ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
Thirty percent died en route. And, since charity is a fine thing and hardly human, those amiable slavers were obliged when their cargo was unloaded to pay a fine for every dead slave; slaves who were as sick as a goat in labor were thrown to the sharks
By Yambo Ouologuem
The Legend of the Saifs
After the death of the just Saif al-Heit, however, the accursed son Saif al-Haram and his minister Al Hadj Abd al-Hassana, struck by a stone in the soul they did not possess, spent large sums of money supporting the most influential and discontented families at court: twelve thousand dishes were served them at each meal; they received bribes, pensions, and titles of nobility as pompous as they were meaningless; all the magnificence of a fairy tale: their horses, to the number of 3,260, drank milk in mangers inlaid with gold and ivory. Allah harmin katamadjo!
To maintain this ostentation and satisfy his craving for glory and new lands, Saif, thanks to the complicity of the southern chiefs, extended the slave trade, which he blessed like the bloodthirsty hypocrite he was. Amidst the diabolical jubilation of priest and merchant, of family circles and public organs, niggers, who unlike God have arms but no soul, were clubbed, sold, stockpiled, haggled over, adjudicated, flogged, bound and delivered–with attentive, studied, sorrowful contempt–to the Portuguese, the Spaniards, the Arabs (on the east and north coasts), and to the French, Dutch, and English (west coast), and so scattered to the winds.
A hundred million of the damned–so moan the troubadours of Nakem when the evening vomits forth its starry diamonds–were carried away. Bound in bundles of six, shorn of all human dignity, they were flung into the Christian incognito of ships’ holds, where no light could reach them. And there was not a single trader of souls who dared, on pain of losing his own, to show his head at the hatches. A single hour in that pestilential hole, in that orgy of fever, starvation, vermin, beriberi, scurvy, suffocation, and misery, would have left no man unscathed.
Thirty percent died en route. And, since charity is a fine thing and hardly human, those amiable slavers were obliged when their cargo was unloaded to pay a fine for every dead slave; slaves who were as sick as a goat in labor were thrown to the sharks. Newborn babes incurred the same fate: they were thrown overboard as surplus. . . . Half naked and utterly bewildered, the niggertrash, young as the new moon, were crowded into open pens and auctioned off. there they lay beneath the eyes of the all-powerful (and just) God, a human tide, a black mass of putrid flesh, a spectacle of ebbing life and nameless suffering.
The heap of slaves writhed, cries and moans were heard, bodies were trampled when the trader cracked his whip to wake up the niggers in the front rows. Those who had come to see the sight kept a respectful distance and watched the priests who were here to proclaim the word of Christ but could only fight down their disgust, hang their heads, and let their rosaries slip through their fingers. . . .
Fascinated by the bodies of the slaves or by their quivering sex organs (it happened time and time again), a young girl whose beauty outmarveled her finery, with the piping voice, the restless eye, the fluttering throat of a guinea, would turn to her pink-and-white mother, if not for consolation then at least for a sign of interest or an authoritative opinion on black sexuality. One of the charming replies was: “The Holy father doesn’t approve of café au lait. . . .”
Others, Less circumspect, like the fiery-eyed English pirate Hawkins, made their profit and were knighted by the hand of a queen, Queen Elizabeth among others, which permitted them to enrich their escutcheons with “a demi-Moor in his proper color, bound with a cord.” God save the Queen!
Meanwhile at the court of the Nakem Empire, the unpopular Saif al-Haram, once the restive nobility had been domesticated, incited his minister to stir up “as much trouble as possible” between the backward, untamable, and perpetually warring tribes.
For there were no lengths to which Saif would not go to obtain cattle, land, and other capital goods. Engineered with a more than machiavellian guile, the raids of the Masai, the Zulus, the Jaga so infuriated the victimized tribes, races, and peoples (so it was ordained from On High) that an entire tribe would tremble with impatience when its chief, hurling his lance in the direction of the “enemy race” (accused of having carried off such and such villagers and sold them into slavery), roared that the time had come for their assegais to drink the accursed enemy blood.
