History, Intellectual Responsibility, &  Struggle

History, Intellectual Responsibility, &  Struggle


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



each of us has to make this a better world through service . . . and only you can determine what

kind of service you can provide.  Yes, as a very privileged young man, you have

a responsibility, because “to whom much is given, much is expected,”



History, Intellectual Responsibility, & Struggle

Will a  Phone Call Stop Increasing Inequalities?


Conversation with Floyd, Joyce, Wilson, Miriam, Dennis, Mackie, Chuck, Austin


Intellectual Responsibility 

Floyd: There appears to be no national or larger struggle for Black liberation or human rights today.  Even so, I concluded long ago that I would make my fight wherever I was situated, because the “struggle always is local.”  Part of the struggle must be the continued courage to speak truth to power, and to act with audacity.  We cannot give up this struggle. So much of it now takes place in institutional arrangements. . . . We also can wage serious battle by inspiring Black youngsters. 

Miriam: I have been thinking about responsibility and, serendipitously, received a Hopkins publication with an article, “College-Level Coping,” that deals with the anxieties, fears, pressures, and depression that many college students experience.  This week, a student interviewed me about my years as a graduate student at Hopkins in the 1960s, so I found myself reflecting on my experiences as the only Black at a New England prep school, one of three Black freshmen at a women’s college, and one of few women at a male university.  I was married when I received my B. A., had two babies with the M. A., and four small children with the Ph.D., so I know something about responsibility, as well as pressure and depression.  I was not surprised that the suicide rate at Hopkins was so high when I was there. 

Still, I had nothing like the pressure that Black students are experiencing now at predominantly-White institutions, where high tuition, low retention, work obligations, enormous debts, and a lack of institutional support lead to a high drop-out rate, particularly of young Black males.  Your first responsibility, then, is to graduate, because we need long distance runners, young men and women who are educated, trained, and equipped to solve some of our tremendous problems. 

That education, as you indicate, includes not just what you learn in the classroom but the total exposure to ideas and concepts that come from reading, writing, talking with others, and thinking about issues.  You must love yourself enough, as a young warrior, to lead a balanced and disciplined life that will enable you to run the distance.

Your second responsibility is to help your family:  your parents, who have taught you the value of hard work, discipline, education and sacrifice, and your ten-year old sisters who look up to you as their role model.  I believe that if you save the world and neglect your loved ones, it’s all been for naught. So many activists in the 1960s made that mistake; they turned their backs on those who depended on them. 

I saw a piece this morning on Carlos Santana, who said that he took a year and a half off, dropped everything at the height of his career, because it was his wife’s turn to develop her potential and their children needed him.  I can’t tell you how much I respect Santana for the way that he is living his life, with love and responsibility to others.

Finally, there is the deep responsibility that each of us has to make this a better world through service . . . and only you can determine what kind of service you can provide.  Yes, as a very privileged young man, you have a responsibility, because “to whom much is given, much is expected,” as your parents have taught you so well.  Those who are gifted with intelligence, talent, creativity, and resources have a greater obligation to share those gifts with others.  It may be as a teacher, writer, musician, social worker, computer analyst, or businessman. 

There is nothing wrong with making money; it’s what you do with it that counts.  In our history, there have been resourceful African Americans who have founded colleges, newspapers, insurance companies, and funeral parlors—institutions that employed thousands of people who, as a result, moved out of the ranks of the poor.

In answer to your question, Rodney, “No, you are not alone.”  I think that there are many other young people who are asking questions and searching for answers, but they are disconnected and separated from each other because there is no program or organization or platform to unite them. Although I had some reservations about the “leadership” of the MMM, I understand that many young people attended and were inspired to act.  That is very encouraging.  Hopefully, you and your generation will unite around issues and take responsibility for solving some of our problems.

Rudy: Though you have provided good advice, I’m uncertain that it will change the trajectory of the present status quo. One’s own life cannot be a model entirely for another, when government has been in the process of dismantling social programs at the expense of the poor. My assumption it was this right wing agenda that Rodney’s dire concern and how do we meet this challenge, this social poison.

The present ideologues that have done this deed would probably have no argument against your tenets for individual initiative and familial responsibility. Young black men at white universities do not suffer these qualities. Those thoughtful are concerned what to do for those that are less fortunate than they. In this regard, the black middle-class has fallen short. So the utility of such middle-class advice in solving the larger black problems is questionable. The emphases on these class concerns have essentially failed the poor. The question is what is to be done to change the chemistry of the political climate.

If government is not the solution to the poor, then what is? Honest white corporations who only seek profit? Middle-class professionals? Today, idiocies and opportunism parade as intellectual rigor and scholarship. I’m done with politics. I shall crawl off into the sunset with few regrets like August Wilson. Enough is enough, there is too much equivocation and reductionism.

Miriam: No you don’t, Rudolph Lewis, crawl off into the sunset like August Wilson!  Life is about struggle and survival . . . against all the odds.  I believe that racism, classism, sexism, colorism, and homophobia are all a part of human nature, that there will always be oppression of the Other, the one who is different from us.  But that doesn’t mean that we should stop living—just turn over and die or jump off a cliff.  What the hell does that prove?  Who will even care? 

Certainly, those corporate executives or transportation magnates will not.  Hell no!  We have to be like Ida B. Wells and say, “You’re going to have to pull me off the goddamn train cause I don’t intend to move.”  That’s what I did in Montgomery when I was eight years old and Rosa Parks hadn’t yet done her thing.  It just didn’t make sense to me even as a little girl that I had to move to the back of the bus when there were all those good seats up front.  I just ain’t never been a “back of the bus, up in the balcony” kinda person. 

It’s what my momma did in 1955 and 56, when she got up at 5 a.m. to make the rounds of the Montgomery street corners to pick up folk to take to work.  My momma set me a good example of how to LIVE in spite of all the obstacles.

Rudy: Miriam, you’re my kind of woman and you have my highest admiration.

Miriam: And you have mine for all that you’re doing.  Keep it up. . . . I have read both of those pieces and I agree with you that it’s like choosing between the Devil (Republicans) and the Imp (Democrats), but we can’t just lie down and die. 

We have to deal realistically and pragmatically with the situation at hand; we have to work to defeat that bill (I sent everyone the name of it) that will decrease funds to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, nutrition programs, etc. 

Creating a separate Black political party will simply nullify our power, the power of the people.  The racists in both parties would be delighted with the ghettoization of Black voters.  We have to deal with the two-party system that exists in this country and not hide our heads, ostrich-like, in the sand. 

Third parties like those proposed by Ross Perot and Ralph Nader have been a total failure in this country.  A Black political party might be the ideal in the Best of All Possible Worlds, but not in this corrupt system in which we live.  Minorities in this country hold the balance of power in any election, and we have to use that power judiciously to benefit the have-nots.

