ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



When Africans and black people could not eat in the same restaurants

as white people, when black people’s children could not play on

the same block as white people’s children and when they could not

go to the same schools or ride the same buses, I tell you, my people,

we did not get on planes in droves trying to come to the United States . . .



Books by Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

Before the Palm Could Bloom  /  Becoming Ebony / The River Is Rising / Where the Road Turns

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Immigrants of African Descent Should Remember

the Shoulders We Stand On

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement

Patricia Jabbeh Wesley


Monday, January 21, 2008 — poetryforpeace

Dr. Martin Dr. Martin Luther Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement, the fighters, both white and black gave a lot to all of us, people of color, Immigrants of African descent, Black Americans as well as to all of white America. It is what we have done and will do with such a freedom that helps us remember.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the leaders who fought for our Civil Rights in the United States are inarguably the fathers and mothers of the freedoms we African immigrants and immigrants of color enjoy today. It is easy to forget because many of us were not here to see how far we’ve come as a people.

One of my most favorable people I know is a woman I called, Grandma Laurine Brown who lived in Kalamazoo MI, when my family and I lived there. We adopted Grandma, the grandmother of my my girlfriend, Narda during our seven years in K-zoo. Grandma, who celebrated her 90th birthday before my family and I moved to Pennsylvania never forgot to remind us younger people of how far we had come as a people, whether black African immigrants or black Americans.

Whenever we would get together for a celebration or just a visit, for dinner, family time, or just so Narda’s children and ours would play, we’d be sitting there talking and eating at some snacks sometimes, in Narda’s home or at mine, and there we were, complaining often about the injustices and discriminations we had seen that week or that month or that year. One of the things we African immigrants discover very fast is that instead of black people complaining about colonialism and corrupt government officials and dictators in our countries, here in America the issue is more about how subtle and institutionalized discrimination is, and how widespread it can be, even so that one has to strain their eyes and ears to find out they’re being set aside for someone else lighter skinned than them. Of course, Africans take a longer time to discover all of this, and when they do, they are often shocked and angry.

Since we were not a bunch of intellectuals trying to dissect civil society’s evils during those get together times, our complaining was not a regular thing, but when we did, we did. But there we’d be in our cold K-zoo wintry town, and we’d be laughing at our problems or angry about our problems of that week, and Grandma, with her beautiful silver hairs thinning out and her often upbeat spirit, would say, “We’ve come a long way, my children, we’ve come a long way,” stopping us in our conversation.

“If you’d seen what I have lived through, you will know that you have nothing to worry about. I am just glad to go to God, knowing how far black people have come to be here,” she’d wiggle her strong body around the room and leave our complaining selves standing there. The hopes she had carried for decades of her very long life and the joy and spark in her eyes were my hopes of things to come.

This brings me to my point of African immigrants, immigrants of African descent or people of color.

Mostly, my points here are for African immigrants who have come to these United States since the early 1970s, first, as students who came and returned home on the most part, then in the 1980s, coming mostly now as immigrants or staying after their education. In the 1990s, wars in West Africa propelled hundreds of thousands of us to immigrate, some for a brief time, but most, forever to a land that had become more free because of the Civil Rights Movement.

Because of the freedom that others fought for, the US government made it possible for thousands of immigrants from all over Africa to come and find a home in this country. As we celebrate Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement and legacy, the question is how do we as immigrants see ourselves? Do we stand aside and watch as if this is not our history and they did not fight for us or do we celebrate and help to make the world better as is expected?

Whether or not we feel like celebrating or studying the history of how it is that we can equally fight for jobs alongside everyone, both whites and blacks, we have much to be thankful for. I know for a fact that from the understanding of human movement, had the Civil Rights fight not taken place, had King not given up his life for the movement, had he fled from the call that God placed upon him, had he not accepted this great call to die for his people, had he said, “hey God, find someone else to do this dirty job,” many of us would never have come here. One example I have is that if you look at Africa itself, the Republic of South Africa under Apartheid at that same time did not see other African immigrants flock out there to try and become South Africans.

When Africans and black people could not eat in the same restaurants as white people, when black people’s children could not play on the same block as white people’s children and when they could not go to the same schools or ride the same buses, I tell you, my people, we did not get on planes in droves trying to come to the United States, and those that came were not free to love this country because of what they saw.

But lest we forget that others fought for what we of all races and creeds enjoy today, we need to stop and teach our children something. We need to know that the fact that Obama, the son of a Kenyan man and a white woman is not only running, but is doing what black candidates could not do in having supporters of all races no matter what, tells us that yes, as my beautiful adopted, Grandma Laurine said over and over, “Yes, we’ve come a long way!”

