ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes




How many of my brothers and my sisters / will they kill

before I teach myself / retaliation? / Shall we pick a number?


Haruko/Love Poems



Books by June Jordan

Some of Us Did Not Die / Civil Wars  (1981) On Call  (1985), Technical Difficulties  (1992)  Affirmative Acts

Directed by Desire   /  Soldier: A Poet’s Childhood / Poetry for the People: a Revolutionary Blueprint

Kissing God Goodbye Haruko/Love Poems

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Remembering June Jordan

Books, Bio, and Poems


June 15, 2002 another soldier gone—June Jordan poet, activist, professor Dead at 65


June Jordan, born in Harlem on July 9, 1936, was the child of West Indian immigrant parents. Her future was shaped, for better and for worse, by her relationship with a father who projected his ambitions. She described her childhood in her 1999 memoir, “Soldier: A Poet’s Childhood.” Subjected to beatings by her father, Ms. Jordan was forced to read and recite from Shakespeare’s plays, the Bible, and the poetry of Paul Lawrence Dunbar and Edgar Allan Poe—all before she was five years old. By the time she was seven, she was writing poems herself.

In 1953, she entered Barnard College, where she met Michael Meyer, a white student. The two married in 1955, and had a son, Christopher, in 1958. The couple divorced in 1965. From 1967 to 1978, she taught English at the City College of New York, Yale University, Sarah Lawrence College and Connecticut College. from 1978 to 1989 she taught at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, before coming to UC Berkeley. Among other reward, she received a Rockefeller Grant for creative writing and special congressional recognition for her writing and work in the progressive and civil rights movements.

June Jordan—poet, novelist, essayist,, and political activist — was one of the world’s most articulate and essential voices. Her work transcends traditional bounds of self and society, expressing conscious optimism—the unity of justice, equality, and tenderness. Jordan was one of those rare writer/activists whose great strength was he ability to live what she believed.

Internationally celebrated for her own accomplishments, Jordan was Professor of African American Studies at the University of California at Berkeley where she directed the enormously popular Poetry for the people program. Poetry for the People received a Chancellor’s recognition for Community Partnership on September 19, 2000, for reaching out to local high schools, congregations and correctional facilities as well as University students. Jordan has been Professor of English at more than seven North American universities and colleges, including Sarah Lawrence, City College, and Yale University.

Poet triumphant, Jordan’s poetry is found in virtually every major anthology of contemporary poetry. She has been included in more than 30 collections such as the Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, The Norton Anthology of African American Literature, Homegirls: Anthology of Feminism and The Village Voice Anthology. The Library Journal (January 1994) hailed Jordan as, “One of the most important poets writing today.” A columnist for The Progressive, Jordan wrote essays, poems, reviews, and articles for a wide range of publications from the New York Times to VIBE and from Ms. to Transition. Her commentary challenged her readers to question their involvement in public life.

Her career was once summed up by author and Nobel laureate Toni Morrison as, “Forty years of tireless activism coupled with and fueled by flawless art.” Poet and friend Adrienne Rich said Jordan was endowed with a rare gift for using words with “elegance and precision,” Rich said. “I believe she felt that she should use it wherever it was called for.” June Jordan, who described herself as a “black radical,” often said that writing poetry was a political act.”

June Jordan’s final essay collection serves as a barometer for the last four decades of radical humanitarian thought. Some of Us Did Not Die is comprised of new works and excerpts from four previous books: Civil Wars (1981), On Call (1985), Technical Difficulties (1992), and Affirmative Acts (1998).

From anti-affirmative-action Proposition 209 to the 2000 presidential heist, Jordan has thought, and fought, about the difficult issues. At turns hortatory, critical, and, ruminative, Jordan’s disquisitions are not thematically organized. They are framed by something looser, namely her unflagging quest for equity for oppressed people. Jordan rose to prominence during the 60s Black Arts and women’s movements, both of which bolstered and stultified her pluralist impulses. Black Arts’ cultural nationalism stifled her individualism and gender critiques, while feminism failed to consistently recognize race as an oppressive agent.

Jordan’s insider/outsider status—as a black, bisexual, feminist writer—helped her cultivate a global conscience. Being simultaneously a part of and apart encouraged Jordan to think outside the obvious boxes and caused her to identify with the oppressed “other” anywhere.

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I Must Become A Menace to My Enemies


                             Dedicated to the Poet Agostinho Neto, President of

                                                  The People’s Republic of Angola: 1976


I will no longer lightly walk behind

a one of you who fear me:

                                         Be afraid.

