ChickenBones: A Journal

for  Literary & Artistic African-American  Themes



The struggle for a living wage speaks first to the central moral principle of respect for

the dignity of the human person. We take seriously the sacredness of the human person

and reaffirm the fundamental moral conviction that humans are in the image of God and

thus are possessors of a dignity, an inherent worthiness which is inalienable and inviolable.



Books by Maulana Karenga

Introduction to Black Studies  /  Selections from Husia: Sacred Wisdom of Ancient Egypt  /  The Book of Coming Forth by Day 

Kwanzaa: A Celebration of  Family, Community, and Culture  /  Million Man March: Day of Absence 

Handbook of Black Studies  /  Maat, the Moral Idea in Ancient Egypt  /  Kemet and the African Worldview

Kawaida Theory:  An African Communitarian Philosophy

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Justice for the Poor

By Dr. Maulana Karenga

Founder of Kwanzaa



One of the most important struggles for social and economic justice of our times is the expanding and ongoing struggle for a living wage. The struggle is essentially directed towards securing for low-income workers a wage which provides for them with adequate means to support themselves and their families, rise above the poverty level which entraps them and live a life of dignity and decency due every human being. But the implications of this struggle for us as moral and religious persons and for society are profound and far-reaching, for it speaks to some of the most cherished moral concepts and concerns in all our faith traditions.


The struggle for a living wage speaks first to the central moral principle of respect for the dignity of the human person. We take seriously the sacredness of the human person and reaffirm the fundamental moral conviction that humans are in the image of God and thus are possessors of a dignity, an inherent worthiness which is inalienable and inviolable. Within this moral understanding we, of necessity, link the right to a life of dignity with the right to a life of decency, a life in which persons have for themselves and their families adequate food, clothing, housing, education, health care and physical and economic security and thus are able to live a good and meaningful life. And the living wage is an indispensable way to achieve these social and human goods.


Secondly, the struggle for a living wage speaks to the fundamental moral principle of the dignity of work. In our ethical traditions, the worthiness of work is grounded in its being both a reflection of the Divine act of creation and a process by which we engage in co-creation, practice responsible stewardship and realize the essential meaning and mission of human life to constantly bring good into the world. Thus, we reaffirm the right and responsibility to engage in purposeful and productive work as far as one is able, as essential to a person’s dignity, self-respect and sense of purpose and worthiness in the world. And we maintain that workers have a right to just treatment on the job and in separation and this includes a just wage, adequate benefits, satisfactory working conditions, economic security and the right to organize, engage in collective action and participate in all decisions that affect them.


Thirdly, the struggle for a living wage highlights and upholds the essential principle of moral obligation to care for and support the poor and most vulnerable among us in their struggle to empower themselves and live full and meaningful lives. In fact, the heart of the living wage struggle is to improve the lives and life-chances of the poor and low-income workers and to contribute meaningfully, not only to the easing of their poverty, but also to the ultimate elimination of it. Moreover, this struggle reminds us of a fundamental teaching in our faith traditions that a key moral measurement of any society or economy is the quality of life and treatment of the vulnerable and poor. Thus, in a larger sense, this struggle speaks to our conception of and commitment to a truly just and good society.


Fourthly, the struggle for a living wage calls for our reaffirmation of the foundational moral principle of justice in and for the world. For just as dignity is the central moral pillar in our conception of the human person’s worthiness in the world, justice is an indispensable way in which we demonstrate due respect for this inherent and inalienable worthiness. Whether we talk of economic justice or the larger more inclusive concept and practice of social justice, the principle speaks to the moral obligation to give a person what is due, deserved, fair and rightful, whether in the general sphere of life or in the specific context of work.

In conclusion, the struggle for a living wage has become a mirror and measure of our commitment to some of our most cherished moral principles which undergird and make possible our conception and realization of the just and good society. We are thus morally compelled to commit ourselves as religious and moral persons to active and ongoing support of workers and the labor movement and to engage fellow members of our churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and others in doing likewise. This means making common cause with working people and the unions which represent them, lending added moral authority to their just claims, standing and walking with them and collaborating with them in joint activities to secure economic justice at the work site, and in legislative, administrative and management venues. It also means that we constantly join together with working people and the labor movement on common ground in other struggles to build the moral communities, just society and better world we all deserve and want to live in.

Prepared by Dr. Maulana Karenga, Seba, Temple of Kawaida, Member, Advisory Committee, CLUE

Seminar in Social Theory and Practice XXII / Kawaida Institute of Pan-African Studies July 17-24, 1999 By Dr. Maulana Karenga

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Promoting Cooperative Economics Education and Practice through Kwanzaa—Ajamu Nangwaya—24 December 2011— We have the chance to move from a celebratory approach to Kwanzaa as a holiday to one that integrates its essence, values or principles in organizing the economic development of the community. Ujamaa or cooperative economics is usually advanced by some celebrants of Kwanzaa as the way to African American economic empowerment. However, it is our contention that the ideas behind this principle are little understood by those promoting it.

For many Kwanzaa practitioners, it is the mere buying of goods and services from African American-owned companies. This practice does not speak to the ownership and governance structures of the enterprises that are patronized. Wealth from economic production is a collective endeavor, as it is virtually impossible for the individual to create it single-handedly. Under the dominant economic system of the day, the people (the workers) who create wealth are generally not the ones who own and enjoy the use of it. Furthermore, the popular perception of the Ujamaa principle does not have a dialogue with the notion of “shared social wealth”, and the economic model that would best manifest this idea and practice.

