Conversation on ChickenBones Survival

Excuse me for laughing about the comment about the loss of ‘virginity’ of your site,

 if you put a link or two. That’s absurd!

Conversation on ChickenBones Survival

Miriam: I’ve just now had a chance to read your articles and to look at parts of the longer manuscript–all of which are excellent.  I cannot understand why they were not accepted for publication except that the publishing industry is very political.  Editors might have been afraid to touch this study in which you take on some of the major scholars and their hypotheses with a new—and very cogent—perspective.

Rudy: Miriam, thanks for taking the time to check out my work. I think I am a fairly good thinker. I can produce and have produced fairly good work as a writer and a thinker. But for those of us outside of the academy, outside of the mainstream, those regular paper publishing venues cannot satisfy all our needs.

Writers and artists like Kalamu, Marvin X, and others have had to create other options. One, they have created their own presses. Two, they have become public intellectual and performers. Three, they make use of some organizational structure in which they have involved others. Four, they have made use of various kinds of foundation money.

Those options are open to me and many have encouraged me to do likewise.

Of course, there are things that work against my being able to follow in their steps or approaches. The major difficulty is ChickenBones itself: it is exceedingly time consuming and I have no staff or volunteers or technical assistance.

Most of the work connected with the site I have had to do myself. I type with two fingers. I read everything that is posted and I am a slow reader and that which is posted requires lay out and oftentimes editing. Kalamu says he only spends two hours a day on E-Drum.

ChickenBones requires double or quadruple the time expended for E-Drum. And with the forums I’ve created that time has become even more.

I made an attempt at organization. Most of those persons had full-time jobs and did not have the hands-on commitment required. And some want to see profit, immediately. Kalamu also has a business degree and he has more experience in working with groups than I. The same is true of Marvin.

I myself need an editor. But it is difficult to find people to work on such projects when money is not foreseen and I have not been able to set up that kind of arrangement. So I am in somewhat of a quandary. I am overwhelmed and I am not sure how to extricate myself, or do what is required. There are no models. I am winging it. In any event that is the basic layout of the situation I find myself. Maybe I will have some revelation or maybe someone will help me to find the solution that will do the trick.

I have thought about some kind of print representation of ChickenBones. Of course, a paper version will require a considerable staff. Before Katrina I was working on a “Best of ChickenBones,” which would be an anthology of some of the better pieces on the site. But that is still a work in progress. A couple people were going to help. But they have had their problems to attend. That would require, as I see it now, my own funding. And then there are the problems of distribution, promotion, and so forth. All this requires time and energy that are not altogether available. Again, this is the uphill struggle, scenario.

Jeannette: I would be overwhelmed too. ChickenBones has become very popular and of course everyone wants to be published.  Just remember that you are on God’s mission with this, so it will turn out alright even when you feel like taking a day off or whatever. (I have to remember this with my ribbons. Otherwise, I would do nothing except sew. I’ve barely gotten started and already I can’t keep up…) The funding for the contract in 2007 and the ChickenBones anthology will come through.  Anyway, I’ll send you any typos or whatever I notice for articles I read

Rudy: These kinds of individual projects can get out of hand, unmanageable. Though ChickenBones began as a personal project, it evolved into much more than that. Of course, I had other writers in mind. But, no, I did not expect such rapid and extensive use of the site. I check the statistics program last evening. Here is what was found on visitors to the site in the last five months:

June: 155, 084 visitors / July: 141,801 / August: 133,548 / September: 163,575 /

October: 186,939

From January 2005 to the present (6 November): 1,566,549 visitors. 1,974,822 pageviews.

There is a lot of use of the site by students, high school and college and university students; so as you can note the traffic declines during the summer.

Last year (2004) we had almost 1 million visitors. We have about two months to go in 2005.  So there is a good possibility that there will be about 300,000 visitors between now and December 31, 2005.

So the total for the year 2005 can be projected to be about 1.8 million visitors, a bit short of the 2 million visitors that I estimated. But still about double the visitors of 2004.

I do not know whether this kind of doubling will occur in 2006. But as you know more and more people are discovering the wonders of ChickenBones and more and more people are submitting their materials. Presently, we have over 210 mg of material; the site is limited to 300mg under the present plan. The size of the site and its continuity (more than four years) contribute to it being well-indexed by search engines and thus inviting more visitors to the site.

So we are bulging at the seams. We will have to find a solution to this problem. Kalamu suggested I create an additional site and move some of the less used files to the new site. That is probably the best solution, though I am not sure what impact it will have on the presenting indexing by search engines. In any event, it is an additional expense of time, energy, and finances.

None of this was planned or foreseen. ChickenBones has taken on a life of its own. Though I manage it, it is indeed much more than a personal site. It serves more than just my personal interest. There is nothing comparable and I am not sure that there is any site that can replace it, if it suffers a demise. So it is a real dilemma caused by its success, its value, its popularity.

Sandra: I currently teach four classes at Rutgers; African American Literature and 19th Century African American Authors. These students are assigned to specific ChickenBones articles, whatever fits into what we are reading/discussing from our textbooks. For example, next semester I teach The History of the Black Arts Movement in my African American Literature Part II class. Thus, we are reading Kalamu’s Interview with Baraka, and other articles.

