ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



rum rico / on your back / music in your / thighs / black latin love

 in your eyes / coked out streetcorners / taino africano


Books by Tony Medina

I and I Bob Marley  / Love to Langston  / Christmas Makes Me Think  /  DeShawn Days  / Committed to Breathing

Follow-up Letters to Santa from Kids Who Never Got a Response  / My Old Man Was Always on the Lam

 Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social and Political Black Literature and Art

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Emerge & See

By Tony Medina


Tony Medina, Puerto Rican poet, born January 10, 1966 in the South Bronx, N.Y., a year before the systematic murder of Don Pedro Albizu Campos, Puerto Rican nationalist & revolutionary and the murder of Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El Shabazz), African American revolutionary leader, and a year before his favorite poet, John Coltrane.

Medina grew up in the Bronx (Simpson Street), then the Throgsneck Housing Projects, “surrounded by what we woogies & woogueros would call ‘whiteboy territory’ white families & their dogs / or, better yet, white dogs & their families.” He attended P.S. 72, J.H.S. 101, graduated from Norman Thomas H.S., did a three-year bid in the  white man’s army, to earn money for college, was married, then divorce, “and still trying to cop a bullshit degree in literature from Apartheid Baruch College, where he had been booted out a semester and went back, only to be banned from the school paper.”

“They say we write like of the 60s & 70s, who, in all actuality, gave birth to us up & coming poets emerging in the latter part of the Regan reactionary 80s & the Bush-Man’s early 90s; and who will carry the baton of our collective struggle into the 21st century. And, indeed, in many ways we are like all the poets, since Wheatley & even before her: those that fought & screamed & resisted & jumped ship & escaped to mountains and swamps at the hands of capitalist white slavery.

“For we have a literary tradition in America & everywhere imperialism, capitalism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism, white supremacy & their effects exist. And that is what this collection is all about — to continue the dialogue & deep blues expression.

“As far as being compared tot he poets of the 60s & 70s, this is valid to a great degree, for the problems of that time still exist today — and at a more dangerous, advanced level! We are a product of that time. We were born in fire and dropped out of the womb of revolution. And though today you still have people like Sonia & Jayne & Haki & Amiri B & Amina & Askia Toure & Louis Reyes Rivera holdin up the fort from the individualistic academic mainstream louses & their lackeys, we have a new breed of machinegun poets that are gonna turn the tide & drown out all the weak, trembling teacup mantlepiece poets.

“We are the new jack poets of our time. We are now coming into our manhood & womanhood. We have a long journey ahead of us; much work & study. We will continue the revolutionary tradition of the poets of the 60s and 70s. We will take the positive aspects of their struggles & findings. And we will throw down to the best of our ability to bring about the death of imperialism & monopoly capitalism — and, indeed, white world supremacy.

“And we will set fire tot he asses of the sick monsters that put money before humanity. This is a fight that we will not lose. The ante will be raised. We will deal the death blows. Every word we write says:

          Rita Dove is Dead!

          Rita Dove is Dead!

          The Warden Must be Shot!

          The Warden Must Be Shot! &

The struggle continues.”

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End Note On the New Black Advance

“There is a movement in literature & art today. The bourgeois reactionary writers that were shuffled in during the reactionary Reagan years & got large off the backs & struggles of the poets & activists of the 60s & 70s are going to soon be swiftly shuffled out.

“In the 60s we had the Black Arts Movement, in the 80s (with the exception of the Barakas & the Cortezes & the Louis Reyes Riveras & the Askia Toures, etc.) writers failed to advance the masses toward a scientific way of looking at the world. Reality was not being dealt with. And the bourgeoise failed to wage war against the enemies of the people (the workers & poor oppressed masses).

“The Black Arts Movement was a movement of artists & activists, who, in their art and through their influence, not only reflected the frustrations & determinations of people of color struggling in America and throughout the world, but guided the masses into a new black consciousness.

“In the latter half of the 70s and in all of the 80s, w/ the exception of the strongest (most influential & popular) poets of the 60s & 70s, the poets who tried to rise in the 80s and carry on what Baraka calls ‘the baton’, were, unfortunately, drowned out by the teacup mantlepiece whinings of bourgeois Ritas & Stanleys & Steeles (who reflected and upheld the damaging views of the sick capitalist monsters of this society that put money before humanity).

