrick last year, I told him I never wouldve believed that Massachusetts would ever elect a black governor after my experiences in his state. Mike has one more question: Do you regret coming out of retirement past your prime to fight Terry Norris and Hector Camacho?
Sugar Ray Leonard: Do I regret it? Yeah, I do, but it took that to wake up to the fact that my time was over, my time was gone. Sometimes it just takes that kind of beating, if you will, to wake up. It does. I didnt want to take it. I took it in intervals. The first time was in 91. I retired and came back in 97. Woo! I mean, come on! I dont know, man. A six-year layoff? That was crazy! My career was relatively short, whether you look at either its length in years or the number of fights I had. But it was brutal.
Kam Williams: Thats because it was the Golden Age in terms of welterweights and middleweights.
Sugar Ray Leonard: Exactly! You couldnt mess around in that era there.
Kam Williams: Harriet Pakula Teweles says: With mounting medical evidence that contact sports arent providing ample equipment to mitigate against cerebral concussions, how would you feel about boxing associations mandating protective headgear for fighters, not just for sparring, but also during bouts?
Sugar Ray Leonard: Im not in favor of that because we learn as amateurs how to protect ourselves. And thats why theres a third man in the ring, the referee. And thats why there has to be a very strong boxing commission that doesnt allow guys in the ring who dont belong there. Look at football, where you still have injuries no matter how much they improve the helmets and other equipment. Boxings a poor mans sport. We cant afford to play golf or tennis. It is what it is. Its kept so many kids off the street. It kept me off the street. Whats my options?
Kam Williams: Harriet also asks: Is it true that once, when you were climbing between the ropes and entering the ring, a reporter put a microphone up to your face and asked, Sugar Ray, are you going to win tonight? And, you replied, I didnt come here to lose. I hope its true because Ive always loved you for thatits a great life lesson story. If it isnt, Im going to continue to attribute it to you anyway, because youre a great life lesson guy.
Sugar Ray Leonard: Thanks, Harriet. But yes, I did say that.
Kam Williams: Yale grad Tommy Russell says: I really respect your admission about battling drug abuse during the tough times of your professional life. What is the most important thing you have learned from that experience?
Sugar Ray Leonard: I learned that I had character defects, that I was allergic to alcohol and drugs, and that I had an obsession with all the bad stuff. But thank God that I woke and that I had good people around me to support me. Theres not much more I can say about it. You have to want to be a better person.
Kam Williams: Larry Greenberg says: On Celebrity Ghost Stories, you appeared with one of my favorite young ancestresses, Leila Jean Davis, and you shared some very personal experiences. How did you like being on the show?
Sugar Ray Leonard: I enjoyed it. I never thought in a million years that I would tell people that I saw a ghost. And Ive seen a lot of ghosts. [Laughs]
Kam Williams: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
Sugar Ray Leonard: Yeah, hows your day? [Chuckles]
Kam Williams: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
Sugar Ray Leonard: Yes, we all are afraid of something. We might not admit it, but we are.
Kam Williams: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
Sugar Ray Leonard: Extremely!
Kam Williams: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
Sugar Ray Leonard: Just now. [Chuckles]
Kam Williams: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Sugar Ray Leonard: It used to be a pint of ice cream in bed.
Kam Williams: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
Sugar Ray Leonard: The Big Fight.
Kam Williams: What inspired you to write the book?
Sugar Ray Leonard: To be honest, I dont know. I started one back in 1982 or 83 when I first retired. But I was only 25 or 26 and not ready to write my memoirs.
Kam Williams: The music maven Heather Covington question: What music have you been listening to?
Sugar Ray Leonard: Dance with My Father by Luther Vandross.
Kam Williams: What is your favorite dish to cook?
Sugar Ray Leonard: Im pretty good with oatmeal.
Kam Williams: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?
Sugar Ray Leonard: Success. But not necessarily monetary success.
Kam Williams: Judyth Piazza asks: How do you define success?
Sugar Ray Leonard: Success is attaining your dream while helping others to benefit from that dream materializing.
Kam Williams: Dante Lee, author of Black Business Secrets, asks: What was the best business decision you ever made?
Sugar Ray Leonard: Remaining conservative.
Kam Williams: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
Sugar Ray Leonard: At about 6, seeing my mom and dad kissing and understanding it.
Kam Williams: The Melissa Harris-Perry question: How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?
Sugar Ray Leonard: It made me realize how much I loved that person.
Kam Williams: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
Sugar Ray Leonard: You dont play boxing. [LOL] You really dont. You play golf, you play tennis, but you dont play boxing.
Kam Williams:: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
Sugar Ray Leonard: As someone who had an impact outside the ring.
Kam Williams: Thanks again for the interview, Ray, and best of luck with the book.
Sugar Ray Leonard: Thank you, Kam.
