ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
The Moroccans I visited with were the common people. They are still struggling
to survive. The ruling classes of black Africans maintain their superior attitude
towards us today, and yield only to those of us who are able to fill their coffers.
Books by Cliff Chandler
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In Search Of Our Culture
An American Travels to Marrakech
By Cliff Chandler
After years of writing without a purpose I finally decided to become a serious writer. In doing so I realized that I would have to go to Africa in search of the missing elements of our culture. We have been bombarded by the fact that slave owners had erased our culture.
My solution in my first trip over the pond was to go to Africa. I chose North Africa because I knew that I wouldnt find anyone resembling me in deepest Africa. That was confirmed in the airport in Casablanca when I stood in line to exchange some currency. A six-foot African in regal attire stepped in front of me and pushed ahead of me. I guess it was my blue blazer and business like attire. I ignored him and thanked him for convincing me that I had made the right choice in choosing Marrakech.
I arrived in Casablanca about 10 a.m, my plane to Marrakech would not leave until eleven that evening, so I put that unpleasant experience with the African chief in a special place and took a taxi into Casablanca. The ride into the city was fascinating. I observed farmers working in the fields using hand tools, shanties, and farm houses similar to the houses one observed traveling South on single lane highways in the fifties. The difference is the houses were constructed of terracotta. The most amazing site was a small house on the side of the road. The door was open and I saw a homemade kitchen table covered with cheesecloth. The only thing missing was the tin roofs one found on southern houses in the thirties.
The Moroccan people were warm. Everyone appeared to be interested in me. By the way, several persons attempted to speak to me in Arabic. It was as my teacher had implied in class one day while discussing his trip to Marrakech. Many of them thought that I was Moroccan. My taxi driver in a traditional manner announced Casablanca and stopped. I paid him, got out of the cab, and stood on the corner observing the city. A woman approached and asked for some money and I pretended not to have any, using my New York mannerisms. She said, Come to Casablanca by plane and have no money. Her gesture was not kind. Casablanca was too much like New York, so I entered one of the nicer hotels, had a great lunch, and hailed a taxi back to the airport.
At the airport I went out onto the observation deck and observed our culture. The workers conversations were energetic, humorous. Their approach to work was casual. A plane arrived and was directed to its dock and at the last possible moment the service vehicles arrived to perform their task. It was done in a relaxed manner. There was no tension.
The other difference was the service vehicles pace was a little faster than we are accustomed to, the brothers and sisters motored up to the crafts and stopped on a dime. Conversations and laughter were everywhere and if two or three brothers were conversing it sounded like a party. My first lesson was that we have not lost our zest for life and that we as a people do what we are asked to do well.
True to my observations the plane took off at a seventeen-degree tilt, throttles wide open. The curtain between first class and coach surrendering to the force of gravity floated towards my seat. At the pinnacle of the assent the plane leveled off and began its decent into Marrakech. During our climb a hypnotic, sensuous voice in Arabic made an announcement. I forgot about the flight and dreamed of Shaharazad and the Arabian Nights. My fleeting moment of romance was bumped back to reality when our plane landed. We were in Marrakech.
I convinced Customs that I was able to take care of my expenses in Morocco by doing a very corny thing. I showed him my credit card. After which he said in his best English, Okay. I picked up my luggage and made my way to the taxi stand. The driver asked for my destination in French, to which I replied, Holiday Inn. He helped me into the car and headed into town. We didnt converse. He stopped at the hotel and it resembled the Holiday Inn, but Holiday Inn it was not. I didnt have a reservation because it was my intention to rent an apartment in town.
I prepared for my visit to Marrakech by visiting the Moroccan Embassy in New York City, the Board Of Health, where I was told, If you arent taking anything over there, there isnt any need for shots. My next stop was to purchase a book on Marrakech. The book covered the history of the city and included a current map.
The following morning I walked from my hotel to the Medina, commonly referred to as The Kasbah. One the way I was solicited by the local hustlers, who addressed me as brother until I was a block away from the hotel. I turned a corner and walked through the neighborhood. A young man walking in a hip Harlem style glided out of a small self-styled store that resembled the shack in black neighborhoods in the South. It was constructed of a huge Coca Cola sign on one side and found objects completed the other side. There was a primitive shed used as an entrance covered with roofing material.
