ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



the first thing i notice is trash on the expressway. a couple of abandoned cars. then the blue

roofs as i past the treme area. treme is the oldest continuously existing black

community in the united states. much of it was built by free people of color and enslaved black



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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below smiling student faces are tears & fears

kalamu visits home


Part 1 of 3new orleans, 11 nov 2005 – back home again in new orleans. ashley lives in waggaman, about 20 miles outside the city, up river, out pass avondale shipyards, not too far from bridge city, louisiana. i drop her home and then take the west bank expressway (i.e. old highway 90 east) back into the city, passing thru algiers and then on to the crescent city connection, the bridge that crosses the mississippi river that divides the city into west bank and east bank. the west bank is algiers, i believe the population is only about 40,000 out of the nearly half a million new orleans citizens. however, land wise, the west bank comprises maybe 40% of the land area, it’s just that most of it is undeveloped wooded area and marsh lands. i’m going to check my mail first and then head out to the new orleans east to check on a storage unit where books and equipment were stored. i’m pretty much resigned that the storage unit was probably flooded although i have been getting letters asking for payment of back rent and threatening a lien and forfeiture. as i come down off the expressway on the way to the post office, i decide to stop at a storage unit i was renting near the post office. when i closed down my office back in april, i rented a larger unit at the baronne facility but even the larger unit was not enough space, which is when i rented a small space in the east at u-haul, which was the company where i rented the truck to do move the office equipment, books and cds. all of that was a far bigger deal than just talking about it. i had over five thousand cds. over 4800 of the cds were alphabetized in steel cases, the rest were in boxes. i had a library of well over 3,000 books, pamphlets and historic papers, plus computer and video equipment, and boxes of paraphernalia and memorabilia collected over the years. the storage unit on baronne street is on the third floor of an old, sturdily built brick building. everything looked copastetic from the outside as i pulled up. inside at the desk was the same elderly white woman who was both pleasant and consciencious about doing her job and helping the customers. i paid my bill through the end of the year and then moved on to the post office. the main post office building was closed but there were signs that pointed to the rear area for mail pick-up. turns out the service was only available until 3pm. i would have to check mail later. next stop the storage unit in the east. at this point i have not seen much damage but i know i have not yet gotten to any of the flooded areas. however, once i swing past the superdome and get on i-10 headed to the east, it’s immediately obvious that the situation goes from bad to worse to disaster rather quickly. the first thing i notice is trash on the expressway. a couple of abandoned cars. then the blue roofs as i past the treme area. treme is the oldest continuously existing black community in the united states. much of it was built by free people of color and enslaved blacks. i keep going, figuring i will have plenty enough time later on to check treme out. by the time i’m in the ninth ward it’s obvious that the situation is dire. i drop down at the downman exit, the first off-ramp after crossing the high rise, which is the tallest structure in new orleans and crosses the industrial canal, the boundary line that marks the beginning of new orleans east. about five blocks from downman is where the storage unit is located. as i pull up i realize that i should have said where the storage unit “used to be” located. the u-haul office is abandoned. empty. deserted. i don’t even bother turning in to check further. people ask about the books and stuff and i simply say, i don’t even think about it. it’s gone. let’s move on. i ride out gentilly for about two miles or so to crowder. gentilly is a major thoroughfare, actually a highway. on the south side to my right, the damage is heavy but not overbearing from what i can see as i drive through at about thirty miles an hour. on my left it’s beginning to look ugly. i turn left at crowder, one of the four or five major cross streets that run from the lake to the almonaster thoroughfare, which is an industrial road about a half mile south of gentilly highway. my intention was to meander around on a basic recognizance of the area and eventually, maybe, to pass by my brother’s house out by bullard that i knew had been flooded. i have not gone half a block on crowder before i realize i’m not in new orleans east anymore, i’m in east hell, or to more correctly use the metaphor, east atlantis, except it’s dry and dismal, very dismal. i don’t feel like describing what i saw except to say, i quit driving thru the east before i got to my brother’s house. i was beginning to cry and become totally depressed. we were here for a homecoming celebration, bringing some of our students in and trying to pull together whatever we could. i needed to be someone the young folk could lean on. i’m a big, black, bear of a man, so the thought of me crying might seem a little unusual (i know some folk are going to insist there’s nothing wrong with a man crying. well, i didn’t say something was wrong, i said “unusual.” people don’t usually drive down a street crying because of what they are seeing around them.) this was the moment when i realized how much i love new orleans. this was my dry well moment. she gone. i felt myself breaking down like an old blues singer moaning about that young woman he loved. it felt awful to see her like this, wasted, broke down worse than a crack addict, laying out somewhere, showing her emaciated ass. enough. i had to get up out there. i had a home in algiers to go to. i was driving through an area where people literally had nothing but shells of houses, if that, to return to. in algiers the electricity was on, the gas and water were working. we had phone service and cable service. i had a dsl line up and running. i could take hot showers and sleep in comfort. even though my brother-in-law and his family were in the house, our house was large enough that we all still had our privacy. i could see clean through many of these houses, and these were not small cottages. i’m talking about two-story, well built houses, and brick ranch type structures, some of them split level, and townhouses, and all of them in total ruination. it was too much for me, i got back on the expressway and carried my ass home. welcome back, black. look what they’ve done to your home. who you mean? katrina is not a “they.” katrina was a natural disaster. maybe, but