Big Sugar Ray Fights
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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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Dorothy Sterlings biography of Robert Smalls is Captain of the Planter: The Story of Robert Smalls (Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1958). In most history books, the contributions of Negroes during the Civil War and Reconstructions are ignored. Robert Smalls was one of the heroes who is rarely mentioned. He was a Negro slave who stole a ship from the Confederates, served on it with the Union Army with distinction, and finally served several terms in Congress.
All this was accomplished against the handicaps first of slavery, then of the prejudice of the Union Army, and finally of the Jim Crow laws, which eventually conquered him. Besides its value in contradicting the history book insinuation that the Negro was incapable of political enterprise and that the South was right in imposing Jim Crow laws, Captain of the Planter is an exciting adventure story. Captain Smalls escape from slavery and his battle exploits make interesting reading, and the style is fast moving.Barbara Dodds /
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GREAT BAY, St. Martin (July 31, 2011)Its official. Its a bestseller! From Yvettes Kitchen To Your Table A Treasury of St. Martins Traditional & Contemporary Cuisine by Yvette Hyman has sold out, according to House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP). In a record seven weeks after its June 2011 release here, less than 80 copies of the cookbook are left in bookstores and with the authors family representatives charged with distribution, said Jacqueline Sample, HNP president. The decision on whether to reprint a new batch of From Yvettes Kitchen lies with the family of the late award-winning chef, said the publisher.We are very thankful to the people of St. Martin for embracing Yvettes cookbook. The visitors to our island also bought many copies of this beautifully designed book of the nations cuisine, said Sample.From Yvettes Kitchen is made up of 13 chapters, including Appetizers, Soups, Poultry, Fish and Shellfish, Meat, Salads, Dumplings, Rice and Fungi, Breads, and Desserts.
The 312-page full color book includes recipes for Souse, the ever-popular Johnny cake, and Conch Yvettes. Lamb stew, coconut tart, guavaberry, and soursop drink are also among the over 200 recipes à la Yvette in this Treasury of St. Martins Traditional & Contemporary Cuisine, said Sample.We hope that this cookbooks success also adds to the indicator of the performance and importance of books published in the Caribbean, said Sample.The other HNP book that sold out in such a short time was the 1989 poetry collection Golden Voices of Smaatin. That first title by Ruby Bute had sold out in about three months and has since been reprinted, said Sample.
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By Sugar Ray Leonard with Michael Arkush
In his New York Times bestselling memoir, one of Americas greatest boxing legends faces his single greatest competitor: himself. In Washington, D.C., during the 1970s, a black man could get into the newspapers in one of two ways: crimeor boxing. Sugar Ray Leonard chose to fight. After winning a gold medal at the 1976 Olympics, Ray wanted to call it quits and go to college, but his familys financial needs made him go pro. Boxing history was made.
All the while, another, darker Rayone overwhelmed by depression, rage, drug addiction, sexual abuse, and greedbattled for dominance. In The Big Fight, Ray comes to terms with both these men and shares a brutally honest and remarkably inspiring portrait of the rise, fall, and ultimate redemption of a true fighterinside and outside the ring
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By Annette Gordon-Reed
Andrew Johnson, the seventeenth man to ascend to the highest office in the land, is generally regarded by historians as among the weakest presidents. Gordon-Reed has no intention of moving Johnson up in rank (America went from the best to the worst in one presidential term, she corroborates). So this is no reputation rescue. Gordon-Reed, author of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (2008), which won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, takes as her task explaining why we should look anew at such a disastrous chief executive. She reasons he is worth looking at, though her reasoning yields a far from sympathetic look. In a short biography, all bases can be covered, but the author is still left to exercise the tone of a personal essay, which this author accomplishes brilliantly. Her personal take on Johnson is that his inability to remake the country after it was torn apart rested on his deplorable view of black Americans.
In practical terms, his failure derived from his stubborn refusal to compromise with Congress in the abiding post-Lincoln controversy over who was to supervise the Reconstruction, the executive or the legislative branch. A failure, yes, but more than that, a failure at an extremely critical time in American history.
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By Wole Soyinka
Aké: The Years of Childhood is a memoir of stunning beauty, humor, and perception
a lyrical account of one boy’s attempt to grasp the often irrational and hypocritical world of adults that equally repels and seduces him. Soyinka elevates brief anecdotes into history lessons, conversations into morality plays, memories into awakenings. Various cultures, religions, and languages mingled freely in the Aké of his youth, fostering endless contradictions and personalized hybrids, particularly when it comes to religion. Christian teachings, the wisdom of the ogboni, or ruling elders, and the power of ancestral spirits
who alternately terrify and inspire him
all carried equal metaphysical weight. Surrounded by such a collage, he notes that “God had a habit of either not answering one’s prayers at all, or answering them in a way that was not straightforward.” In writing from a child’s perspective, Soyinka expresses youthful idealism and unfiltered honesty while escaping the adult snares of cynicism and intolerance. His stinging indictment of colonialism takes on added power owing to the elegance of his attack.
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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posted 19 July 2012