Rudy: I’m moved by your enthusiasm. But short-term enthusiasms are no solution to organizing the poor, only a party can do that. The power you imagine blacks have is purely imaginary. Your “ghettoization” already exists. I know, I live in a ghetto. If we did or do have the power you suggest, there would have been no New Orleans. And I don’t see anything that has changed in the last two months. I’m suggesting that if we wish to change the political equation, unity of the black classes is necessary and an inclusive black political party is necessary to achieve this end.

Otherwise, we decide the status quo is sufficient. The same old two-party system approach indeed is like hiding “our heads, ostrich-like, in the sand.” I do not see a telephone call changing those political hacks down in DC. If these politicians don’t already know that balancing the budget on the backs of the poor is wrong, a telephone call will not make a difference.  Something stronger than a telephone call is necessary to change our status or situation as a people. Otherwise, the same black political corruption and cronyism will continue to exist. Let the Republicrats do what they got to do. And we do what we need to do, namely, organized independently in our own interests. Spinning wheels gets us nowhere.

I will ask no elected politician—Democrat or Republican—for anything. And for certain I will not beg. In that we don’t have a party that represents the poor, we cannot demand anything.

I am not against anyone making your call. It is not anything that I can place my faith in or my energy. It’s like playing the numbers. And I just don’t play that game.

Miriam: I agree with you completely about the failings of the Democrats and Republicans, but we have to keep fighting because the power is still in the hands of the people—if it is no more than the power to remove them from office.  I just sent everyone a message urging them to contact their representatives.  If enough of us protest, we can stop a bill that will have dire consequences for the poor.

Rudy: Come on, Miriam, this is just as much wishful thinking as Dr. Joyce King’s “historical process.” Action for action sake is no answer. If the white religious right wants the bill, then it will happen. These Republicans and Democrats will do whatever they can get away with. And that’s a lot. These short-term tactics have little effect on sellouts. We need a bigger stick than that to make them heel.

Historical Processes

Joyce: So . . . you disagree with me?   I didn’t know you had classified my response as “so much wishful thinking.” What is the basis for your conclusion? I’m looking at history. What, then is your view of how change can happen?

Rudy: I am not sure that “historical process” guarantees anything, or such a thing exists except in the imagination of historians or sociologists. History did not guarantee that the slaves would be freed, nor that the Supreme Court would make its various decisions for or against the Negro, nor that Kennedy would be murdered and that LBJ would be the man that he was and pass the civil rights and voting rights bills.

All of that had nothing to do with “historical process.” One could ascribe them just as easily to accidents of nature or a few exceptional individuals with exceptional vision. Or to chance or to God or other cosmic influences. Or any other force that gives solace.

As I understand it, the freed slaves claimed no “historical process” but rather ascribed their blessings to God. Now if you equate God with “historical process,” maybe you have something there, based on a tradition to which I can ascribe. Otherwise, it indeed sounds to me like “wishful thinking.” 

Joyce: Thanks, Rudy, for The New Republic review. It is not a publication I normally read. I will definitely read this review of Reynold’s book on John Brown—which, as you know, I appreciated very much—in spite of a number of flaws.

A review of the most recent book this guy Wilentz has written offers this observation about his earlier work:

“Some reviewers criticized Wilentz’s first book for ignoring both the presence of blacks among New York city’s working class and the racism of white workers’ political parties and trade unions. The Rise of American Democracy, in contrast, foregrounds the role of the abolitionist movement and makes African-Americans major actors in the rise of democracy. . .” Eric Foner’s  The Nation (Oct 31) 

Now, it’s quite dicey to read these historians as they criticize (review) another historian as if they don’t have their own intellectual agenda/commitments/ideology. Historical writing is changing as more of them decide they need to INCLUDE us in their historical analyses. However, we can even be at the center—but of a flawed analysis.

In this case Wilentz (according to fellow historian Foner) is advancing (the cause of) “political history” as compared to (Reynolds’s) “social history”. (Then they debate among themselves  about what is REAL history and decide what can count as history and who can be considered a historian: Marcus Christian? John Henrik Clarke? According to whose criteria and definitions?)   

I’m not a “historian” but I know that academics draw all kinds of boundaries  to dismiss  other scholarly interpretations.  I believe, I’ll stick with Du Bois on the matter of John Brown. It’s also interesting to note that Du Bois’s biography of John Brown was side-lined when it came out by intellectual power-politics that we are still dealing with today.

Wilentz is also invested in selling his OWN book and interpretation on the subject. . .He’s hardly a “disinterested” reviewer.

Rudy: Joyce, to tell you the truth, John Brown has never been one of my favorite people, not even in the Top 100. My view was that he was a murderer of the worst type and an idiot at best. I find it strange that so many blacks and liberals find him adoring, and usually at the expense of someone who was both highly moral and noble like Nathaniel Turner. To praise Brown is to diminish Turner. And that’s what has indeed happened. 

Wilson: I was not aware of the Foner Review.   These Ivy League guys really do scratch one-another’s backs, don’t they?   I too have problems with John Brown, because I am opposed to terrorism in any cause. War is terrorism, and, although it may sometimes be justifiable, [it’s] always wrong. It does not and cannot bring out any good in anybody.  I am no goody-goody.  Who am I to judge Nat Turner or John Brown or Hiroshima Harry Truman, or Lyndon Napalm Johnson?  Verily, verily I say unto ye, any Christian that inventeth any excuse to wage what men call a “just war,” he shall be cast into a lake of fire.

Rudy: LBJ could have been another Lincoln if he had not had so much confidence in the US military and so little confidence in the nationalism of the Vietcong. I was quite sadden when he refused to run a second term. I thought him a traitor. It is regrettable that the Vietnam War has overshadowed the service he did for the Negro, the poor, and the country generally. It is even regrettable that MLK has overshadowed LBJ. One could not have achieved greatness without the other. Where’s the “historical process,” here?

Joyce: Well, it’s fine with me if we disagree but I guess we’re not communicating. You asked (if I recall correctly) if people can come to understand their own interests. My response was “Yes, it’s a matter of historical process”—or something like that. Perhaps I wasn’t clear in my response.

I do not imply some divine hand or “guaranteed” inevitability. By historical process I am referring to affirmative historical examples of how people have learned to understand their own circumstances, their own interests and that through struggle change can happen. I’m not wishing for or imagining (making up) something that has not happened but recalling historical processes / experiences that have been documented. Or perhaps I don’t understand what you meant by your question in the first place.   

Rudy: People struggle because they must. History is a retrospective look at the past. It is possible to find (impose) patterns. But that is a subjective matter. There is nothing in history that can forecast with certainty that which will happen in the future. I have little faith in people learning what is good for them. White males in America are the best evidence to this fact. Most people are dupes or stupid and only respond when there is little or no choice.