Cruel peoples, whose speech is a kind of croaking, fierce killers, men of the jungle, living in a state of bestiality, mating with the first woman they find, tall in stature and horrible to look upon, hairy men with abnormally long nails, the Zulus, Jaga, and Masai feed on human flesh and go naked, armed with shields, darts, and daggers. Savage in their customs and daily lives, they know no faith nor law nor king. in the early dawn they crawl out of their wretched forest huts and destroy everything before them with fire and sword, pillaging the remotest corners of the Nakem Empire and driving the populations of those regions from their homes with no other recourse but to throw themselves on the mercy of Saif or to perish of hunger, sickness, and privation.
At that same time the Nakem provinces suffered such famine and pestilence that a very little food came to cost the price of a slave–at least three florins. under the lash of necessity a father sold his son, a brother his brother; no villainy was too great if food might be procured by it. Those who were sold under pressure of starvation were bought by traders come from São Tomé in ships laden with food. the sellers claimed that these people were already slaves, and the sold, in their eagerness to be fed, were only too glad to concur. And so countless free men made slaves of themselves, sold themselves by necessity.
In almost every part of the empire and its dependencies an unprecedented orgy of violence ensued. the capture of rebel tribes, of free men, of defeated warriors, the sacrifice of their chief and the feasting on his flesh, became ritual acts, which entered into the customs of those jittery jigs, whose barbarity fell in with the plans of the emperor and his notables. . . .
Through intermediaries, Saif al-Haram encouraged the raiders to bless the wounded captives with a stroke of the saber, to carry their skulls spitted on lances and assegais to the door of the victor who–God wills it!–was feasted as a hero. And as though a Black really had the soul of a man, the chief of the prisoners and his family were given over to the mercies of the village women and children who whirled around them, leaping, dancing, singing, shouting insults, and spitting on them in order, so they swore, to cleanse their souls of Satan’s blackness. On the third day of their captivity, the sorcerer, his eyes aflame with pride and avenging hate, skinned more than shaved their skulls, which were then rubbed with karite butter.
Then each village in turn danced around the prisoners with a crudely carved knife and “stabbed” the chief once for every year of his won age and once for every relative he himself had lost in the last slave raid. And before yielding his place to the next villager’s blood lust, he bent his knee before the prisoner, taunted him and reviled him, spat on him and gave him three sharp blows, punctuated with a clicking of the tongue. And all laughed uproariously at the sight of the blood oozing from the victim’s bruises.
On the night of the third day, his ankles weighed down with tinkling bells, the chief of the prisoners–bound hand and foot as the women whirled around him, lewdly uncovering their nakedness for a flashing moment, arching their backs and tapping their pubic hair with the palms of their hands–was castrated by the sorcerer amidst the ecstasy of the crowd, whose collective rejoicing verged on hysteria.
And paralyzed with pain, the castrated husband, his thighs sticky with blood, looked on helpless as his wives–first standing, but in that same instant rolled in the dust–became the harlots of the victorious village, stripped, and then to the mad rhythm of the tom-tom taken each in turn by every man and woman in the village. . . .
The next day but one, on the eve of the sacrifice, men and women were “purified” by bathing and massaged with cow butter (their children had been disemboweled immediately after the raid). On the seventh day of their captivity, they were so rubbed with peanut oil and tied to a pole, half dead with pent-up rage under the taunting words and gestures of the villagers. Made feverish by the thought of their impending death, with burning eyes and foaming mouths, the captives butted the air with their heads and, frantic to kill their enemies, clawed and bit and snarled at them as they passed.
On the evening of the seventh day all the prisoners, glutted with palm wine, drunk on millet beer, were howling like dogs. At midnight they died on the wood fire, in the crackling hiss of their ft, presenting to the the expert fingers of the cannibals human flesh as white as that of a suckling pig. The brains and the women’s sexual parts were set aside for the “eminent men”; with clearly aphrodisiac intent, the chief’s testicles were sprinkled with pepper and strong spice, to be relished by the women in their communal soup. ordained by hatred, innate evil, blood lust, thirst for vengeance, or perhaps by a desire to inherit the qualities of the devoured victims, the ghoulish feast ended in an orgy of drinking. Cannibalism was one of the darkest features of that spectral Africa over which hung the malefic shadow of Saif al-Haram. A sob for her.
