ChickenBones: A Journal

for  Literary & Artistic African-American  Themes



It is also Malcolm in his Autobiography who defined the positive self-

constructive changes of his life. He said, “my whole life has been a

chronology of changes.” Moreover, he states that “despite my

firm convictions, I have been always a man who tries to face facts and to

accept the reality of life as new experiences and new knowledge unfolds it.”



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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Karenga on Malcolm

& the Need for Struggle


Malcolm & Ethics 

Malcolm was an ethical thinker. His ethics, of course, were rooted in a theology called Islam, but also in African-American social-justice traditions. So he comes with a lot of preference for the poor, which he calls the masses. His main criticism of the middle class is its inability to commit class suicide and substitute mass interest for class interest. 

I sum this up in my book when I talk about three things he said that were most important: Wake up, clean up and stand up. The first speaks to intellectual development rooted in self-knowledge; what Malcolm wants us to do is to shake off our diminished conception of ourselves as ghetto dwellers and see ourselves as world-historical people. He believed that kind of consciousness would call us to a different kind of action.  

Absorbing the Best of Black Ethical Thought

What I try to do is take the best of our thinking — Malcolm, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, Douglass, Du Bois — and extract from them what I see as being the best of what it means to be both African and human. And try to use that to engage other progressive people in the world. 

I evolved the kawaida position out of this. “Clean up” refers to ethics, which is the most important conversation we can have in the world today. Every major issue that comes up involves an engagement of ethics — medical, business, political, scientific, whatever. Malcolm argues for “clean up,” which means to get ethical grounding on issues to understand their moral meaning for us as a people. And not just people responsible to ourselves, but to the rest of the world. 

The final thing he argues is “stand up.” That means engaging in the practice of social change to increase the good in the world. We have to struggle for that, for human freedom and human equality and human justice. So that’s the kind of book I’m writing.  

The Dialectics of Struggle

As in every situation, there’s a dialectic going on, with people rising and falling at the same time. Good things are coming into being while old things are going out. It’s not a clear course, there are twists and turns in the road. 

In kawaida, we say that struggle is the most characteristic aspect of the human personality. We struggle to come into being ; that’s called birth. We struggle to make the most out of being; that’s called life. And we struggle to not go out of being; that’s called the quest for immortality. What I see is that the struggle will increase in this country and in the world. 

Purveyors of Reaction & Changelessness

This actually flies in the face of theorists like Francis Fukuyama, who say that history is actually at its end, that the major struggles have been resolved, that capitalism and imperialism are triumphant, and their cultures are dominant. Even when they see struggles now — in Chiapas, or Palestine — they redefine them; they call freedom fighters “terrorists.” They call guerrillas “gunmen.” 

So what they have done simply with this concept of redefining reality is tried to stop history. That’s like trying to stop time. It doesn’t make sense. If you are the interpreter of history, you can actually call a halt to it. That’s one of the greatest powers in the world, the power to define reality and make others accept it, even when it’s to their disadvantage. 

The Battle of Hearts & Minds

That’s why the real struggle — we’ve said this since the ’60s — begins with the battle for the hearts and minds of the people: to show them their own capacity to create history and progress, and to pose new paradigms of how people ought to relate.  

But in spite of the declarations of the established order, there’s no end of history. The oppressed still want freedom. The wrong and injured want justice. People want power over their destinies and daily lives, and the world wants peace. Freedom, justice, power for the people and peace — these are the moving forces that now thrust themselves on the historical scene and become engines for history. 

An Internal & World Dialogue

What [black people] have to do is not only have an internal dialogue in our community, but we have to create and become part of a world dialogue that’s part of a common framework. I argue that there is no future without us recognizing interdependence — on the communal level, on the societal level and on the world level. 

“Globalization” has become such a buzzword, I don’t think most people even understand what it is. Is it economic, is it world trade? It has several dimensions to it, but it’s really capitalism with more technological capacity to impose its will. That’s it. The problem with traditional Marxists is that they still just want to talk about economics. But we’ve always talked culture and race, about compliance, about how subordinated people are taught to hate themselves. 

So we must make a more critical analysis of how all this works — on the political level, on the economic level and on the cultural level. I think the key struggles going on now are local. For example, the labor strikes. I think the immigrant workers have absolutely injected a new energy into the labor movement. 