The documents of which you speak depend greatly on the subjectivity of those who composed them, and on the subjectivity of those who interpret them. The best we can do is wish or hope for the best, or pray for the intervention of God. That is what our slave ancestors did. They say that God answered their prayers. I cannot argue with that belief and that faith. Again, I have no understanding of what are “historical processes” or “experiences that have been documented” saying anything that is consoling about the future. If they do not guarantee anything, what utility then do they have?

Joyce: OK, Rudy, I understand your position much better, though I profoundly disagree with your “little faith statement.”  Why bother to do anything at all? Of what value is what you do? White men are not my standard for human possibility. 

Of course, people struggle because we must. What is wrong with that? I don’t understand why forecasting the future is the standard for knowing whether people can learn “what is good for them.” Our ancestors have prayed, organized, mobilized and battled for our survival. We have the same capacity and certainly the responsibility.

Rudy: I am not sure that what I do fits into any “historical process.” I do what I do because I have no option to do anything other than what I do. I find that very troubling. I can’t name the number of times that I have wished I could do otherwise. If people struggled as a matter of choice then maybe we could speak of processes. But at best we can only possibly speak of historical facts or historical events.

I do not doubt that people can learn. What is consistent is that they don’t and when they do it is very little, and that little usually does not go beyond their own door. Usually, it is easier to do nothing and that is what people tend to do.

For me New Orleans was a sign that black people should organize in their own political interest, by a logical necessity. But still they persist in having an extraordinary faith in the white Democratic Party and electing white (or honorary white) Democratic candidates. It is very rare and exceptional that black people have “organized and mobilized and battled.” They have prayed and that probably was the best thing indeed. The chances of accomplishing anything of social value are about the same.

Most black people have stood on the sidelines while a very few “organized and mobilized and battled.” And when white people gave way, when they felt they had no option, it was only a handful that reaped the benefits of those who “organized and mobilized and battled.”  And those who reaped were usually those who did not organize and mobilize and battle. Now, is this a historical process? My view is that it is a historical fact, and that the so-called processes people observe are illusory.

People seldom do what is possible, whatever their color. They do what is easy or most convenient, or some motive that has little to do with choice. 

Joyce: Ok. Historical fact. But I refer to “process” to address what I understand to be the learning that occurs over time (as historical process) as folks look back in time and build on the past. In a previous message you cited “foretelling the future” as an important issue. Now, you are stating that an important element is most people vs a smaller group. I’m trying to keep up with your point of view to understand and make sure we are discussing the same thing. I don’t disagree that “most people” are bystanders.

And I agree that as humans we don’t achieve what is possible most of the time. I would even say it takes us a long time to learn hard lessons. Take the environment, global warming, pollution as examples.  My point was only what you have just said:  (some) people do learn and understand what is in their best interests. That is not, however, to say what moves some of most people (if ever) to act on their own interests. We have to look at those “historical facts” (which, however, are also subject to subjective interpretation)

I don’t know how much “choice” any of us really have. And prayer helps with that, too. I choose to embrace my identity as an African person in the world with other African people that I know in many different countries who share my values (and subjective understanding).  I also believe the adage: To whom much is given, much is expected.” That’s my choice.

I think you have some amazing gifts that you express and share in various ways that touch a lot of people. Your happiness or satisfaction with what you do and why, is of course, your business. I just wouldn’t want to nullify the possibilities that might emerge from what anyone offers the world by denying the possible effects of any of our contributions to the ongoing historical struggle.

Independent Black organization? YES. By all means. Study the past to learn lessons? Yes. Continue to organize, mobilize and battle? Yes.

Rudy: yeah, you right, our positions have moved closer and we have gained some ground—there’s a greater understanding. But I am not sure what it is that we learn, if anything, from history. We might learn something about human behavior and maybe something about humanity. There’s so much repetition of evil. That which stands out most for me is how vicious and murderous man can be over the smallest of things, like money (silver, gold, oil, etc.) or whim, and how he is willing to interpret “history” in what he conceives as his identity. Such a “historical process” provides me no solace or confidence whatsoever. There is little that is useful in such a belief that speaks to what is now.

Take for example, our characterization of Rosa Parks as the “mother of the civil rights movement” and Condi saying that she wouldn’t have been where she is if it had not been for Rosa Parks. What nonsense, what convenient propaganda. I am not into the attitude exhibited in the film Barber Shop, the comment that Parks “just” sat down. That’s idiotic and stupid. I think that Ms. Parks is deserving of respect for her courage, in that instance, her willingness to face death in the face of injustice. But we have gone over the top in our interpretation of “history.” What we have done is to create a convenient mythology.

And, seemingly, we have learned nothing whatsoever from the historical fact of Parks’ personal rebellion against the bus laws of Montgomery. Where’s such courage today against the evils of war and poverty? Where’s the willingness of a people to make the sacrifices of 1955.  In that Parks left the town for Detroit soon after the boycott, fearing for her safety, is it not more reasonable to say that the black women of Montgomery continued the Montgomery struggle long after Parks’ departure. That all of these black women “mothered” the civil rights struggle. And even saying that we exaggerate rhetorically. 

What happened in Montgomery was unique; what happened in Greensboro with the four A & T students was unique. Present-day interpretations impose a connection between the two incidents. There’s no evidence that one determined the other.

Rather than counsel people to “organize, mobilize and battle,” it might indeed be better to advise our youth, in the words of Jesus (emphasized by Nathaniel Turner), “seek ye the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 6:33), that leaves the matter of struggle far more open.

Wilson pointed me to an essay by the Australian Hugh Capel. My sentiments seem to run along the same lines of his article: Why Facts and Dates Are Not So Important in History. Capel has three propositions: 1)  Facts are not important in History; 2)  We never learn from History; 3)  It’s what people think happened that is important in History, not what actually happened  

Joyce: Thanks for the citation. I’ll take a look. The reality is more complex than the factors we have discussed so far. The role of the media, “schooling” is immense in shaping what we know, believe, can think about and “choose.” This gets us back to the matter of power: Who has the power to define /make historical myth?

I totally agree that the mothers/women whom Rosa left behind made the movement. We have a tendency in history and social life to look to “Great men” and “great women” as historical actors in bringing about change. Of course, it’s always what other people do in addition to the actions of an individual. (Wilentz’s book advocates “political history”—the great men/actors more so than “cultural” factors.) The society (schools, media) promotes that kind of myth-making. Enter a meaningful role for true education—in spite of historians and “his-story”.

Just now—50 years later—more people are talking about the fact that Rosa Parks’ rebellion was not just a “personal act.” She had been trained at Highland Folk Center and was asked: “What are you going to do when you go back?” I heard Myles Horton, founder of Highlander who led the workshop—historical fact.

