Chaos or Community

Chaos or Community


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



As King forewarned, “The salvation of the Negro middle-class is

ultimately dependent upon the salvation of the Negro masses.” Of course

it is time for the Negro middle-class to rise up from its stool

of indifference, stop retreating into dreamlands with flights of unreality,

 and—with compassion—aid the less advantaged; bringing their hearts,

minds, and checkbooks to help their less fortunate brothers.



Books by and about  Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. Strength to Love / The Measure of a Man Why We Can’t Wait

A Testament of Hope  /  A Knock at Midnight   /  The Papers of  Martin Luther King, Jr., 1948-1963


Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story


Behind the Dream: The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation


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Where Do We Go from Here—Chaos or Community

By Stanford Lewis


This April marks the 38th anniversary Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, and African-Americans, by way of the national media, will once again begin their superficial analysis of the great man’s life.

Let’s start by asking the usual questions: Where do we go from here—chaos or community? Why can’t black people wait? Black people have made great progress since the 1950 and ’60s—or have they? These queries will be thoroughly overworked during the next few days.

The media annually turn King—an eloquent and profound theologian—into a kind of minstrel who is trotted out to sell their uncritical version of the American dream. King was not that kind of dreamer, however. He was a leader who through his words, actions, and courage fought structural racism, poverty, materialism, and militarism.

To properly celebrate the great man’s life we must examine the economic and social goals for which he strove, particularly during the last five years of his life, when he challenged the structured racism, poverty, materialism, and American value system that plagued his world, and still plagues ours. Only in this way can African-Americans truly hope to gain a valid perspective on the progress we’ve made since King’s assassination. And if we are going to celebrate him, we should at least examine what he was fighting for.

Structural Class and Race Issues

King identified the “tragic gulf” that existed between the civil rights laws that were being passed during the 1960s and their implementation. He came to understand that there was a double standard in respect to particular laws, and that white America had “backlashed against the fundamental God-given human rights of the Negro American for more than three hundred years . . . ” Contrary to popular belief, the racism that King experienced—and that our society continues to be plagued with—was not merely the individualistic prejudiced attitude held against a particular person or people. King came to understand that racism had more to do with power/economics (racisms = power + prejudice), which could deny an entire group access to opportunities.

The Fight for the Have-nots Continues

African-Americans currently have a substantial middle class. Nevertheless, masses of African-Americans still live on or extremely close to the poverty line. Black people are still plagued by the trinity of poverty, ignorance and disease. During his short lifetime, King felt compelled to fight against the ultraconservatism of his times, and even went so far as to criticize many of the so-called “middle-class black population” for both privately and publicly deserting the less fortunate. And he clearly spoke to them, by brazenly stating in the 1960s, “The middle-class Negro is our problem.” He queried: “How many successful Negroes have forgotten that uneducated and poverty-stricken mother and fathers often worked until their eyebrows were scorched and their hands bruised so that their children could get an education? And, sadly, he came to feel that “for any middle-class Negro to forget the masses is an act not only of neglect but shameful ingratitude.”

Admittedly, King was a little frustrated with black America when he made that statement in 1967, but would he be less frustrated today—almost four decades later—when so many of our middle class are full retreat from the suffering masses? As King forewarned, “The salvation of the Negro middle-class is ultimately dependent upon the salvation of the Negro masses.” Of course it is time for the Negro middle-class to rise up from its stool of indifference, stop retreating into dreamlands with flights of unreality, and—with compassion—aid the less advantaged; bringing their hearts, minds, and checkbooks to help their less fortunate brothers.

American Value System

Near the end of his far too short life, King began rethinking many of the ideas about America’s values that he had previously accepted uncritically. He was slowly coming to the conclusion that American values were deeply flawed, often both inhumane and unjust. He called for a “revolution of values,” and said, “Let us, therefore, not think of our movement as one that seeks to integrate the Negro into all the existing values of American society. Let us be those ‘creative dissenters’ who will call our beloved nation to a higher destiny, to a new plateau of compassion, to a more noble expression of humaneness.” He was calling upon African-Americans to become a “colony of dissenters” who challenged America to be fair with all of her citizens.

For those of us who maintain that African-Americans have made great progress since the 1950s and ’60s, we must state unequivocally that progress has undeniably been made in many areas. Nevertheless, if we are to truly gauge the weight of that progress we must be willing to examine how far the black Americans and progressive-minded people who were fighting structural racism, poverty, materialism and the American value system over 38 years ago were able to un-burden the masses.

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Stanford Lewis is an instructor of religion and philosophy at LeMoyne-Owen College. He is a native Memphian and a graduate of both Harvard and Cornell. He is the author of The Falsification and Fabrication of Ancient Egypt, 2400 bce TO 500 bce: A Survey of the Literature.

posted 3 April 2006

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Martin Luther King, “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam

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Statistics on the Inequities  The Collapse of Urban Public Schooling  

What Is the Source of the Dilemma of Black Urban Education?

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New Jersey Amistad Law / Amistad Commissions Teach Kids About Slavery

Mission  of Amistad Commission / New Jersey Genocide/Slavery Curriculum Guide

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books



#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

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#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An 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

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#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

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#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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Behind the Dream

The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation

By Clarence B. Jones and Stuart Connelly

 “I Have a Dream.” When those words were spoken on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, the crowd stood, electrified, as Martin Luther King, Jr. brought the plight of African Americans to the public consciousness and firmly established himself as one of the greatest orators of all time. Behind the Dream is a thrilling, behind-the-scenes account of the weeks leading up to the great event, as told by Clarence Jones, co-writer of the speech and close confidant to King. Jones was there, on the road, collaborating with the great minds of the time, and hammering out the ideas and the speech that would shape the civil rights movement and inspire Americans for years to come.— Palgrave Macmillan

Behind the Dream: The Making of the Speech that Transformed a Nation is a smart, insightful, enjoyable read about a momentous event in history. It is the “story behind the story” straight from Clarence Jones, the attorney, speechwriter, and close friend of Martin Luther King, Jr. As I read the words on the page, I felt as if I were having an intimate conversation with the author. The book helped me to understand the humanity of Dr. King and the other organizers of the March on Washington. They were people who saw injustice and called for change. Despite FBI wiretaps and other adversity, together they undertook an enormous logistical effort in hopes that the March would be a success. Jones himself handwrote the first draft of the renowned “I Have a Dream” speech on a yellow legal pad, but it wasn’t until King was inspired to veer from the text that he struck a chord with the audience, delivering the right words at the right time. The “I Have a Dream” speech helped to elevate King from a man to a hero; this book is a reminder to all to make sure that his Dream lives on.—amazon customer

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

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. . . .

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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.

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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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Negro Digest / Black World

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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 10 May 2012




 Home   Du Bois-Malcolm-King  Chronology   Letter from Alabama Clergymen  


Related files: Eulogy for the Young Victims  Speaks to AFL-CIO  Letter from Birmingham Jail   I Have a Dream   Chaos or Community  The Legacy of MLK   Living Scripture in Community   Martin and Malcolm on Nonviolence

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