The Black African-American Vanguard

I think we are still the vanguard. Everybody bought our moral vocabulary, our moral vision, sang our songs — other ethnic groups, seniors, women, gays, the disabled. They did it internationally, too, in other countries. So what we have to do is recapture that sense of history, of being a moral vanguard. 

No matter what changes are made for other groups, because of the historical nature of African oppression in this country, until black people have equality, equality doesn’t exist as an American reality. Any group can go through a door, but that doesn’t necessarily mean blacks can. But if blacks can go through a door, everybody can.

Source: Interview by Erin Aubry Kaplan L.A. WEEKLY:.

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Reinventing Malcolm with Marable

Pursuing Pathology by Another Name

By Dr. Maulana Karenga


Every work reflects, consciously or unconsciously, a philosophical framework within which it is rooted, conceived and carried out, no matter what claims are made about objectivity and detached critical analysis, and Manning Marable’s recent, posthumously published and problematic book on the life of Min. Malcolm X, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, is not exempt from this rule or reality. Indeed, Marable’s work and the subsequent controversy of denunciation and praise which surrounds it raises larger questions beyond the book about how we understand, interpret and write history. It also raises interrelated questions of how we address the tendency of so many Black intellectuals to embrace the deconstructionist approach to history and humanities writing, pursuing criticism as an act of faith and revelation of the unseemly as proof of progress toward “humanizing” persons thought to be in need of it.

Clearly, deconstructive writing as critical analysis is to be embraced and encouraged, but deconstructionism in its most negative forms can easily degenerate into collecting and musing over trivia, trash and other extraneous information whose sensationalist character becomes a substitute for things relevant and more intellectually rewarding. Indeed, it becomes little more than the passionate pursuit of racialized pathology by another name. And, at its worst, it takes the form of “scavenger history,” the constant search for stench and stain, bottom feeding on the salacious, unseemly and sensational. This leads to pretensions and claims of revealing new material and offering original insights into things found earlier by others and rejected as uninstructive and unuseful to a more disciplined and rigorous scholarship.

It is Malcolm, himself, who affirmed that “of all our studies, history is best prepared to reward our research.” But this, in the Malcolmian critical thinking tradition, assumes a mind receptive to discovery, not one determined to prove preconceptions. And it presupposes an emancipatory intent in pursuit of knowledge, not one that binds the mind in ever-tighter conceptual chains forged and offered as liberational tools by the established order. As Malcolm noted in a lecture at Harvard, the logic of the oppressed cannot be the logic of the oppressor, if they seek liberation.

Marable embraced a deconstructionist approach to the life of Malcolm X as one of repeated re-invention as the title of his book, Malcolm X: A Life of Re-Invention, indicates. It is this academically faddish and popular culture category that informs and problematizes Marable’s work, for it can be understood as an expression of agency or indictment. Thus, it can reflect creative and constructive change or manipulative masking and shape-shifting of the most indictable kind.

It is also Malcolm in his Autobiography who defined the positive self-constructive changes of his life. He said, “my whole life has been a chronology of changes.” Moreover, he states that “despite my firm convictions, I have been always a man who tries to face facts and to accept the reality of life as new experiences and new knowledge unfolds it. I have always kept an open mind which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand and hand with every intelligent search for truth.”

This is salutary change and self-transformation that the Odu Ifa (245:1) teaches when it says, “If we are given birth, we should bring ourselves into being again.” This is self-creation in the most positive sense, not the negative deconstructionist conception of invention as a deliberate disguising, a constant change of costumes and character in manipulative ways. Unfortunately, Marable’s reinvention of Malcolm is too often portrayed in negative and diminishing ways, depriving Malcolm of one of his most definitive characteristics, an audacious agency reflective of the awesome history and expansive humanity of his people.

Conceptually imprisoned by the philosophical framework he has chosen and presuppositions it invites and imposes, Malcolm is portrayed as a wily wearer of “multiple masks” with an astute ability “to package himself.” Moreover, he lined his life with “layers of personality,” “manipulated” his voice, told tales and was “consciously a performer.”