On April 20, 1532, on a night as soft as a cloak of moist satin, Saif al-Haram, performing his conjugal “duty” with his four stepmothers seriatim and all together, had the imprudent weakness to overindulge and in the very midst of his dutiful delights gave up the ghost. . . .
Source: Bound to Violence by Yambo Ouolohuem; translated by Ralph Manhein. A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. New York, 1971, pp. 13-16.
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Our African Journey
We stood in El Mina slave dungeon, on the Cape Coast of Ghana on a recent trip to West Africa, overwhelmed by despair, grief, and rage. Without needing to verbalize it, we were both imagining what reaching this spot must have felt like for some long-ago, un-remembered African ancestor as she stood trembling on the precipice of an unknown and terrifyingly uncertain future. It was hard to process the fact that for over three hundred years, millions of women, men and children, mothers, fathers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, brothers, potters, weavers, had begun their long and brutal journey of being captured, kidnapped, sold, and enslaved from the very spot where we now stood the portal now infamously known as the door of no return. Growing a Global Heart
Belvie and Dedan at the Door of No Return
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Bob Marley was a Jamaican singer-songwriter and musician. He was the lead singer, songwriter and guitarist for the ska, rocksteady and reggae bands The Wailers (19641974) and Bob Marley & the Wailers (19741981). Marley remains the most widely known and revered performer of reggae music, and is credited for helping spread both Jamaican music and the Rastafari movement (of which he was a committed member), to a worldwide audience.
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By Bob Marley Exodus! Movement of Jah people! oh-oh-oh, yea-eah! Well uh, oh. let me tell you this:
Men and people will fight ya down (tell me why!) When ya see Jah light. (ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!) Let me tell you if you’re not wrong; (then, why? ) Everything is all right. So we gonna walkAll right!through de roads of creation: We the generation (tell me why!) Trod through great tribulationtrod through great tribulation. Exodus! All right! Movement of Jah people! Oh, yeah! o-oo, yeah! All right! Exodus! Movement of Jah people! oh, yeah! Yeah-yeah-yeah, well! Open your eyes and look within. Are you satisfied with the life you’re living? uh! We know where we’re going, uh! We know where we’re from. We’re leaving Babylon, We’re going to our father’s land.
One, Two, Three, Four Exodus! Movement of Jah people! oh, yeah! Movement of Jah people!send us another Brother Moses! Movement of Jah people!from across the Red Sea! Movement of Jah people!send us another Brother Moses! Movement of Jah people!from across the Red Sea! Movement of Jah people! Exodus! All right! oo-oo-ooh! oo-ooh! Movement of Jah people! oh, yeah! Exodus! Exodus! All right! Exodus! now, now, now, now! Exodus! Exodus! oh, yea-ea-ea-ea-ea-ea-eah! Exodus! Exodus! All right! Exodus! uh-uh-uh-uh!
One, Two, Three, Four Move! Move! Move! Move! Move! Move! Open your eyes and look within. Are you satisfied with the life you’re living? We know where we’re going; We know where we’re from. We’re leaving Babylon, yall! We’re going to our father’s land. Exodus! All right! Movement of Jah people! Exodus! Movement of Jah people! Movement of Jah people! Movement of Jah people! Movement of Jah people! Movement of Jah people!
Move! Move! Move! Move! Move! Move! Move! Jah come to break downpression, Rule equality. Wipe away transgression. Set the captives free! Exodus! All right, all right! Movement of Jah people! oh, yeah! Exodus! Movement of Jah people! oh, now, now, now, now! Movement of Jah people! Movement of Jah people! Movement of Jah people! Movement of Jah people! Movement of Jah people! Movement of Jah people! Move! Move! Move! Move! Move! Move! uh-uh-uh-uh! Movement of Jah people! Move! Movement of Jah people! Move! Movement of Jah people)! Move! Movement of Jah people! Movement of Jah people! Movement of Jah people)! Movement of Jah people)! Movement of Jah people! Movement of Jah people! Movement of Jah people!
