ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
Jean Damu Table
Jean Damu is the former western regional representative for NCOBRA, National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America, and a former member of the International Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, taught Black Studies at the University of New Mexico, has traveled and written extensively in Cuba and Africa and currently serves as a member of the Steering Committee of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The AFRICOM Plot Thickens (Stanton)
Bankster Coup d’etat (Stanton)
Gridlock Is a Blessing (Ford)
Heroic Minds (Jonathan Scott)
Kip Ward Heads Africom (Mark P. Fancher)
The Liberal Republicanism of Gordon Wood (Hayward)
Liberty and Empire (Moses)
Money is Speech (Moses)
Motherland Grillz Venture (W. E. B. Blingen)
On the Passing of Piri Thomas (Rivera)
Open Letter to Ed Schultz, MSNBC (Moses)
Oprah and Bad Samaritans (Margaret Kimberley)
Parable of July 4, 1910 (Marvin X on Oscar Grant Killing)
Raising Cain (Lewis)
Time to Repair the Constitution’s Flaws (Levinson)
Two Nations of Black America (Angela Davis Interview)
What It Means to Be Negro (Bates)
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Oscar Grants killer on trial again for police brutality23 November, 2011Former San Francisco BART police officer Johannes Mehserle is on trial this week, and if his name and affiliation rings a bell, there is good reason: Mehserle was found guilty of killing Oscar Grant, an unarmed transit rider, during a 2009 incident. As luck would have it, that wasnt the first time that Mehserle went a little overboard. Less than two months before he executed Grant at pointblank range in an Oakland, California train station, the ex-officer allegedly used excessive force and violated the constitutional rights of Kenneth Carrethers at a separate Bay Area Rapid Transit hub.
Carrethers attorneys say that on November 15 2008, their client was angry over the BART cops lack of help in a case of vandalism that targeted his car. Carrethers says that he called the police force useless, and from there Mehserle and a handful of other offices became irate. According to court filings, Mehserle used a leg sweep to take Carrethers to the ground, then punched and kicked him while he was on the pavement.
The complaint continues that cops tied up Carrethers arms and legs before hauling him away. “Well, have you learned not to mess with police officers?” Mehserle allegedly asked him.
Carrethers was initially charged with resisting arrest, but six weeks later a cell phone camera filmed Mehserle executing Oscar Grant while the unarmed black man man laid face down in a BART station.
A civil case was filed by Carrethers a month later, but was put on hold while Merhselrs waited behind bars during his trial for the Grant incident.
A jury went on to find the ex-officer only guilty of involuntary manslaughter and mobs rioted the streets of Oakland, California. Johannes Mehserle only served 11 months for killing Grant. To RT, a family member of Grant said that the sentence demonstrated “just how racist this criminal justice system is.” Mehserle, a white man, is once again being charged with using excessive force on an unarmed black man. Five officers in all are on trial for the beating of Carrethers, 43, as well as attacking him for exercising his freedom of speech. Mehserle is expected to testify on his own behalf.
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The right verdict in Mehserle caseInvoluntary manslaughter might seem an unsatisfying outcome for the killing of the unarmed Oscar Grant on Jan. 1, 2009, but it was consistent with the evidence that could be proved beyond a reasonable doubt against former BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle. Anything less would have been an injustice. Anything more would have required conclusions about Mehserle’s state of mind that were not sufficiently supported in trial. . . . Mehserle, 28, claimed it was an accident, that he thought he was firing a Taser instead of a handgun at the detainee. The explanation stretched the bounds of plausibility, given the difference in weight, feel – and position on his holster – between the nonlethal weapon intended to immobilize and the Sig Sauer P226 pistol that is used to kill. He clearly was negligent. It was a crime, not an accident.
The other two conviction options available to the jury – second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter – would have required the jury to find that Mehserle meant to kill Grant.