My current composition classes, both at the freshman level, are mandated to read ChickenBones: A Journal in addition to Arts & Letters Daily every single Sunday evening. The students come to class on Monday and tell me and their peers about the article they have read. The articles they find sure beat the essays in those tiresome anthologies department chairs think are best for them. So, a small portion of the increasing numbers are my “fault.”

Miriam: That kind of traffic is truly overwhelming, and I don’t see how you manage it all.  Do you ever remove any of the files to make space for new ones? I’m not sure how all of that works, but it’s fascinating.

Rudy: No, I do not remove files, which presents however a few minor problems. The site is huge and size affects the costs of the site. I want the site to be also an archive. But these are the kinds of things that institutions (like universities) do, not individuals.

Recently, I got into an argument with the national association of black storytellers. I had a file on a conference they held a couple of years ago and their present president badgered me to remove the file because in google our file ranked higher than their site. It got real nasty. Herbert knows all about the incident; he can tell you about how ugly it became.

That I have not removed files in some sense makes the site more dependable for research and use by students. I suspect that not removing files is also the reason the site is so well indexed by search engines. Yes, it is near unmanageable, and fascinating, especially for someone who has no idea what the hell he is doing.

Of course, most of the problems I have enumerated are problems of money and organization. But maybe they are exaggerated by my mood and/or by my own fears.

Anita: Hi Rudy!  Lots of readers! That’s so WONDERFUL! See what you done done! All those aspiring writers and inquisitive readers love your site! It’s intellectual and mind stimulating! The articles and stories are so varied and all the links make it SO EASY to read more.   What about a ChickenBones Archives link? Years ago when I was a newbie online, I spent hours on a site called alt. lyrics. It was a ‘Usenet’ type of a website that had a message board for people to request and identify songs lyrics and titles, etc. 24hrs a day, people were asking things. Loads of fun!

Anyway, it got so big they added an Archival link with a different website address so a person could use a search engine with a key word. If you set it up like that. Students sure would love it! because as you know they want the answer and lickety-quick! It would be a pity to not be able to access those stories and articles. Their value increases as the years go by!  You probably know all of this!

Rudy!  I’m sending my contribution on Thursday because I’m supportive of ChickenBones!

Rudy: Yes, I think you’re right. That is what Kalamu suggested. Presently, I’ve used 74% of 300 mg. If I added 50mg it would double the price. So the archival site suggestion (with search engine) seems the best way to go. This year we used only about 10% so that suggests that we have just about enough to get to 2007. Of course, this situation forces us to be more discriminating in material we add to the site.

I have known about advantages of  PayPal, Google, and Amazon as possible resources for ChickenBones: A Journal for four years and for more than four years I have avoided making use of such resources. Amin Sharif has said that I want the site to be “virginal.”

Jonathan: the astonishing success of chickenbones does not surprise me. as a literature professor, i always recommend chickenbones to my students because you offer something very rare: writers and thinkers who have weathered all the political storms and all the here today gone tomorrow literary trends, who write because they care about ideas and understanding them, not fashion or popularity. chickenbones is the real answer to so much cynicism and defeatism. i vote for keeping chickenbones on one site, although i understand the “bulging at the seams” reality. everything on chickenbones right now is valuable—such an archive of beautiful work! i don’t have any solutions. i guess that enlarging the capacity would be expensive. how expensive? fund-raisers are very demanding… i wonder if there is some other way, a grant, for example. let me know if i can be of assistance. in solidarity always.

Lasana: do it well, it may take time, and we will come to the avenues of liberation.

Miriam: I admire what you’re doing and I can understand that your on-line journal has grown exponentially, far beyond what you’d imagined.  There seem to be no quick solutions and “winging it” seems to be the only way to go, for the time being. We, as a community, have got to find creative ways to assist independent, activist artists of all kinds (writers, filmmakers, photographers, painters, musicians, sculptors, etc.) who cannot access traditional sources of support.  It’s the same problem that Dennis faces and Kalamu (now) and others, at a terrible time, economically and culturally, in our history. We need to come up with some kind of think tank of committed, concerned people who can work out solutions for some of these problems. –

Rudy: yeah you right. As one friend, Sharif, who is working on an internet radio project said to me today, we are in a better situation than Blassigame’s slaves. We have more education, more skills, more possibilities. That is all true indeed. For, of course, the crudity of oppression and repression of the 19th century, no longer exists; nor even that of National Socialism of Hitler’s Germany. The former was rescued by Lincoln’s Army; the latter, by a combination of troops sent by Roosevelt and Stalin.  I suspect there will be no one to ride in on a white horse; or a US or Russian tank to make all well with us. None of the old models will provide relief; certainly, we will not be able to depend on Farrakhan’s Ministry of Information.