But this means that those of us immigrants standing on the fence need to get off the fence and live the American dream that others have fought to get us to share in. I do not believe that that dream is only for color or black people whose heritage is in the history of Slavery. Many people often think it means that. No, Dr. King and all of those, both whites and blacks who fought for our freedom would not have suffered for that kind of half freedom. They fought for racial equality—finish, as they say in Liberia.

So you cannot say “they did not fight for me.” I believe that that dream and its fulfillment then and still to come is for all: Blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians, everybody. That’s the reason why America is such a great country. There certainly is no place on earth where everyone of every race and creed, religious belief and sexual orientation can have the rights to be protected under the law. This is why we call this place, America, where you now live.

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Patricia, you’re getting at a topic that needs much more discussion among “African immigrants,” namely, an appreciation of the political struggles and sacrifices that occurred in the USA before recent African immigration.  Those struggles and sacrifices occurred not merely with King and SCLC but among the greater black population, not merely with the black middle classes, but among working class and poor blacks, not just among the literate but also the illiterate were there too, like Fannie Lou Hamer. And many gave the full sacrifice—their lives.   Yes, a few whites joined that struggle, but they did not lead that struggle to rid ourselves of unjust US racial laws. These struggles indeed have provided great opportunities and possibilities for all immigrants—Hispanics from the Americas, Caribbeans, Europeans, and, yes, Africans as well.   There indeed need to be a broader appreciation of those historical sacrifices. I am afraid that many African immigrants do not want to be identified and associated with the native U.S. Negro, for many reasons. Some want to set up a distinction. I can understand that partially, that some take on too easily without study the prejudices and perspectives of the status quo. That is indeed a troublesome matter—this divide and conquer kind of thinking benefit only the few, not all of us. On these racial holidays, including Black History Month, we indeed need a deeper reflection among African immigrants on how America got to where we are today, as well as how Africa got to where it is today. Yes, we have our cultural differences (traditions) and there indeed need appreciation all around and we need more patience with each other as well. We cannot remain isolated in our own little worlds. There should be as much cooperation and collaboration as there is competition among us.—Rudy

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Thanks, Rudy, That discussion is a larger one than I’m taking on right now. I think the place anyone can begin is with herself/himself, and as a middle class, educated African immigrant, I want to begin in my own backyard, where Africans like me often feel like they do not connect to the history simply because it does not seem to include them. Yes, they were not here when that history occurred, and yet that fight and that struggle made life easier for them to join in. The issues that must be discussed however, among the poor and the rich, the educated and the non-educated, the immigrant black and the non-immigrant black is where we begin to tell that history and where we begin to stop blaming each other for the problems we as black people experience in America.

There is this tendency for both black Americans and African immigrants to nurture their differences as if these differences really help them in this world of racial discrimination. Sometimes the fight resembles how people, sitting at the table may throw crumbs at those sitting beneath it, and instead of those sitting under fight those sitting on chairs for a place at the table, they are fighting one another under and beneath the table to see who can get the best crumbs, so the guys at the table decide to throw larger crumbs at some of the guys beneath and not at other, and the guys beneath are so busy trying to see who got the greasiest and the largest crumbs, they cannot get enough energy and mind power to remove the guys sitting at the table. My African American acquaintances will quickly tell me upon first meeting me for the first time in that distrusting tone, “You people don’t like us or the white people love you better.”

To that, I often respond, “Which people are ‘you people?'” Or “How come you said that the white people love us better?”

Usually, if I have the time, I try to explain what I understand the different philosophies I see playing on the two groups to my accuser. I know that the issue is all about the same ‘divide and rule’ that still plagues Africa today, and part of it is ignorance and false teaching. Most African Americans have been fed every negative thing about Africa and Africans for centuries, and most Africans have not even been educated about Racism in America or slavery when they arrive here. Also, instead of teaching the real history of black struggle for justice in the world, including in the US, we are fed movies and stories about black crime and drug problems in the US, which of course is just like teaching Africans another form of ignorance of the real African American.

