I’m Crazy Post Katrina New Orleans

I’m Crazy Post Katrina New Orleans


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



There also was a sixth murder further uptown, I believe in Pigeontown,

a neighborhood near the Jefferson Parish line.

Two friends apparently were arguing over a beer: one stabbed the other to death.



I’m Crazy: Post Katrina New Orleans

 By Kalamu ya Salaam


I looked at him, this journalist who just wanted to talk to an activist from the Lower Ninth Ward. I had already explained that I do not live in the Lower Nine now. I live in Algiers. My house received relatively (i.e. when compared to most people) light damage. Two trees blown atop the roof but no structural damage-I refuse to think about books and other items I lost when a storage facility flooded. Plus, I still had a job. My work is primarily with young people in a high school program. He knew all of that. He had read some of my work. I guess my reputation for taking a hard line on some issues, for being provocative at times, for, well, for being what I often am, particularly when I feel besieged, as I generally do, I guess all of that preceded our meeting. Interviewing me at an after school program we work with, the journalist and I were sitting in the school cafeteria at a table whose dimensions suggested it had been designed for seventh and eight graders, or so it seemed to me. Of course I am 59, very stocky. I sit sideways on the low seat. I can barely get my knees under the table. I look directly at the freelancer with credits in major publications like Dissent magazine and answer his question about why do I stay, “I guess, I’m crazy.” As I answer him my life with my wife Nia runs through my mind. Right now she is in Oppalouses, Louisiana working a temporary job as a liscensed X-Ray technician who has very recently retired from the Veterans Hospital. I have never been sentimental, but Katrina has weakened my emotional sternness. Since Katrina, Nia and I are working like crazy, but most often working in different places. We have returned to New Orleans. We want to stay but every day some news comes and I feel the wind briefly ruffling my going away sails. I have not talked to Nia recently about this breeze I’m sensing. I’m just starting to acknowledge these tremors and talk to myself about this. Saturday (June 17, 2006), the same day Jim and Greta got married at a little church in the Lower Ninth Ward, five teenagers were shot to death in what obviously was a hit. The mass murder happened in Central City, the once predominately Black area, indeed the only predominately Black area, that was not hard hit by Katrina. Gentrification is accelerating there because Central City is high ground, not too far from the river. There also was a sixth murder further uptown, I believe in Pigeontown, a neighborhood near the Jefferson Parish line. Two friends apparently were arguing over a beer: one stabbed the other to death. It is Monday, the 19th, the mayor has requested and the Governor is honoring a plea for armed troops to patrol the streets of New Orleans. Am I in Iraq, do I live in Baghdad, soldiers patrolling the streets, sectarian violence ripping apart the social fabric? Saturday after the wedding I was feeling relatively upbeat. Just two days later and, well, let’s just say, things change. Jim Randels and I are co-directors of Students at the Center, an independent writing program that works within the public schools. Jim is white. His new family is Black. Greta Gladney, who is a third generation Lower Nine resident, has three children, her two daughters are grown and her young son, Stephen, is twelve or thirteen. Stephen is an alto saxophone phenomenon. You should have heard him play Abdullah Ibrahim’s composition “The Wedding” and Sidney Bechet’s “Le Petit Fleur.” He was truly playing beyond his years, but then, that is to be expected; when they were evacuated the only thing he took with him was his horn. ”Yes, that’s it. I’m crazy.” I look around. I don’t remember the brother’s name. I could look it up. Almost every other day or so it seems, someone calls or visits or emails, wants an interview, a poem, an article, an essay, something, anything. Although Katrina’s waters are gone, I still feel like we’re in a fish bowl and everyone wants to know how wet it is down here where we are trying to survive. I look around and see some of the young students I teach. Some of them are writing amazing stories. Two of them were the subjects of a feature on the Weather Channel. Their work is requested, published and referred to all over the place. But it is not their writing that is most important, what is most important is that we give them sustenance and hope. Their tears and their laughter, the way some of them have come to trust us with their secrets, their fears, their conundrums; trust us enough not only to share their inner selves with us, but also to bond with us and accept guidance from us. If I leave, it will be more than just me who is eventually gone. ”It’s these young people. They are here, so I must be here. Working with them energizes me and gives me hope.” That was last week. My friend Doug had had a good week. But today, he has had to take radiation treatment again. He will probably be ok this evening when I see him shortly but later in the week, who knows. I had not planned to write this report. I had planned to file once a week. But sometimes, sometimes it gets crazy and you just got to say something to someone. Last week it was hard. This week it is crazy. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. Que sera, sara. Whatever happens, I’m from CTC (Cross the Canal-a New Orleans reference to the Industrial Canal, below which is where Lower Nine is located) and paraphrasing the words of a New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian song: I’ll be right here when the morning come. Be right here, I ain’t going to run. I’m crazy that way.

posted 20 June 2006

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He’s The Prettiest

A Tribute To Big Chief Allison “Tootie” Montana’s

50 Years Of Mardi Gras Indian Suiting

 By Kalamu ya Salaam

The Mardi Gras Indians are called folk artists essentially because they are self-taught, non-institution sponsored, seemingly craft-centered artisans. They have been studied but never definitively defined, documented but never successfully duplicated. Do we understand them by focusing on their hand-sewn suits or on their rituals, the skill of a particular chief at sewing, singing, or dancing–can any part be comprehended without some feel for the whole? Indeed, who and what are the Mardi Gras Indians? . . . Louisiana Folk Life    Big Chief Allison Tootie Montana

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

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

An anthology on the topic of men and relationships with men

Ways of LaughingAn Anthology of Young Black VoicesPhotographed & Edited by Kalamu ya Salaam

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

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Guarding the Flame of Life

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

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02_My_Story,_My_Song.mp3 (24503 KB)

(Kalamu reading “My Story, My Song”

Featuring blues guitarist Walter Wolfman Washington)

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

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#10 – Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

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#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

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#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

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

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#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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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’.”

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

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

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

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

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

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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If you like this page consider making a donation

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

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


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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

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

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updated  23 July 2010




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