Black Political Party as Windmill?

Miriam: Floyd, I  I think that we have to focus on what is concrete and feasible rather than waste our time and energy fighting windmills.

This is exactly the point that Kalamu made in a speech in Wisconsin.  He said, “Pick something you’re passionate about, and be it.  Even if it’s crocheting . . . ”   How prescient.  I thought about our friend Jeannette, who sits and sews–purple ribbons to commemorate the scattered tribes of the Gulf Coast.  The act of sewing seems like an insignificant thing, but it has great symbolic meaning in the color and the form, and as a kind of memento mori.

Each of us must act in consonance with our ability, talent, resources, and passions, and each act should be valued. Your letter of resignation is an eloquent statement of what ails academia, and your letter to the student is an expression of your concern for the moral and ideological shaping of our youth.

Keep up the good work. – both of which took time, reflection

Rudy: Miriam, individual acts or efforts are fine. No one objects to them. But there has to be much more, or we fall into the mistaken view that it is individual acts like that of Parks that determine history. Some probably thought that the Montgomery movement was a “windmill.” Or that the Greensboro sit-ins were windmills. I’m sure some did. It was only the dangerously active and outrageous courage of those kids that made the difference, in concert.  

There has to be larger coordinated acts than those that occur on the local, personal level. If people held on to such views there would have been no SNCC, probably no BAM, and probably no Panthers, or Black Consciousness Movement.

The most crucial decision concerns our colonial relationship with the Democratic Party. We must face up or all the small acts of which you speak is for nought. All do respect to Kalamu, but his small acts did not speak to the needs of the black poor in New Orleans, nor come to the aid of those stranded at the superdome and the convention center. These realities we must face or we will see more urban disasters and we will still be rudderless, wandering in the wastelands of white power, begging and blaming our white masters.

If the black middle-class is not willing to join forces with the black poor in coordinated struggle, such as boycotting a national election, I cannot take your small acts seriously, as nothing other than small acts, and politics as usual.

Ultimately, what is needed is an inclusive national black electoral party. The ante has to be raised. If we got to have a dog, we don’t need another poodle. But I do not expect the middle-class to have the courage of a Rosa Parks, a woman from the working class. In essence, the middle-classes are political cowards and flunkies of the status quo and will do nothing to jeopardize comfort or that pension. Like the New Orleans black middle-class, there’s a heavy penalty to pay for such equivocation.

Floyd: Rudy, I think that you are correct with respect to individual acts of resistance, mine included.  That’s why I referred to them as limited.  In view of these times, I have no other alternative, it seems.  I very much appreciate Miriam’s supportive comments; yet, I know that more, much more, needs to be done in order to articulate, assert, and defend Black interests. 

You seem to place a good bit of confidence in a Black political party.  This suggests to me that you put some amount of “faith” in professional Black politicians, even if you define political party in the larger sense of the independence-movement African parties in the late 1950’s that were both social movement and electoral organs.  In my view, however, American leadership is corrupt and its social institutions are bankrupt; this includes Black leadership, especially professional politicians.  

Please check out Robert Smith’s old book, We Have No Leaders.  He soundly criticizes Black elected officials at all levels of government.  Yet, he, too, calls for a Black political party, which I think is rather contradictory, given his excellent assessment of Black political life in America. 

In these decadent times, a growing segment of wealthy and young Blacks are turning to the Republican Party.  What does this say about the future challenges to Black solidarity across class lines?  Presently, I am reading a new book by a Black philosopher at Harvard, Tommie Shelby.  It is entitled We Who Are Dark: The Philosophical Foundations of Black Solidarity (Harvard UP).  Apparently, he makes just this argument in a discussion of what he calls “pragmatic” Black nationalism.  

Perhaps I cannot see things clearly at all, but I detect no signs, hints, signals, or even hope of any kind of Black unity or solidarity (on a large scale) in this historical moment.  Hence, I engage in a lonely and limited struggle; it is the best I can do, or perhaps any of us can do, today.  I long for Black collective and organized struggle, but at present I see no signs of it on the political horizon in America.

Rudy: No, I have little faith in “professional Black politicians,” as we now find them in the democratic and republican parties. Kalamu says he does not believe in God, he believes in black people. I am not sure that I have faith either in politicians of whatever stripe or in the people themselves. Maybe, it is more accurate to say I have faith in my own understanding of things, in my reading of the circumstances we find ourselves as a people. In that respect, I do not expect that corruption and opportunism can be fully eliminated.

These circumstances, as I see it, call for independent black political action because there has been little or no progress in sustaining us as a people; matter of fact, whatever progress we have made has worked against us as a people. I heard on radio news this morning a group attending the Rotunda honoring Rosa Parks singing “we have overcome.” They come up to her standard, by half. For them the system works for them, though there still exists systemic poverty for a third or more of us. Yes, we indeed have race traitors. But all of the well-off people among us are not race traitors or professional politicians.

Unlike some, I have not lost faith altogether in non-poor blacks to do good or do what is right for black people as a whole. Polls of blacks in reaction to Republican anti-poor policies indicate that clearly. I heard that even the hip hop mogul Russell Simmons at the MMM called for a black political party. So there is money and there are persons out there who hunger for an alternative to the status quo. 

Those of us who understand the nature of things must cast aside our fears and our allegiance to the status quo parties of democrats and republicans and be intellectually responsible and call for that which is logical and reasonable, namely, an inclusive black political movement and party to bring about a less corrupt system that will serve all the people, especially the poor and the powerless, those now alienated from the present political operations. We should be at least willing to explore intellectually its possibility and construction, despite its seeming character of a “windmill.”

As the academic Manning Marable says, “The impossible becomes probable through struggle. And the probable becomes reality.”

Presently, blacks as a people do not have any leverage in the Democratic Party, which now courts, like the Republicans, the white middle-class of the south,  mid-western,  and southwestern states. They think that blacks have no alternative and no courage to align themselves in no other fashion. If we think that Dr. King’s tactics or those of Rosa Parks alone brought about the present benefits, our brains have been addled by revisionist history. The riots in northern and western cities, black nationalist arguments and acts of self-defense had an equal impact in forcing government leaders to pass the civil rights and voting rights bills and other reforms of the Johnson Administration.

More conscientious independent black political action can have the same effect. We must teach our children that the status quo and comfort and such are not all that is left to us or for us to do. That we as a people still have a higher calling and that there are sacrifices still to be made, that our task as a people is yet incomplete. Without independent black political action, “black education” nor black cultural institutions or acts will be meaningless.

