ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



Money cannot buy love, especially self-love.  And this nationwide attack on a teenager

shows just how much African Americans hate themselves.  But, of course, this will be

treated as an anomaly and not as a signifier . . . of divorce, single-parent households,

poor attitudes regarding education, black on black crime, and drug abuse. 



Gabby Douglas and Black Self-Hatred


C. Liegh McInnis


Okay, so my wife has been forcing me to watch gymnastics as well as eat my words that Gabby Douglas is no Dominique Dawes.  Come on, now.  Dawes still has the better nickname.  Would you rather be Awesome Dawe-some or the Flying Squirrel?  And just as I am about to lay aside my notion that gymnastics is an artform not a sport because the decision, outcome, victory, and loss is decided completely by judges and not by the athletes themselves (Let me be clear; gymnasts and cheerleaders are athletes, but gymnastics and cheerleading are artforms not sports), my celebration and pride in Douglas’ accomplishments are being bombarded by nationwide black self-hatred. 

From what my wife tells me, the blogs have been on fire with people, mostly African Americans, complaining about Douglas’ hair.  My first response, of course, was “really?!?”  My next response was “are you serious?!?”  And, my third response was “seriously people?!?”  But, as reality set in and attempted to cover the sunshine of Douglas’ accomplishments with a heavy familiar fog, I know that these people, these self-hating black people, were all too serious. 

Unfortunately, if you continue reading, I’m going to piss off a good number of you who may agree with me because I’m tired of the manner in which African Americans, due to our desire to integrate, assimilate, and ingratiate ourselves to the white power structure, have failed to resolve this issue of self-hatred, which today is one of the two major issues destroying the African American community, the other being poor parenting, which is a direct result of self-hatred and selfishness.

Essentially, as slavery was finally terminated by the Thirteenth Amendment because the Emancipation Proclamation did not do a thing for African Americans as it was mostly a military strategy to cripple the South economically, African Americans initially embraced education and economic development as the tools to become first-class citizens.  The problem has been that over the years, especially after the 1954 Brown Decision, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Act of 1965, African Americas began to marginalize the importance of cultural self-discovery in formalized education, especially any self-discovery that connected African Americans to their African heritage. 

Then, the lessening of the importance of learning and embracing one’s African heritage has been combined with the notion that African Americans, through economic development, could buy themselves into first-class citizenship.  The problem, which has now firmly reared its ugly head, is that a fool and his money are soon parted.  Or, to put it another way, African Americans have more access to financial resources than at any other time in their history, but issues, such as high rates of divorce, single-parent households, poor attitudes regarding education, black on black crime, drug abuse, and sexual disease, run wild in the African American community because we hate ourselves.  As critical thinkers we must realize that the fatal misnomer is not understanding that one can have a special talent, gift, skill, or even intellectual prowess and still hate oneself if one has not been properly educated about one’s family, culture, and ancestry. 

So a rich Negro with a good job, living in a gated community, can still hate himself.  In many cases, the big house, gated community, shiny car, fancy clothes, and trophy wife are all attempts to compensate for his self-hatred.  And as history, great literature, such as Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, Adelaide Casely-Hayford’s “Mista Courifer,” and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, and science, such as the 1940s Baby Doll Tests performed by Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Clark, all show us, black self-hatred, like all attitudes and sensibilities, is often transmitted from the parents to the children.  Thus, this foolish and dangerous nationwide attack of a teenager’s hair is not an anomaly; it is an ingrained and regularly occurring part of African American life because we have yet to address this virus of self-hatred.

And to make this point plain, if not painful and inciting, allow me to use my Christian brothers and sisters as a prime example to show just how deeply rooted into the African American psyche black self-hatred is.  Most African American Christians that I know can quote on demand Psalm 139:14, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.”  If this is the case and one believes that Jehovah is perfect, then does not one believe that Jehovah’s creations are good?  If one believes that one has been “wonderfully” made by a perfect God, then why would one perm/process (chemically change) one’s hair in order not to appear as an African person, in order not to appear as God has made one? 

Do we as African people hate our Africanness more than we love and believe that Jehovah is great and perfect?  For the record, I’m not saying that anyone who chemically changes one’s hair hates oneself.  But, if someone cannot consider facing or engaging the world at any time with one’s own natural hair, then one may suffer from self-hatred.  And what is sad is that there are millions of African American girls who by the age of twelve will not leave their homes without chemically changing their hair because they so dread being perceived in their natural African state.  As Pecola from Morrison’s The Bluest Eye learns, the girls with blue eyes, straight hair, and light skin are treated better than the girls with brown eyes, wooly hair, and dark skin. 

