ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



 Pan African reemergence will first come to fruition in Ghana. After all, Ghana, the first sub-Saharan African

country to attain independence, is the home of Pan Africanism. Padmore and DuBois are buried here.

There are streets, and centers and libraries named for diaspora heroes of African unity and struggle.



Books by Kalamu ya Salaam


The Magic of JuJu: An Appreciation of the Black Arts Movement  /   360: A Revolution of Black Poets

Everywhere Is Someplace Else: A Literary Anthology  /  From A Bend in the River: 100 New Orleans Poets

Our Music Is No Accident   /  What Is Life: Reclaiming the Black Blues Self

My Story My Song (CD)


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Films by Haile Gerima


Adwa: An African Victory Sankofa / Ashes and Embers


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Notes from PanaFest 1994


Haile Gerima in Ghana 


By Kalamu ya Salaam


USA based, Ethiopian filmmaker Haile Gerima is also staying at the Marnico Guest House in Cape Coast. He jokes that he has a room on the first floor in the back while Nia and I are in the front building on the second floor. Usually Haile is very intense, but, he feels at ease in Ghana. He is smiling and joking. Even though he is somewhat relaxed here, his sarcasm remains intensely funny and intensely cutting.

We begin exchanging jokes. I say, “someone told me that there are 40 million people in Nigeria and all of them are at the airport.”

Haile laughs, that’s like Jamaica where they stand looking into the sky waiting for American Airlines to descend with tourists.

Then Haile tells us a Cuban joke: A socialist tragedy is a girlfriend but no house to take her to. A socialist comedy is to have a house but your girl friend leaves you. Socialist realism is you have a house and you have a girlfriend, but the whole central committee is in the bedroom.

Haile is a trickster, but he is also very, very serious and deeply concerned about the direction, or lack thereof, of the African world. At one point he took on a Jamaican dance troupe who objected to some statements he made about Jamaica during a question and answer session. “When I finished, they backed off. I told them how they make their whole country into a bedroom for White tourists. People go there just to fuck. That’s all. And they spend their days and nights preparing a place for these tourists to have fun with them. I was there. I said do you want me to make a film about your country. About how the women dance topless and let men feel all over their breasts and slap their behinds. How they oil up the skin of Black men and have them dance in bikini briefs with White  women shoving money down the front of the bikini and feeling on the man’s organ. Everywhere you go in Jamaica that’s all you see. What kind of culture is that?”

Gerima’s relationship with Ghana is different. He despairs about the problems of Ghana but retains some hope that change is possible. In Ghana, a few people have been very helpful to him, but the higher-ups have generally, at best, only given lip service in the development of Gerima’s important film Sankofa as well as in the shooting of a follow-up documentary by Sharikiana Gerima, Haile’s African American wife. In her documentary she interviews African Americans living in Ghana and describes the repatriation process that has been going on since Nkrumah days.

“Every minute in Africa is explosive. Everything can change in just one minute.”

In one minute a coup.

In one minute an official rescinds a contract.

In one minute a flight with necessary equipment doesn’t enter the country.

In one minute, the individual you need to see is no longer here and no one knows where that person has gone.

In one minute, the currency is devalued and your on ground support budget is suddenly deficient.

In one minute a piece of equipment can break and its nearest replacement is two thousand miles (and who knows how many dollars) away.

In one minute. Everything changes.

The beauty is that change is a constant and, in one minute, everything can also get better. Africa’s very instability is an asset to those of us seeking to bring about structural change.

Yes, everything can change in one minute and that magnifies the power of individuals who challenge and change the course of events. Individuals in the right place at the right time.

In Africa, every minute and every individual is important.

For Haile and Sharikiana Gerima, while filming in Ghana, the individual lever of history is Dr. Ben-Abdallah who is currently a professor  in the school of performing arts at the University of Ghana, Legon.

Dr. Ben-Abdallah is a former minister of culture, and also a former minister of information. He is no longer in the government but remains supportive of the Rawlings administration albeit critically so.

At one point during the making of Sankofa, Dr. Ben-Abdallah had engineered a  shooting contract for Gerima to film in Ghana at the historic Cape Coast slave castle. Shortly after Gerima returned to the States with his signed contract, he received a letter from a ranking government official rescinding the contract. Dr. Ben-Abdallah had been replaced. Gerima tried writing and calling, but was unable to get a response. When Sharikiana Gerima was in Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta) for a meeting of film makers, she decided to make an impromptu journey to Accra, Ghana. Burkina Faso is the country directly north of Ghana. Fortunately, she was able to contact Dr. Ben-Abdallah.

The letters the Gerimas had sent were never forwarded to Dr. Ben-Abdallah. He was under the impression that everything had gone OK. Finally, they decided that they would try again under the auspices of Dr. Ben-Abdallah’s new post. Haile was required to return to Ghana. Contracts were renegotiated. Of course, more money was required.

“But you see if it were not for one individual, I would not have been able to shoot the scenes at the castle.” Every minute in Africa is explosive. 

So, on the one hand, while Gerima lambasts and critiques bureaucrats and inept government officials, at the same time Gerima remains hopeful about the future. “It may not be here in Ghana, and I may never see it, but the idea of Pan Africanism will not die. It will emerge.”

To me the odds are, Pan African reemergence will first come to fruition in Ghana. After all, Ghana, the first sub-Saharan African country to attain independence, is the home of Pan Africanism. Padmore and DuBois are buried here. There are streets, and centers and libraries named for diaspora heroes of African unity and struggle. Nkrumah was certainly a visionary, and though he had his problems, he has left Ghana marching upward on a road of embracing worldwide Pan African development.