We must not be afraid to speak of “windmills,” publicly; we must not be afraid that corrupt politicians will not lead us to do the right thing. They have no where to go if the people turn against them. At this stage of just talk, they have nothing to fear. And we know these cowards are not fearless. We must as you say “speak truth to power.” whether that power is black or white; rich or poor; educated or uneducated. I for one will not court these politicians black or white; I will not vote for them; I will not call them; I will not plead with them to do what they know is right. 

Those who wish to play that silly game, let them. Let the shirkers continue to shirk. Their day will come when they will have to get of the stool. I will stand with the poor and boycott the polls, while the black political party remains in its nascent state. If it comes not today,  by necessity it will come tomorrow.

Austin: Brother Rudy, I agree with Floyd. I do not see any hope for any political party in this country or in the world that will meet the needs of the poor and oppressed people of the world. This is a global economy with so much “cancer” in the heart of those who “leads” and are only benefiting themselves, their own interest, and the power of white men who run this world. The poor and oppressed have too much a “big fate” and so “little faith.” They hope their dreams will come true, but the reality is when joy comes in the morning—they are still hungry, naked, and sick.

I learned in my economic class about “free ride” and that there is no equilibrium. The “experts” says that inflation causes “expansion” and that those people who are willing and able. The class says are “things being equal”—but for whom—the rich, the middle class. Same ‘o same ‘o—vote for me and I will set you free”—”free” from what—reality. A society where those who lead only want to look good for their own interest. A society where the “blind leads the blind.” A society that builds on violence dies.

Miriam: Floyd, as usual, you have hit the nail on the head:  How can African Americans unify behind a Black political party when there is no leadership, program or platform, when there is corruption among the present leaders, and when some Blacks support the Republican Party and its more conservative program.  Your analysis supports my view that a Black political party is not a viable alternative where there is such a strong, long-standing two-party system. All I can say is “Amen.”

Rudy: Miriam, how can you say something is viable when it does not yet exist? Surely, it is not impossible to create a black political party. One was created in Washington, DC, not too long ago. It would be more useful if you provide a criticism of its creation and demise. That might be a good place to start a criticism, rather than just denouncing the idea.

To cite corruption, the shortcomings of the present leadership and their programs and platforms is merely an indictment of the status quo. Your sentiments seem to be contradictory. On one hand you make an indictment of the democratic and republican parties but you stand ready to continue support of that corruption, lack of appropriate platform, program, and leadership.

How can what you recommend be a viable action when you already know that that kind of activity has not worked for the last three decades. Your argument is exceedingly confusing. Don’t you think you need to revise your position of “viability” so that it makes more sense to us who agree with half of your argument but who do not understand the rationale of the second half, namely, voting for leaders that are corrupt and leaders who have bought into the status quo.

Moreover, it seems extremely viable to boycott the polls, that is, not voting for democratic and republican candidates, since the poor has been doing that in great numbers for the last three decades. Look recently at what happened in Detroit—20 percent of registered voters voted back in a black mayor who pretends only that he can meet the needs of the 80 percent of blacks in Detroit. In that particular instance would not a black political party at least sustained the gut feelings of those who boycotted the polls.  In addition, you have not spoken to the issue of leverage, of providing a viable threat to those who are corrupt other than voting for another corrupt candidate.

Denouncing an idea would have more impact if you have a truly viable alternative.

Struggles of the 60s & the Aftermath

Miriam: Rudy, some of the things you say seem so contradictory (or illogical) to me, or maybe it’s the way you juxtapose statements.  For example, you said that it saddens you that Johnson did not run for a second term, but in the next sentence you said that he was a traitor.  Do you mean that he betrayed the trust that Americans put in him by not running for a second term?  Then, in your conversation with Joyce, you negate the significance of history, but then you suggest that there are valuable lessons in the rebellion of Nathaniel Turner, who was a historical figure.  Sometimes it’s difficult for me to follow your train of thought.

With respect to Rosa Parks, she was indeed a courageous woman, but all of this public adulation seems a bit obscene, especially when you have Frist and Alito posing in front of Clinton’s portrait in the Capitol Rotunda, where Parks’s casket stands.  They reduce the ceremony to just another hypocritical photo op. On the other hand, it seems important for people to mythologize certain historical figures like Che, Lincoln, Malcolm, and Turner.  I think that the death of Parks gave people, especially Blacks, an opportunity to vent a lot of emotions:  nostalgia for the good ole days of the Movement, anger over continuing racism, longing for a leader, etc.  So many people need a leader, need a raison d’etre, need an ideology, need the church, etc.

If we must name a “mother” of the Movement (and I hate that kind of domestic mythification), it should more rightly be Fannie Lou Hamer or Ella Baker, both of whom struggled tirelessly for years.  From my reading and observation (and I was in Montgomery at the time), there were many women, including my mother, who fed the flames of the Bus Boycott, and it didn’t start with Parks.  It had begun months, if not years before, with the activism of several Montgomery women, but Parks was the spark that ignited the flame.

Another observation:  Parks was the kind of woman whom Whites feel comfortable with as “our leader.”  (It was no accident that Frist promoted her lying in state at the Rotunda and that Bush led the honor brigade.)  Did you notice how many times she was characterized as humble, quiet, and unassuming?  Now Hamer, on the other hand, was a hands-on-the-hips, loud-mouthed, angry woman, who took no prisoners.  But has anyone mentioned her as “our leader” or the “Mother of the Movement”?

I say this not to diminish the significance of Mrs. Parks, but to point out the inconsistencies in race and racism in this country.

Rudy: Miriam, I think your description of the Rosa Parks dilemma generated by the Republicans is on the money. I could not agree with you more, nor could I have expressed it as well. As far as the LBJ question, that is not as complicated as it seems. It is the position taken by MLK and I think would be sustained today by MLK. As far as a new New Dealer, he was wonderful and is deserving of far more credit than he has received. As far as the Vietnam War, he was a traitor to the social programs he created and was unwilling to change his views on the War and thus he quit. I call that a betrayal. What we have after that has been a continuing plot to dismantle all the Johnson socialist-inspired programs.

I do not negate the “significance of history.” I negate “historical processes,” partially because I have no idea what it means and Joyce was not able to explain what she meant by it adequately. I suspect it comes from Marx via Hegel via the Calvinist idea of Divine Providence, that is, a teleological notion of a “dialectical process.” I do not understand it in Hegel; I do not understand it in Marx. 

It’s true that I don’t think we learn anything from history, other than facts and events. And often that learning is not done very well and then by only a few because of the poverty of American education. Some at the Rotunda concluded “we have overcome,” because Parks was the first black woman to be so honored.

The interpretation of the facts and events is problematic, as you so well explained in the Rosa Parks dilemma, namely, that it is extremely subjective, and the interpretation is usually to support “agendas,”  as Joyce allowed in the case of John Brown. As far as Turner, I have not suggested that there are “lessons” to be learned.

