Give Peace a Chance

Give Peace a Chance




ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



I am “from the 60s.” I marched to integrate drug stores.  I am native to Tidewater,

Virginia, full of my years of professional social worker and teaching, not as young

as he imagines; a writer who decided . . . living the rest of her days as healthily as possible.  



Book by Jeannette Drake


Journey Within: A Healing Playbook


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Books by Barack Obama

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance  / The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream

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I received this note from poet and artist Jeannette Drake, today 15th February 2008:


Dear Rudy,


The handwriting is on the wall. The questions are really unnecessary. Obama has been chosen by God. He will be our first black president. God did not give me the vision of which I wrote in this article [see below] for naught (as my mother would say) and as my father would say, “the rest will be revealed.” I wish you peace, Jeannette


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Give Peace a Chance 

The Ancestral Spirits Are Watching

By Jeannette Drake

It’s the day after the U.S. Presidential Election.  On my way to the bookstore to pick up a copy of today’s New York Times that contains my sister’s letter to the editor on voting, I wonder about the college students.   Will enough of them become involved? Momentarily I catch a glimpse of the license plate on the car in front of me.  “W&M 72,”it reads. “Aha!” I say to myself, a student from the years of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?”; funny, how thirty-two years later, those lyrics still have meaning.

Inside the bookstore I buy my copy of the newspaper and ask the clerk about a book, which has caught my eye in the window; What Makes A Man: Twenty-two Writers Imagine the Future edited by Rebecca Walker.   The clerk checks the computer. The window copy is the only available copy.  He takes it out of the window and hands it to me.   I take a seat to skim the pages. Among the essays is one by Michael Moore.

“Obama 2008!” the young man says to a young woman standing at the counter. She nods. “Yes, that’s right! I tell them both. “That message came through to me.  I felt the ancestral spirits watching over Ohio last night.”

The young man and woman fasten their eyes on me. I continue. “The ancestral spirits of Toni Morrison, Nikki Giovanni, Rita Dove, and Thylias Moss, all gathered last night; but the vision I was receiving didn’t become fully clear to me until today after I heard Kerry making his concession speech. Then I understood more of what I sensed last night. You are right about Obama.”

The young clerk smiles. He understands. The young woman nods again, then tells him a few minutes later, she’s leaving to take care of a chore. 

Across age, race, gender and background, the student and I continue our conversation for a while; exchange questions and answers; opinions. We are both social scientists, Democrats.  He is 25, working on his dissertation on Human Geography, from the mid-west, attending college in the south, temporarily in Virginia to do research on an aspect of his dissertation, punk-rock.

I am “from the 60s.” I marched to integrate drug stores.  I am native to Tidewater, Virginia, full of my years of professional social worker and teaching, not as young as he imagines; a writer who decided at age 40 to engage in the process of living the rest of her days as healthily as possible.  

“Well, maybe Obama’s election to the Senate will set the table,” the young student says.  “Yes, this is true, every story has a beginning, a middle and an end. This is a beginning.”    The student nods agreement. I continue.  “And when you get to the end, you are back at the beginning. What goes around, comes around, except on a different level, like in a spiral.” I gesture a spiral. 

“Everyone was excited yesterday about the possibility of Kerry winning…even at the car wash,” he says. ” I didn’t expect so much passion there. Everyone wanted to know when I went in, did you vote? Whom did you vote for? When I said, “Kerry, they were really pleased.”

I ask the student about the lack of interest in political matters common to his generation.  “Where does the apathy come from? “It’s the way we grew up; a kind of post-modern detachment,” he explains.  “All those politicians are just alike; we thought Clinton would be different, but then in his personal life…”  The student’s voice trails off.

“Oh, I see,” I say. “Clinton was to you, as Kennedy was to us.” 

“Yes.” He beams a little. “I liked Kerry, but he didn’t excite me.  Obama excites me!” (Thank you, Jesus, I silently muse.) 

We talk a little longer. I ask him about his field of study, “human geography.”  “It’s a field that has split somewhat from geography, like a ginkgo leaf,” he explains. ” When I was in undergraduate school, I joked that I wanted to major in Omniscience.” I laugh. “Human geography gives me a chance to really enjoy how people and space relate.”

When I ask him to explain how blues and jazz would fit within the paradigm of Human Geography, he tells me about the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Mississippi.  He explains the possible ways one could approach blues from the vantage point of human geography; examining the music’s trail from West Africa to the cotton fields of Mississippi; the reasons why the museum sits exactly where it is; the reasons why people continue to come there today; what is it they want to take away? etc. etc.  

“Yes,” I tell him. “I saw the PBS special and immediately said to myself, I want to visit there. You see, this is another reason why I am not ready to become senile. I want to experience the nostalgia of the blues; be reminded of visiting my grandfather as a child in North Carolina; I want to go see places I’ve never been, like your home state.”  He smiles.  I wax on.

“I haven’t been to a lot of places; Spain, California, Florida, recently to New Mexico. I loved the landscape in New Mexico. I felt as though I was on another planet.”

“Yeah”, he says. “The difference in landscape across this country is phenomenal.”

“And of course, I’ve traveled close to Virginia; D.C., Maryland, North Carolina, briefly to South Carolina, the airports in Atlanta and Denver. I can’t travel around in airports if I’m really senile and not in good physical condition.”   He laughs.

“Well, you don’t look all that old, like you could have been in the 60’s.”   We laugh together.

We talk a little more about America’s theory of being the “melting pot.”  “With Obama,” I say, “we have a metaphor on many levels; a symbol of how the “melt” may be a little different from the way in which it might have been originally imagined.”

The student understands.  “There are interracial couples everywhere,” he says. “Yes,” I reply.   “And I found a while ago, as a poet in the schools, that many students were more global than I realized. Some tend to transcend racial and ethnic boundaries in their writing.”

It is time for me to go.   I give back Rebecca Walker’s new book,  What Makes A Man.   Perhaps I will purchase it later. Two days ago I quite unexpectedly ran across and purchased Dreams from My Father, Obama’s 1995 memoir. I need to remember that I still live on a “struggling writer’s” budget. 

The student and I exchange names and a handshake.    Our exchange has been a confirmation of my vision. God has not deserted my people… “my people lending their strength to the years, to the gone years and the now years and the maybe years…washing, ironing, cooking, scrubbing…trying to fashion a world that will hold all the people, all the faces, all the adams and eves… “

No, Yahweh has not deserted us

I don’t know if it will be “Obama in 2008!” However, I am certain that I will live to see him become President of the United States of America.  “Let a new earth rise. Let a second generation full of courage issue forth; let a people loving freedom come to growth… “

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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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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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updated 9 January 2009



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