ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



  We need to be more . . . willing to learn from each other, and

adopt a spirit of collaboration. We need to tabulate those listservs,

 websites, blogs, whether black, white, Asian or, Hispanic, that

we are able to work with and use in our efforts.



Rootsblog — Katrina Commentary: The Players & Complexities of  The Game



Katrina & Kalamu

Creating Community in Cyberspace

“web sites have been and will continue to be vital” (Miriam)


To: K. Brisbane  

We have a coworker who is from Gulfport/Biloxi and has just come back from trying to help his parents see what they had left (they had evacuated to his house up here in North Mississippi).  He said the churches were the only ones down there helping (the people from our church who went down had someone originally from down there and they took back roads to keep from being stopped by the authorities – sneaked in, you might say).  He said they had not seen any FEMA people til more than a week after, and that the Red Cross just showed up last Sunday.  He said they were passing out ice and MREs, but the churches were the ones providing help all along.It’s what I’m hearing from my cousin down there, but I don’t hear from her much because she’s staying at someone else’s house in Mobile, AL while she and her husband go back and forth to Pascagoula trying to work on their house that had 4.5 feet of water in it during the storm.I assume you’ve read the stories about people trying to walk out of N.O. being turned back by armed deputies?  if not, go to some of these: deputies and their chief need to go to jail. Now. 

–Waurene Roberson


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Free in Tobago 

How do we let people know what is really going on down there?  I thought of passing on emails coming from folk there or who are getting info from family members down there.  Read Waurene’s account [above]K. Brisbane

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It’s so heartening to know (1) that people are responding so well to the crisis (2) that the folk are rising, phoenix-like from the ashes (or, rather, the wading in the water), and (3) that musicians, artists, and writers are using their talents to focus attention on the issues.  You, Kalamu, and others are deep in that water. —Miriam

Rudy and Arthur (Rootsblog), you and others like you who have web sites have been and will continue to be vital in the effort of distributing information and raising awareness. —Miriam 

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sites have been and will continue to be vital —Miriam

During the evacuation drama, if you recall several of us set up a kind of clearinghouse—Joyce King, Herbert Rogers, Arthur Flowers and others—we all made use of our email address books in passing along and filtering information and finding out the health of people we knew and how they could be assisted. So we all discovered that this tool—email system—was not just for personal and business uses, but also a means of responding to community needs and acting as a community.

Most of these individuals we only know through cyberspace. Most of us have never touched flesh. Then, there were also academic listservs and more commercial websites, as well as bloggers who all came together in relating Katrina information, and relating to each other. This whole episode in the coming together of these diverse groups and individuals needs some reflection and thought on this special phenomenon.

One thing I learned is that I had to better organize information I was receiving for there was a ton of it. Of course, I had a couple of people who asked to be taken off my list. But they were a tiny few. To manage the material I started using folders and sub-folders. I also have an email system that can hold 2000mb of information and here I also use folders and I have a security system that assures me. I have also started using more links on ChickenBones: A Journal (, which is also a way of organizing information, that is, where websites and blogs are. I also had to make decisions on what to publish and what to link, what will have lasting value.

One of the peculiar things about ChickenBones in relation to other websites is that we have always behaved in a dynamic manner, unlike the behavior of “journals” and “magazines” with weekly, monthly routines. If information is sent us, it might be up an hour later. One well-known black journal was on vacation during most of the Katrina coverage. So with its  flexibility and dynamism and collaborative spirit ChickenBones was probably able to play a greater role than some other independent black websites.

Of course, our non-commercial, non-institutional character kept us at a distance from “media objectivity” and “Katrina donation” efforts as was the case with the more commercial and institution connected websites. Of course, I think that cultural consciousness and social  and personal commitment played a role, also, in these matters. Of course, there were black organizations with websites who did nothing in regard to the Katrina efforts. Yet some of them worry about where they appear in google.