Miriam: Absolutely:  “none of the old models will provide relief.”  I’ve been thinking of some of the personal sacrifices and institutional efforts made in the 1960s and ’70s:

Robert Hooks, who supported the D. C. Black Rep. Theatre with money from his movies, but even fund-raisers at the Kennedy Center couldn’t keep him afloat;  Dudley Randall and Broadside Press, which finally closed;  Haki Madhubuti, who still runs Third World Press, but I’m not sure about his magazine & school;  Hoyt Fuller, whose valuable Black World was finally eliminated by John Johnson, but then Hoyt couldn’t keep First World afloat, which practically killed him;  Jeff Donaldson and other Chicago-based visual artists’ Cobra;  and all those great Black community theaters that depended on grants, but, when the economy nose-dived and the money ran out, they were forced to close.

Can we learn anything from those losses?  Is it that artists and businesswo/men must partner in the formation of cultural institutions that will last?

You note that Kalamu is a good businessman as well as a fine artist—an unusual combination, plus both skills take a great deal of time and energy.  Ironically, those presses, periodicals, and theaters developed at a time when there was a lot of grassroots, community support (it was, after all, the heyday of the Black Arts Movement), as well as significant financial support through grants from the government & foundations.  But, ultimately, even that was not enough.

We’re now in the middle of a hard, cold winter, when “our” community is spending its megabucks on urban fiction, gangsta rap, and mind-numbing films;  furthermore, the grants have dried up.  Therefore, we have to do some reality-based thinking about how to support and preserve our artistic and intellectual projects.

With regard, specifically, to ChickenBones, there must be some way that it can become a self-sustaining enterprise without losing its independence and vision.  So, you had over one million readers last year.  If each one of those contributed one dollar . . . think of the possibilities.

Floyd: Rudy, this is exactly why I asked Friday evening how you developed and now maintain ChickenBones.  Not being computer-efficient, I just thought it was/is a major accomplishment; beyond that, I thought about how much time and effort it takes to keep this project going.  I don’t know how Kalamu does it, either.

Caroline: Hi Rudy, Caroline Maun from Morgan, now at Wayne State in Detroit.  I had a thought about Chickenbones. Consider setting up a Paypal account and a link to it on your site for donations.  College Language Association has been using it successfully for about two years to do online registrations and membership.  Paypal shaves a bit off the top of the amount, but you may have enough of an increase in donations that it will seem worthwhile.

Second thought:  possibly some unobtrusive Google ads at the very bottom of the splash page or on the right side.  The ads are geared toward content on your pages and I have not had a problem with the appropriateness of the ads to date on my blog.  When people click out of your site on the ad, you get paid when they buy stuff.

Another thought.  Amazon Associates account.  This is when you review or mention a book, you can set up a link to amazon for purchase of the book.  If a person buys the book, new or used, as a result of being directed from your site, you get a kickback.  All of these links help increase your visibility on search engines as well.

With the traffic you have you should be getting some money back just from the site’s visibility.

I am sorry that we didn’t get together to share more information when I was in Baltimore.  I got an offer I couldn’t refuse and am now teaching adult students from the city in Detroit.  It’s a good next chapter for me.

Below, my attempt to say something about Katrina.

Rudy: Caroline, thanks for the advice. Do you think these suggestions would create copyright problems? What is the address of your blog? Do you have a photo I can use with your poem.

I have known about advantages of  PayPal, Google, and Amazon as possible resources for ChickenBones: A Journal for four years and for more than four years I have avoided making use of such resources. Amin Sharif has said that I want the site to be “virginal.”

Jonathan: rudy, i favor the non-commercial (even anti-commercial) flavor of chickenbones. in my opinion, this is one of the things that distinguishes your e-journal from so many others. the idea of a google thing on the side of the site makes me ill. at the same time, even staunchly independent e-journals such as counterpunch have gone the google route, so it is a consideration. this move has not made counterpunch less interesting to look at, and the google thing is fairly innocuous on the site. i favor a fundraiser. why not ask devoted readers of chickenbones to put their money where their mouth is? i feel that such a request to readers actually compliments them and makes them feel part of a good thing. plus, you need money. with all the work you put into chickenbones, you need folk to help pay some of your bills. your labor power is extremely valuable to us all and should be compensated as such. tell me what you think.Rudy: Jonathan, your sentiments are mine. I prefer the “anti-commercial flavor of chickenbones,” if nothing but as an example of what might be done, if one has the means. I have been very fortunate in the last four years or so in achieving what we now have. I am uncertain about my immediate future and my resources in that I am unemployed and it is uncertain whether I will be able to obtain another library position any time soon.

My hardware and software need to be replaced; the capacity of the site is bulging at the seams; I’m in need of technical assistance and unable to afford it. The site, I realize, has grown to be more than a personal matter and provides a needed example and service beyond my personal needs. I’d like to be assured that that example and service will continue because they are important.

Yes, the fundraiser is the best option, if we wish to keep the site “virginal.” An ad hoc group of people here in Baltimore did one about two years ago and raised over a $1,000, after expenses; most of which has been used to renew a two-year provider contract. I am not very good at that sort of thing myself, though a number of friends bought tickets, bought review books as gifts for ticket holders, and so on. I welcome such efforts from those who are good at such affairs.

Joyce: Hi, Rudy, I’m in a rush today. Traveling. My inclination is to look for a “third path”—not either this or that. I’m not sure what that would be, but maybe the thought will spur your creativity. Maybe a second site, as Kalamu suggested (archival), could use some commercial structure and bring you some revenue. It might be most useful for researchers, it could be set up as a sliding scale (students free) or some combination. This might mean that you would hire somebody to manage that business aspect and keep yourself “virginal” (ha ha!)

