ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
My work of writing, teaching, editing, publishing, traveling to speak, organizing conferences and workshops
and other cultural and political activities that I and other like-minded people of all cultures are involved in . . .
could not . . . [have been ] done in Afghanistan, China, Nigeria, Haiti, Iraq, Liberia, Uganda, Sierra Leone,
Libya, Colombia, Kuwait and most of the member nations of the United Nations.
Books by Haki Madhubuti
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Hard Truths: September 11, 2001
and Respecting the Idea of America
By Haki R. Madhubuti
I do not wear an American flag on my collar, nor is there a flag on my car or on a window in my home. For those who proudly display the flag I feel that it is their right to do so, just as it is my right not to join them. I am a veteran, volunteering and serving in the United States Army between October 1960 and August 1963, discharged honorably and early to attend college on the G.I. Bill of Rights. The military was my way out of debilitating poverty and I will never speak ill of it. However, I am wise enough to not send my sons when the options of a first class university is there for them (two of them attended Northwestern University).
On the road to becoming a poet, I have learned to love America. Coming to this feeling was not easy or expected. On my many journeys, if I’ve picked up anything, it is to question authority.
For me, the attack on the World Trade Center was personal because my daughter’s workplace is a short block and a half away. She was en route to work when the first plane hit. Just before the second plane exploded she was on the phone talking to me with tears clearly interrupting her speech.
I was literally shaking in Chicago as I told her to immediately take the safest route out of town and go home. Because roads were blocked, traffic was jammed, and public transportation was not accessible, she had to walk. She was twenty-five and ended up taking off her cute pumps to walk in her bare feet from lower Manhattan to Brooklyn where she lives. Like most citizens of the nation I was enraged and angry. And while viewing man-made mass destruction on innocent people in New York, the one city in the United States that best represents the possibilities of true multiculturalism, I, too, was ready to fight. However, for me the critical question was not how 9/11 happened, but why?
As a poet, educator, publisher and cultural activist I have had the privilege to travel and interact with people in nearly every state in the United States. I have served on the faculty of major universities in Illinois, New York, Washington D.C., Ohio, Maryland and Iowa. Between 1970 and 1978, I commuted by air each week between Chicago and Washington D.C. to teach Howard University. In the early eighties, I drove each week between Chicago and Iowa City for two and a half years to teach and earn a graduate degree at the University of Iowa. These commutes and other travels nationally and internationally over the last three decades have enlarged me in unexpected ways. The United States is a very large and beautiful country. Its population is reasonably well-educated and is highly diverse-racially, ethnically, religiously, economically and culturally. This reality gives me cause for hope.
This hope has helped me to escape the trap of accepting simple generalizations about racial and ethnic groups and narrow assumptions about their political positions. Serving in the United States Army as a very young man, taught me that close quarter living, serious open-minded study, daily conversation and interaction with people of other cultures can do wonders in eradicating stereotypes and racial and ethnic pigeonholing.
My work over the last thirty-nine years has been confined almost exclusively to the African American community, the same community where I live, work and build institutions. As a result, I have few white, Asian, Latino American or Native American friends or associates. I am quite aware that there are literally tens of millions “good and well” meaning people of all cultures doing progressive political and cultural work every day. I say this because it is very easy to take the negative acts of some people and assign them to all people of a particular ethnic group, race or culture.
But the plain truth is that we are all individuals. It is best to accept or reject people based upon their individual talents, gifts, intellect, character and politics. America’s many cultural and ethnic groups share the English language, public education, popular culture, mass media, and the powerful and effective acculturation into Western civilization and culture. In essence, if we are honest, we are more alike than many would admit.
I wrote in my book Enemies: The Clash of Races (1978), that I loved America, but loathe what America had done to me, my people and other nonwhite citizens of this country. I still stand on these words. We must never forget that America’s “democracy” was built on the destruction of the hearts, minds, souls, spirits, bodies and holocausts of the Native peoples and Africans. This fact is not taught in the nation’s elementary, and secondary schools, or universities–although it remains the secret behind the enormous economic success of the United States. The nation’s inability to honestly come to terms with its own bloodied past with public debate, acknowledgement, and restitution remains at the heart of the centuries-old racial divide. The sophistication of today’s oppression of Native peoples, Black, Latino, and poor people is much more insidious, institutionalized, and thereby excused by media, politicians, and corporate America as something of the past.
At the same time, we must acknowledge the vast changes in voting rights, employment, housing patterns, political representation, legal and health care structures, access to secondary and higher education and the creation of a large, yet fragile Black middle class. None of this would have come about, if not for the many Black struggles over the last one hundred years, that forced the powers that be to accept their own laws, and not discriminate against people purely on racial or ethnic differences.
Our struggles here for full citizenship, equality, fair access to all the opportunities afforded white citizens remains at the core of progressive Black struggle. Our right to be politically active is fundamentally what democracy is about. This is no small right. My work of writing, teaching, editing, publishing, traveling to speak, organizing conferences and workshops and other cultural and political activities that I and other like-minded people of all cultures are involved in . . . could not . . . [have been ] done in Afghanistan, China, Nigeria, Haiti, Iraq, Liberia, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Libya, Colombia, Kuwait and most of the member nations of the United Nations.