As I have stated Kalamu ya Salaam  is my model for black commitment in cyberspace. He has hosted the listserv e-drum 365 days for seven years. No charge. He used his new website Breath of Life (, another of his non-commercial efforts, significantly and strategically, with programmed music to soothe our anguished souls and inspire our efforts. And he has been planning another site to deal with video and sound and New Orleans cultural life. He has been theorizing for years on the use of the internet by writers, artists, and other cultural workers. So he is the central example for me and others should pay attention to the genius of the man “Digital Technology & Telling Our Story.” I have been observing his work since 1999.

I think we all need to become more conscious of the tools and the potential of the tools we have in our possession. We need to be more conscious and aware of each other, and patient and tolerant with each other, and willing to learn from each other, and adopt a spirit of collaboration. We need to tabulate those listservs, websites, blogs, whether black white, Asian or, Hispanic, that we are able to work with and use in our efforts.

The Katrina experience should be viewed as a wake-up call for blacks in cyberspace. The internet can be used for more than just selling our wares and other business enticements, tea room talk, and institutional transmission of institutional information. I’m an infant, four years in cyberspace, I know I’m still learning, reflecting, figuring how I can make best use of our efforts and make it relevant to black and progressive struggle across the globe.

We know that it’s possible to make the internet a much fuller experience. As TV surpassed radio, the internet can have the same kind of impact. We are far away from a text-based internet, we got images and sound now (which can be experienced in combination), and Kalamu is working on his own website of image and sound together. With Windows we can listen to Breath of Life while at the same time browse ChickenBones. Or listen to Bob Marley while we read an article on ChickenBones. Or listen to Big Chief Monk Boudreaux  on the Tipitina’s website.

And there is internet radio, which I doubt played any significant role at all during this crisis, because people still ain’t hip to it. Times-Picayune discovered it had more influence online than with its paper copy. People are learning that there is no conflict between paper publishing and internet publishing. Academics are also discovering this fact. Because they publish an article on ChickenBones that does not stop that same article being published in paper.

So all of us got to regear our thoughts with regard to the vitality and necessity of creating community in cyberspace.

As ever and always, Rudy

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Today was Mother’s Day (when I go to spend time with my mother), so I’m just now getting around to my messages.

If you’re an infant, then I’m still in the womb, but it has just been amazing to me what you guys—you, Kalamu, Arthur, and others in the network like Herbert and Sandra—are doing.  I’m not a techie at all, so this whole experience has been a real revelation to me.  Although Herbert had told me about ChickenBones, I really had not accessed it or known about Kalamu’s or Arthur’s work.

In your essay, you have made a very cogent and insightful assessment of the significance of the technological tools that are available—and are yet to come—in communicating ideas.  In fact, I’m going to send your statement to people I know who are hooked in and on the new stuff, and I’ll print up a copy for one of my radical /progressive/activist friends who criticizes use of the technology without understanding its tremendous impact.

Thank you for all that you’re doing and thinking and communicating.

Peace, Miriam


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From Canada

I fully agree Rudolph. I have sent on your emails to my friends and family across the United States, Canada, Mexico and Guyana and they in turn have sent your e-mails on to their contacts. We have a powerful tool of communication at our disposal and in time we will with effort and continued planning be able to use it to its fullest potential. Keep up the good work. 

Claire Carew  

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I thought that many of you with whom I’ve been communicating in the past two weeks would be interested in reading this assessment of the significance of technology with respect to the Katrina disaster:  in helping to locate people; getting help to them in the form of jobs and information, spreading the real truth; negating the lies from the government and, in some cases, the media; and developing a discourse around such issues as racism, displacement, reconstruction, and the environment. 

Like me, you all probably felt like stations on the Underground Railroad, with messages, questions, appeals, and published articles, coming in right and left, and I thank you for all your work, which bore tangible results.  An African American lawyer in Tobago has sized up all the charitable organizations to find out which ones—other than the Red Cross & Salvation Army—are really helping on the grassroots letter.  Another organized her friends, bought supplies, and mailed them to Louisiana. 