Wilson: Dear Rudy, I never conduct any financial transactions on-line.  Have nothing to do with Pay Pal, for example.

Jeannette: Rudy, just a quick, initial response. I’m with Jonathan. Why not a “Friends of ChickenBones” where folks make monthly or quarterly pledges? Maybe you could calculate the number (and amount of money) to determine how many pledges you need and let us know.    Folks who really care should be willing to support ChickenBones with some degree of regularity the way we support our other habits.Brian: Rudy,  I must say, I’ve been equally curious about how might this site become much broader in scope without sacrificing its authenticity. In fact, several colleagues have commented on the site since your review of my work and others noted that they were familiar with your work as well. My sense is that in a very real sense your site reflects what Cornel West suggests when he writes, “black intellectuals have little choice: either continued intellectual lethargy on the edges of the academy and literate subcultures unnoticed by the black community or insurgent creative activity on the margins of the mainstream ensconced within bludgeoning new infrastructures.”

I think that your site is both “insurgent” and “creative” and since it masterfully uses web technology, I find that it quite nicely fits within “the mainstream ensconced within [this] bludgeoning new infrastructure. This is an important dialogue and I would support whatever action comes of it. (I hope also to contribute to some of the very thoughtful dialogue when time permits.)

Rudy: Brian, thanks for you fine comments. I appreciate them greatly. I’ve tried to be entirely upfront and transparent about what I have tried to do. And I am glad we are able to have this community discussion online. A number of persons have made excellent suggestions. I think they all appreciate that we have something quite valuable in ChickenBones. I will do my best to pass around all the comments and see whether we can come to some consensus on what path we should follow. It seems clear that the “virginal” aspects of ChickenBones is one of its better aspects and should be retained.

Brian: Indeed…We’re out here and we’re listening.

Wilson: From the subject line on the message . . . I half-suspected to read a personal communication from Brother West, along with a promise to donate his next speaking fee to ChickenBones.

Rudy: yes, that’s a hoot. I suspect Cornell is better at words, and onstage dancing, than such actions he suggests. You know Cornell does not accept email. That’s a little too democratic for his taste. He prefers the podium.

Latorial: Rudy, Check out The Pedestal Magazine. I believe they have set up a fundraiser type option on their site that would really work for ChickenBones.

I think folks can make donations online as opposed to sending them. I know that I’m more prone to doing an online donation rather than one via us mail these days.  It’s not that I don’t want to, I just get too busy or forget to put things in mail.

The Pedestal Magazine is just one of the sites that I thought of when I think of ChickenBones and funding.

Jerhretta: Greetings Brother, I love the idea of keeping the site virginal. It shows what we can do without bowing to or ascribing to the mainstream paradigm. However, I know we all have to eat. Your contribution of ChickenBones: A Journal to this millennium’s Blacks Arts Movement is priceless, as is the exposure given to the artists offering their work. So, let’s raise some money.  What can I do to help?  – aka Red Bandana Lady (smile).

Rudy: Nice hearing from you. I’m glad you’re well. Yeah, I think ChickenBones does have that kind of Black Arts Movement feel. There’s a lot of celebration and conferences now about the 60s version, while the same organizers and presenters have ignored what is under their chins. I like your kind of understanding and vision. . . . We are trying to settle upon which route to take. We need people who are willing to take the initiative. I’m collecting feedback, turning it over. Let’s see what people can pull together, at least in their thinking. Will get back with you.

Patricia: Hey Everyone, I am in for that: “Friends of ChickenBones” or any other name. I will fully support such a cause and be available to do whatever it takes to support this worthy cause that Rudy has undertaken for so long. I am one of those blessed by this great effort, and have followed the conversation for a while now, especially, since the New Orleans tragedy.

Rudy, by the way, I have a New Orleans poem that was pulled out of my third manuscript, but when I read it during the few weeks following the tragedy, everyone was moved. It was written in 2001, but the message it proclaims was confirmed in the devastation of the city.

If you want it, I will send it by attachment for you to include on your site. I hope all is well. Sorry, it’s been so busy lately.

Rudy: Thanks for your response and support. yes, please send the poem.

Patricia: Dear Rudy, here is the poem. Actually, it was written in 2002 on the train from New Orleans. I recall that I would not fly soon after Sept. 11, and instead, took a train to the Associated Writers and Writing Program’s annual convention where I was doing a talk. My impression of New Orleans was mixed, and is thus captured in the poem.

I was very saddened by the false impression tourists gave of New Orleans as a city of party and fun and everything wonderful because I saw a city that was profoundly different and more complex than that. I saw the beauty, but I also saw the other city that many would not see. I’ll keep in touch to know where the proposals for the formation of Friends is going. Have a wonderful day. Let me know if you need anything else.

Frances: Greetings Rudy, my Positive and Intriguing Brother, Stay as True to your Self, your Soul your Spirit, as you have Always been… It is that Essence of Peace that you place with each word, each thought, each placement of that Powerful Love you have in sharing and giving us choices, knowledge, and information that isn’t totally possible otherwise.