Pursuing the deconstructionist popular culture path, Marable situates Malcolm in the folk tradition of Black outlaws and dissidents, not the tradition of master teacher and moral leader. He assigns to this list Gabriel Prosser, Nat Turner, Stagger Lee, blues guitarist Robert Johnson, and catering to the hip-hop constituency, rapper Tupac Shakur. A few lines down we discover he is not talking about Malcolm, but rather Detroit Red. This too is a problem of his portrayal of Malcolm, the collapsing of Detroit Red with Malcolm X, refusing to accept the radical rupture Malcolm makes to reconstruct himself as a more worthy and world-historical person and a continuously unfolding human possibility. This is the audacious agency that appealed even to President Obama in his search for an African anchor for his identity, purpose and direction, and is the basis of Malcolm’s durability as a model of African and human excellence and achievement among his people.

Marable tells us that he and his researchers and perhaps co-writers of sections, wanted to humanize Malcolm, a kind of saving him from his “manufactured” self and from the alleged mythological conceptions of him hosted and harbored by those too appreciative of Malcolm to see his flaws. But it is important to know what these “humanizers” really mean by this self-assigned and sanctimonious sounding mission of humanizing Malcolm. In such a conception, the flaws are the defining feature of Malcolm’s being human and his excellence assumes a secondary role and relevance.

Malcolm expressed a myriad of flaws, but Marable believes he exaggerated some and left out others, and he must set the historical record straight, assigning him flaws which cater to or coincide with current tastes and talk, disrobing and redressing him in costumes of assumed audience and publisher and PR preference. Thus, Marable dismisses Malcolm’s pre-Muslim serious juvenile and adult lumpen life, downgrading it as lumpen lite. He pursues his deconstructive argument against available evidence by characterizing Malcolm’s pre-Muslim life of crime as a thief, robber, numbers runner, dope-dealer, pimp, panderer and burglar by terming it “amateurish,” “clumsy,” and “ridiculous,” and calling his crime partners “a motley crew.”

In addition, he tells us that pre-Muslim Malcolm’s efforts to shield his younger brother from lumpen life, “suggests he was never himself a hardened criminal.” It’s like arguing a mafia member, shielding his son from his business or a pimp protecting his daughter from prostitution makes them less lumpen, i.e., less committed to crime. It is such specious speculation and repeated misreading of Malcolm in too many places that calls to mind a diligent but mistaken scholar trying to translate a Swahili text with a Zulu dictionary. (TO BE CONTINUED)

21 April 2011


LA Sentinel

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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.—


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Malcolm X

A Life of Reinvention

By Manning Marable

Years in the making-the definitive biography of the legendary black activist. Of the great figure in twentieth-century American history perhaps none is more complex and controversial than Malcolm X. Constantly rewriting his own story, he became a criminal, a minister, a leader, and an icon, all before being felled by assassins’ bullets at age thirty-nine. Through his tireless work and countless speeches he empowered hundreds of thousands of black Americans to create better lives and stronger communities while establishing the template for the self-actualized, independent African American man. In death he became a broad symbol of both resistance and reconciliation for millions around the world.

Manning Marable’s new biography of Malcolm is a stunning achievement. Filled with new information and shocking revelations that go beyond the Autobiography, Malcolm X unfolds a sweeping story of race and class in America, from the rise of Marcus Garvey and the Ku Klux Klan to the struggles of the civil rights movement in the fifties and sixties.

Reaching into Malcolm’s troubled youth, it traces a path from his parents’ activism through his own engagement with the Nation of Islam, charting his astronomical rise in the world of Black Nationalism and culminating in the never-before-told true story of his assassination. Malcolm X will stand as the definitive work on one of the most singular forces for social change, capturing with revelatory clarity a man who constantly strove, in the great American tradition, to remake himself anew.

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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?

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#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 – Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 – Don’t Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 – Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An 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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Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change

By John Lewis

The Civil Rights Movement gave rise to the protest culture we know today, and the experiences of leaders like Congressman Lewis have never been more relevant. Now, more than ever, this nation needs a strong and moral voice to guide an engaged population through visionary change. Congressman John Lewis was a leader in the American Civil Rights Movement. He was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and played a key role in the struggle to end segregation. Despite more than forty arrests, physical attacks, and serious injuries, John Lewis remained a devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence. He is the author of his autobiography, Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of a Movement, and is the recipient of numerous awards from national and international institutions, including the Lincoln Medal; the John F. Kennedy “Profile in Courage” Lifetime Achievement Award (the only one of its kind ever awarded); the NAACP Spingarn Medal; and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, among many others.

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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 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 17 February 2012




 Home    Civil Rights: Struggle for Black Power  Education & History  The Du Bois-Malcolm-King

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