ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
Baraka, Karenga, Cleaver were all of a clothguerilla theater, revolutionary
heroics, and a romance with violence, and also I suspect, a derision for
black Southern cultural life. People were fascinated by propaganda and film
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Corporate Colony, Civic Virtue
Or How Should the Displaced Respond
Purple Ribbons & Organizing the Poor
Conversations with Miriam, Jerry, Jeannette
A Post-Katrina Political Discussion
Miriam: Rudy, this may be a middle-class model, as you’ve suggested, but it seems to be catching on. Sandra, my best buddy whom you met with me, K., and I are planning discussions. A good point: What questions should lead off the discussions?
Rudy: Miriam, I have no objections in the least against discussion groups or mentoring programs. There probably should be more. The topics most apparent are what happened in New Orleans and how can we prevent it from ever happening again and how can we be more responsible for ourselves in light of what happened in New Orleans. That should keep you all busy for some time. Moreover, that experience was traumatic. We need some healing, and only we can heal we, in such matters.
Miriam: I scrolled down a couple of pages but couldn’t find Baraka‘s essay. Is it included or just E.’s comments about it? I agree in part with Ethelbert; much of the response is the same-ole-same-ole, but the times are different so we need a new attitude.
Rudy: It was in 1968 here at a church in West Baltimore that I was in the company of both Stokely and Baraka. Baraka brought his group down from Jersey and performed in the church. I had heard Stokely speak within months before at Morgan’s Murphy Auditorium. Two years up from the countryside, I was stunned to hear such rhetoric from a Negro in public. It was the same with Baraka’s playthe languagebody and verbal, such political insights on race relations. The only Jews I knew were in the Bible.
All of this was new and consciousness raising. Rural life lags in hipness. By the time I met Baraka (rode with him across town to a house party), by that time I had become a member of Baltimore SNCC (Bob Moore, Director) and worked with Walter Lively of U-JOIN, a mixed race organization which dealt primarily with housing problems of the poor in East Baltimore. That sort of thing, working for political power for the poor, just ain’t done that much anymore. These men were my first guides in political thinking and action.
The kind of political education that happened then, don’t now.
I was at the Gary convention and I might have seen Baraka, there. As I recall Bob and I went over to Chicago to a Southside blues club. But I saw Baraka more recently at a performance he gave at Coppin not long after his “Who?” poem, Somebody Blew Up America, which dealt with the bombing of the Twin Towers. I have always been impressed by Baraka as an artist, a performer, a humorist. But I’ve never thought that he was astute politically, though certainly he is an ardent political ideologue.
I’ve never been a member of such ideological circles, though I know those who have been. I was for Black Power and black consciousness raising and union organizing. But these esoteric pursuits that so many so-called black militants got involved in that was too much over my head. What troubled me about the post-King period was the movement of ideological purity, or coolness, or whose rhetoric had the most punch.
Baraka, Karenga, Cleaver were all of a clothguerilla theater, revolutionary heroics, and a romance with violence, and also I suspect, a derision for black Southern cultural life. People were fascinated by propaganda and film (media hype). I do not wish to disparage so much as to point it out. For all I know that drama of heroics and political theater was a necessary and required stage in our political development as a people.
Maybe it was our Fa. In this retrospective look, we should learn our lessons. Maybe the black youth of that era indeed has something to teach us in our 21st century crisis, the displacement of at least 300,000 Negroes, the murder of a black city.
The fact is that that rhetorical warfare (with ripples of violence) ripped the fabric and spirit of cooperation and collaboration. It was elitism, at its worst, for after awhile it became clear all this rapping was far above and beyond that which could be reached by the people. It should not have been about who was the most militant, who had the right ideology. Baraka contributed to this nonsense. It was reprehensible. And worst still, I’ve never had the impression that Baraka’s the kind of cat that is apologetic.
With cats like Baraka and Gates, political discussion becomes a linguistic contest. Whos the best rapper, whos the best tricksteryour monkey or your mama. My best advice to Baraka, whatever his inclinations, is give up thoughts of political leadership, be the artist that he is. That is politics sufficient.