Over a Million hits, have found you and over a million plus more each year will follow… those like myself, you cannot help but to keep going and going and going to your sites, they are intriguing and thought provoking… full of choices, challenges, creativity, wonderment and passions… the Beauty of the richness of words and the Joy of historical and cultural knowledge.

The work alone I know to be overwhelming, the continual work that becomes the labor of a birthing and nurturing process that cannot be given up, even temporarily, for to be so focused and vision driven, with your abilities, intellect and experience, I know it will all work out.

I had the treasure of being mentored by Rob Penny, who like you felt that he would not compromise his ideals, and held close and under his ownership his literary works for what he wanted and needed to be successful in his heart… Everyone has their river and every river has a base….

The diligence, passion, strength, pride and dedication you have given ChickenBones is remarkable and the beauty will always be yours to hold true …follow your heart, everything is not for sale… If we all give freely we all can stay free…(I don’t mean your giving to us, but us giving to you)…

In pride, joy and honor, I thank you, Brother Rudy and your Family for the heart, spirit and soul of ChickenBones: A Journal.

May you always have poetry in your passion. Peace, Passion, Poetry!

Yvonne: Hi Rudy, I agree with Jeanette that the things that need to happen will happen. I have always had faith in the success of ChickenBones. I think a fundraiser is also a good idea. Let me know if you all get that off the ground. Finally, I have always said that the people who have work published on ChickenBones should be considered members and should pay a membership fee.

I think people are willing to do that, you just have to follow through with pushing the idea. You know that is something the original core group has talked about for three years. I am so happy that so many others have come on board to support the efforts of ChickenBones. I think now is the time to act. At least think about it. I hope everyone is doing well. You too, Sharif, be blessed.

Rudy: Thanks, Yvonne. I’m just not clear how things will work. Some say one thing, another say, another. What one is willing to do, another is not. Note the difference of views below. In any event, we have an online community that feels that it has a stake in ChickenBones. That is good.

Anita: Hi Rudy, Dr. Caroline Maun is RIGHT! (now you got 2 women that approve!) So, one more and it’s a Go!

Putting a paypal logo on at the bottom of the site isn’t obtrusive at all, it’s just a small rectangle that doesn’t flash or bop around! And the link is easy as pie. Michael Hayward has used this at the Van Morrison site of his for years and we can pre-order Van albums and he let’s everyone know about books and magazine with Van trivia, interviews & comments. It’s WONDERFUL! Excuse me for laughing about the comment about the loss of ‘virginity’ of your site, if you put a link or two. That’s absurd! Unless of course, the person who said it is financing your whole website and paying you a nice salary. The facts of life are that nothing is free!

We’re Grateful to click there and buy it! Why would I care that ChickenBones made some kind of profit from it? It’s well deserved for doing all the work of hunting it for me & saving time.

And again, believe me, I would have never known about Monk Boudreaux and The Golden Eagles, Bo Dollis, Kevin Goodman & 15 other Big Chiefs! I got a whole bunch, now!  So, I say this from my own experience! I’ve bought 24 items from New Orleans linked stores in October (some have stock shipped from warehouses in LA.) And one other thing. There is nowhere else I can hear the truth about what’s REALLY going on in the Black Communities of America and The World except ChickenBones. Though I cringe when I read many of the articles because I’m white and feel disgraced over the Gross Negligence of  the FEMA/AMERICA rescue effort to New Orleans and 500 other issues of Black America, I’d still rather read the truth than slanted lies from newspapers, magazines and t.v. reports politically motivated to keep white Americans thinking we’re doing ‘Wonderful Things’ for Black communities. We don’t believe it . . .  more like ain’t much, too little, too late! Enough of me! sorry to expound so much. Thanks for everything, Rudy! . . . Hugs to Bobo!

Mackie: Keep its infrastructure and daily attentiveness exactly as they are now. We can donate at will, whenever and however we individually wish to.  There is no need to start up a clubby name for us. When ChickenBones evolves, this will come intuitively from you, when and if you believe something more needs to be done.  Leave it at the margins, if that’s where it is in some people’s consciousness. When we visit, we can take it into our own spiritual center. I have never seen this enterprise fail, neither in its paper form or its electronic form. So let’s not have a committee to discuss how your creation can be better.  Such talk is off the point. Let’s not turn this into an academic commodity. This is yours.  We come to visit there.

Miriam: Dear Rudy, I’ve been reading with interest the suggestions about a financial underpinning for ChickenBones, which is very important given the problems that you have outlined and your concern that the project be continued should you become unavailable.  I don’t have any expertise on the subject of marketing and fund raising, particularly as these relate to online sites.

It seems to me very important to maintain the integrity of your vision of ChickenBones as an independent, non-commercial, intellectual and cultural endeavor.  I appreciate your openness and honesty in presenting the problems:  the size, need for more space, increased cost of operation, and need for better equipment.

I really like Jeannette’s suggestion about organizing a Friends of ChickenBones, but it would be important to bring on board concerned individuals who know how those things operate.  The idea of pledges is good, because you would know what kind of operating funds you’d have over a certain period, say a year.