At that moment I thought, Ive spent all of this money and traveled nine hours to end up in Harlem. The young man spoke and things fell into their proper place. His gestures were ours, but he spoke in his native tongue Arabic. I relaxed and continued my adventure. It was fascinating, motor scooters, donkeys, people on foot, all of them carrying their food in one manner or another. I turned a final corner and there it was the walls of the old city and The Kasbah.
I entered the city and walked through the tiny streets without being noticed. Some of the people there looked at me strangely, but that happened because I didnt acknowledge them. I decided to stop in a shop and buy a few gifts. The sensation was the same until I started to bargain. The owner asked me where was I from? When I said New York, he shook his head and said that he thought I was from Morocco.
This was not a ploy to help him sell his merchandise. He had his assistant bring in some tea, mint tea, the best fresh tea I have ever tasted. We sat there and talked for an hour, after which I told him I had just arrived and I wanted to go back to my hotel to rest. He gave me another shocker. He said that I resembled the King, and I said, oh sure.
I returned to the hotel and went to my room. It was in the middle of the day so I decided to take a nap. The phone rang and the concierge invited me down to the bar for typical Moroccan food. I thanked her, went down to the bar. While I was away a busload of tourists had arrived and they were sunning their new swimsuits by the pool. The bartender greeted me in English, I ordered a drink and headed for the buffet where I found fried chicken, potato salad, red beets, and macaroni and cheese. I asked the bartender if this was a joke. He studied me for a moment and said, This is typical Moroccan food.
We were kidnapped, stolen and our families destroyed in the slave markets of Africa, and America, but we did not lose our culture. Our labor built America, our ability to adapt to hardships created thousands of industries. Our humor and our music are great gifts the world has ever received. But the thing we lost was our love and appreciation for each other. Black Africans who sold us took our dignity away. White men with fire sticks and wooden ships could not have developed the theft of our people without the help of black Africans.
The Moroccans I visited with were the common people. They are still struggling to survive. The ruling classes of black Africans maintain their superior attitude towards us today, and yield only to those of us who are able to fill their coffers. I wonder how long the Pan-Africanist would last in the Sudan. And I wonder where would they start in their search for their beginning. It is easy to find a relative in Africa if you have the means for the search. I am not anti African. As a matter of fact I want to thank the kidnappers and thieves who stole us and sold us.
We must learn to love ourselves and in the process learn to love each other. We must return the respect we had for each other here in America before we had laws to protect us. We must give back to our communities to those who will accept us and we must return with real values. My visit to Marrakech taught me that I am an American and in the process I saw America for the first time.
We must reject second-class citizenship by refusing to be second-class. That means that we are as good as anyone unless we give others the power of making us surrender. I dont like the term African-American. I am Black and I am damn sure an American; and as such I demand everything an American is entitled to. I found my culture and I hope other will take their journey and find their magic.
I have visited Morocco several times since my first visit. My wife and I have friends there. It is unfortunate that the current political atmosphere discourages foreign travel. By the way, my concerns about travel here in our country is the same as it is about traveling abroad. Let us hope that the pressures that create terrorism will succumb to logic and that the madness will cease. Let us hope that people of the world will select competent leaders, and that they will find the road to peace.
The most beautiful memory I have of North Africa is the community sitting out in the parks in the evenings. The nights are crime free and it reminds me of the night in the thirties and forties when we did the same thing. The whole community visited Central Park, we slept with our windows open, and we were proud of who we are. It was a time of morality. We have not lost our culture; we are ignoring it.
Cliff Chandler © Copyright
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#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane
#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva by Ashley and JaQuavis
#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
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#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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A Novel by Jesmyn Ward
On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family thats about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrinas inexorable winds is the voice of Wards narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her familys raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brothers blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt. Her fathers hands are like gravel, while her own hand slides through his grip like a wet fish, and a handsome boys muscles jabbered like chickens. Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isnt usually just metaphor for metaphors sake. She conveys something fundamental about Eschs fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, whats salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.
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By Michele Alexander
Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama’s political success and Oprah Winfrey’s financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today… than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don’t know the truth about mass incarcerationbut her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.Publishers Weekly
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 14 January 2012