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By Marcus Rediker
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By Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem (Author)
Salim Ahmed Salim (Preface), Horace Campbell (Foreword)
Dr Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem’s untimely death on African Liberation Day 2009 stunned the Pan-African world. This selection of his Pan-African postcards, written between 2003 and 2009, demonstrates the brilliant wordsmith he was, his steadfast commitment to Pan-Africanism, and his determination to speak truth to power. He was a discerning analyst of developments in the global and Pan-African world and a vociferous believer in the potential of Africa and African people; he wrote his weekly postcards for over a decade. This book demonstrates Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem’s ability to express complex ideas in an engaging manner. The Pan-African philosophy on diverse but intersecting themes presented in this book offers a legacy of his political, social, and cultural thought.
Represented here are his fundamental respect for the capabilities, potential and contribution of women in transforming Africa; penetrating truths directed at African politicians and their conduct; and deliberations on the institutional progress towards African union. He reflects on culture and emphasises the commonalities of African people.
Also represented are his denunciations of international financial institutions, the G8 and NGOs in Africa, with incisive analysis of imperialism’s manifestations and impact on the lives of African people, and his passion for eliminating poverty in Africa. His personality bounces off the pageone can almost hear the passion of his voice, ‘Don’t Agonise! Organise!’
Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem (1961-2009) was a Rhodes scholar and obtained his D. Phil in Politics from Oxford University. In 1990 he became Coordinator of the Africa Research and Information Bureau and the founding editor of Africa World Review. He co-founded and led Justice Africa’s work, becoming its Executive Director in 2004, and combined this with his role as General Secretary of the Pan-African Movement. He was chair of the Centre for Democracy and Development and of the Pan-African Development Education and Advocacy Programme in Uganda and became the UN Millennium Development Campaign’s Deputy Director in 2006.
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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 Charles C. Mann
Im a big fan of Charles Manns previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Its exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that its anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, Im proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, globalized entity.
Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.
We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.
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By Randall Kennedy
Among the best things about The Persistence of the Color Line is watching Mr. Kennedy hash through the positions about Mr. Obama staked out by black commentators on the left and right, from Stanley Crouch and Cornel West to Juan Williams and Tavis Smiley. He can be pointed. Noting the way Mr. Smiley consistently voiced skepticism regarding whether blacks should back Obama . . .
The finest chapter in The Persistence of the Color Line is so resonant, and so personal, it could nearly be the basis for a book of its own. That chapter is titled Reverend Wright and My Father: Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism. Recalling some of the criticisms of Americas past made by Mr. Obamas former pastor, Mr. Kennedy writes with feeling about his own father, who put each of his three of his children through Princeton but who never forgave American society for its racist mistreatment of him and those whom he most loved.
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By Sister Souljah
Souljah’s follow-up to her bestselling novel, The Coldest Winter Ever, is another gritty coming-of-age tale, picking up the story of Midnight (a character in Coldest Winter) as he tries desperately to navigate American culture, Brooklyn streets and the dicey business of growing up. The novel begins as seven-year-old Midnight and his pregnant mother, Umma, are forced to leave their privileged life in Sudan for a hardscrabble American existence. Midnight spends his formative years in Brooklyn guiding and translating for his loyal, loving and talented mother, helping her get a factory job while encouraging her to start a clothing line. Eventually, Midnight starts working at a Chinatown fish shop, finds love, joins a dangerous hustler’s basketball league and tries to disentangle his ambivalent feelings toward romance, family and personal honor. Souljah’s sensitive treatment of her protagonist is honest and affecting, with some realistic moments of crisis. Unfortunately, a slack plot and slow pacing cause serious bloat, and Souljah’s distinctive prose is woefully unpolished. Publishers Weekly
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 7 July 2008