My interest is in the unacceptable methodology that is used to interpret the facts of his life and the events surrounding the Rebellion he led. The error of the academic historian and theologian here is to tell the story from Turner’s point of view. He is not the first to suffer from this kind of history writing and he probably would not be last, especially those historians who are too cowardly to be associated with such outrageous historical figures. 

Rather than promoting “Turner lessons,” my intent has been to provide a more reasonable and coherent approach to his life and the events of his life that sustains his integrity and dignity.

Where is the contradiction, then?

Miriam:  Thanks for the clarifications:  Johnson’s betrayal and historical significance vs. historical processes.  I intuit that you make leaps in your thoughts and expect your readers to be able to fill in the gaps, but I am an ABCDE kind of thinker, so can’t jump from A to D.  Now I understand. 

Mackie: Here’s my take on all of this; my experience, really, which rendered me cynical quite a number of years ago. 

I returned home to New Orleans in 1980.  It took me about three years to adjust because over the sixteen years I had been away, so much had changed, geographically and demographically.  Sometime after those three years, I began to look up fellows whom I’d gone to grammar school, high school, and the university with: all three local private (Catholic) schools.  What disappointed me then, and continues to do to this day, is that their cafe and coffeehouse private discourse regarding local politics was framed around the exclamation of “Sheeet, it’s our turn now, ‘Bro!”

These fellows were into local politics big time, as rainmakers, bankers, lawyers, or politicians.  Though I apparently was supposed to automatically get their drift, when I pried from them clarification of what they meant by “our turn,” I soon realized, several times over – and this is, of course my interpretation – is that this revealing phrase of “our turn now” meant to do exactly what The Man had been doing all our lives, and the lives of our parents and grandparents.  

In other words, these Colored/Black/African American men of excellent schooling were ready and willing to behave in public affairs exactly the way they had perceived white folks behaving and accomplishing affairs – dishonestly, unethically, and immorally, though most of the time, not illegally.

For me this is reprehensible.  It’s the same nonsense we get from the majority of contemporary African leaders, who rule like colonialists and imperialists in post-imperial and post—colonial times.  It’s no different from what we can witness happening in most of Central and Latin America, where so-called leaders rule the way colonizing Spaniards did. If we can’t be better than our enemies, our adversaries, who are we then?  Must we always live as if we have internalized the notion of My Enemy, My Twin?!

Chuck: I know some of those folk that Mackie spoke of, not as individuals but as types and they exist wherever us is.  The case speaks for internalized racial oppression which is another type of reaction to abuse, in this case, societal.  The abused become abusers. 

The circle is vicious and it’s going to take the emplacement of a new model to overcome the impact of European conceptions being beaten into the heads of our folk.   I always did like the conception of the Borg from the Star Trek series and the refusal of the crew and other earth men to be “assimilated”. We done be’d ‘similated. Goodness!

Rudy: In some ways, it seems, this class of blacks of which you speak might end up being the greatest losers from the tragedy of New Orleans. There are thus penalties for such behavior as you have so well-described. This situation indeed should be a lesson to our upper and middle classes that we have not yet overcome and that they are subject, especially in crises, to finding themselves being treated with the same disdain as those of us who clearly suffer America’s racial oppression.

According to news reports, this class of people involved in New Orleans school system were just as treacherous in the neglect of the 60,000 public school students as those who ran the system pre-1965. They too now are dispersed across the country and have lost home, job, and whatever other securities and benefits they believed that they had secured. Being no worse than our enemies is definitely no solution in the long term.

Enlightened dictatorship may indeed be more socially productive and satisfying to the greatest number and to society at large than democratic appeals to the broadly stupid. As in all systems of governance, dependence on the good will of the leader is not altogether satisfying, or even safe.  Today’s democracy, however, is neither satisfying or safe.

Miriam:  Although I haven’t read Hunting for Harlem, which I believe won the Hurston-Wright fiction award last year, I am very familiar with Cotillion and agree completely with Norris that it is a novel that elucidates the ideology of the Black Arts Movement.  As Norris explains, both are works that have to be understood within the time frame of their creation, just as Johnson’s Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man is very much reflective of ideas about race that were current in 1912.

His final two paragraphs underscore the problematic (for me) of Hunting—the lack of ideology, the absence of hope, and the nihilistic void that is so evident today.  That is something that I have been thinking about a great deal as I have engaged in dialogues with my contemporaries. 

Rudy: Thanks for the reading of the Killens essay, especially in that it was very long. I am not usually inclined to post such long articles and I am not very familiar with Killens research. Moreover, I have only read two of his novels and that was thirty years ago.

Gender Perspectives & the Political

Miriam: I have been struck by the tremendous difference in attitude between Joyce, Jeannette, my friend Sandra, a political scientist with whom I talk daily, and myself, on the one hand, and you, Floyd, Acklyn, and Rick, another friend of mine, on the other.  I have been wondering if it’s a gender thing.  We are all intellectuals, but the women are active (metaphorically, sitting & sewing), optimistic, and determined to survive;  while the men are pessimistic, despondent, and nihilistic. Is it because women create life, figuratively with our bodies, that we look to the future with hope and sometimes joy?—although my feminist self shudders at such biological determinism.  Is it, perhaps, the result of the different socialization of men and women? 

So much pressure has been put on Black men of my generation to be Real Men—breadwinners, high achievers, men of the house—that they feel inadequate no matter how much they accomplish.  It was true of my brother, who disappeared into the sunset.  It was true of my father, who was so lonely and alone in his final years.  We had such hope in John Killens’s day;  we laughed and made love, we lost and picked up the pieces.  

Are the nihilism, depression, and hopelessness the result of disillusionment because things didn’t turn out as we had expected, because we’re still struggling with racism and poverty?  Is this an existential problem?  Is it personal angst or systemic failure?  

Rudy: I am sure you are right that there are differences between men and women in how they approach and perceive life, especially in matters of comfort and security. I have been reading Mencken’s In Defense of Women and he states as much. I do not know that these differences have anything at all do with our intellectual arguments on this or that topic. Maybe so. But you would have to be more specific.

I am uncertain about Mencken’s conclusions since so much has changed morally, historically, and sociologically, with respect to the freedom of women and their economic independence. I was just reading a piece in Women News today. They concluded that men today are not repulsed by successful women and that successful women tend to be married. I am not certain generalizations can be made about “black men” or “black women.” There are a lot of women pre-occupied by this subject and they are producing a lot of anecdotal literature, which I suspect is bunkum. 

Whether my attitudes or perspectives are typical or atypical is a toss up. The other factors of age, emotional maturity, education, financial stability, and geographical origin, I am certain, must be considered as influential in these kinds of determinations. Although I have my moods, whether I am particularly subject to “nihilism, depression, and hopelessness” as a black male because I’m a black male, I don’t know.

