ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



 Donations can only go so far in the complexity that is Hurricane Katrina. It is

not just a natural disaster, but an American Pandora’s Box

exposing decades of racial inequalities for the world to see.



We Are No Longer the Refugees & Immigrants

Blacks in Need of Katrina Refugee Housing & Other People of Color

By Charles Chea


For the last three days, I have been sending out e-mails and making phone calls to give information about ways in which people can contribute to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. I spent time talking with individuals, with family, and with organizations suggesting the best direction they could take in this effort. I contacted people, regardless of race or class, because natural disasters do not see race or class either. However, it is unfortunate that race and class are pervasive issues in the prevention and remedy of natural disasters. 

Therefore, as an Asian American, I make it a pertinent effort to outreach to my fellow Asian Americans and emphasize what their contributions could mean in the long-run. The efforts of Asian Americans to collectively contribute to affected areas like New Orleans and Biloxi will not only help with immediate problems, but the gesture will have its place in the history of diplomatic cross-cultural relations. The majority of the Asian Americans that I have contacted are making financial contributions, as well as material contributions of clothing and food. Some are donating humble amounts, while others are getting together with their community organizations and the companies for whom they work. This is a safe distance most of us keep because we have other “priorities.” But since this tragedy strikes at the heart of a major black community in the United States, the contributions of non-black people of color must be larger than usual, and for good reason. 

Donations can only go so far in the complexity that is Hurricane Katrina. It is not just a natural disaster, but an American Pandora’s Box exposing decades of racial inequalities for the world to see. We are seeing images that could be mistaken as photos from Haiti during its crises. In New Orleans, a majority population of black people are being barricaded from entering Algiers, the least affected and most livable area in the city currently. They have faced the subconscious of a racist nation in full blast, most notably with the now notorious pictures depicting “Blacks as looters and whites as finders.” Even worse, there have been reports of relief workers discriminating, such as first rescuing “vulnerable [white] tourists in the midst of chaos.” There is race-based selectivity happening which is determining whether or not black people will live or die. 

The United States is based upon a subconscious caste system that has been most oppressive against blacks and has long existed before this current catastrophe.  Non-black people of color have long benefited from their struggle with numerous black heroes and movements that made the global Third World a major agenda. We can talk about the black Buffalo soldiers in the Philippines who abandoned the U.S. Army to fight on behalf of the Filipino struggle against colonialism. We can talk about the petitioning and outspokenness of the black community when Japanese-Americans were being interned. We can talk about Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Assata Shakur, the Black Panthers, and other major black figures who opened their arms to the struggles of Asians, Latino/as, and Native Americans. They sat on major platforms and could have simply ignored us for the sole benefit of the black community, but they praised us and spoke on our behalf – especially Asians and Asian Americans.   

The solidarity of the past, unfortunately, is fading quickly. I have witnessed it being bleached away for sometime because of the growing opportunities afforded to non-black people of color. Frustration from both black and non-black people of color have further irritated solidarity and the alienation continues. Many activists across the racial spectrum have been working on trying to solve these issues, but it has been a long and slow failure because of the inability to find an agreeable and stable platform. 

Some have completely abandoned the possibility of ever seeing true solidarity and have adopted a pessimistic way of reasoning. Others have been taking moderate steps, hoping to salvage and rebuild upon its original foundation. The rest can only see revolution as the way of breaking down this oppression, shifting things to a completely new platform and rebuilding from there. I agree with the revolutionists, believing that the original plans of solidarity can not be salvaged, but rather reinvented and rebuilt. With this, Hurricane Katrina can be the entry to new ways of change, but only if Asian Americans, Latino/as, and other non-black people of color take the opportunity to do so. 

In the following weeks, months, and perhaps years, refugee housing will be needed for many of those who have faced the devastation. The majority of these people are black, and while people of all races will need help, it will be blacks who will find it most difficult in their search for housing. For those of us who are not black and honest with ourselves, we understand that a lot of our families and friends have a wanton stigma against blacks even prior to Hurricane Katrina. Undoubtedly it will continue after all are evacuated, and without intervention, it will continue in the selection of housing. I have spoken to some Asian Americans already, a few who were refugees themselves at one time, and they have already been vocal about their preference to host Asians… and if not Asian, then whites. The request is not only racially disproportionate to the number of people in need of help, but it is also a racist notion that can further break us apart.            

This delicate situation also means that we can push it the other way, if we take steps to promote fair refugee housing among all communities, but especially the ones with whom we are most familiar. Asian American activists must make a consistent effort to diminish the anti-black stigma in our community, while it should be expected other communities do the same. This time is most dire, and as we have seen with the failure of the government, racial prioritization hinders a true humanitarian effort – a platform where race should be of least concern and the expression of a united humanity takes physical form. We must push our community, no matter how resistant they are, to understand the grave affects of anti-blackness in the United States. This means being vocal with our colleagues, friends, family, and strangers. If the larger population of non-black people of color were to take black people within their homes (perhaps the most private physical domain there is), it would be immensely powerful in bringing the community together. 

Of course, this is easier said than done. As I have stated earlier, personally, it has been very difficult to outreach on this premise so far. But I need to keep trying. The acknowledgment of black oppression and their contributions to the struggle of others is the original American gospel. It is now, in this time especially, that they need our help.

I am pleading to activists, organizers, and educators to prioritize education about anti-blackness in our communities and to collaborate this with the promotion of refugee housing. If we are to be true to the fight for racial justice, we must fight this stigma.

I am asking people who do not fit in those categories to consider the words in this letter and to become everyday educators. Educate yourself about the history, educate others, and open doors for refugee housing. 

If you do not feel moved by the history I have presented, please consider the value of selflessness. Forget race, forget class, and just consider the fact that these people’s lives were destroyed in the hands of nature. 

Nothing, be it race, class, or a lack of transportation, should get in the way of black folks and a warm home.

posted 11 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


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#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 Katrina Papers

By Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

The Katrina Papers  provides space not only for the traumatic events but also for ruminations on authors such as Richard Wright and theorists like Deleuze and Guattarri. The result is a complex though thoroughly accessible book. The struggle with form—the search for a medium proper to the complex social, personal, and political ramifications of an event unprecedented in this scholar’s life and in American social history—lies at the very heart of The Katrina Papers . It depicts an enigmatic and multi-stranded world view which takes the local as its nexus for understanding the global.  It resists the temptation to simplify or clarify when simplification and clarification are not possible. Ward’s narrative is, at times, very direct, but he always refuses to simplify the complex emotional and spiritual volatility of the process and the historical moment that he is witnessing. The end result is an honesty that is both pedagogical and inspiring.—Hank Lazer

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake.

She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion


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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama’s political success and Oprah Winfrey’s financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today… than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits.

Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don’t know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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Pictures and Progress

Early Photography and the Making of African American Identity

Edited by Maurice O. Wallace and Shawn Michelle Smith

Pictures and Progress explores how, during the nineteenth century and the early twentieth, prominent African American intellectuals and activists understood photography’s power to shape perceptions about race and employed the new medium in their quest for social and political justice. They sought both to counter widely circulating racist imagery and to use self-representation as a means of empowerment. In this collection of essays, scholars from various disciplines consider figures including Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and W. E. B. Du Bois as important and innovative theorists and practitioners of photography. In addition, brief interpretive essays, or “snapshots,” highlight and analyze the work of four early African American photographers. Featuring more than seventy images, Pictures and Progress brings to light the wide-ranging practices of early African American photography, as well as the effects of photography on racialized thinking.

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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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12 July 2012

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