let me tell you that natural disaster was made worse by the politicians and the army corps of engineers who were supposed to be in charge of the levees. everything was made worse by policy experts and urban planners who did not really give a damn. if you stay out in the east, your mood turns foul. it wasn’t nothing nice. neither the scene nor my anger. nothing nice. friday night, back on the west bank i got the wireless hooked back up and was generally in internet heaven but i remained haunted by all the destruction i had just seen. i slept well but when i woke i started worrying about the future of our city. we had a 9am program planned. we would start with a memorial service at st. augustine church in treme. and from there secondline to st.paul’s lutheran church in the bywater area midway between the french quarter and frederick douglass high school in the ninth ward, which is where students at the center was based. i checked with ashley. she said she had a surprise for me and would meet me at the church, but she wouldn’t tell me what the surprise was. i had been assigned the task of conducting the service. when i arrived about a minute before 9am, a few of the brass band members were starting to arrive and greta was waiting. we trickled inside the church. folk were generally moving on new orleans time, which means we start around 9:15 and by 9:30 most of the folk will have arrived. baba is drumming inside the church. it’s warm. the warmest catholic church i know. i’m talking about the emotional warmth. i’m talking about how you feel welcomed. how you don’t feel like you are disturbing anything if you drum or sing or even dance inside this church. how the seven principles are on the upper walls along with the religious symbols. how the pulpit is in the center of the church and how this church is a community center as well as a religious gathering spot. it’s new orleans warm. you just feel like you can do what you wanna up inside of here. we take turns expressing our grief and memories for those who are departed, for those who did not survive katrina, for the tremendous destruction that has been wrought on our city. and as the program progresses more and more people arrive. the crew from baton rouge that includes rodneka, one of our star students who is a senior this year, and rodneka’s younger sister, robin, and robin’s boy friend, dominique, and the hernandezes, and others including freddy house, one of my favorite douglass students and the backbone of our chess club. our program opened with stephen gladney, greta’s son, playing an alto saxophone solo. he carried his horn with him everywhere. when they were waiting atop the old american can building to be rescued he had his horn with him. when they were evacuated by boat and bus, he kept his horn. when they moved to clemson, south carolina and now that they were back in new orleans. my man had his horn. when ashley arrived, i saw the surprise. it was earlneka, a young sophomore whom we had been working with for the first time last year but with whom i had immediately struck up an affinity as we were both from the lower ninth ward. we had worked the summer on digital stories and she was one of the most gifted and most committed to developing her story and learning the computer techniques necessary to make a first-class digital story. at the conclusion of the service, which was essentially a time of serious sharing, we poured out into the cool but pleasant fall morning and prepared to secondline. greta had hired a pick-up band formed around a core of young tuxedo brass band members. there was their leader, trumpeter greg stafford who is one of the most jovial musicians i know. and on bass drum was shannon powell, one of the most dynamic drummers in the city. and louis torregano on clarinet and others whom i know from seeing but whose names i either can’t remember or don’t know. ashley is out front shooting video. i bring up the rear in the van. the band takes the long way around, stopping at shannon’s house. people seep out of the houses. a few people are actually crying with joy. a secondline is a celebration. post-katrina there has not been much celebrating going on. but as the music hits. doors open and people join us. some stay on the sidewalk and wave as we pass. but others joyfully join in. one woman in particular, i will never forget. she was the second person coming out of their house. someone who may have been her sister came out first and stood on the stoop, but zooming right behind her was this middle-aged sister with a purple umbrella. naw, it wasn’t raining. umbrellas are part of the secondline and my lady was ready. she juked–she didn’t walk or run, she juked, it was a combination of dancing and running to catch up. once she did get to where the band was, this woman gave a clinic on rump shaking. it just made you feel all kinds of good. when we got down to colton middle school, the band went into a dirge and that slow two-step they do to express grief. by then all kinds of people had joined in, and the thirty or so of us that had started off were now doubled in size. i personally was bumping in the driver’s seat of the van. and smiling. and feeling like, yeah, we can handle this. it’s going to be alright. and then we got to st. paul’s and in the church yard it got gooder, by which i mean two young black women took turns dancing with the grand marshal of the secondline. now being a grand marshal is no job for apprentices. you got to be able to carrying on in fine style. my man looked to be in his sixties dancing like he was still 32, plus you know he had a store house of moves from his years of dancing in the streets. well, the young ladies didn’t give a good goddamn how much experience he had or how well he could twirl that umbrella, pop his pelvis, buck his eyes, butterfly his thighs, fan his butt with his hat, back back and drop down, didn’t none of that faze them in the least cause they was buck jumping black women and they had something for him. aug, let me tell you, it was wonderful. absolutely wonderful. my brother kenneth, who is an entrepreneur and owns a café© that we and many other people use as a field office, kenneth is grinning his resplendent grin and playing the trumpet at the same time. he always wanted to be a musician and never put his horn down. now he plays more than ever. everybody was feeling good and then we broke for lunch, which was served in the church hall. by now, i am becoming emotional. homesick. critically ill. somebody come see about me. i’m walking around laughing and joking with the students, with fellow sac staff, with the band members whom i know, with friends who have joined us, with people who just stopped by. dorese blackman, who used to teach at douglass is there on her motorbike. we’re standing maybe six inches apart and hollering at each other like we were standing on opposite ends of the block. and just laughing and grinning. and the sun is shinning. and we are in new orleans. and we are new orleans. new orleans.end of part 1 of 3