I had a brief discussion with a street walker today while I ate my chicken wings and western fries. I gave her one of the wings and half of the fries, and a cigarette. I was not interested, however, in the services she had to offer. She was young and I could see that if she was not so impoverished she would be an exceedingly attractive dark-skinned woman. She was indeed active, and to some degree she was optimistic and determined to survive. Whether those characteristics were individual or gender-inspired I am not able to discern in that our meeting was brief.

I live alone, except for my cat Bobo. That is to say, I am rather free of feminine controls, though I do appreciate feminine company and intimacies. Am I lonely, that is, do I long for feminine controls? I’d say no. Would I like to have the company of that special woman? I’d probably say, yes. But I’m uncertain that such a creature exist.

I’m sure that I suffer those ills that the poor suffer. But I pray continually and the Lord continues to bless me, so I tend to keep my head above water and do a few things that I believe are helpful to others. So altogether I would say that I’m not particularly nihilistic, though I am extremely skeptical when it comes to bunkum.

To Blog or to Make a Circle

Wilson: Dear Rudy, I am less interested in blogging than in communicating with sensitive and intelligent people.   Some friend have suggested that I set up something comparable to ChickenBones, but I am not interested.  I leave that to persons like you.  Your efforts are much admired and much appreciated, but not my cup of tea.   I like to exchange ideas one-on-one, and you are one of the few “kindred spirits” I have discovered.  I appreciate your friendship.Miriam: Rudy, I’m sure you’re right, that factors such as maturity, education, financial stability, place of origin, etc. have a great  impact on our worldviews.  I’ve been thinking about that a lot, especially as I begin to piece together the biographies, beliefs, and perspectives of those who’ve entered the Katrina Circle:  you, Jeannette, Floyd, Rodney, Joyce, Arthur, Herbert, Jerry, Kalamu, and others.  I am interested in individual people—what makes them tick, why they are like they are, and why they think like they do–and don’t like to generalize about groups:  The Poor, the Black Middle Class, the NAACP, students, and young people, though for the sake of discussion we do sometimes have to generalize.  

I read lots of biographies, autobiographies, and especially memoirs.  because I want to get to the heart and soul of a person.  Now you can call that individualistic, middle class, or whatever, but that’s just me, the way I am.

I first entered this discussion with a different perspective on Huey Newton, for example.  I admire him, on the one hand, but I very much dislike his self-destructiveness and, most especially, his sadistic, drug-induced treatment of other people.  When I asked the question, “Did he love enough?” I meant did he have compassion for others . . . and for himself, because without self love (with all that that implies:  respect, integrity, honesty) you cannot love other people.  Although you tend to minimize personal, individual, concrete acts, to my mind, it is acts of kindness toward others that makes us truly human.  I have no regard for a person who saves the world but neglects his/her child or father or friend.

You performed an act of loving kindness when you gave some of your lunch to a street walker, but, even more important than the sharing, was the recognition of her as a human being who was struggling to survive.  If each one of us, every day, performed  simple acts of kindness, this would be a much better world.  Today, I helped a cancer survivor, who has undergone four surgeries and numerous chemo treatments, but what I admire about her is her spirit:  her hope, her smile, her zest for life, and her appreciation of others.  I think, too, of my mother who, although she is blind and suffers from dementia, is always concerned about others and has such a beautiful spirit.

I have an inquisitive mind and I’m always looking for answers or explanations.  It doesn’t really matter to me if I contradict myself because that is simply a recognition that I’m human and have a right to change my mind from one minute to the next as circumstances change.  I think that I’m open to other points of view (at least I try to be), but I know what I believe and I’m very comfortable in my skin, with all the beliefs; values; political opinions; and views on race, gender, and sexual orientation that have grown out of my experiences.

We in the Katrina Circle are all different;  we have been shaped by our lived experiences and our educational training, but, hopefully, we can respect those differences and recognize the human value in each of us.   I consider you and Rodney and Jeannette and others my friends.  I might cuss you out, but that’s what friends are for.

Rudy: I like that—”Katrina Circle.” That’s a good name. I like very much what we have done and I have found you very inspiring, though we respond differently to the dire situations and events of our times. I do not find that offensive or take it any personal way. My primary interest is in how we think about things, and how we express that thinking. What we have been doing for the last several months is what Wilson J. Moses (the historian) and I have been doing for the last three years—that is, exploring each others thoughts and thinking on a number of topics of interest. 

What is different recently is that I have figured out a way of sharing that kind of exploration with others on ChickenBones.

Another difference is that most of the women involved with ChickenBones have not been willing to discuss issues. They have been poets or they have been interested in print publication, or they have been on the make. None has been like you. I have found that refreshing. Like Wilson you have challenge my thinking, that which I believe or don’t. You are sure-footed and have not wilted in argument. I admire that. 

It does not matter to me personally that you have taken positions contrary to my own, e.g., the black political party. Wilson and I too don’t agree on everything. We both however have a healthy skepticism and an appreciation of writing. What is important is that we have been continually willing to engage each other, without fear, and with some pleasure

I am not against the personal. My problem is the imbalance of the personal and the social. I value friendship more than ideology. One of the difference between you and Wilson is that I have met you in the flesh and I have still to meet Wilson under the sun. Kalamu, I have met him a number of times. I was quite amazed last summer he invited me to his house to view his film work. 

But we are not personal friends and we are rather distant. Yet I admire him, a lot. But we have our differences. Still I respect him. I think he respects me, though he’s probably a little uneasy with me. Maybe he has heard I don’t take a lot of shit from people. As you know I have a ton of his work on the site. He’s somewhat shocked I have done that. But he has been a great learning experience for me. So it has been one hand washing another. So you see, we awright

Miriam: Rudy, what a lovely, affirming message.  I, too, value friendship much more than ideology, and I treasure the friends like you whom I’ve met through our dialogue.  It’s interesting what you say about women’s reluctance to join in the debate, and you are so right.  I wonder why.  My friend Sandra, for example, is a very bright political scientist, professor & administrator, with whom I debate almost every night.  I asked her why she didn’t enter into the discussion, but her answer didn’t really satisfy me.  

My outspokenness has often turned men off, especially men of my generation like the Movement Machos, but I just figured it was because they were insecure about themselves.  I was so blessed to have a father who stimulated me intellectually, encouraged my academic growth, and challenged my ideas across the dinner table.  I didn’t recognize that gift from him until several years ago when I began exploring his life.  See, there you go again . . . you raise some question and before I know it my mind starts spinning off in that direction.  

That’s what happened the other night with the Rosa Parks piece;  I was aware that something made me uneasy about the whole “display,” and then, as I was writing, I began to unravel in my mind the reasons why.  That’s the joy of dialogue, of intellectual give and take.