“But a new movement is occurring. Coming out of the tradition of the Harlem renaissance & the Black Arts Movement, it is the third phase in the attempts of artists of color to bring about a cultural revolution in America by creating an art that is functional, an art that is, once again, directed toward (and for) the people. In an unjust and dangerously repressive society like this, art should always be an instrument and weapon to force change for the betterment of humankind.

“This new emergence of artists working towards continuing the legacy of struggle and working towards advancing the masses towards scientific socialism is also a reflection of (or influenced by) the times. The Reagan-Bush reactionary years could last but so long before the fire starts burning again & the teapot heats up and gets ready to explode.”

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Poem for Victor Hermandez Cruz

Whose Words Give Salsa to Blues



parrah paa parrah paa

parrah paa paa paa

snap attack


rum rico

on your back

music in your


black latin love

in your eyes

coked out streetcorners

taino africano

work choreograoher

boogaloo shango of the streets

knockin off similes  & metaphors

with a flick of your

maraca hips

chingchikiching chikiching! ching ching

     pbraa pbraa-pbraa

     pbraa pbraa-pbraa

ghetto incantations

rhythmic concrete jungle


w/ the hot salsa funk

& sweat of love of love

of love for the beauty

of the people, their various

nuances & attitudes

livin life on the avenue

sending congabongo magic S.O.S

to an ilsand

that is their heart

their musical pulse

life’s beat

pumpin blood into


geographic hypnotic

trance of the

afro taino dance

cuchifrito bacalao

mouth watering

merenge feet

& clava hands

paahm paahm-paahm paahm

musica para los santos

de paz poesy

amor amor

& vida

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Source: Tony Medina, Emerge & See. Camden, NJ: Whirlwind Press, 1991. Cover Art: Renaldo Imani Davidson

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Victor Hernández Cruz [born 1949 in Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico. He moved to New York City with his family when he was five years old, but he didn’t start learning English until two years later when his family.] is a leading poet of the “Neo-rican” (or Neorican or Nuyorican) movement in American literature, characterized by writers of Puerto Rican descent who have lived primarily in the United States and whose works utilize “Spanglish”—an idiomatic English inflected with Spanish and Black English. Cruz’s poems address themes of cultural fusion based on his experience as a Puerto Rican born immigrant to New York City and expressed through the rhythms of Latin and African-American music, particularly salsa and jazz. Cruz’s major collections of poetry include Maraca (2001) Snaps (1969), Tropicalization (1976), Red Beans: Poems (1991), and Panoramas (1997).—Enotes

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Tony Medina is the author of thirteen books for adults and young readers, including DeShawn Days (Lee & Low Books, 2001), Love to Langston  (Lee & Low Books, 2002), Committed to Breathing (Third World Press, 2003), and Follow-up Letters to Santa from Kids Who Never Got a Response (Just Us Books, 2003).

Featured in the documentaries Nuyorc 1999; A Weigh with Words: An Inside Look At How Words Create Conflict or Compassion; and Furious Flower II: Regenerating the Black Poetic Tradition. Medina’s poetry, fiction, and essays appear in over eighty publications and two CD compilations.

An advisory editor for Hip Hop Speaks to Children, edited by Nikki Giovanni, his most recent work is featured in the anthologies Poets Against the Killing Field; Family Pictures: Poems and Photographs Celebrating Our Loved Ones; Fingernails Across a Chalkboard: Poetry and Prose on HIV/AIDS from the Black Diaspora; Full Moon on K Street; Let Loose on the World: Celebrating Amiri Baraka at 75; and Spaces Between Us: Poetry, Prose and Art on HIV/AIDS (Third World Press, 2010).

Medina has taught English at Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus and Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY, and has earned an MA and PhD in English from Binghamton University, SUNY. Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Howard University in Washington, DC, Medina’s latest books are I and I Bob Marley (Lee & Low Books, 2009) and My Old Man Was Always on the Lam  (Nightshade Press, 2010). Medina was most recently featured in interview on’s Black History Month 28 Days Campaign. His book, Broke on Ice, will be published in 2011 by Willow Books, an imprint of Aquarius Press

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

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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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update 17 November 2010



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