One person has been spirit-led to start a purple ribbon crosses campaign, which is catching on like wildfire.  Many have written powerful poems and essays about the tragedy, while others are capturing the voices of the displaced.  A friend who cares about the Cuban people keeps us abreast of their concern and offers of help.  Another made posters for the demonstration last week and brought along several of her colleagues.  Several searched web sites looking for those who hadn’t been heard from, and many have helped find temporary or permanent positions for the evacuees. 

The main thing is that we’re working together, many of us for the first time, to reach out to those in need.  —Miriam  

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Miriam and Claire, peace and blessings,

thanks for your kind words and efforts. I took the liberty and posted your comments here on ChickenBones. Note also that Kalamu is on the case with Breath of Life. There’s a rap tune already out with Kanye West’s comments about George Bush.

It is indeed astounding how far many of us are in back of the curve with respect to the uses of digital technology. We have many high schools and teachers who neither have computers and computer labs and technical staff to maintain them, to teach the various uses that they can be put to. We have teachers and professors who boast that they do not use email. It’s a shameful affair. And, of course, these adults do not trust our students with the technology because we are afraid of our children–what they might discover about us and what they might say about us. So we place great restrictions on their use.

So many of our children are poor and thus have little access to the technology and its educational value. And, of course, the public libraries are no longer teaching institutions, and so they are of little help to those students who drop out, and they are many.  Of course, there are some who are indeed making use of digital technology. Kalamu has been involved in teaching digital technology to high school students–writing scripts and making film. His teaching program is all written out. I’ve seen some of that work and it is excellent.

But, of course, it is not just tech knowledge to which I refer. It is technical knowledge and right purpose and attitude, as can be understood in Kalamu’s WORDS: A Neo-Griot Manifesto. It is not just technical knowledge, but an informed approach that will make the difference. We telling our own story, from our own unique sensibility, that’s the thing we got to get to. And from the recent fiasco in New Orleans we know how important that is. 

Corporate media produced important material with their cameras, but their reports and analyses were off the mark. Our email systems, blogs, and websites changed how the story was shaped and we discovered quite quickly that other people from Europe, Asia, and Africa were not looking on our suffering with the same insensitivity as many of our fellow countrymen.

So our educators and our schools got to get hip to what century we in and begin to behave accordingly. Your words and sentiments, I believe, will go a long way in altering these regressive attitudes. As you know, it is still a chore to teach black history in public schools, for fear of offending a minority of white students. Cable TV and NPR and PBS will not do the work for us, for here too the messages are usually shaped by those who are not us, for us, and often fear us. Academics at colleges and universities have the technology. But there are only a few that are making full use of it for their professors or for their students or for the general community. Again, shameless.

But cyberspace is much more democratic, cheaper and thus accessible for those who don’t have corporate or foundation backing. Thus there are many more opportunities and  greater possibilities of shaping our world as we need it to be shaped and when we need it shaped. These efforts depend on individual initiative, commitment, and enduring consciousness. What Kalamu, Ethelbert, Arthur Flowers, and I do today is only pioneering work. We are still at the early stages. We still learning the technology and the technology is improving and we still learning how to work it and work with each other.

But I am hopeful and expect great things to happen. As ever and always, Rudy

posted 18 September 2005

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music website > writing website > daily blog > twitter > facebook >

Men We Love, Men We Hate SAC writings from Douglass, McDonogh 35, and McMain high schools in New Orleans.

An anthology on the topic of men and relationships with men

Ways of Laughing An Anthology of Young Black Voices Photographed & Edited by Kalamu ya Salaam

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Basil Davidson obituary—By Victoria Brittain—9 July 2010—Davidson [(9 November 1914 – 9 July 2010) a British historian, writer and Africanist] was enthused early on by the end of British colonialism and the prospects of pan-Africanism in the 1960s, and he wrote copiously and with warmth about newly independent Ghana and its leader, Kwame Nkrumah. He went to work for a year at the University of Accra in 1964. Later he threw himself into the reporting of the African liberation wars in the Portuguese colonies, particularly in Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau. . . . In the 1980s, with most of the African liberation wars now won—except for South Africa’s— Davidson turned much of his attention to more theoretical questions about the future of the nation state in Africa. He remained a passionate advocate of pan-Africanism. In 1988 he made a long and dangerous journey into Eritrea, writing a persuasive defence of the nationalists’ right to independence from Ethiopia, and an equally eloquent attack on the revolutionary leader Colonel Mengistu and the regime that had overthrown Haile Selassie. Guardian

