ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
In 1965, there was a small hurricane named Betsy. Betsy flooded the Ninth Ward.
It was rumored that the city government blew a hole in the level
so the water could flood the Ninth Ward.
Katrina killed those already dying!
By Joe Williams III
I was raised in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans. It wasn’t a pretty picture then, and it wasn’t a pretty picture before Katrina hit. The Ninth Ward is a holding area of America for reserve laborers, or workers. It is a place where the poor suffer until death. It is known for its drug traffic, unemployment, gangs, and nightclubs that are open all night. It was the home of one of America’s worst housing projects, the Desire Projects, which was closed a few years ago. Adjacent to the projects was George Washington Carver High School. I dropped out of Carver in 1960 to enlist in the military. I entered the military because I needed to be circumcised, and badly needed some dental work done. The military, like the projects and Carver High, was just another avenue for me to rebel against my environment.
I was in Carver High when it first opened. It was like a training ground for crime, gangs, and drugs. One of the worst prisons in America was Angola Penitentiary. In our second year in high school, some of the inmates from Angola Prison were released, or paroled, into our classrooms at Carver. I knew a lot of those ex-convicts, so it was not a shock to be sitting next to them in class. After all, I was tugging with their younger brothers, or sleeping with their sisters. One of the ex-cons started dating my Spanish teacher; she was a few years younger than him. We used to go off the school grounds for lunch and drink white port and lemon juice. One day, my buddies and I got rounded up by the principal. We made the mistake of cutting our heads bald at lunchtime and going back to school drunk. My English teacher was also a policeman. I guess he was also a cop in the English class. Because he was the one who took all of us bald guys into the principle’s office.
One day, a group of clowns from across the Industrial Canal, the area where the level broke during Katrina, one of these across the canal guys jumped my brother and bite him real bad, a knife wound, also. When I heard it, it was wartime. The whole school was at war that evening.
Our high school was a sort of training ground for Angola prison. It was where many of the youth in the Ninth Ward ended up, or 6 feet under from a violent death, usually from gun shot wounds. Sometimes, we made our own pistols from car antennas, clothespins, rubber bands, and nails. But shotguns were always around in the projects.
The projects housed a reserved work force. It was flooded by water every few years. We just thought that that’s how life was. Every once in a while, someone would die in a flood, but it was just the way we lived. Many of men in the Ninth Ward would do day work unloading ships on the (Mississippi) riverfront. It was good money, but seldom could you work all week.
New Orleans was not built as an industrial city. In fact, it functioned as a stop-off area for plantation workers (cotton and sugar cane) who were trying to go north and east to places like Chicago and St. Louis to make the industrial dollar bills from the factories. New Orleans was more a welfare town, or domestic labors. If you were standing on the corner without proof of employment or I.D. you was on your way to jail, usually 30 to 60 days.
In 1965, there was a small hurricane named Betsy. Betsy flooded the Ninth Ward. It was rumored that the city government blew a hole in the level so the water could flood the Ninth Ward. The rationale was that if they didn’t blow up the level, the whole city would have gone underwater. My grandmother was caught in that flood. She was a good domestic worker, and a faithful Christian. She worked in the rich folk’s homes, and a few times when my dad was arrested for drunken driving, she would call her rich bosses, usually a judge, and my father would be released within minutes. My grandmother died shortly after Hurricane Betsy. The neighbors said that she would sometimes walk after midnight in the middle of the streets in her night clothes, shortly after the flooding she died.
Today, my father is trapped in the waters of Katrina, like my grandmother lost her life to Betsy. My father is 87 years old, I have not heard from him since the flood started. I am a pastor and social activist today. I go out and feed the homeless, visit prisons, do sick-an-shut-in work, and minister to the youth. I have turned my life around, but my peers in New Orleans are all dead. Our whole life experience has been one of tragedy.
Americans don’t know the real story of New Orleans, the projects, the hoods, the violence, the prison cells, the rapes, the murders, the Aid’s cases, the rock cocaine, the heroin needles, the welfare checks that made it illegal for the father to be home, the real bodies floating in my mind every since I was born. America, I charge you with genocide. — firstname.lastname@example.org
posted 8 September 2005
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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 Eroticanoir.com 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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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 Mammys behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own familys 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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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 literarySchool Library Journal
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 16 January 2012