We believe it is time for African Americans and all those who want a better economic life in this country to promote the knowledge of cooperatives as organizational models and tools for economic and social development. Cooperative education is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for its adoption by the community. It must be put on display and experienced, as a practical way to meet the material and self-actualizing needs of the people. In order to disseminate the information about cooperatives, we should utilize the public forums that are used to celebrate the holiday as educational instruments. We may use each principle to highlight particular and relevant aspects of the structure and operation of cooperatives. In the community organizing phase of our educational effort we should experiment with different spaces (living room meetings, public meetings, street corner, places of worship, etc.) to reach the people.—MediaCoop

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 Karenga on Malcolm   Justice for the Poor  Kwanzaa 2004   Kwanzaa Message 2006 

The 10 Best Black Books of 2010 (Non-Fiction)

Gramsci”s Black Marx

Whither the Slave in Civil Society?


*   *   *   *   *’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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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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Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered

the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It

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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Maulana Karenga: An Intellectual Portrait

By Molefi Kete Asante

In this book, the most prolific contemporary African American scholar and cultural theorist Molefi Kete Asante leads the reader on an informative journey through the mind of Maulana Karenga, one of the key cultural thinkers of our time. Not only is Karenga the creator of Kwanzaa, an extensive and widespread celebratory holiday based on his philosophy of Kawaida, he is an activist-scholar committed to a “dignity-affirming” life for all human beings. Asante examines the sources of Karenga’s intellectual preoccupations and demonstrates that Karenga’s concerns with the liberation narratives and mythic realities of African people are rooted in the best interests of a collective humanity. The book shows Karenga to be an intellectual giant willing to practice his theories in order to manifest his intense emotional attachment to culture, truth, and justice. Asante’s enlightening presentation and riveting critique of Karenga’s works reveal a compelling account of a thinker whose contributions extend far beyond the Academy.

Although Karenga began his career as a student activist, a civil rights leader, a Pan Africanist, and a culturalist, he ultimately succeeds in turning his fierce commitment to truth toward dissecting political, social, and ethical issues. Asante carefully analyzes Karenga’s important works on Black Studies, but also his earlier works on culture and his later works on ethics, such as The Husia, and Odu Ifa: The Ethical Teachings.

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The New New Deal

The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era

By Michael Grunwald

Time senior correspondent Michael Grunwald tells the secret history of the stimulus bill, the purest distillation of Change We Can Believe In, a microcosm of Obama’s policy successes and political failures. Though it is reviled by the right and rejected by the left, it really is a new New Deal, larger than FDR’s and just as transformative. It prevented an imminent depression, while jump-starting Obama’s long-term agenda. The stimulus is pouring $90 billion into clean energy, reinventing the way America is powered and fueled; it includes unprecedented investments in renewables, efficiency, electric cars, a smarter grid, cleaner coal, and more. It’s carrying health care into the digital era. Its Race to the Top initiative may be the boldest education reform in U.S. history. It produced the biggest middle-class tax cuts in a generation, a broadband initiative reminiscent of rural electrification, and an overhaul of the New Deal’s unemployment insurance system. It’s revamping the way government addresses homelessness, fixes infrastructure, and spends money.

Grunwald reveals how Republicans have obscured these achievements through obstruction and distortion. The stimulus launched a genuine national comeback. It also saved millions of jobs, while creating legacies that could rival the Hoover Dam: the world’s largest wind farm, a new U.S. battery industry, a new high-speed rail network, the world’s highest-speed Internet network.  Its main legacy, like the New Deal’s, will be change.

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Pictures and Progress

Early Photography and the Making of African American Identity

Edited by Maurice O. Wallace and Shawn Michelle Smith

Pictures and Progress explores how, during the nineteenth century and the early twentieth, prominent African American intellectuals and activists understood photography’s power to shape perceptions about race and employed the new medium in their quest for social and political justice. They sought both to counter widely circulating racist imagery and to use self-representation as a means of empowerment. In this collection of essays, scholars from various disciplines consider figures including Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and W. E. B. Du Bois as important and innovative theorists and practitioners of photography. In addition, brief interpretive essays, or “snapshots,” highlight and analyze the work of four early African American photographers. Featuring more than seventy images, Pictures and Progress brings to light the wide-ranging practices of early African American photography, as well as the effects of photography on racialized thinking.

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It’s The Middle Class Stupid!

By James Carville and Stan Greenberg

It’s the Middle Class, Stupid! confirms what we have all suspected: Washington and Wall Street have really screwed things up for the average American. Work has been devalued. Education costs are out of sight. Effort and ambition have never been so scantily rewarded. Political guru James Carville and pollster extraordinaire Stan Greenberg argue that our political parties must admit their failures and the electorate must reclaim its voice, because taking on the wealthy and the privileged is not class warfare—it is a matter of survival. Told in the alternating voices of these two top political strategists, It’s the Middle Class, Stupid! provides eye-opening and provocative arguments on where our government—including the White House—has gone wrong, and what voters can do about it. 

Controversial and outspoken, authoritative and shrewd, It’s the Middle Class, Stupid! is destined to make waves during the 2012 presidential campaign, and will set the agenda for legislative battles and political dust-ups during the next administration.

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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

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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 16 July 2012




Home  Education & History

Related files: Should Kwanzaa Stay in our Neighborhoods  Kwanzaa  Kwanzaa 2004   Kwanzaa Message 2006  Maulana Karenga Bio   Ron Karenga   Karenga on Malcolm 

Justice for the Poor