The last coherent statement I heard from Baraka was in a 1998 Crisis issue From Parks to Marxism A Political Evolution. Closer to poetic prose, it is not so much a political analysis as opinionated narrative characterizing what Baraka views as the history of militant struggle in the last fifty years, a kind of cataloging of persons and events that stand out in his imagination and based on the length of the catalogue, he thinks its time for another political upsurge.
So, yes, I agree. We need a new attitude. But I would not throw the baby out with the bathwater. All our work should not be for nought.
Jeannette: I truly appreciate your help and involvement. Don’t worry. It doesn’t bother me when you start giving ideas, suggestions, directions. I am open to all ideas. What I realize is, that in this cause, I am a servant of The Most High (however we label Her/Him/It.) This purple ribbon cross movement is bigger than me. It’s becoming clearer to me each day.
You know, all those little unexpected details that show up in the plot.
I just happened a day or so ago to look through my dream journal. There was an entry for August 12, 2005 in which I had found a huge sewing needle and blue thread on the ground. This was approximately 2 and a half weeks before Katrina.
Now I know more of what this dream means for me. It was a message from my unconscious letting me know on more than one level what I need to do to deal with pain. Take this bruise and weave it into a tapestry.
(Real life contextI was still going through some heartbreak when I had the dream.)
Since now, I am in reality sewing every day whenever I get a chance, it was also a prophetic dream.
I will definitely send you more crosses. Today I mailed out 150 which will go to college students. . . .
Jerry: You can go home again. It would be my first trip into New Orleans since I evacuated myself on August 28. I did know what to expect. A colleague from Dillard University, then in Houston, was almost certain that my house had water damage. Television had supplied a surplus of dreadful pictures of the Big Easy as the American Venice and of those citizens who did not leave as well-to-do and defiant or as poor and stress-stricken. Newspapers, magazines, and online journals force-fed me what I should believe.
Chakula cha Jua was thoughtful: he sent an interactive site that allowed me to see aerial views of my house and neighborhood. Dave Brinks, a brave, purposeful poet, made a site visit to my house, confirming that I had little damage that he could see. Come home, he said, as soon as you can. It is crucial that we begin rebuilding immediately.
Raymond Breaux, in a deadpan voice, stirred all my anxieties when he said New Orleans as we knew it does not exist. He echoed what Tyrone and Tina Albert said after their visit a week earlier. I was well prepared to be unprepared.
The Findings for 1928 Gentilly Blvd., New Orleans, LA 70119
1) The roof suffered little damage and the ceilings have no water stains.
2) 3-5 inches of water flooded the house. The carpets were soaked. The wooded flooring buckled. These must be removed and replaced. The marble tile must be cleaned and treated. The detached garage and workshop was flooded; any books in those areas were destroyed.
3) The 24 windows suffered no damage.
4)Â All rooms in the house must be treated to eradicate as much mold as possible. Removing mold must take place immediately to prevent further damage, especially to books.
5) The refrigerator, hot water heater, washer and dryer must be replaced.
6) Paneling in the kitchen and den areas, the interior and exterior doors and some furnishings (dressers, beds in the master bedroom and guest room) must be replaced
7) To ensure that there are no electrical accidents when the house is inhabited again, it should be completely rewired; the attic, where most of the wiring is located was not inspected.
8) The room used as an office sustained losses that will cause Mr. Ward to be in agony for months. He will grieve over the loss of his two-volume Oxford English Dictionary.
Many reference books, autographed books, papers pertaining to the Richard Wright Encyclopedia and the Cambridge History of African American Literature, Wards manuscripts for Reading Race Reading America, Hollis Watkins: An Oral Autobiography, and To Shatter the Iris of Innocence (poetry) are beyond recovery.
The same is true for some videotapes. The PC and hard drive, 35mm camera, tape recorder, vacuum cleaner, some photographs and the rare Black Box tapes are ruined. Manuscript materials from Tom Dent and Lance Jeffers and Chakula cha Jua were not damaged.
9) Most of Wards clothing and shoes have to be replaced; the mold damage is severe.
10) Ward is luckier by far than 89% of the residents whose homes suffered wind and water damage.
Tentative conclusion: Yes, Margaret, A race of men shall rise and take control.