A fundraiser is another very good idea, but that would be a one-time thing, good for meeting emergencies but not helpful for the long run.

As a last resort, you might consider the other suggestions:  Paypal, Amazon Associates, or unobtrusive Goggle ads.

Finally, let me say this:  All of the work that you are putting in, the sacrifices of time and energy that you are making, are truly commendable, but this project is now a FULL-TIME JOB!  We can  appreciate your integrity and “virginity,” but—like us—you live in the real world, where you have to pay rent and buy food, and you should get some kind of remuneration for all that work.  We want to keep you alive and healthy–if not quite wealthy. Now I’m going to shut up. Miriam

Patricia: Hello Everyone, I like the exchange of ideas, and I think this is a good beginning. All of the suggestions from everyone are wonderful, and I think either of them should work depending on the direction that Rudy wants to take. Here are my little thoughts based on all I am hearing— A “Friends of ChickenBones” idea will definitely require a board or a committee, and I am willing to be on that committee, but as everyone knows that such a committee will only be effective if there is a chief administrator on the ground. This sort of organization will also involve the loss of some independence, Rudy since any board will operate according to policy and accountability issues. The committee will like to be able to have a voice on the general running of the organization, if not more. With a board, then, issues of how to raise funds, whether to become a not for profit organization, etc could be discussed. Another very simple option would be for Rudy to continue to be independent, but to have the “Friends of ChickenBones” be a loosely connected body that has a committee of concerned friends of Rudy who want to continue to see what he’s doing.

That way, they can be a voice in the fund raising by forming a support group through e-mail. We can then form an organization with the names of friends, appoint or elect two to three people to help give voice to the issue of funding, contribute regularly, and at certain times, form a letter to send out by e-mail to artists that Rudy supports by his efforts and others.

This will mean that we do have an annual budget to help meet. In this case, all contributors will receive receipts for their contributions, though not tax-deductible as a charitable contribution, contributors can however find a place on the tax forms to deduct their contributions. Another option is for ChickenBones to be registered as a not-for profit organization with a board of directors and incorporated. This again, will cause a loss of independence, but will allow the board to compete for arts grants, pay a salary to Rudy, and pay for the running of the site. We can then ask for donors to contribute their tax deductible gifts. This will be hard work, but in the long run it could develop into something larger. The last option I see is that we all support Rudy to develop ChickenBones into a private small business that supports the arts venture he has always supported. The suggestion from one of the friends to allow part of the site to be linked to one of the web companies to sell products and advertise without the pop-ups. That way he maintains the independence of ChickenBones while still meeting his expenses. This does mean that we can also contribute willingly even while the journal generates extra income. I am not a business minded person, but I hope this is helpful. We are all very busy, and therefore we can only do as much as Rudy is able to allow. If what we need is financial support, the best option is to develop a list of those who are enjoying the benefits of Rudy’s efforts and begin to form an e-mail to them, get the brother who wants to help him set up credit card service, and have a page on the site for how to contribute by check and whatever means. Thanks for your patience.

Eugene: Thanks for sending all info Rudy . . . enjoying these exchanges & sharing them with students, members of the local writing community & family . . . if we can do anything specific to help stabilize ChickenBones let us know . . .

Sharif: Rahim, Peace! I may try to stop by your place after meeting with Kinya today. I have some articles on disc you might be able to use. I am glad you got folk getting behind CBJ. You might want to think about a fundraiser in the late spring.Rudy: That sounds good. Your name and your concept of “fourth world” are being tossed around in my emails to friends. As far as fundraising, the sisters, especially Jeannette Drake (Richmond, VA), seem to be more clear on these matters than I. When it comes to financial matters I am a bumbling idiot and often don’t know what is best for me or ChickenBones

Jeannette: Dear Miriam and Rudy, I agree. Rudy’s work is a full-time JOB. I don’t have any expertise with organizing a Friends of ChickenBones, however I do have more thoughts, suggestions and questions about the idea. Miriam, I am also forwarding your last email to Jonathan Scott, Jerhretta Dafina, and Patricia Jabbah Wesley. We seem to have similar notions of maybe how to work on this. Rudy, in one of your emails, you mentioned an ad hoc group in Baltimore that sponsored a fund-raiser a while back.  Would any of these same persons be likely to come together to: (a.) do whatever paperwork is necessary to form the basis for “Friends of ChickenBones” (or whatever name) and decide on (mission?) and specific tasks ? (b.) work with you to determine a minimal budget amount necessary per year or two years? I believe you mentioned that the present contract runs out in 2007. Excluding these two holiday months, this gives us 12 months to make the situation better before your contract expires. You also indicated other needs, software, computer, technical assistance, etc. and they should be figured into the yearly budget as well. And I don’t see why you shouldn’t include some kind of compensation for your work. c. indicate, based on the budget, the specific number and amounts of pledges needed? The ad hoc committee might even suggest different pledge levels.

