ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes




    Kalamu ya Salaam is a music producer who has produced festivals and served as a consulting

producer for festivals in Trinidad, Barbados and many events in the United States.  He served

as associate producer and scriptwriter for the nationally distributed JAZZTOWN radio series,

a 13 part, one hour each documentary of jazz in New Orleans.




Books by Kalamu ya Salaam


The Magic of JuJu: An Appreciation of the Black Arts Movement  /   360: A Revolution of Black Poets

Everywhere Is Someplace Else: A Literary Anthology  /  From A Bend in the River: 100 New Orleans Poets

Our Music Is No Accident   /  What Is Life: Reclaiming the Black Blues Self

My Story My Song (CD)


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KALAMU YA SALAAM (“Pen of Peace”) 



Kalamu ya Salaam was born Vallery Ferdinand III on March 24, 1947 in New Orleans, Louisiana. He attended Carleton College (1964-1969), and Delgado Junior College from which he earned an A.A. (Associate Arts) degree in business administration. 

Mr. Salaam is a professional editor/writer, filmmaker, producer and arts administrator. He served as a senior partner in the New Orleans based public relations firm of Bright Moments Inc. (1984 – 1996) and is a co-founder (with Kysha Brown) of Runagate Multimedia, Inc. He is the founder and director of NOMMO Literary Society, a New Orleans-based Black writers workshop. Salaam is also the founder and moderator of e-Drum, an informational listserv for Black writers and diverse supporters of literature worldwide.    

His latest books are the anthologies From a Bend in the River: 100 New Orleans Poets (Runagate Press 1998) and 360∞ A Revolution of Black Poets (BlackWords Press 1998). Mr. Salaam latest spoken word CD is My Story, My Song  (AFO Records).

He is the recipient of a 1999 Senior Literature Fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts; a 1998 Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities Award, a 1997 Mayor Marc Morial’s Arts Award, the 1995 Louisiana Literature Fellow and guest editor of “The Music” (Vol. 29, #2) special issue of the African American Review. He is the poetry editor for QBR: The Black Book Review.   

He is the author of What Is Life?-The Reclamation Of The Black Blues Self (1994, Third World Press) and the editor of WORD UP — Black Poetry Of The 80s From The Deep South (Red Beans and Brown Rice Press1990), an anthology of forty writers.

His jazz play, Body&Soul, is the 1996 awardee in Louisiana State University’s Native Voices competition. An excerpt from What Is Life? was used on the national ACT examinations as part of the reading comprehension test.

Mr. Salaam is the leader of The WordBand, a performance poetry ensemble. He and musician Fred Ho comprise The Afro-Asian Arts Dialogue, a poetry/music duo. He is the producer and scriptwriter for Crescent City Sounds (WGBH Radio Boston), a nationally syndicated, weekly, one hour radio program of New Orleans regional music carried by over 70 radio stations.

He is also a radio producer and DJ for WWOZ, 90.7FM in New Orleans and a record producer with AFO Records, a New Orleans independent record label.

In May 1992 Kalamu ya Salaam produced NEW WORLD POETS for the Houston International Festival in Houston, TX. The program consisted of three concert readings of poetry by African American poets Jayne Cortez, Haki Madhubuti, Thomas Meloncon; Puerto Rican poet Tato Laviera, Native American poet Jack Forbes, Asian American poet Genny Lim, and Chicana poet Evangelina Vigil-Pinon. The program was recorded by Mr. Salaam.     

In November 1989 Kalamu ya Salaam produced A NATION OF POETS for the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta, GA.  The program was a concert reading of poetry by Amiri Baraka, Pearl Cleage, Wanda Coleman, Mari Evans, Haki Madhubuti, Kalamu ya Salaam, Sonia Sanchez and Askia Muhammad Toure.  The program was recorded under Mr. Salaam’s direction and videotaped for broadcast on the Atlanta PBS affiliate. Mr. Salaam is the producer of A NATION OF POETS cassette and CD.  

Kalamu ya Salaam is a music producer who has produced festivals and served as a consulting producer for festivals in Trinidad, Barbados and many events in the United States.  He served as associate producer and scriptwriter for the nationally distributed JAZZTOWN radio series, a 13 part, one hour each documentary of jazz in New Orleans.

He produced a nationally broadcast New Year’s eve event for National Public Radio.  He directed a one hour radio documentary on Blue Lu Barker, a New Orleans traditional jazz vocalist. 

As a music producer Mr. Salaam’s accomplishments include a three volume record series, The New New Orleans Music, released on the Rounder Record label.  This series documents the contemporary jazz scene in New Orleans.  Piano In E — Solo Piano by Ellis Marsalis (Rounder Records), The Classic Ellis Marsalis (AFO Records) and Germaine Bazzle Standing Ovation (AFO Records) are a few of Mr. Salaam’s recording productions. 

Kalamu ya Salaam has served as a panelist for arts awards and grants programs at the local, state, regional and national level, including four years on the NEA music panel and one year on the NEA literature panel.  In 1987 he served as the co-chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, Jazz Presenters panel.  He is served as a field consultant for the National Jazz Service Organization.    