The evidence indicated the officer’s state of mind was contradictory at best. His reaction immediately after the shooting suggested disbelief at what he had done. Yet his explanation of having mistaken his gun for a Taser did not emerge for several days. In other words, there was reasonable doubt about his intent, which was the standard the jury needed to overcome, even if that will not fly in the court of public opinion. SFGate
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Operation Small AxeBy Jean Damu
The Oscar Grant case and its tumultuous response has received much national attention from print and electronic news outlets but few have attempted to put this case into a broad social context to the extent a recent film, Operation Small Axe, attempts to do. Oscar Grant was the black youth shot and killed by Oakland Bart police officer Johannes Mehserle in the early morning hours of Jan. 1, 2009. The Oscar Grant case is a child of the cell phone revolution because had the shooting not been recorded by numerous Bart passengers on their cell phones and those videos being replayed and replayed by local and national television outlets the outrage over the shooting never would have escalated to the point it eventually did. Nevertheless Small Axe does a wonderful job reflecting the long simmering hatred that exists between the disenfranchised, nearly totally alienated black youth in Oakland and the armed occupation forces that masquerade as police and public transit protection forces.Small Axe Director Adimu Madyun has his hands full keeping this film on point and even though the overall impact of the film is powerful, compelling and revealing, a film everyone needs to see, its not clear he succeeded. Part of the problem is revealed as the final credits scroll downward. J.R. Valrey, a long time Bay Area journalist and activist is the films Executive Producer. Theres absolutely nothing wrong with J.R. Valrey producing a film except that most of the film is about him. What? I thought the film was about the Oscar Grant shooting? Well so did I, but now Im not so sure. See the problem? With further reflection I think the film really is about J.R. Maybe the title Operation Small Axe refers to him and the work hes engaged in the black communities. The confusion is typical of some of the controversy surrounding Valrey. He promotes himself as a journalist but invariably he becomes the story. Fifteen to 20 minutes into the film one asks, Hey, what about justice for Oscar Grant? Later for that, were focused on Valreys case now. One of the more interesting scenes plays out at the scene of the march, 2009 Lovelle Mixon-OPD shoot out. Huge kudos to Madyun for connecting the Oscar Grant and Lovelle Mixon shootings. The interviews with the neighborhood people following Mixons killings of four Oakland police officers and his killing would open many closed eyes. But the interesting portion of this scene is Valrey interviewing a white woman. She identifies herself as a reporter and refuses to reveal how she feels about the shootings. Valrey wont accept her attempt to be neutral and finally accuses of her working for the police and making the situation quite uncomfortable for her. It was not a pretty scene and is indicative of how easy it is, with the righteous certainty that only you are correct, to alienate potential allies. It is also a political sectarianism that allows him to place listener supported KPFA radio, on which he airs his Block Report, in the same class category as Associated Press. He defends this as aggressive journalism. The totality of Operation Small Axe is overwhelming. Madyun and Valrey have done a great job reflecting the anger and alienation, primarily of black youth (but others as well) with a society that many see as sending in occupation armies to firmly plant boots on the necks of the unemployed and unemployable. One thing missing, especially in regard to the Lovelle Mixon incident was any reference to the commission report analyzing the OPDs actions. The report tries to put a friendly face on the police response but ultimately it was an indictment of what took place and the decisions made. Reference to the report would have validated the feelings of many of Mixons neighbors. Finally, we owe Madyun and Valrey another round of thanks for introducing us to the aunt of Deondre Brunston, Keisha Brunston. Brunston relates to us how her nephew Deondre was machine gunned to death by Los Angeles County police in Compton in 2002. This is the most unbelievable portion of the film and it should have aired much closer to the beginning. According to Brunston, and as we witness from the video, Deondre is sitting on a porch communicating with police. Suddenly a police dog charges him and police open fire. Brunston was hit 22 times and flopped around like Bonnie and Clyde in the Sam Peckinpah film. By mistake the police also shot the dog. The police then rushed upped, embraced the dog and rushed it to a helicopter and flown to an animal hospital where it later expired. Meanwhile, steam rising from his chest Brunston is ignored, not even examined. It is the ultimate statement on blackness and whiteness in America. A dogs life is worth more. See this film.
Operation Small Axe can be obtained on DVD from 339 Films or Block Report Radio.
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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
#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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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.
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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.
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By Noam Chomsky
In this urgent new book, Noam Chomsky surveys the dangers and prospects of our early twenty-first century. Exploring challenges such as the growing gap between North and South, American exceptionalism (including under President Barack Obama), the fiascos of Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S.-Israeli assault on Gaza, and the recent financial bailouts, he also sees hope for the future and a way to move forwardin the democratic wave in Latin America and in the global solidarity movements that suggest “real progress toward freedom and justice.” Hopes and Prospects is essential reading for anyone who is concerned about the primary challenges still facing the human race. “This is a classic Chomsky work: a bonfire of myths and lies, sophistries and delusions. Noam Chomsky is an enduring inspiration all over the worldto millions, I suspectfor the simple reason that he is a truth-teller on an epic scale. I salute him.” John Pilger
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By Gabriel Thompson
Thompson spent a year working alongside Latino immigrants, who initially thought he was either crazy or an undercover immigration agent. He stooped over lettuce fields in Arizona, and worked the graveyard shift at a chicken slaughterhouse in rural Alabama. . . . Thompson shines a bright light on the underside of the American economy, exposing harsh working conditions, union busting, and lax government enforcementwhile telling the stories of workers, undocumented immigrants, and desperate US citizens alike, forced to live with chronic pain in the pursuit of $8 an hour. Gabriel Thompson has contributed to New York, The Nation, New York Times, Brooklyn Rail, In These Times and others. He is the recipient of the Richard J. Margolis Award, the Studs Terkel Media Award, and a collective Sidney Hillman Award. His writings are collected at Where The Silence Is
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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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American Labor and America’s Future (2000)
Aronowitz presents a compelling case for the idea that “unions, if they are to thrive, must overcome the complacency of the last fifty years and expand labor’s influence throughout politics and culture. But first labor must overcome its image as the representative of a narrow segment of the working population….” In intellectually strong but clear-spoken language, Aronowitz urges labor once again to define itself in sharp opposition to the ideology of corporate capitalism. He might attract some controversy with his suggestion that doing so requires a distancing of the unions from the Democratic Party (which, he reminds the reader, has drifted increasingly to the right under Bill Clinton, whose “reform” of welfare not only took money from the unemployed but may also keep wages down for the working poor). Might, that is, if labor had a strong enough voice for its dissent to be heard. Aronowitz delivers some rather intriguing proposals; it remains for history to determine whether an audience exists that will absorb and act upon them.Amazon.com
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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posted 24 November 2011