True there has been debate and struggle within Ghana about the relevance of and Ghana’s role in propagating Pan Africanism. Part of the struggle revolves around a Ghanaian assessment of the positives and negatives of Nkrumah and his legacy. Ghanaian poet Kofi Anyidoho wrote a series of poems focusing on this debate. One of the poems frankly reveals both the attraction of Pan Africanism in bringing the diaspora to Ghana as well as the thorn on the rose: the rejection of Pan Africanism by some continental Africans who came to power after the Nkrumah years.

Lolita Jones*

            for Dzifa   for Maya


And so they says ma Name is Lolita Jones?

But that aint ma real Name.

I never has known ma Name   our Name


I cud’a been Naita    Norwetu

Or may be Maimouna   Mkabayi

Asantewaa    may be Aminata    Malaika.


Ma Name cud’a been sculptured

Into colors of the Rainbow

Across the bosom of our Earth.

But you see:

Long ago    your People sold ma People.

Ma People sold to Atlantic’s Storms.


The Storms   first it took away our Voice

Then it took away our Name

And it stripped us of our Soul.


Since then    we’ve been pulled     pushed

kicked    tossed    squeezed        pinched

knocked over   stepped upon     and spat upon.

We’ve been all over the place

And yet

We aint got nowhere at all.


That’s why when the Black Star rose

I flew over to find ma Space


And aint nobody like this Brother

Who gave me back ma Soul.


But you    you kicked hem out

                    you pushed him off

                    you segeregated him from his SoilSoul.


And yet since that fucking day

You all aint done nothing worth a dime!

Now his soul is gone on home

You sit out here    you mess your head

You drink palm wine     you talk some shit

Just shuckin’   n jivin’   n soundin’

All signifyin’ Nothin’!

You all just arguin’ funerals.


Aint nothing gone down here at all

And you all is nothing worth ma pain.

I’ll gather ma tears around ma wounds

I’ll fly me off to ma QueenDom come.


I’ve got me a date with our SoulBrother

And this aint no place for our Carnival.


Just hang out here

And grind your teeth

And cry some mess

And talk some bull

And drive some corpse to his KingDom Gone.


Why dont you talk of Life for a change?

You all is so hang up with the Dead

And I aint got no time to die just now.


I cudnt care to wait for judgment of your Gods.

There never was no case against our SoulBrother.


It’s you all is trial here

But I cudnt care to wait

And hang you even by the Toe.


You didnt even invite me here at all.

But I came    &    I spoke ma Soul

The occasion is that of the death in exile of Kwame Nkrumah, the deposed first President of Ghana. There is an imaginary trial going on in Ghana to decide whether he deserves to be brought back home for a hero’s burial. Lolita Jones is the final and uninvited witness, testifying to Nkrumah’s Pan African legacy. See “In the High Court of Cosmic Justice”, in my earlier collection Earthchild (Accra: Woeli Publishing Services, 1985).

Source: Kalamu ya Salaam. Tarzan Can Not Return to Africa, But I Can — PanaFest 1994

Haile Gerima: Filmamker

Born in Gondor, Ethiopia in 1946, Haile Gerima is the fourth child of ten children. His father was a writer and his mother a teacher. As a youth Gerima performed in his father’s theater troupe, which presented original and often historical drama, always submersed in the genuine culture of Ethiopia.  

Gerima came to the U.S. in 1967 to study at the Goodman School of Drama. He slowly realized that “with cinema I could control many more things than in the theatre.” Gerima went on to receive his MFA from UCLA in 1976 and to produce several films. Hour Glass, and Child of Resistance were his first films, Bushmama and Harvest 3,000 Years followed, all produced during his years at UCLA.

Sankofa Review/Film; Reliving a Past of Slavery

posted 21 December 2005

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Guarding the Flame of Life

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New Orleans Jazz Funeral for tuba player Kerwin James / They danced atop his casket Jaran ‘Julio’ Green

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02_My_Story,_My_Song.mp3 (24503 KB)

(Kalamu reading “My Story, My Song”

Featuring blues guitarist Walter Wolfman Washington)

Track List 1.  Congo Square (9:01) 2.  My Story, My Song (20:50) 3.  Danny Banjo (4:32) 4.  Miles Davis (10:26) 5.  Hard News For Hip Harry (5:03) 6.  Unfinished Blues (4:13) 7.  Rainbows Come After The Rain (2:21)/Negroidal Noise (15:53) 8.  Intro (3:59) 9.  The Whole History (3:14) 10.  Negroidal Noise (5:39) 11.  Waving At Ra (1:40) 12.  Landing (1:21) 13.  Good Luck (:04)

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

*   *   *   *   *’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

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#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

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#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

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#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

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#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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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.—


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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama’s political success and Oprah Winfrey’s financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today… than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don’t know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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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

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


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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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ChickenBones Store








13 January 2012




Home  Kalamu ya Salaam Table  The African World

Related files:  Haile Gerima in Ghana   Criticisms of the Disapora  The Whole of Ourselves   The Forts and Castles of Ghana   What’s Your Name?  Once You’ve Been There  Foreign Exchange   

Myths About Black History   Miriam in Ghana  Pilgrimage  to Ghana  Miriam in Ghana  Pilgrimage  to Ghana  Randolph Visits Ghana