A Gospel for New Orleans

A Gospel for New Orleans


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



This vigorous congregation style is the true black church. It is

the black church at its most democratic, at its most tribal, that is,

with its emphasis on community and compassion and responsibility.



Raymond Myles, “Heaven is the Place” 

A Gospel for Now on BOL


By Rudolph Lewis


“I know what it means to miss New Orleans”



Let me be the first  say I like gospel. I was raised on gospel music. It is just as much a part of me as the rhythm of my heart. It is not something that I can get away from. Mahalia’s voice/passion is my mother’s breast, my living in the world. You see in a southern Virginia black church that was the music—and Mahalia was the queen. So New Orleans gospel is all mixed up with the blues and the people and the freedoms of jazz. So New Orleans ain’t just in New Orleans. It became an American music.

Now, let me say, I do not listen to a lot of gospel these days. I don’t care that much about the sophistication and the jazz arrangements of popular gospel. Well I still listen to James Brown. But he knows that the music—the drum got to be true, how it really be.

When I saw him in B’more on Pennsylvania Avenue at the Royal Theater, two times in one day – a matinee and the following 8 o’clock show, it was then I understood what the black preacher in that black church with a choir behind him, what he was doing, in backwoods VA. I saw perfection in “Please, Please, Please.” A spirit man, an artist, an actor, man of the people.

But that was the surface reality of the black church. The real black church occurred during summer revival, which lasted five nights, beginning Sunday with homecoming, when your folk come from scattered places. They come home to thank the Lord for his blessings, with their love ones, with their peoples.

Well, that’s the way it was done at the country Baptist churches—the most independent of black churches. These churches emphasized community. These are a new people, a constantly renewing kind of people. Their faith is caught up in their faith in the Lord.

Now when I was growing up there was no hanging image of Christ. Of course, the fans and some of the Sunday school material came from outside of the community with the “classic” image of Christ made commercially popular in the 50s. The true Christ came alive in the pulpit—in the person of the preacher. Ours was Reverend General Ruffin. black and stocky like he from Ghana, a shiny chocolate, a beautiful set of teeth and about as serious a being as a black boy ever feels from afar.

He commanded the elements. He had powers to evoke the spirit and make it manifest itself in his person—and in you, in the people, he could create, find oneness. That power New Orleans music retains, been renewing for a century or more. Let us say it’s that African thing, that ancient man thing of possession by the Spirit, by Being itself. Well, pop gospel gets fancy, cute, sophisticated. And so the gospel this brother does is different than all that. This gospel makes us special.

What is that us? Maybe it’s tribal. It sure ain’t upward mobile, trying to fit in where you can get in by any deceptive means at hand. That ain’t what New Orleans is all about. That’s why as a place, as a living thing, a little experiment, it reminds us about who we are and what we be. What is our promise and what is our gift to America.

Now, I ain’t talking about these million-dollar preachers we got now. Country Baptists are famous for keeping preachers on the move. Because back then churches were communities, families of achievement and all kinds and levels, and we are all together, as one, worlds with their own beginnings, ties, memories, working together, dying together. And if a preacher couldn’t truly bring the Spirit to sustain that community then he got the boot. He is not the One. And black folks are always on the outlook for the One.

During revival, before there was any preaching, the congregation itself takes over the service, the ceremony. Anyone can raise a song, and the congregation would urge them on, responding, chanting his words out and if it’s one of those spirited surging songs, they be moving their feet, and they be swinging it, as natural and as steady as a day’s work. Anyone can get up and speak, either to praise God or mock bad behavior, and there would be amens, and clapping, too.

This vigorous congregation style is the true black church. It is the black church at its most democratic, at its most tribal, that is, with its emphasis on community and compassion and responsibility.

In so much as the preacher, or a singer and a choir, can evoke that and make it manifest itself in our hearts and souls, he/she is one of us. New Orleans has this effect on me, it refreshes, renews. That’s what this brother’s singing and choir do, especially in the “I’m Gonna Shout About It” and the one about Job and his faith.

He reminds me also of C.L. Franklin, who had much more going on. Still I like what Miles does. It’s good listening. . . . I know what it is to miss New Orleans.