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kalamu visits home – part 2 of 3 earlneka – wait a minute before i tell you about taking earlneka to work, let me tell you a little something about naming conventions. rodneka and earlneka, we call them the nekas, except when we mean rodneka, we say neka marie, on account of her middle name, but anyway, on the one hand, yeah, these names are made up, but the making up process is not frivolous. in the case of the nekas, they are both named after their fathers, rodney and earl, you got it? while it is true that not all of the “made-up” names have a specific origin or reason behind them, it is equally true that these names represent a stubborn persistent on the part of black folk (and mostly either poor black folk or politically conscious black folk) to celebrate their blackness, howsoever they may be defining that blackness. and, an interesting corollary is that professional blacks often assert their blackness by actively avoiding labels that scream ethnicity while at the same time being leading members of black professional organizations and black caucuses of majority white organizations. so anyway, back to earlneka. the day before ashley had run up on earlneka when ashley stopped at a macdonald’s near her home on highway 90. earlneka was working there. they recognized each other and ashley told earlneka about the homecoming activities, offered to give earlneka a ride, which earlneka accepted conditional on being able to get a ride back to work. i ended up being the one to drive earlneka to macdonald’s. no problem. i was glad to do it, even though taking the trip meant that i would miss the beginning of the story circle and meeting at douglass that was the last part of our homecoming program. immediately after lunch we were to journey a couple of miles over to douglass, which was walking distance for a leisurely stroll on a beautiful november afternoon. earlneka had evacuated new orleans, i don’t remember to which town, but it was not too far away from new orleans. subsequently they had returned to live on the outskirts of new orleans in avondale, 20 miles or so away on the west bank but further out from the river than waggaman. as we pulled out the st. paul’s church yard, earlneka wondered if we had time to pass her house, which she hadn’t seen since the flood. of course, we had time. it would be cutting it close but not impossibly close. so we zoomed down toward lower nine. earlneka lived on bartholomew street and on the lake side of st. claude, only five or six blocks away from douglass. as far as the flood goes, st. claude was a major dividing line, just as was claiborne avenue. st. claude is about ten blocks from the river. next to the river is high ground and the drop off is rapid. between st.claude and the river, flood water ran from two deep to completely dry. but on the lake side of st. claude going toward claiborne the water level rose quickly. it looked like about three feet at st. claude to about six feet in depth at claiborne. earlneka stayed in the second block on the lake side of st. claude, not a good place as far as flood waters were concerned but, at the same time, not a completely bad place either. oh, one other thing. there are a lot of alternating, one way streets in new orleans, which is not unusual except that in new orleans, the directions of a given street can change as you move from one neighborhood to another, or when you get to or cross a major thoroughfare. a lot of time you have to take the long way around to get to a place that might be a couple of blocks away, which was the case with earlneka’s house.