For example, we need 50 persons to pledge $25.00 a month. Or we need 100 persons to pledge $10.00 a  month, or we need 10 persons to pledge $100.00 a month, etc., etc., etc.   Now, if you decide that you want to go with the “Friends” idea and the ad hoc group does not form the core working group, you would as Miriam suggests still need to soon identify those folks with whom you might work out some specific ideas around budget as the most immediate need.   Anyway, these are just some of the thoughts I’ve had for the last three days. (It doesn’t take much for me to go into my task-oriented casework mode. I hope these ideas are helpful.

Rudy: Jeannette, Yvonne Terry was the primary person who organized the fundraiser a couple years ago. Here’s her email address, if you’ve misplaced it.

Miriam:  Jeannette, I like very much the specificity of your suggestions, and I would be willing to work with a group on the details as you’ve outlined them.  I particularly like the idea of pledge levels, so that everyone, even students, might be included.

I’ve been thinking, too, that Rudy is really dealing with two issues:  (1) the financial stability & integrity of ChickenBones, and (2) the long-term survival of the journal, in terms of the editorship.  So many Black institutions have perished because there is no one to take up the enterprise when the founder is no longer able to carry on.

That is a very distant, future problem, but it appears to be something that Rudy is thinking about.  At some point, he might consider bringing on board someone like Rodney—young, talented, committed—to train to follow in his footsteps.

We are really getting into his business, aren’t we?  But I know that we all want to help in whatever way we can . . .

Rudy: Miriam, you have outlined my concerns well. The discussion is open. I do not see it as getting into my business, because it’s really not a business, though I think the site is very valuable. I have collected a lot of information that probably should not be lost.

I find myself walking in Marcus Bruce Christian‘s shoes, who collected tons of  information while a part of the Dillard Project of the WPA. He finally left his colelction to University of New Orleans which has done little with it beyond preservation. Jerhretta’s estimation of ChickenBones as “priceless” is on the mark.

Sharif and I have had discussions about ChickenBones’ long-term viability. But we never settled on anything. Sharif, however, might be able to see farther than I. I might be better at the more immediate. I’m having problems figuring it all out on my own. And thus I felt the need to be very transparent about it all. So I’m pleased we have reached this stage.

I did not plan for it to be where it is presently. I have been winging it on my best instincts. I wanted the site to be dynamic, a service to the community, outside the commercialism of much of what we have. Obviously, the site has become much more than its original intent, much more than I imagined and has acquired a broader value than the personal. To this point I have made no provisions for it if something happens to me.

In some sense I’m overwhelmed, especially since I’ve heard some of the feedback and how the site is being used in an organized way.

Eugene Redmond says he’s been following the discussion and he’s been using the site at his university for his classes. Sandra West, Jonathan Scott, and Brian Johnson made similar remarks. As soon as I can I will pull together all the comments and post them. So everyone can see this most unique community discussion.     Louis: my suggestion for fundraising: Create an ikon link for all to see at the top of every page that highlights listings of articles:  SUPPORT CHICKENBONES: A Journal (click here to find out why)

A short (2 paragraphs) explanation of ChickenBones needs to be followed by a reminder that the site is free to all AND that you welcome donations: State all the why-fors you need the bread . . . (you can easily get a charity’s registration number in your state for not-for-profit status) . . . Set up a bank account and address for donations to be sent…

This would be an ongoing piece that is not commercial but that encourages and urges donations…

Support the site that supports you in your research and edification. . . .

Have a collection of people write or submit short blurbs as to why this site is so important, just like the blurbs that appear in the backs of books.

Brian: I like this suggestion (Louis) for short-term purposes while pursuing long-term ideas along the lines of Miriam’s suggestion. I like the shared sense of community that is coming forth, and I think that the end results will be a testament to much of what I’ve read here about similar problems within the African/African American community. I’d be happy to write a blur among other things.