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Raymond Myles Website

Raymond Myles documentary teaser for A Taste of Heaven  /  Raymond Myles and Yessa Nessa Vanessa Juliet Williams

Raymond Myles Medley 1 / Raymond Myles Medley 2 / Raymond Myles Medley 3

Raymond Myles and The Rams—Jesus, The Baddest Man in Town

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Heaven Is The Place I Want To Be

Excerpt by Kalamu ya Salaam


Raymond Myles is dead. He was murdered during a car jacking. It was a terrible blow to the contemporary New Orleans gospel scene, a scene that was, if you can get to this, even stronger than the New Orleans rap scene, albeit not as well known nationally and internationally. I say stronger because there were many more people singing gospel in New Orleans than doing rap (even counting those who did both).

Raymond was one of the most flamboyant as well as one of the most talented of New Orleans musician.  Physically rotund, he was fashion conscious with a vengeance. He sported a mane of curly hair which looked to be a cross between well-kept jheri curls and a Goldilocks perm. Plus, he flashed gold. Personality-wise he had some Little Richard in him. My man could be wild, as the second medley cut demonstrates when he invites the church congregation to get their groove on with Jesus instead of going out to the clubs. “Get up, get up” he cajoles, urging them to slide and dip and do whatever else they want to do, and, of course, the band is appropriately funky. This is archetypical New Orleans gospel.

Those who think this a bit unseemly for gospel music should remember that a similar criticism was leveled at Mahalia Jackson when she started out with Thomas Dorsey before she became celebrated as the world’s greatest gospel singer. Indeed in the thirties, they kicked Mahalia out of some churches, saying she was mixing the devil’s music with Jesus’ songs. Her reply was “that’s the way we sing it” in New Orleans. And guess what? As Raymond so ably demonstrates, they continued singing it that way, long after Mahalia was gone.

As a vocalist Raymond reminds me of a cross between Rance Allen and D.J. Rogers. As a musical director he was superb, and though I am not a die-hard fan of gospel music, I loved to hear his group The RAMS (i.e. The Raymond Anthony Myles Singers). When they got amped up, they could out blow the Basie band while singing with the finesse of Duke Ellington’s Orchestra at its finest. Though there are a double handful of New Orleans gospel performers whom I respect to the fullest, to me and to many others on the scene, Raymond Myles was the pinnacle of New Orleans gospel. . . .—kalamu.

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Forgetting Isn’t the Problem

Americans have a way of forgetting.—Miriam


I have been thinking about that. Well, whether there are any historical parallels, semblances to the losing of, destroying, of an American city, and dispersing a million people from their homes, there’s something unique about this time, even as our country preacher speaks of slave ships. People speak also of the Oakies, as the closest that is similar to this forced migration of people. I suppose blacks would think of 1910-20 and 1940s.

But never, even if we take the Oakie example, never have there been such a dispersion in a short period of time, the only semblance is Reconstruction, maybe as confused, which shows you how clumsy American governments are. But not even Jubilee-Reconstruction has been so photographed and images dispersed so thoroughly as the destruction of New Orleans, my sweet woman abused and raped.

We were spectators—the whole global network of cyber technology users. We too must conclude, even if I exaggerate about the amount of paper spent on images and ink, paper rots, and cyberspace is almost like a living thing that goes on and on, like that bunny. There’s no way this event can be swept under the carpet. There are too many witnesses. So I don’t think “forgetting” is gonna be the problem. This one we can win.

I think America is special. Maybe it’s my early training in a backwoods one-room framed school in southern Virginia, home of Presidents and other great men, and greater women. Maybe it’s that one teacher (pretty, beautiful hand, Miss Trisvan), her seven grades, fifty or so students, a pot belly stove in a sandbox. The American flag with the 48 stars. Our pledge of allegiance. The nation’s songs that spoke of we the American people.

They say the earliest teachings one recalls even in senility. So I admit I have been trained. But even the poet Langston Hughes believes in America, in his poems. Black folk have always believed in America. I can’t recall a historical time, now you may correct me if I’m wrong, that black folk as black folk didn’t believe in America.

So I’m gonna believe that the comfortable middle-class of whatever complexion, believe that they are Americans and Americans deep down believe in the we. Now they may indeed forget or behave as if they don’t know the we. That’s self-blindness. That’s cynicism. That’s loving comfort over principle. That’s deviltry. I think, nay, I believe, I don’t know it as hard evidence (because I been disappointed a many a time), I have faith that Americans are greater than their colors. America has a soul, an enduring soul. It has grown, learned from its people and its others.

Now I ain’t gonna say that many won’t drag their feet. And they got all kind of weights to hold a thing in place. Not least among these are the corporate media and academia. One thing we have learned in the last two weeks, most people have concluded that one cannot depend on the corporate media for all of the story, or to report the story with objectivity, or photo or caption things as they really are, were. 