I plan to give you reasons for your jumpy fits and facial tics

I will not walk politely on the pavements anymore

and this is dedicated in particular

to those who hear my footsteps

or the insubstantial rattling of my grocery


then turn around

see me

and hurry on

away from this impressive terror I must be:

I plan to blossom bloody on an afternoon

surrounded by my comrades singing

terrible revenge in merciless




I have watched a blind man studying his face.

I have set the table in the evening and sat down

to eat the news.


I have gone to sleep.

There is no one to forgive me.

The dead do not give a damn.

I live like a lover

who drops her dime into  the phone

just as the subway shakes into the station

wasting her message

cancelling the question of her call:

fulminating or forgetful but late

and always after the fact that could save or

condemn me

I must become the action of my fate.


How many of my brothers and my sisters

will they kill

before I teach myself


Shall we pick a number?

South Africa for instance:

do we agree that more than ten thousand

in less than a year but that less than

five thousand slaughtered in more than six

months will


I must become a menace to my enemies.


And if I

if I ever let you slide

who should be extirpated from my universe

who should be cauterized from earth


(lawandorder jerkoffs of the first the

terrorist degree)

then let my body fail my soul

in its bedevilled lecheries

And if I

if I ever let love go

because the hatred and the whisperings

become a phantom dictate I o-

bey in lieu of impulse and realities

(the blossoming flamingos of my

wild mimosa trees)

then let love freeze me


I must become

I must become a menace to my enemies.

Source: Trouble the Water (325-327)

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1998 Mid-Day Philadelphia Haiku

Black men sleep homeless

Freeze far away from Iraq

Still sleeping still men

for chuck and Jane James


Source:  360° A Revolution of Black Poets (85)

reposted 3 February 2007

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Be Like June . . .

Excerpts by Mark Anthony Neal


25 June 2002

To many in the mainstream, the very idea of a black intellectual is obscure, so it’s not surprising that Jordan’s death has received only nominal (usually 400 words) attention in the mainstream press. There is, of course, an all-too-long history of the invisibility of black death. The Anita Hill v. Clarence Thomas hearings overshadowed the death of Redd Foxx in 1991. The most genius of American Modernist—Miles Davis—was only given his due in jazz circles, though he was the very definition of American style for more than four decades. One “witty” commentator even went as far to suggest that the Houghton family was out-of-line for their grandiose funeral arrangements for their daughter, pop singer Aaliyah (he was upset that traffic was backed up). Alluding to the lack of coverage of Miles Davis’s death, bassist Foley, joked on his 1993 track “Better Not Die (N Amerika Being Black)” that the media would have paid more attention if it was “Sonny or muthafuckin’ Cher” and of course Sonny Bono’s funeral (he was by then in the US Congress) was covered live on CNN.

In another example, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently ran a story about the disappearance of Alexis Patterson, who was apparently kidnapped a month before Elizabeth Smart’s disappearance in Salt Lake City, but there has been little if any mainstream media coverage of Patterson’s kidnapping. NBC, ABC and others have devoted more than 30 minutes of coverage to the Utah kidnapping. The intensity of the coverage of Smart immediately struck me as an effort to divert attention away from Bush Jr.‘s attempt to transform the American Government via the creation of a Dept. of Homeland Defense—black folks were of course diverted by the arrest of an accused child sex offender and R&B singer, who appears in a widely-circulated bootlegged copy of child pornography that has probably been seen by more people than those who have read at least one June Jordan book—but I digress.

If June Jordan has been invisible to the mainstream in her death, it was not simply because she was black, but because she was a black woman, who chose to be an activist and a intellectual, in a society that seemingly has little value for black women who aren’t taking off their clothes, while celebrating their “bootilicious” reality on a Viacom-owned video channel or an HBO “sex” series. . . .