Jeannette: Yes, Miriam. I think we have two separate issues. 1. financial stability and integrity of ChickenBones 2. long-term survival of Journal in terms of editorship It seems that our problem solving (for the moment) should focus on #1.  I like Rudy’s suggestion that we come to a consensus. Is there an immediate next step? 1. From Patricia’s email I like “loosely connected body/support group through email.”  This seems to me the most “doable” at the moment. Rudy will need to let us know which suggestions will work best. 2. Jonathan’s suggestion for raising at least $25,000 on-line contributions in a month sounds good. I don’t know how to work with credit card information on line. If Rudy is set up banking wise for this, Jonathan’s suggestion might be an adjunct to anything else that “Friends of ChickenBones” decides to try and foster. $25,000 might make a nice cushion and since this is holiday gift-season, this should be a terrific time to try Jonathan’s idea. Many organizations send out request for donation letters this time of year.    3. New visibility for donation request with Louis’s suggestion for creating an ikon link at the top of pages should help generate more income for the journal.  4. Based on the information from the website and recent emails about this, it seems to me that a PARTIAL LIST of Friends of ChickenBones might consist of the original group of ChickenBones supporters who sponsored the fundraiser several years ago and those from the cyberspace community engaged in recent dialogues.    This seems to be:  Original ChickenBones Society Supporters in Baltimore addition to Rudy included:       1. Yvonne Terry       2. Amin Sharif       3. Kinya Kiongozi       4. Keith “Bilal” Shortridge       5. Ernestine Holley  More recent cyberspace community dialoguers include:     1. Miriam DeCosta-Willis     2. Jonathan Scott     3. Patricia Jabbeh Wesley     4. Louis Reyes Rivera     5. Eugene Redmond     6. Jerhretta Dafina     7. Joyce King     8. Caroline Maun     9. Jeannette Drake  5. Patricia is right. We are all busy with many different tasks. Miriam has indicated a willingness to serve on a committee.  Question:  Patricia, Miriam, Yvonne, do you want to spearhead a friends/fundraising committee? My role has been to simply try to help move the process along by coordinating thus far. I don’t know anything about fundraising.   6. I think it might help time wise if we made a friends group emailing list. If anyone listed above objects  to being included in my group list, please let me  know.  7.  Also, Rudy I do not have an email address for Amin Sharif and Caroline Maun. So, if you think they would like the information in this email, would  you forward to them or anyone else?  8. Finally, it seems to me that as “Friends of ChickenBones” we have, through our dialogues, been functioning somewhat in the manner that  Patricia describes (“loosely connected body/support group through email.”)  As such, I think we might  recognize our options to write checks to either ChickenBones: the Journal and/or to Rudolph Lewis (as compensation) for his work short of there being a formal “board of directors” or whatever.Rudy: Jeannette, yes, I will work on the layout that Louis Reyes Rivera suggested. It seems that at this time the “loosely connected body/support group through email” might work well. Presently, I’m not concerned about any personal compensation for I am receiving an unemployment check, which probably will continue through this yearJonathan: thank you jeannette for your very helpful itemized list of tasks. i think the group e-mail discussions are essential, and you got the ball rolling here. for my part, if we agree to the emergency fund-raiser, then i’ll be sending out e-mails getting folk to write checks or get out their credit cards. i think this is the best thing we can do in the short term: set up the fund-raiser on the chickenbones site, and then for each of us to send checks and get as many people as we can to do the same. in my opinion, we should not mince words in our appeal. the excellent counterpunch web site just raised $60,000 in 12 days. i don’t think we need to mention this fact in our appeal; but the point is that chickenbones is the best cultural and political journal we have going—that without it, we would have a huge hole to fill, and that, moreover, that this is exactly the kind of problem that harold cruse was always writing about, that black liberation struggle has often faltered mainly because we have not supported our own best people and our own best work. also, in my view this appeal should be signed by “the committee to keep chickenbones alive” or something like that. in other words, rudy’s tireless and fiercely kept autonomy and commitment to absolute independence should be honored to the fullest, by making this emergency appeal the work not of rudy but of those who depend on rudy’s work for their intellectual sustenance and spiritual wholeness.Jeannette: Jonathan,  I like your idea for a fund-raising letter, especially the way it should be signed, “the committee to keep ChickenBones alive.” I also like the idea of emphasizing how we who use ChickenBones depend on it. Are you willing to draft an initial letter that Rudy and several others would approve?

Rudy and Miriam sent me some additional names and I am trying to organize a larger list of “Friends.”  I suppose these would be the first persons to receive the email fund-raiser letter.  The email appeal could be phase one and then individual Friends might decide what or how else they want to proceed. For example, Patricia is thinking of providing hard copies of a letter to friends perhaps after the email.

You seem very savvy about what has been done with the group that raised $60,000 in 12 days. I think that if we continue to work as we are doing, we should be able to get the email letter ready within the next two weeks at the latest. Timing is important.  So, will you draft an initial letter?

Thanks! P.S. Miriam, it looks like I am the official coordinator. I don’t know how I get myself in these situations.

Rome: Rudy, I have been getting emails about ChickenBones and I would like to know what I can do it support financially. Also, please put me on your mailing list if would be so kind.

Rudy: Presently, Jeannette Drake ( and others are coordinating a fundraiser for ChickenBones: A Journal. I will cc her. You might drop her a note to express your interest.

Rome: Rudy, that sounds very positive about the fundraiser. I will definitely email Jeannette and I will continue to contact Miriam about the film programs she seems interested in pursuing. Thanks.

Eugene: count me in as a “committee” member . . .

Wilson: Dear Rudy, there is nothing essentially wrong with the idea of converting ChickenBones into a money-making enterprise.  I support the idea, as you must know from our previous correspondence.  But how to go about this is beyond my area of expertise.

Rudy: Here are business thoughts: One, there would be a separate site that would do business in ChickenBones’ name. A number of regular items will be sold with the ChickenBones name, e.g. t-shirts, caps, cups, mouse pads, etc. Other items could be developed. This business site would be rather independent from the ChickenBones website.

There would be a contract in which a certain percentage of sales would be given to sustain ChickenBones and persons who manage it. There might be a commercial print publication that would operate between the two enterprises. Some refinement of these ideas may be necessary. I’ve only spoken of this kind of situation with a couple of people. I know of no one who is willing to undertake such a task and thus I do not know whether such an operation is feasible.

*   *   *   *   *

Support ChickenBones: A Journal

We need your help. Any level of support would be greatly appreciated

–$10, $15, $25, or more.  Donations of any amount should be made out to

ChickenBones: A Journal. Please send your check or money order to:

ChickenBones: A Journal
2005 Arabian Drive
Finksburg, MD 21048