“it’s that one up there on the left, second from the corner.” it was the one with the neighbor’s roof resting partially on earlneka’s mother’s car, and partially blocking the rest of the driveway. i looked at earlneka. she looked past me at her house and then quickly opened the passenger side door, slipped out of the van and darted through her front gate towards the front door. it was an awkward moment for me. this was her first time back. she was the first one in her family to re-visit the homestead. it’s an intimate moment. although i had some real concerns about her safety, i also wanted to be sensitive to whatever might be her emotional response. earlneka is probably 14 or 15 years old, but she from ctc, and whatever drops, i know she can handle it. after all she wears earrings with the photo of a friend who has been murdered dangling on teardropped-shapped plastic pieces the size of a fifty cent coin. she’s a trooper. so i sit in the van. when earlneka got to her front door, she didn’t even much hesitate at all. she pushed that bad boy open and stepped inside. i looked all around me while she was inside. if the outside was this grim, i knew inside had to be nothing nice—i keep repeating that new orleans phrase because it is so apt a description of the city at this moment. about ten minutes later, earlneka comes bounding out with a pink teddy bear backpack/purse and one or two pieces of clothing. she said that was about all that was worth getting. before katrina hit, she had put them up on a top shelf in a closet. i asked her how high the water had been. she put her hand just below her chin. as we drove away, she pulled out her cell phone and started calling family members to report on the extent of the destruction. i couldn’t say nothing that would make any sense, so i said nothing for a few blocks. after we crossed the tracks, we began to talk about new orleans, about how fucked up shit was. there ain’t no other way to describe it. it’s fucked up. about forty-five minutes later, after dropping earlneka over to macdonald’s where only the drive up was open, when we had hit the expressway, we started talking about her job, how school was going out in avondale, how she liked living on the west bank. i wasn’t just making small talk, i was really concerned about her. she was dealing with it. her spirits were high. nevertheless, i knew it had to be hard. i made it back into town and then downtown to douglass high school to catch the last of the homecoming meeting at which we talked about where to go from here, what moves to make, what kind of response to mount to the ongoing abandonment. no public schools. no public hospitals. no electricity in over 60% of the city. no this. no that. no. no. no. we decided to focus on making the school we opened a community school and planned to see if there was someway we could get into douglass. we were sitting in the back yard, next to the auditorium. someone had climbed through a window and opened a door, so we had access to a bathroom. the school was in relatively good shape. there had been minimal flooding in only the band room which was about three feet below street level, built to approximate an indoor amphitheater effect. no other room had flooded at the school. additionally, the oregon national guard had been stationed there, so the whole building had been cleaned up. built in 1938, the solid brick, three story structure had served as an emergency shelter for the surrounding neighborhood, and after the flood, as an operational base for the national guard. we discussed what we thought might be the best way to get access to the school facility, especially given the upheaval with the school system, nothing can be taken for granted. approximately 20 schools had been turned to charter schools. those were the buildings that were either on the west bank and had received no flood water or were two or three uptown eastbank buildings. no public schools were open and the state was rumored to be poised to take over most of the remaining 100-or-so schools. we had a lot of discussion about charters and decided that we didn’t want to go the charter route, even though we recognized that we might be forced to do so. sitting in a big circle listening to each other, high school students, teachers, staff, community activists, civil rights veterans, everyone taking a turn speaking their hearts and minds, responding to the issues before us. and then a completely unforeseen issue came up, an issue that defines how we work and demonstrates the collective wisdom. we had about 25 students present and a number of them had been in the band. some of them wanted to take their instruments home. the instruments were sitting there inside the band room, unused, dirty from the flood but, in the case of many of them not damaged beyond repair. the flute and trumpet players were especially vocal about wanting to salvage their instruments. somebody suggested taking a vote. but jim and i, the co-directors of students at the center, insisted that we discuss the issue and try to reach consensus rather than just take a winner take all vote. i explained how majority rule inevitably produces splits. as much as possible, i was strongly in favor of everyone speaking on the issue and everyone listening to each other, and from that process coming to consensus. jim offered that by listening to each other and considering everyone’s point of view we generally come to better decisions rather than forcing the issue one way or the other. earlier we had been talking about possibly sitting-in at the school and being prepared, if necessary, to be arrested. That’s not a position to take lightly, especially when legal minors are involved and most especially when family and other supporters are living hundreds of miles away. both jim and i were keenly aware that we had guardian responsibilities vis-à-vis these young people. we knew that part of the reason that at least two thirds of the students were present is because their parents trusted us and were confident that we were caring for their children. students came from south carolina, georgia, texas, oklahoma and areas surrounding new orleans. katrina has set off all kinds of discussions and activities in response. some people see the possibility for organizing revolutionary activities based on the pain and anger felt by many, many new orleanians and indeed by people all across this nation. while there is certainly an opportunity to harness all this energy, that does not mean ignoring our responsibilities to care for one another, and especially for adults to care for young people. i stand firm on that issue. so there we sat, in a giant circle, asking each person to speak their hearts and minds on the issue of whether the students should take the instruments. half way around the circle the general consensus seemed to be that the instruments would probably be trashed if left in the building and that if they were salvageable then maybe the students should take them even though technically it would be theft. and then someone brought up the health issue, who knew what was on and in those instruments as toxic residue from the flood waters. by the time we finished the circle, we all agreed that it might be better to leave the instruments than to take them. the conclusion itself was not as important as the process. no one felt oppressed or put down for their view. everyone had a turn, whether they were a fifteen-year-old student or fifty-something visitor who was there to support organizing in new orleans. it was a beautiful moment because when we left not only were we all in agreement but more importantly, we all felt validated in the sense that our opinions were heard and considered, and that we each had full input into the decision making process. this was not going to be an easy row to hoe. there were tree stumps and big rocks in our path, plus all kinds of legalities crisscrossing our path. nevertheless, the energy and optimism of the youth was infectious. when we left the school, a number of us went over to washington square in the next block from café rose nicaud. a loose aggregation of alternative street folk and anarchist organizations had set up a food and relief station in the park and were serving free diners. we sat there talking and walking the half hour or so for the 5:30 meal time. they were serving red beans and rice with catfish. even though the food was not the greatest, it was a great and enjoyable meal. and the young folk ran around the park, playing games, hooting and hollering at each other and generally being young people. how beautiful it was to see them enjoying each other, especially since they were now living literally hundreds of miles apart. sometimes we adults who can be fulfilled by productive meetings and having a drink or a cocktail afterwards, forget that young teenagers like to play and forgetting that, we also forget to build play time into our schedules. as the dark descended, what we heard was youthful laughter–the sound of young people at play, one of the most beautiful sounds in the world. the park was closing down at 8pm, so around 7:30pm we started gathering folk up and working out the car pooling and the housing assignments. adrinda kelly, who joined us and who works as an editor at mcgraw hill publishing in new york city, and who was one of the first sac graduates, and who also was the first person we interviewed for our listen to the people project, adrinda was waiting for her mother but there was some miscommunication so i volunteered to take adrinda to elysian fields and i-10 to wait for her mother who was coming from the east. their house sat on an embankment and they were fortunate not to suffer flood damage, although they had wind damage, and of course there was no electricity but they were going to spend the night in their house. shortly after we parked on elysian fields by the expressway, a car’s lights cut through the darkness, it was adrinda’s mother, linda, pulling up. i watched them as they pulled up the ramp heading out to the east, shook my head, and headed back over to the west bank.end of part 2 of 3