It’s amazing how much African Americans claim to love Jesus but are not willing to look like Him to save our lives.  (Now that’s some double-consciousness for ya.)  My point here is not to question one’s faith or practice.  My point is to show just how deeply rooted black self-hatred is.  Most people who know me know that for years my hair was fried and laid to the side with the best of them.  And yet, the older I became and the more I sought to fight racial oppression, I realized that I could not fight racial oppression by teaching African people to love themselves if I do not love myself.  Consciousness is as much a process of growth as it is a state of being.  So, as we grow in knowledge, we grow in consciousness. 

Yet African Americans, in our struggle or journey toward first-class citizenship, have gained knowledge in fleshly and worldly things but not in the importance of history and self-love.  Again, we have attempted to solve a metaphysical problem with a physical solution.  Money cannot buy love, especially self-love.  And this nationwide attack on a teenager shows just how much African Americans hate themselves.  But, of course, this will be treated as an anomaly and not as a signifier for the aforementioned issues, such as the high rates of divorce, single-parent households, poor attitudes regarding education, black on black crime, and drug abuse.  We will, once again, fail to address the root of the problem; yet, we will continue to wonder and be frustrated by the weeds continuing to grow and strangle the life from the community of flowers.

As an Olympic champion, Gabby Douglas is an example of the many fine attributes that sports can teach, including diligence, determination, strong work ethic, sacrifice, and confidence.  In fact, many would argue that all the other attributes are meaningless if one does not have confidence.  If one does not believe that one has the ability to win and deserves to win, one will never win.  Often, new coaches assert the importance of developing a culture of winning.  Building confidence in the players is as important to developing a culture of winning as developing skill and strategy.  And in a similar vein, many students enter a classroom, whether it is English, math, or science, already defeated because they do not believe that they can understand the concepts. 

And for African American children this hurdle is even more prominent because they are raised in a nation that tells them that they entered as slaves and have contributed almost nothing to the development of humanity.  So we must seize this attack on Douglas’ hair as an opportunity for teaching and learning to inform all those people who have problems with Douglas’ hair that their real problem is self-hated.  As the Tupac Shakur character, Bishop, from the movie Juice states when asked why he is so violently insane, “I know I ain’t shit, and, when I realize that you ain’t shit either, I’m going to kill you too.”  This attack on Douglas’ hair is by people who so hate themselves that they are unable to see the beauty in her accomplishment because they are so blinded by the belief in their own inferiority and ugliness. 

And so the shame and disgust that they feel for Douglas’ hair is really a reflection of the shame and disgust they feel for themselves that they are projecting onto Douglas.  Therefore, the next time someone asks you why African Americans should continue to study the works of W. E. B. Du Bois and other African and African American authors in this now post-racial America, state because African Americans are still more concerned with the structure of Gabby Douglas’ hair than with the content of her character.

C. Liegh McInnis

is the author of seven books of poetry, short fiction, and criticism and the editor of Black Magnolias Literary Journal.  He can be contacted through

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Ponytail A poem for Gabby Douglas

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I am so over this ridiculous conversation about Gabby Douglas’s hair. On the one hand I wish it had never surfaced. On the other hand, this kind of pathetic thinking needs to be exposed and challenged. This tweet is calling out the folks who are superficial, jealous and sitting on their backsides while she is conquering the world.


A’Lelia Bundles

Good morning all! It’s Fantastic Friday! I am so proud of Gabby for being the FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN GOLD MEDALIST!! We as people need to stop being so critical of others!!! I can’t believe this nonsense about her hair. I mean, REALLY!!! Can we have more important conversations AMERICA?! God has blessed this young girl with talent that many don’t have. Congrats to Gabby and may HIS blessings continue to be upon you! Have a FANTASTIC FRIDAY everyone!


Kiwana Terry

Congratulations to Ms. Gabrielle (Gabby) Douglas for being the first African-American woman to win GOLD in the Olympic Gymnastic All-Around! Dreams do come true!!!


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Where’s Gabby’s Dad? He’s Right Where He’s Supposed to Be


Boyce Watkins

—3 August 2012


Gabby’s dad, Air Force Staff Sergeant Timothy Douglas, was front and center to see his daughter perform recently and only missed some of the performances because he was off serving his country in Afghanistan. While across the world, Mr. Douglas would dig up YouTube videos in order to see his daughter in action.  He recently flew to California with his friends just in time to catch Gabby at the Olympic Trials. He arrived with a large American flag with the words, “Go Gabby Douglas, Love, Dad.”