These two ignorances usually play a huge part on how we understand one another. That is why when African Immigrants (who were really the elites and royalty) first began to come (before the real poor, destitute from war, not always poor however., and refugees came in the 90s and 2000s), they wanted to be different, and like immigrants, they wanted to be respected and not put in the “category” that America often assigns black people, often, the things they had been fed, and yet, this sort of attitude can cause problems for the home base black. Just like you never see any beautiful places and good things about Africa on TV, we never really got any movies or good stories about blacks in America. But whose advantage it is when this sort of thing happens? Who is better off when we believe that “They don’t like us?” and our Black American cousins and brothers also believe that “They don’t like us?” If black people stop trying to believe that every new black immigrant is taking away from them, and if immigrants get to understand that no matter our history, we have a common bond and a common root, and that no matter what, we will all face the same discrimination somewhere down the road, and unless we open our eyes to the reality, we cannot make progress both at being one or at making the kind of progress King and all the others we never heard of died for. I tell you, when it seems we are liked better because we are Africans, it is before those who think they like us discover that Africans too can fight for their rights and can disagree and can stand up for what they believe. But that comes a long, long time after immigration since the immigrant is often not as well off as the home base due to the nature of travel and the reason for travel. This discussion needs to be a new study of African and African American relations in the US, and we need to learn that those who fought before King and after King did not die for us to fight among ourselves. Thanks, Rudy—Patricia

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books



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#10 – Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 – Don’t Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

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

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

#15 – Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

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

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King

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

#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

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

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Faces At The Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism

By Derrick Bell

In nine grim metaphorical sketches, Bell, the black former Harvard law professor who made headlines recently for his one-man protest against the school’s hiring policies, hammers home his controversial theme that white racism is a permanent, indestructible component of our society. Bell’s fantasies are often dire and apocalyptic: a new Atlantis rises from the ocean depths, sparking a mass emigration of blacks; white resistance to affirmative action softens following an explosion that kills Harvard’s president and all of the school’s black professors; intergalactic space invaders promise the U.S. President that they will clean up the environment and deliver tons of gold, but in exchange, the bartering aliens take all African Americans back to their planet. Other pieces deal with black-white romance, a taxi ride through Harlem and job discrimination.

Civil rights lawyer Geneva Crenshaw, the heroine of Bell’s And We Are Not Saved (1987), is back in some of these ominous allegories, which speak from the depths of anger and despair. Bell now teaches at New York University Law School.—Publishers Weekly

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Where the Road Turns

By   Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

In this her fourth volume, I witness Patricia Jabbeh Wesley courageously dipping her pen into her own wound and splashing vivid imagery upon the canvas of her own skin. That is an illusion, for that pen is really a scalpel cutting the gangrenous and the rotten out of her nation’s violated flesh. But that too is an illusion. That scalpel is a steel tongue in a powerful Grebo woman’s mouth weaving a fine gauze from dirges, love songs, praise songs, fragments of aphoristic wisdom, fables, new myths, narrative and lyrical dialogues in order to bind our own wounded psyches.

Proud Grebo women’s voices burst through her mouth to chastise depraved men who harvest babies to stoke diamond wars as they blaze through forests of dry human bones in their imported death chariots.

Beyond celebrating these fiery taboo-breaking warrior women who are passionate about peace, justice, their right to forbidden fantasies, she also claims her place, though exiled, in the lineage. Condemned to bear upon her back her home, she is the strong earthen vessel that safeguards the essential spiritual Grebo values bequeathed to her by the village elders in a circle. Because moving is never a leaving, memories of home constantly surge through the poet’s wry humor and wit that serve as balm for the ever-nagging pain.

To honor her ancestors’ memories Wesley has planted these enduring trees whose fruits must nourish us all if we are willing to avail ourselves of her poetic gifts. These are brave and fearless poems in a harsh dark season, yet necessary for the witness they bear to human folly while insisting on our capacity to love. With each new volume, her voice grows stronger as it blends with those of Ama Ata Aidoo, Alda do Espirito Santo, and Jeni Couzyn. She is without doubt among the most powerful of the younger generation of African poets.—Frank M. Chipasula, editor, Bending the Bow: An Anthology of African Poetry/ co-editor of The Heinemann Book of African Women’s Poetry

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Civil rights since 1787 : a reader on the Black struggle

Edited by Jonathan Birnbaum and Clarence Taylor

Contrary to simple textbook tales, the civil rights movement did not arise spontaneously in 1954 with the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. The black struggle for civil rights can be traced back to the arrival of the first Africans, and to their work in the plantations, manufacturies, and homes of the Americas. Civil rights was thus born as labor history.

Civil Rights Since 1787 tells the story of that struggle in its full context, dividing the struggle into six major periods, from slavery to Reconstruction, from segregation to the Second Reconstruction, and from the current backlash to the future prospects for a Third Reconstruction. The “prize” that the movement has sought has often been reduced to a quest for the vote in the South. But all involved in the struggle have always known that the prize is much more than the vote, that the goal is economic as well as political. Further, in distinction from other work, Civil Rights Since 1787 establishes the links between racial repression and the repression of labor and the left, and emphasizes the North as a region of civil rights struggle.

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Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (video)

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

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

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

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


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

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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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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update 4 October 2008



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