June Jordan was committed to exposing herself—her passions, convictions, and fears in her words, which she willfully gave to the world with the libretto I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky, and books such as Civil Wars, Selected Essays 1963-1980 (1996), and most recently her memoir, Soldier: A Poet’s Childhood (1999). In her essay “Besting a Worse Case Scenario” (from Affirmative Action, 1998), Jordan wrote defiantly about her illness: “I want my story to help to raise red flags, public temperatures, holy hell, public consciousness, blood pressure, and morale—activist/research/victim/morale so that this soft-spoken emergency becomes the number-one-of-the-tip-of-the-tongue issue all kinds of people join to eradicate, this afternoon/tonight/Monday morning.” For a decade, Jordan used her own trauma to raise question as to why nearly 50,000 women succumb to Breast Cancer per year.—NewBlackMan

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Medgar Evers—Part 1, Civil Rights Hero / Medgar Evers—Part 2, Civil Rights Hero

Keeping It Trim & Burning (poem for Fannie Lou Hamer)

Amite County   Beginning   Kish Mir Tuchas    Black Power

Africa Makes Some Noise—Documentary on contemporary music from Africa  / Straight Outta Hunter’s Point

*   *   *   *   *’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

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Yvette’s cookbook is a 2011 bestseller

GREAT BAY, St. Martin (July 31, 2011)—It’s official. It’s a bestseller! From Yvette’s Kitchen To Your Table – A Treasury of St. Martin’s Traditional & Contemporary Cuisine by Yvette Hyman has sold out, according to House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP). In a record seven weeks after its June 2011 release here, less than 80 copies of the cookbook are left in bookstores and with the author’s family representatives charged with distribution, said Jacqueline Sample, HNP president. The decision on whether to reprint a new batch of From Yvette’s Kitchen  … lies with the family of the late award-winning chef, said the publisher.“We are very thankful to the people of St. Martin for embracing Yvette’s cookbook. The visitors to our island also bought many copies of this beautifully designed book of the nation’s cuisine,” said Sample.From Yvette’s Kitchen  is made up of 13 chapters, including Appetizers, Soups, Poultry, Fish and Shellfish, Meat, Salads, Dumplings, Rice and Fungi, Breads, and Desserts.

The 312-page full color book includes recipes for Souse, the ever-popular Johnny cake, and Conch Yvette’s. Lamb stew, coconut tart, guavaberry, and soursop drink are also among the over 200 recipes à la Yvette in this Treasury of St. Martin’s Traditional & Contemporary Cuisine, said Sample.“We hope that this cookbook’s success also adds to the indicator of the performance and importance of books published in the Caribbean,” said Sample.The other HNP book that sold out in such a short time was the 1989 poetry collection Golden Voices of S’maatin. That first title by Ruby Bute had sold out in about three months and has since been reprinted, said Sample.

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

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 incarceration—Publishers Weekly

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label ‘trafficked’ does not accurately describe migrants’ lives and that the ‘rescue industry’ serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice.

“Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality.”—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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Aké: The Years of Childhood

By Wole Soyinka

Aké: The Years of Childhood is a memoir of stunning beauty, humor, and perception


a lyrical account of one boy’s attempt to grasp the often irrational and hypocritical world of adults that equally repels and seduces him. Soyinka elevates brief anecdotes into history lessons, conversations into morality plays, memories into awakenings. Various cultures, religions, and languages mingled freely in the Aké of his youth, fostering endless contradictions and personalized hybrids, particularly when it comes to religion. Christian teachings, the wisdom of the ogboni, or ruling elders, and the power of ancestral spirits


who alternately terrify and inspire him


all carried equal metaphysical weight. Surrounded by such a collage, he notes that “God had a habit of either not answering one’s prayers at all, or answering them in a way that was not straightforward.” In writing from a child’s perspective, Soyinka expresses youthful idealism and unfiltered honesty while escaping the adult snares of cynicism and intolerance. His stinging indictment of colonialism takes on added power owing to the elegance of his attack.

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Andrew Johnson: The 17th President, 1865-1869

By Annette Gordon-Reed

Andrew Johnson, the seventeenth man to ascend to the highest office in the land, is generally regarded by historians as among the weakest presidents. Gordon-Reed has no intention of moving Johnson up in rank (“America went from the best to the worst in one presidential term,” she corroborates). So this is no reputation rescue. Gordon-Reed, author of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (2008), which won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, takes as her task explaining why we should look anew at such a disastrous chief executive. She reasons he is worth looking at, though her reasoning yields a far from sympathetic look. In a short biography, all bases can be covered, but the author is still left to exercise the tone of a personal essay, which this author accomplishes brilliantly. Her personal take on Johnson is that his inability to remake the country after it was torn apart rested on his deplorable view of black Americans.

In practical terms, his failure derived from his stubborn refusal to compromise with Congress in the abiding post-Lincoln controversy over who was to supervise the Reconstruction, the executive or the legislative branch. A failure, yes, but more than that, a failure at an extremely critical time in American history.



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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 /

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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update 19 July 2012




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