ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



The Puerto Ricans are not “together”; neither are the whites nor the blacks. Those

who are together are the Nixons, Mitchells, Rockefellers, Mellons, Fords who

know no other way of life except lordship . . . except domination and control.



Books by Philip Berrigan

Widen the Prison Gates: Writing from Jails Prison Journals of a Priest Revolutionary / The Criminality of Nuclear Deterrence

No More Strangers  / The Eight Beatitudes and Nuclear Resistance / Disciples and Dissidents

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Who Are the Real Enemies?


By Philip Berrigan



Yesterday was my birthday (forty-eight), my third in jail. People are embarrassingly kind and thoughtful. Frankly, I would have preferred to forget it. A rumble begins in my dormitory, where seventy-five men live in uneasy truce. Overcrowding is such a burden that the enemy is not the Man, who stays out of sight pretty much, but the guy in the upper bunk or in the next one. The Man doesn’t bug you–doesn’t talk all night, doesn’t snore, doesn’t scatter his garbage, doesn’t close the window when it’s warm outside, doesn’t steal from you, doesn’t snitch on you, doesn’t betray your confidence, doesn’t curse you out. But in our dorm the next guy is likely to. Everyone is just too close.

In any event, this is a drug joint, and drugs–hard and soft–move despite measures to choke off the import. the other day, when returning from a visit and its customary strip-search, a guy said to me, “I’ve been here two years, and I’ve never seen them catch drugs by stripping people down. You know what I saw in the john the other day? Five different guys vomiting up drugs. They get’em in a condom or a balloon from folks, swallow them, get back to their dorm, drink warm water, and puke them up. Then they shoot them, sometimes in broad daylight.”

Such being the bare facts of dormitory life, rhubarbs and rumbles are predictable–indeed, inevitable. Mostly they center on cards and pools (cigarettes) and drugs (heroin). Now it appears that a young French-Canadian has gotten drugs from, or has dealt drugs to, some Puerto Ricans. There was, at any rate, some complicity, and the Spanish-speaking accuse him of ratting them out. He denies the charge vehemently, a fight breaks out, others umpire and quiet it down. But, alas, the Puerto Ricans return with a task force intent upon retribution, carrying pipes, two-by-fours, broomstick handles. They work over Frenchie in a brief, violent encounter, and leave him with his head split.

He is in the hospital now, not badly hurt. I talk with one of the whites standing by, suffering over one man going down under that vengeful little mob of Latins. The only lesson he draws is: “Them Spics are together, and we ain’t!”

He’s wrong, poor guy! The Puerto Ricans are not “together”; neither are the whites nor the blacks. Those who are together are the Nixons, Mitchells, Rockefellers, Mellons, Fords who know no other way of life except lordship of the world, no other relationship to people except domination and control. What my poor friend does not know is that Big brother creates “enemies” for the poor to fight–and they are invariably one another. What’s the difference between a prison dormitory and 116 Street and Third Avenue? They’re both ghettos. And in the ghetto one never resists the right enemies. They’re not around–they’re in the boardrooms, in the Bahamas or Nice, or in Westchester and in Greenwich, Connecticut.

So one turns on the brother, the one who bugs you with petty irritations. He doesn’t overcharge you for squalid, rotten housing; he doesn’t begrudge you the miserable subsistence of welfare; he doesn’t raise and process the drugs overseas, and sneak them into the country through his craven, greedy slaves; he doesn’t hate you because you’re black or Spanish-speaking; he doesn’t steal your sons for war; he doesn’t hang a “cheap labor” label on you for your life’s remainder; he hasn’t decided that you are human offal, unworthy of dignity, incapable of feeling. The ones who do these things are not at hand; they have no desire to see their handiwork. So one rages against the brother and loses one’s innocence terrorizing the innocent.

Source:  Philip Berrigan. Widen the Prison Gates: Writings from Jails April 1970-September 1972 Danbury Federal Correctional Institute October 1971. Publisher: Simon and Schuster 1973

*   *   *   *   *’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

#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 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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The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World

By Daniel Yergin

Renowned energy authority Daniel Yergin continues the riveting story begun in his Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Prize, in this gripping account of the quest for the energy the world needs—and the power and riches that come with it. A master story teller as well as one of the world’s great experts, Yergin proves that energy is truly the engine of global political and economic change, as well as central to the battle over climate change.  From the jammed streets of Beijing, the shores of the Caspian Sea, and the conflicts in the Mideast, to Capitol Hill and Silicon Valley, Yergin takes us inside the decisions and choices that are shaping our future. Without understanding the realities of energy examined in The Quest, we may surrender our place at the helm of history. One of our great narrative writers, Yergin tells the inside stories—of the oil market, the rise of the “petrostate,” the race to control the resources of the former Soviet empire, and the massive corporate mergers that transformed the oil landscape.  He shows how the drama of oil—the struggle for access to it, the battle for control, the insecurity of  supply, the consequences of its use, its impact on the global economy, and the geopolitics that dominate it—will continue to shape our world.   He takes on the toughest questions—will we run out of oil, and are China and the United States destined to conflict over oil? Yergin also reveals the surprising and turbulent history of nuclear, coal, electricity, and natural gas.  He investigates the “rebirth of renewables” —biofuels and wind,  as well as solar energy, which venture capitalists are betting will be “the next big thing” for meeting the  needs of a growing world economy. He makes clear why understanding this greening landscape and its future role are crucial.

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—WashingtonPost

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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 9 January 2012




Home  Mau Mau Aesthetics

Related files: Bio-Chronology    Civil Rights Activist  When I Lay Dying  Widen the Prison Gates   Psalm for Two Voices    Who are the Real Enemies?