Reporters are moved too often by sensationalism. The circus. That is what gets the public attention. And, man, the ratings pay the bills. And you can become a star if you got the appeal “right.”

But as the politicos discovered in the last presidential election the cyber-networks are powerful. We in a new place. Many come to the table without being rich, without being the Alpha male, and influence the course of American, or channel of American, thinking and feeling — partly because with these cyber-networks we can bring the people of the world in as our audience. Let them too have a voice, encourage them to speak. What should America be doing in this particular situation. If She can’t deal with her most intimate problems of social justice, who’re they to be so self-righteous with us, so Christian.

So no not again, there won’t be any forgetting. It’s the doing that’s the problem. Can we use these cyber-networks to force people to do what they should do? That’s up for grabs now. How many can we bring into our world, feel with us, work with us?

As ever and always, Rudy  (12 September 2005)

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burning all four wheels.

It’s the truest poetry, we need singers in these times of the movement of people, these sojourners. The Uptown Rulers don’t want to be nowhere else. They want to go home. And that’s the way it ought to be. So we should make it be. You telling me with all our technology we can’t make it be in the 21st century.

This is the time, my brother, this is, the time of the separation. America’s gonna be obliged to change her way. America is before the court of world opinion. Which road will she take? These questions are on the dock. How’s America gonna confront this first great crisis of the 21st century.

How shall she in we come to terms with the visual relation of race and poverty, and the aural and visual class racism as a sophisticated sport. Which way America—What road will you take—Can you heal yourself America—Fulfill your promise?

It won’t be easy. But I believe we can talk her into it. If we make the right appeal. White people are 70% of the population and let’s say the overwhelming majority of them are middle-class or working class with money and want to hold onto as much as possible. We need them, they need us. It is a creative and dynamic combination.

I think that we as we can speak to these people as we speak to ourselves in a language that they can understand. Like they understand our dance, our music, our songs. Maybe now is the time they can understand our words, our reason, our hearts, and souls, and have pride in us, as we have desired. A gift, a revelation. Maybe this is the now time for America, the real America to be.

I we the wordmasters we say we with powers from the Most High. This is not too great then a task for us to bring forth when there are ears to listen, and a people open for understanding. I say let it be and it be. Now all together. Say amen.

As ever and always, Rudy (13 September 2005)

posted 13 September 2005

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Audio: My Story, My Song (Featuring blues guitarist Walter Wolfman Washington)

The Katrina Papers, by Jerry W. Ward, Jr. $18.95  The Richard Wright Encyclopedia (2008)

Zippety Doo Dah, Zippety-Ay: How Satisfactch’ll Is Education Today? Toward a New Song of the South

Dr. Joyce E. King on Black Education and New Paradigms

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music website > writing website > daily blog > twitter > facebook >

Men We Love, Men We Hate SAC writings from Douglass, McDonogh 35, and McMain high schools in New Orleans.

An anthology on the topic of men and relationships with men

Ways of Laughing An Anthology of Young Black Voices Photographed & Edited by Kalamu ya Salaam

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books

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 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 Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine

By  Ilan Pappe

It is amazing, according to Pappe, how the media had not managed to see the similarities between the ethnic cleansing that was happening in Bosnia with the one that is happening in Palestine. According to Drazen Petrovic (pg.2-3), who has dealt with the definition of ethnic cleansing, ethnic cleansing is associated with nationalism, the making of new nation states and national struggle all of which are the driving force within the Zionist ideology of Israel. The consultancy council had used the exact same methods as the methods that were later to be used by the Serbs in Bosnia. In fact Pappe argues that such methods were employed in order to establish the state of Israel in 1948.

The book is divided into 12 chapters with 19 illustrations in black and white, with 7 maps of Palestine and 2 tables. These include old photographs of refugee camps, and maps of Palestine before and after the ethnic cleansing of 1948. Pappe continues his writing as a revisionist historian with the intention of stating the bitter truth to his Israeli contemporaries and the fact that they have to face the truth of their nation being built upon an ethnic cleansing of the population of Palestine. One can sense an optimistic hope in Pappe’s writing when he talks about the few who are in Israel who are aware of their country’s brutal past especially 1948 and the foundation of the state upon ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.—PaLint

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label ‘trafficked’ does not accurately describe migrants’ lives and that the ‘rescue industry’ serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. “Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality.”—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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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

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 /

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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6 January 2012




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