Mr. Salaam served as the Executive Director of The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation for four years (1983-1987).      Prior to his tenure at the NOJ&HF, Mr. Salaam served as the editor of THE BLACK COLLEGIAN Magazine for thirteen years.  Continuing his work in journalism, Mr. Salaam writes for numerous publications in the New Orleans area.    

Mr. Salaam’s published plays include: The Destruction of The American Stage in Black World Magazine, Blk Love Song #1 in Black Theatre USA edited by Hatch & Shine, The Quest in New Blacks For The Black Theatre edited by Woodie King, Jr., plus numerous one-acts published in small literary journals.  A 1987-88 production of Blk Love Song #1 as part of a double bill produced by Temba Theatre Company of London, England, won the Manchester Evening News 1988 Award for “Best Of Fringe.”   

Memories won the New Orleans CAC’s 1990 regional new play contest, and a production by Chakula Cha Jua Theatre was one of only 17 companies invited to the 1991 biannual National Black Theatre Festival. Mr. Salaam’s musical, God Bless The Child, was presented at the 1991 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. His one act play Malcolm, My Son was selected for The 1st Annual George Houston Bass Play-Rites Festival sponsored by Rites & Reason of Brown University and has been published in the African American Review.

His play The Breath Of Life was selected as one of six plays honored by Louisiana State University in 1993 as part of their Native Voices fellowships.   

Kalamu ya Salaam is the author of seven books of poetry: The Blues Merchant (1969), Hofu Ni Kwenu/My Fear Is For You (1973), Pamoja Tutashinda/Together We Will Win (1974), Ibura (1976), Revolutionary Love (1978), Iron Flowers (1979), A Nation Of Poets (1989).

Mr. Salaam has  done numerous pamphlets on political issues, particularly the issue of apartheid.  Kalamu ya Salaam has written two children’s books, Herufi, An Alphabet Reader and Who Will Speak For Us (written in collaboration with Tayari kwa Salaam).

He has also written two books of essays: Our Women Keep Our Skies From Falling: Six Essays In Support Of The Struggle To Smash Sexist And Develop Women (1980) and Our Music Is No Accident (1987), an essay accompanied by 20 duotone photographs.

Kalamu ya Salaam has widely published in literary, music and political journals including Negro Digest/Black World, First  World, The Black Scholar, Black Books Bulletin, Callaloo, Catalyst, The Journal Of Black Poetry, Nimrod, Coda and Encore.  His work is  included in numerous anthologies including We Be Word Sorcerers, New Black Voices, Black Theatre USA, Erotique Noire / Black Erotica, Dark Eros, Catch The Fire, and Spirit And Flame.

Kalamu ya Salaam is a professional editor whose credits include program books for the 1992 New Orleans Olympic Trials, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival; program books for the JVC New York, Newport, Saratoga, Mellon Philadelphia, Mellon Pittsburgh, Ohio Bell and Rochester-Finger Lakes jazz festivals, and the 1989 Atlanta Jazz Series; as well as program books for numerous New Orleans agencies.

Kalamu ya Salaam is the winner of numerous awards including over six first places in Unity Awards In The Media, a George Washington Freedom’s Foundation Award, two ASCAP Deems-Taylor Awards for excellence in writing about music (1981 & 1989), two NFCB (National Federation of Community Broadcasters) Silver Reel Awards for radio production, the 1986 Deep South Writer’s Contest Award for prose, and a first place in the 1990 CAC Regional (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi) New Play Competition.   

Kalamu ya Salaam has traveled extensively as a journalist, activist and arts producer:  Ghana, Tanzania and Zanzibar, Barbados, Brazil, Cuba, Guadaloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Nicaragua, St. Lucia, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago, Korea, Japan, The People’s Republic Of China, England, France and Germany.

Contact Information:

Kalamu ya Salaam 5425 Wimbledon Ct. New Orleans, LA 70131 504/710-9694


WordBand is a poetry performance ensemble led by veteran writer Kalamu ya Salaam. Deeply rooted in the broad spectrum of Black music, the WordBand’s repertoire includes poetry set to everything from blues to experimental new music. The personnel are two poets, Kalamu ya Salaam and Kysha N. Brown; a vocalist, Ginger Maria Tanner and a guitarist, Carl LeBlanc.

“We work out of a jazz aesthetic; so much of what we di is improvised. We don’t go on stage with a set show. Instead, we let the selections flow from the particular feelings where we are performing and from the audience reactions. Sometimes we will emphasize blues numbers; other times we will be much more experimental. Our approach keeps the performance fresh–you never get the feeling of a canned show with the WordBand,” says Kalamu. “WE don’t have horns or drums, we don’t have dancers or a back-up choir. What we offer is well crafted poetry mated to the fundamental sounds of great Black music in an intimate setting.”

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Audio: My Story, My Song (Featuring blues guitarist Walter Wolfman Washington)

*   *   *   *   *’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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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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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s 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 Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s 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 family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “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 isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake.—


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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. —Publishers Weekly

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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

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 16 July 2012




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