ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



  Capitalism’s nothing more than a caste system and poverty, and all its ripples,

an underscore. We LET people go without. We LET people live in poverty.

We LET people die. We limit worldviews instead of expanding them.



Katrina, Bush, and Capitalism

Tea Party Anyone?

By Mary Meekins


If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.—Bertrand Russell


The federal government’s costs related to Hurricane Katrina could easily approach $100 billion, many times as much as for any other natural disaster or the $21 billion allocated for New York City after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.–New York Times (September 6, 2005)


Read the first paragraph extracted up there and just couldn’t read anymore. I’m not a Democrat. I’m not a Republican. I’m not an across-the-board conservative, moderate, or liberal. I’m not a feminist or a womanist. Out of all the world’s ‘ist’s and ‘ism’s and subcategories, the only label I willingly, and gladly, accept is humanist—cut from the same cloth as other “make/spread love, not war” types.

Somewhere between laid-back Jimmy Buffet, “love them anyway” Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, and Pope Jean Paul II, there’s me.

That said, add capitalist to the “not” column up there because it’s horribly incongruent with the first major tenet that I believe in: and that’s that people come before all else.

The reason I stopped reading the article is because my anger started to shoot through the roof: It’s totally illogical to me that we can open the vaults after a plane slams into a building, after a quake threatens to split a state into two, or after a hurricane pummels a city, but we can’t pry it open (and better people’s lives) on disaster-free days when the sun’s shining and the skies are blue. To my eyes and ears, accepting that status quo is the equivalent of accepting that 2 + 2 = 5. It just doesn’t make sense and my mind doesn’t/won’t accept it.

It’s not that the money’s not there: Given the staggering sum of disaster-relief dollars that magically materialize after a catastrophic event, there’s a slush fund or a money tree somewhere. If we’ve got $100 billion post-catastrophe, we’ve got $100 billion prior to one.

It’s the same way I question why it is that we can, illogically, finance an inmate’s degree yet deny that same all-expenses-paid scholarship to those on the outside who’ve stayed on the right side of the law.

That same $100 billion could’ve been used to shore-up levees and refurbish underprivileged gulf coast schools and neighborhoods long before Katrina entered the picture. But Katrina’s small-school thinking.

Be it a tornado in Kansas, a hurricane in Florida, a quake in California, or a levee-breach in New Orleans, I’ve always wondered where the clean-up/rebuild funds come from. What line item in the expense column…what piggy-bank…are they raiding? $350 million for post-tsunami aid in Asia. where did that come from? $100 billion for New Orleans? Where did that come from?

My point is not to slam crisis-relief efforts but to ask why—if funds can arbitrarily be voted on, approved, and appropriated, on a moment’s notice in the face of disaster—they’re not voted on, approved and appropriated when the daily headlines are screaming that more and more people are living paycheck to paycheck and slipping deeper and deeper into poverty.

Capitalism’s nothing more than a caste system and poverty, and all its ripples, an underscore. We LET people go without. We LET people live in poverty. We LET people die. We limit worldviews instead of expanding them.

It’s not a Black issue. It’s not a White issue. It’s an issue of the “haves” opting to reward death and destruction instead of life. And we, the people, LET them.

That mouthful said, am I saying that, with or without catastrophic events, race is not an ongoing issue in this country? No. Am I absolving George Bush of gross negligence? No…pigs will fly first. Am I absolving all those at other levels who failed? No. Am I saying that race had nothing to do with sluggish recovery efforts? No. All of those things are true if you’re looking at the small picture but if you zoom out and view the bigger picture, George Bush is a symptom of a much larger problem.

As an American, and as an African-American, “Impeachment!” was my first reaction to last week’s events but, honestly, that’s just a band-aid approach. It might save us from three more years of immediate incompetence but what about the inevitable future clones cast from Bush’s mold?

Impeachment’s like having a major toothache, yet taking aspirin day after day instead of facing the dentist’s chair and drill.

Republican. Democrat. Federal. State. Local. The system is broken and bankrupt and it requires more than a band-aid to heal it. What it needs now…what it’s needed for a long time…is a major overhaul. Not just a “talking head” change but a mutiny on the bounty: throw out the Constitution, throw out every branch and level of government as we know them—and start again from scratch.

You don’t rent an apartment, buy a house, or drive a car and NEVER make repairs (major or minor). Yet that’s the way this country/government runs. We’re working off of a document that was drafted centuries ago.

If the world has a Drama Queen, the United States wears the winning sash and tiara. And the worst part is, most of the wounds are self-inflicted. Switzerland, Norway, Greenland, Canada—the nations that rarely make the headlines. Granted, they’re by no means perfect, but what are they doing right that we’re doing wrong? Why can’t we learn from those who’ve at least got it halfway right?

Capitalism is dividing us—and killing us—in more ways than one. It’s a foolish thing. Yet, as the Titanic sinks deeper and deeper into the sea, the band plays on and the passengers continue their dance.

It’s way past time for the American public to throw another Boston Tea Party and take this country back. 

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Mary Meekins, currently residing in Maryland, is a publishing phenomenon (in her own mind, anyway!). Actually, she’s an inquisitive student of the universe, an “accidental novelist,” and a freelance writer. As well as a novel-in-progress, she writes essays and short stories for various blogs, magazines, and other publications.

posted 9 September 2005

*   *   *   *   *’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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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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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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A Wreath for Emmett Till

By Marilyn Nelson; Illustrated by Philippe Lardy

This memorial to the lynched teen is in the Homeric tradition of poet-as-historian. It is a heroic crown of sonnets in Petrarchan rhyme scheme and, as such, is quite formal not only in form but in language. There are 15 poems in the cycle, the last line of one being the first line of the next, and each of the first lines makes up the entirety of the 15th. This chosen formality brings distance and reflection to readers, but also calls attention to the horrifically ugly events. The language is highly figurative in one sonnet, cruelly graphic in the next. The illustrations echo the representative nature of the poetry, using images from nature and taking advantage of the emotional quality of color.

There is an introduction by the author, a page about Emmett Till, and literary and poetical footnotes to the sonnets. The artist also gives detailed reasoning behind his choices. This underpinning information makes this a full experience, eminently teachable from several aspects, including historical and literary—School Library Journal

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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 14 July 2012 




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