kalamu visits home – part 3 of 3 meanwhile, out in california, my daughter asante was dealing with a scheduling snafu. ashley and i were scheduled to fly into syracuse, new york on monday, but the syracuse gig had suddenly been postponed. we had, of course, already purchased a ticket for ashley and the airlines charge you a minimum of $75 to change a reservation. it also had meant that the travel for the gig after syracuse, which was miami for the miami book fair had to be changed, and that was another cost to bear. there is nothing simple about touring. if you don’t have a good administrator, don’t try it unless you’re up for all kinds of high drama and hidden expenses kicking your butt. plus, we had the van rental, which we were supposed to turn in on monday morning when we flew out to syracuse. it was a mess. travel plans were messed up. new orleans was messed up. and little did i know there was still more drama to come. the next day, the baton rouge contingent was catching a ride with the contingent headed to tulsa, oklahoma who were also going to take one of the folk who was living out somewhere near dallas, but, long story short: the ride situation got all messed up. rodneka who was supposed to be back in baton rouge on sunday morning didn’t arrive until after 8pm. she missed work. her mother was upset. damien who was near dallas ended up–well, let’s just say it wasn’t nothing nice–again! and so, both jim and i were out of the loop initially and didn’t find out about all the snafus until late sunday afternoon. so we were calling around accepting responsibility for the mess ups and doing our best to smooth ruffled feathers via telephone. the following week we went up to baton rouge to visit rodneka’s mother and assure her that it wouldn’t happen again. but that’s the way it goes. it’s all in the game. you want to make change, you’ve got to pay heavy dues. once i got my revised itinerary from asante, i had two more days in new orleans. and that extra time enabled me to do a three hour interview with my brother who had survived hurricane betsy when the house we grew up in was flooded up to the rafters and who left town for katrina but was among the first to return back, and was the first business in his immediate area to re-open. kenneth is a through-and-through new orleans trooper, but even he was having his up and down days. originally we were going to do the interview on sunday, but when i arrived at his house, the awful news continued: the electricity had gone out. kenneth and his wife melba live in a dry area, six blocks from the river. if entergy, the utility company, couldn’t keep electricity on in a dry area, you know what was happening in the areas that had flooded. exhibiting the macabre sense of humor common to disaster zones, kenneth and i sat in the twilight solving the far away problems of the world, which was far easier than dealing with the immediate problems of new orleans. it’s like that in new orleans right now. you take it from minute to minute because you don’t have no way to know what the conditions are going to be. but you know we couldn’t resist taking a crack at figuring out how to get new orleans up and running again. although, we thought we figured out iraq, new orleans was a much toughter nut to crack. monday afternoon i interviewed kenneth. we did three hours of digital video. the remaining day and a half, i poked around new orleans a bit more and prepared for the next leg of touring: miami, and two hits in washington, dc. new orleans is bi-polar. one minute it’s hip and the next minute it’s hell. it’s difficult to deal with the mood swings, with the turmoil, with everything fine one second and the next–one night i took a different route to get to the expressway. right before i got to the expressway, the lights ran out. behind me was a lighted city. in front of me was nothing. darkness as far as i could see. i don’t know if you hear me. i was at the stop sign–since the lights weren’t working, the city had put up portable stop signs (“portable stop signs” that shit don’t even sound logical, but there it was). i was sitting there at the portable stop sign. i turned around and looked behind me. lights. i looked in front of me. nothing. just utter darkness. and, dig it, i wasn’t in the east. i wasn’t in lower nine. i was only about fifteen blocks from the river. utter nothingness. it felt like if i drove forward i was going to be driving into a void. i half expected to see rod sterling standing on the corner with a hand-lettered placard: you are now entering the twilight zone. except, there was no light. he could have been standing there. i would barely have noticed him. and it was certainly too dark to read the welcome sign. or was it a warning? i still have not decided whether i was going to return to new orleans. indeed, i was still looking for a new orleans to return to. that was my first time visiting home since katrina. “visiting home” you know how fucked up that sounds?!!end of part 3 of 3