Rudy: Miriam: I received both of your messages and was very pleased with all you have said. I feared for a moment you might take offense at some of my remarks. People can be finicky and you never know how they might remark, especially at one’s humor. But I suppose I should fill in some of the gaps. The forum of our Katrina Circle has indeed been an interesting phenomena, like Jeannette’s ribbon project. Such projects do require a lot of energy and time. Of course, inspired, one initially do not take note of all that.

Only institutions can sustain such efforts over extended periods of time. It is indeed an odd dilemma. Institutions corrupt the spirit; yet they remain a necessity. Individual efforts will always be limited and it is always difficult to measure their impact and importance, as in the Rosa Parks or the MLK or the LBJ examples. You know, they become history.

Wilson placed it in some perspective, this morning. He spoke of “kindred spirits.” Maybe it is a kind of love in the platonic sense of two halves that seek each other out. Of course, it may also be cultural, that is, an appreciation of “talk.” Often, at home, it was carried on in the kitchen. But also in the sitting room. The times have changed, I suspect. People talk now more about what they have acquired and where they have vacationed. You know, small talk, that has few broad implications.

Of course, too, we have leisure or we appreciate the value of leisure. For many of us leisure is exceedingly expensive and few of us are willing to make sacrifices for it. 

Miriam: Rudy, ChickenBones is very professional with excellent articles, good photos, and constant changes of front-page items.  And the technical details seem to be mind boggling.  It’s just too bad that you don’t have any help with the project.  Herbert told me a couple of years ago that you’re operating it at a real sacrifice, and it must take a great deal of time.  It is, indeed, a great example of service and sacrifice.  That’s what I’ve been trying to explain—that each person is endowed with certain gifts or expertise or resources (which seem insignificant to others), but those gifts, from the heart, are very important.  

For that reason, I keep citing Jeannette’s purple ribbons, which might be meaningless to others but which give her so much joy and a reason to be.  It has been so heart-warming to me, through all of the Katrina crisis, to see the ways in which people have responded.  These examples renew my faith in human beings, because I believe that people are basically good and will rise to challenges if given an opportunity.  I don’t have too much faith in institutions, so I don’t spend my valuable time and intellectual energy dealing with “grand designs,” such as Black political parties, sociopolitical ideologies, and theories of development.  

Roosevelt’s New Deal and Johnson’s War on Poverty were great experiments in social engineering, and those programs provided employment and educational opportunities for so many people who were able to move out of poverty;  in spite of those programs, the gap between the haves and the have-nots is wider than ever, and for a lot of complicated reasons that are almost incapable of solution:  the technological divide, decrease in entitlement programs; higher cost of health care, housing, and higher education;  virtual elimination of affirmative action programs;  disappearance of blue-collar jobs, etc.  

Too many of us ordinary people are so overwhelmed by those complex problems that we end up doing nothing.  That’s why I keeping stressing the importance of feasible, concrete, and tangible acts of assistance.  ChickenBones is indeed fantastic, and it is just such a concrete and feasible act in the effort to raise consciousness.

Dennis:  Rudy try your best to keep ChickenBones‘  integrity. It is brilliant the way it is and the only one of its kind. You have influenced me, supported, enlightened, intrigued me – in ways too complex to get into right now. Don’t institutionalize yourself.

Rudy: I suppose I am worried more about others institutionalizing me. You too are (or will be) subject to such institutionalization. Mark my words. . . . It is good that you are busy. It seems you have turned the corner. . . .  I suppose I need to work on my comedic talents.

Miriam: Rudy, I didn’t get a chance to answer this message yesterday and really just had time to read it carefully.  You’ve covered a number of topics, so I’ll just touch on some.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the development and demise of institutions, particularly cultural institutions, during the Black Arts Movement, because it seems to me that we can gain some lessons from that experience.  I agree with you that organizations or institutions are more significant than the efforts of individuals, but there are so many more variables in place right now.  After I get my thoughts together, I’ll lay them out.

Yes, our dialogue is a new and different medium of expression, but it certainly has it’s roots in the discussions around the kitchen table that we’ve had over the years with family and friends.  This is a new form of connection, thanks to technology, between people who may never meet face to face but who have much in common.  This is an important way of breaking through barriers and reaching across boundaries.  For example, I’m now able to communicate directly with Cuban friends;  before, I/they had to send letters in plain brown wrappers that took weeks and sometimes months to reach their destination, so to heck with Bush and his blockade.

I hope that you, Kalamu, and others were able to hang out last night, because there is nothing like a reunion of “kindred spirits.”  Sometimes, unfortunately, it takes a tragic event to bring people together in the knowledge that life is so precious but so very tenuous.  I did not know that Kalamu has a daughter in the area;  all that I know of his family is what I read in his collection of personal essays and the little that he’s mentioned in in frequent calls or notes.  

When Acklyn was chair of the Af Am Dept. at UMBC, he brought Kalamu there a couple of times to read his poetry, and those were very memorable events–but nothing like the performance last night. Parenthood is a real learning experience, very humbling but definitely worth all the joy, pain, sacrifice, misunderstandings, challenges, and successes.

I read your review of Mona Lisa’s Red Beans and clicked on the highlighted poems.  Your review is excellent— and that girl can write her tail off.  I plan to get her book. 

posted 16 November 2005

*   *   *   *   *

Mockingbirds at Jerusalem (poetry Manuscript)

*   *   *   *   *’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

*   *   *   *   *

Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as “the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field ‘cut their teeth’.”

*   *   *   *   *

Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered

the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It

By H. W. Brands

In Greenback Planet, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands charts the dollar’s astonishing rise to become the world’s principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. Brands explores the dollar’s changing relations to gold and silver and to other currencies and cogently explains how America’s economic might made the dollar the fundamental standard of value in world finance. He vividly describes the 1869 Black Friday attempt to corner the gold market, banker J. P. Morgan’s bailout of the U.S. treasury, the creation of the Federal Reserve, and President Franklin Roosevelt’s handling of the bank panic of 1933. Brands shows how lessons learned (and not learned) in the Great Depression have influenced subsequent U.S. monetary policy, and how the dollar’s dominance helped transform economies in countries ranging from Germany and Japan after World War II to Russia and China today. He concludes with a sobering dissection of the 2008 world financial debacle, which exposed the power–and the enormous risks–of the dollar’s worldwide reign.  The Economy

*   *   *   *   *

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)

*   *   *   *   *

Ancient African Nations

*   *   *   *   *

If you like this page consider making a donation

online through PayPal

*   *   *   *   *

Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

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


*   *   *   *   *

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

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

*   *   *   *   *


*   *   *   *   *





update 15 December 2011




Home  Conversations with Kind Friends

Post Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.