Gabby described her reaction to USA Today. “I’m like, ‘Who’s calling my name?’ And then I look up. It was my dad and his friend, and I haven’t seen him in a while,” Gabby said. “They were holding up the flag. And I almost felt like bawling. I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, Dad!’ . . .  “We knew (gymnastics) was in her heart because one day she came home from the gym and she had a 102-degree temperature,” her father said. “She went to bed, slept it off and woke up and got back in the gym the next day. That’s when we knew she had a winner’s attitude, a winner’s spirit.” The Gabby Douglas story, like millions of other stories of triumph in our community, came to fruition because some man, some where, gave some child the gift of life.  While we love to grab onto an endless supply of stereotypes teaching us that black men are worthless and don’t love their children, there are quite a few fathers like this one who understand that a real man always takes care of his children.



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My Black Is Beautiful (Episode 1)—Defining Black Beauty  / My Black is Beautiful (Episode 2)—Shades of Black

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“My Black Is Beautiful” Campaign Connects With Black Women

The campaign which includes a series of events across the country and a show in its second season on BET, has received a huge boost by its association with celebrities such as Queen Latifah and Angela Bassett.

Three years ago, “My Black is Beautiful” was an idea that was created by African American employees of the company.  A campaign meant to start a conversation about beauty and change the negative portrayals of Black women in the various forms of media. Currently, over 70 percent of African American women feel that they’re portrayed negatively by the news media. The goal of the program is to encourage Black women of all ages to define and promote their own beauty standard. News One

Good Hair Movie—Chris Rock Sells Black Hair / Good Hair on Relaxer


Natural v. Perm Debate: Negative Focus on Gymnast Gabby Douglas’s Hair

Enough with the Black Hair Session—Gabby Won

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Our Hair is Unprofessional?—MarKeese Warner—12 June 2012—Like many students across the country, I have been looking for a summer job before I start my senior year at Pennsylvania State University where I’m studying engineering. As I’m living at home in Maryland for the summer, I thought working at the nearby Six Flags would be a great summer job. I’ve been going to Six Flags with my family for years and have even had season passes on occasion, so I applied for a food service job. However, as I started to go through the interview process, I was disturbed to find out that I couldn’t work at Six Flags because of the texture of my hair. Six Flags has a strict policy that prohibits employees from having dreadlocks (or “locks” as some people call them) as they classify them as an “extreme” hairstyle along with mohawks and unnatural coloring. Locks are predominantly worn by African-American, Caribbean and African people as an expression of how our hair grows naturally. My hair is important to me and part of who I am. I’ve had locks for about five years.

Being disqualified as a potential employee because of my hair made me feel defeated; as my hair is representation of my personal growth through the years. It hurts to hear major employers like Six Flags call my natural hair and texture “extreme.” Unfortunately, throughout history, many people have demonized locks.

It is disparaging for Six Flags to accept substantial amounts of money every year at their parks across the United States, Mexico and Canada from patrons who wear their hair as it grows naturally, but the company would refuse to hire any of those patrons with locks. We spend way too much money at places like Six Flags Theme Parks for them to discriminate against any members of our community. Let us also exercise our voice with our dollars. There is no excuse in 2012 for such abhorrent employment policies. In a time when the “voice of the people” can indeed be witnessed to move mountains, let us in one accord raise our voice. In a country that purports itself to be the greatest “melting pot” of social values and ideals, it’s time for Six Flags to stop its discriminatory policy by categorically refusing to employ people because of their natural hair. Please join me in asking Six Flags to stop discriminating against people with locks.—seeingblack

*   *   *   *   *’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 Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry

By Rita Dove

Selecting poets and poems to represent a century of poetry, especially the riotous twentieth century in America, is a massive undertaking fraught with peril and complication. Poet Rita Dove-a Pulitzer Prize- winning former U.S. poet laureate, professor, and presidential scholar- embarked on what became a consuming four-year odyssey. She reports on obstacles and discoveries in an exacting and forthright introduction, featuring striking quotes, vivid profiles, and a panoramic view of the evolution of poetic visions and styles that helped bring about social as well as artistic change […] Dove’s incisive perception of the role of poetry in cultural and social awakenings infuses this zestful and rigorous gathering of poems both necessary and unexpected by 180 American poets. This landmark anthology will instantly enhance and invigorate every poetry shelf or section.—Booklist

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Sonata Mulattica: Poems

By Rita Dove

This 12th collection from the former U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize recipient is her third book-length narrative poem: it follows the real career of the violin prodigy George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower (1780–1860), a former pupil of Haydn, as well as the grandson/ of an African prince, or so his promoters and teachers in England said. Moving to Vienna during the Napoleonic Wars, the violinist met and befriended the famously moody Beethoven, who was prepared to dedicate his famously difficult Kreutzer Sonata to Bridgetower until a rivalry for the same woman drove them apart. Dove tells Bridgetower’s story, and some of Beethoven’s and Haydn’s, in a heterogenous profusion of short poems, some almost prosy, some glittering in their technique. In quatrains, a double villanelle, what looks like found text, short lines splayed all over a page and attractive description, Dove renders Bridgetower’s frustrated genius: Music played for the soul is sheer pleasure;/ to play merely for pleasure is nothing/ but work. Dove does not always achieve such subtleties—those who loved her early work may think this book too long: few, though, will doubt the seriousness of her effort, her interest at once in the history of classical music and the changing meanings of race.—Publishers Weekly