In the early seventies, I often thought of migrating to Africa. However, after visits to many African nations, discussions with African Americans who have migrated and returned, and my non-romantic assessment of the African continent economically, politically and culturally, I decided against it. I realized after a great deal of soul-searching and private and public debate that I could help Africa and its people (us) more by working hard to be a success here and like the Irish, the Jewish and other ethnic groups reach out to my people abroad. This decision remains critical in my thinking and actions today.
My focus in this book is to let young, and not so young, brothers know that we do have realistic options in America. It is my responsibility to communicate to you that our ancestors’ centuries old bloodied fight for human, economic, and political rights in the United States has not been in vain. Our people, against unrealistic odds, have taken the dirt, crumbs, scorn, and ideas of America and secured a tangible future for generations of Blacks to compete and make their own statements about success and attainment.
Yes, there is still much more to do. I have tried to give some insight into the politics of that work in this book. However, many (not all) African Americans have more freedoms, prosperity, liberties, and possibilities in the United States than Black people any place in the world today. Of course, those of our people in this category are still a fragile minority. As contradictory, inconsistent, racist, and unfair as America continues to be, it still is a nation that does afford a chance, an opportunity to those who are intelligent, organized and strong, focused and bold, serious, hard working, and lucky enough to make their statements heard.
I can state unequivocally that my publishing company, Third World Press, published only the books that I, and its editorial staff agree upon. Yes, there has been political and economic pressure on us to not publish certain books. However, these pressures did not directly come from the United States government. The two African centered schools I co-founded, New Concept preschool and the Betty Shabazz International Charter School likewise continue to exist without open opposition from the government. For 21 years, myself along with other conscious and committed young brothers and sisters operated multiple bookstores in Chicago and only closed them in 1995 because of serious competition from the super chain bookstores. But that, in the United States, I and millions of others have been able to fight for our space even in often difficult political and economic structures is a comment on the possibilities of this country.
That I have never had the economic resources to really compete with the major or midstream publishing companies is also a comment on the work that still needs to be accomplished in this nation. A central part of the responsibility of an informed citizen is to question our government, especially its foreign policy which helped to create an Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, corrupt monarchs in Saudi Arabia, and key nations all over Africa. As the nation grieves and buries its dead, we must not allow ourselves to just automatically buy into the answers from our government.
The larger question from us must be why, after investing over thirty billion dollars of our taxes a year, with few questions asked, is it that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Council, and the Defense Department didn’t have a clue to what was happening? And, now a week after 9/11 there is a call from those agencies for people who speak the indigenous languages of Afghanistan and others. Could racism be the reason for a lily white, angel bread security force who can’t currently find its way out of a computer program. Most certainly these people could not get back in the field where the real dirty work of human intelligence is being done.
Thirty billion dollars for what? This is the type of gross incompetence and racism that Black folk and others have to deal with daily. So, young brothers, I want you and young people of all cultures to know that the idea of America can become a reality, can become the visionary eye in the center of the storm, the organic seed growing young fertile minds, can be the clean water purifying the polluted ideas of old men fearful of change, can take democracy from the monied few to the concerned majority if we believe in its sacred potential and the potential of the twenty-first century’s coming majority of Black, Brown, and locked out white people. The best of you must rise. This eminent majority must not have the white supremacist mindset of the founding patriarch or the “superior” souls of the current “rulership.” Those among this coming majority must be nurtured and educated in the essential tenets of democracy.
Many of you have tasted the debilitating effects of being denied your birthrights. So when the time comes for you to lead, you must be able to look your children in their eyes and state with firmness and clarity that you do believe in democracy and fairness for all people and not just the monied few and numerical majority. We, too, stand and will fight for the historical ideas of the Declaration of Independence, United States Constitution, and its Bill of Rights.
Finally, we must take ownership of ourselves, our families, communities and this vast and beautiful land. In doing so, we will be making the most profound statement on our citizenship, and in the words of the great poet Langston Hughes, “We too Sing America.”
posted April 2003
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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 Eroticanoir.com 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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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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By Isabel Wilkerson
Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a sharecropper’s wife, left Mississippi for Milwaukee in 1937, after her cousin was falsely accused of stealing a white man’s turkeys and was almost beaten to death. In 1945, George Swanson Starling, a citrus picker, fled Florida for Harlem after learning of the grove owners’ plans to give him a “necktie party” (a lynching). Robert Joseph Pershing Foster made his trek from Louisiana to California in 1953, embittered by “the absurdity that he was doing surgery for the United States Army and couldn’t operate in his own home town.” Anchored to these three stories is Pulitzer Prizewinning journalist Wilkerson’s magnificent, extensively researched study of the “great migration,” the exodus of six million black Southerners out of the terror of Jim Crow to an “uncertain existence” in the North and Midwest. Wilkerson deftly incorporates sociological and historical studies into the novelistic narratives of Gladney, Starling, and Pershing settling in new lands, building anew, and often finding that they have not left racism behind. The drama, poignancy, and romance of a classic immigrant saga pervade this book, hold the reader in its grasp, and resonate long after the reading is done.
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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updated 27 March 2009