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Basil Davidson’s  “Africa Series”

 Different But Equal  /  Mastering A Continent  /  Caravans of Gold  / The King and the City / The Bible and The Gun

West Africa Before the Colonial Era: A History to 1850


African Slave Trade: Precolonial History, 1450-1850


John Henrik Clarke—A Great and Mighty Walk


*   *   *   *   *’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 Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine

By  Ilan Pappe

It is amazing, according to Pappe, how the media had not managed to see the similarities between the ethnic cleansing that was happening in Bosnia with the one that is happening in Palestine. According to Drazen Petrovic (pg.2-3), who has dealt with the definition of ethnic cleansing, ethnic cleansing is associated with nationalism, the making of new nation states and national struggle all of which are the driving force within the Zionist ideology of Israel. The consultancy council had used the exact same methods as the methods that were later to be used by the Serbs in Bosnia. In fact Pappe argues that such methods were employed in order to establish the state of Israel in 1948.

The book is divided into 12 chapters with 19 illustrations in black and white, with 7 maps of Palestine and 2 tables. These include old photographs of refugee camps, and maps of Palestine before and after the ethnic cleansing of 1948.

Pappe continues his writing as a revisionist historian with the intention of stating the bitter truth to his Israeli contemporaries and the fact that they have to face the truth of their nation being built upon an ethnic cleansing of the population of Palestine. One can sense an optimistic hope in Pappe’s writing when he talks about the few who are in Israel who are aware of their country’s brutal past especially 1948 and the foundation of the state upon ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.—PaLint

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

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

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

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Aké: The Years of Childhood

By Wole Soyinka

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


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


who alternately terrify and inspire him


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

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Faces At The Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism

By Derrick Bell

In nine grim metaphorical sketches, Bell, the black former Harvard law professor who made headlines recently for his one-man protest against the school’s hiring policies, hammers home his controversial theme that white racism is a permanent, indestructible component of our society. Bell’s fantasies are often dire and apocalyptic: a new Atlantis rises from the ocean depths, sparking a mass emigration of blacks; white resistance to affirmative action softens following an explosion that kills Harvard’s president and all of the school’s black professors; intergalactic space invaders promise the U.S. President that they will clean up the environment and deliver tons of gold, but in exchange, the bartering aliens take all African Americans back to their planet. Other pieces deal with black-white romance, a taxi ride through Harlem and job discrimination.

Civil rights lawyer Geneva Crenshaw, the heroine of Bell’s And We Are Not Saved (1987), is back in some of these ominous allegories, which speak from the depths of anger and despair. Bell now teaches at New York University Law School.—Publishers Weekly

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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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Allah, Liberty, and Love

The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom

By Irshad Manji

In Allah, Liberty and Love, Irshad Manji paves a path for Muslims and non-Muslims to transcend the fears that stop so many of us from living with honest-to-God integrity: the fear of offending others in a multicultural world as well as the fear of questioning our own communities. Since publishing her international bestseller, The Trouble with Islam Today, Manji has moved from anger to aspiration. She shows how any of us can reconcile faith with freedom and thus discover the Allah of liberty and love—the universal God that loves us enough to give us choices and the capacity to make them. Among the most visible Muslim reformers of our era, Manji draws on her experience in the trenches to share stories that are deeply poignant, frequently funny and always revealing about these morally confused times.

What prevents young Muslims, even in the West, from expressing their need for religious reinterpretation? What scares non-Muslims about openly supporting liberal voices within Islam? How did we get into the mess of tolerating intolerable customs, such as honor killings, and how do we change that noxious status quo?

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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 /

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 14 July 2012 




Home  Conversations

Related files: Conversations with Miriam  / Do New Orleans Folk Have a Choice?  / Sitting ducks at the superdome (Claire Carew)