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Season of Adventure

By George Lamming

First published in 1960, Season of Adventure details the story of Fola, a light-skinned middle-class girl who has been tipped out of her easy hammock of social privilege into the complex political and cultural world of her recently independent homeland, the Caribbean island of San Cristobal. After attending a ceremony of the souls to raise the dead, she is carried off by the unrelenting accompaniment of steel drums onto a mysterious journey in search of her past and of her identity. Gradually, she is caught in the crossfire of a struggle between people who have “pawned their future to possessions” and those “condemned by lack of learning to a deeper truth.” The music of the drums sounds throughout the novel, “loud as gospel to a believer’s ears,” and at the end stands alone as witness to the tradition which is slowly being destroyed in the name of European values. Whether through literary production or public pronouncements, George Lamming has explored the phenomena of colonialism and imperialism and their impact on the psyche of Caribbean people.

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No Easy Victories

African Liberation and American Activists over Half a Century, 1950-2000

Edited by William Minter, Gail Hovey and Charles Cobb Jr.

Tell no lies; claim no easy victories—Amilcar Cabral, 1965. African news making headlines in the U.S.A. today is dominated by disaster: wars, famine, HIV/AIDS. Americans who respond from Hollywood stars to ordinary citizens are learning that real solutions require more than charity. This book provides for the first time a panoramic view of U.S. activism on Africa from 1950 to 2000, activism grounded in a common struggle for justice. It portrays organizations, individual activists, and transnational networks that contributed to African liberation from colonialism and from apartheid in South Africa. In turn, it shows how African struggles informed U.S. activism including the civil rights and black power movements. Intended for activists, analysts, students, researchers, teachers, and anyone concerned with world issues, the authors draw on interviews, research and personal experience to portray the history and stimulate reflection on international solidarity today.

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Life on Mars

By Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. Smith, author of Life on Mars has been selected as the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. In its review of the book, Publishers Weekly noted the collection’s “lyric brilliance” and “political impulses [that] never falter.” A New York Times review stated, “Smith is quick to suggest that the important thing is not to discover whether or not we’re alone in the universe; it’s to accept—or at least endure—the universe’s mystery. . . . Religion, science, art: we turn to them for answers, but the questions persist, especially in times of grief. Smith’s pairing of the philosophically minded poems in the book’s first section with the long elegy for her father in the second is brilliant.” Life on Mars follows Smith’s 2007 collection, Duende, which won the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, the only award for poetry in the United States given to support a poet’s second book, and the first Essence Literary Award for poetry, which recognizes the literary achievements of African Americans. The Body’s Question (2003) was her first published collection. Smith said Life on Mars, published by small Minnesota press Graywolf, was inspired in part by her father, who was an engineer on the Hubble space telescope and died in 2008.

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Tomorrow’s Tomorrow: The Black Woman

By Joyce A. Ladner

Tomorrow’s Tomorrow is a pioneering sociological study of black girls growing up in the city. The author, in a substantial new introduction, considers what has changed and what has remained constant for them since the book was first published in 1971. . . . Joyce A. Ladner spent four years interviewing, observing, and socializing with more than a hundred girls living in the Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis. She was challenged by preconceived academic ideas and labels and by her own past as a black child in rural Mississippi. Rejecting the white middle-class perspective of “deviant” behavior, she examined the expectations and aspirations of these representative black girls and their feelings about parents and boyfriends, marriage, pregnancy, and child-rearing.

Ladner asked what life was like in the urban black community for the “average” girl, how she defined her roles and behaviors, and where she found her role models. She was interested in any significant disparity between aspirations and the resources to achieve them.

To what extent did the black teenager share the world of her white peers? If the questions were searching, the conclusions were provocative. According to Ladner, “The total misrepresentation of the Black community and the various myths which surround it can be seen in microcosm in the Black female adolescent.”

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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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posted 5 August 2012




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  Unschooler Education Celebrated: A Response   Charles Tisdale: Newspaper Man 

Gabby Douglas and Black Self-Hatred 

Witches, Bitches, and Niggers  

 Jimi Hendrix—”Like A Rolling Stone” (Kalamu)  The Black Beauty and the Beast (Giles)    Korean Domination of Black Hair (Kam)   Locks Conference (Stanton)