I am far luckier, thank God, than 89% of my fellow New Orleanians. I have been blessed by the prayers of my relatives and friends. My fortunate circumstances strengthen my resolve to return permanently, to restore my house, to help to restore Dillard University and other educational institutions, to join Dave Brinks and others in grassroots efforts to prevent the NEW New Orleans from becoming a corporate colony with a minimal non-white population that is controlled by wealthy and extreme neo-conservatives. I must encourage more people to return.
The natural disasters that are now elements of a national tragedy persuade me to fight a repetition of the Reconstruction era and the nadir of African American experiences, to speak loudly against a replay of the Great Migration. Commitments must gradually erase the depression and periods of near-insanity that have afflicted me since August 29 2005. I must devote myself to the practice of civic virtue in New Orleans.
Miriam: By the way, K. Brisbane, who has entered into the discussion, taught in the AFAM Dept. at UMBC, and that’s where I met her. She’s an attorney by training, who used to do a lot of pro bono work for the poor and elderly. She now lives in Tobago.
Rodney, I’ve been off line for a couple of days, so can’t remember whether or not I responded to your comments, which were very informative.
In this post-Katrina period, we have to come up with ways to reconnect across class, gender, race, and political persuasion. I think that these on-line dialogues have been very informative and energizing, and I just hope that they will translate into positive actions that will help to solve some of the problems. Apparently, the idea of discussion groups has caught on, and so some of us are planning and plotting to bring that idea into fruition.
Maybe you can get something going in Baltimore or at UMBC. Do you know Christel Temple in the AFAM Dept.? She is a former student of mine, who is now on the faculty there. She is a very dynamic and committed young woman, who would be very helpful in organizing a discussion at the University. Then, there is Rudy at ChickenBones, Herbert at the Pratt, and Floyd Hayes at Hopkinsall of whom would be helpful to you in any type of community organization.
I understand from Herbert that Kalamu ya Salaam will be at the Pratt on Nov. 4th. He is a dynamic writer and cultural activist from New Orleans, who has joined the ranks of the evacuated. Take care and keep up the good work. A luta continua.
posted 7 October 2005
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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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By Randall Kennedy
Among the best things about The Persistence of the Color Line is watching Mr. Kennedy hash through the positions about Mr. Obama staked out by black commentators on the left and right, from Stanley Crouch and Cornel West to Juan Williams and Tavis Smiley. He can be pointed. Noting the way Mr. Smiley consistently voiced skepticism regarding whether blacks should back Obama . . .
The finest chapter in The Persistence of the Color Line is so resonant, and so personal, it could nearly be the basis for a book of its own. That chapter is titled Reverend Wright and My Father: Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism. Recalling some of the criticisms of Americas past made by Mr. Obamas former pastor, Mr. Kennedy writes with feeling about his own father, who put each of his three of his children through Princeton but who never forgave American society for its racist mistreatment of him and those whom he most loved. His father distrusted the police, who had frequently called him boy, and rejected patriotism. Mr. Kennedys father relished Muhammad Alis quip that the Vietcong had never called him nigger. The author places his father, and Mr. Wright, in sympathetic historical light.
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By Jeffrey D. Sachs
The Price of Civilization is a book that is essential reading for every American. In a forceful, impassioned, and personal voice, he offers not only a searing and incisive diagnosis of our countrys economic ills but also an urgent call for Americans to restore the virtues of fairness, honesty, and foresight as the foundations of national prosperity. Sachs finds that both political partiesand many leading economistshave missed the big picture, offering shortsighted solutions such as stimulus spending or tax cuts to address complex economic problems that require deeper solutions. Sachs argues that we have profoundly underestimated globalizations long-term effects on our country, which create deep and largely unmet challenges with regard to jobs, incomes, poverty, and the environment. Americas single biggest economic failure, Sachs argues, is its inability to come to grips with the new global economic realities. Sachs describes a political system that has lost its ethical moorings, in which ever-rising campaign contributions and lobbying outlays overpower the voice of the citizenry. . . . Sachs offers a plan to turn the crisis around. He argues persuasively that the problem is not Americas abiding values, which remain generous and pragmatic, but the ease with which political spin and consumerism run circles around those values.
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 20 April 2010