posted 9 December 2005

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#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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Hopes and Prospects

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 forward—in 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 world—to millions, I suspect—for the simple reason that he is a truth-teller on an epic scale. I salute him.” —John Pilger

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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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So Rich, So Poor: Why It’s So Hard to End Poverty in America

By Peter Edelman

If the nation’s gross national income—over $14 trillion—were divided evenly across the entire U.S. population, every household could call itself middle class. Yet the income-level disparity in this country is now wider than at any point since the Great Depression. In 2010 the average salary for CEOs on the S&P 500 was over $1 million—climbing to over $11 million when all forms of compensation are accounted for—while the current median household income for African Americans is just over $32,000. How can some be so rich, while others are so poor? In this provocative book, Peter Edelman, a former top aide to Senator Robert F. Kennedy and a lifelong antipoverty advocate, offers an informed analysis of how this country can be so wealthy yet have a steadily growing number of unemployed and working poor. According to Edelman, we have taken important positive steps without which 25 to 30 million more people would be poor, but poverty fluctuates with the business cycle.

The structure of today’s economy has stultified wage growth for half of America’s workers—with even worse results at the bottom and for people of color—while bestowing billions on those at the top. So Rich, So Poor delves into what is happening to the people behind the statistics and takes a particular look at the continuing crisis of young people of color, whose possibility of a productive life too often is lost on their way to adulthood


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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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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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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 15 July 2012 




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