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“The popularity of thug culture” Tucker claims, “is among the most serious of

modern-day threats to black America, far more dangerous than any lingering institutional

 racism.” In this sentence, the weakness of Tucker’s informal analysis erupts like a boil.



Books by Jerry W. Ward  Jr.

Trouble the Water (1997) / Black Southern Voices (1992) / The Richard Wright Encyclopedia (2008)  / The Katrina Papers

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Messages on MLK Day 


Dreamers Die Young; Dreams Die Eventually


By Jerry Ward


One of the more compelling editorials to appear on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is Cynthia Tucker’s “Did King die so thug culture could live?”  (The Times-Picayune, January 16, 2006, p. B-5)

My automatic answer to the questioning title is YES. When King was assassinated in 1968, there was no thug culture as we now know it. Thugs have existed for eons. A few outlaws have achieved international fame. Brotherhoods and sisterhoods of the criminal have flourished for centuries in hamlets, villages, towns, and cities. They were a part of human cultures, but they were not generally discussed as a discrete culture.

Prior to the late twentieth century, none of the thugs lived in “hoods,” although some of them wore hoods. They were not commercial objects to be sold back to themselves in the forms of expensive but trashy fashions and overpriced CDs that preserve and broadcast dubious talent. Martin Luther King, Jr. died because he, and thousands of other unnamed people, confronted the hypocrisy of the United States and demanded Freedom. Freedom embraces thug culture. Ms. Tucker’s calculated framing of the question by way of contextual displacement invites ironic affirmation.

Ms. Tucker’s indirect answer to her question is NO. She does not wish to consider that in time ultimate sacrifices may slip into the category of things done in vain. She wishes to protect the glory of the sacrifice against erosion. To be sure, King did not die so the clever and greedy might more easily exploit the oppressed.

She castigates affluent blacks for pimping and earning handsome profits from the lawlessness and the outlaw choices of some young black women and men. She fails, however, to criticize the source: white, corporate America, the major sponsor of benign genocide.

Pimps, we should recall, are themselves pimped by systems. “The popularity of thug culture” Tucker claims, “is among the most serious of modern-day threats to black America, far more dangerous than any lingering institutional racism.” In this sentence, the weakness of Tucker’s informal analysis erupts like a boil.

Institutional racism is the very backbone of the industry that champions and valorizes thug culture. That some presumably intelligent African Americans should be gears in the machinery of institutional racism is not astonishing. They have embraced the current version of the American Dream. After all, they have no obligations under the laws of brute economy to be more noble than Africans who sold other Africans to Europeans.

If Reginald Hudlin and Tracey Edmonds and the non-black black-oriented BET celebrate Kimberly Jones (aka Lil’ Kim) for her crimes, they are acting in ways that historical narratives allow us to predict. Although King did not include either thug culture or racial treason or sinister commodification in his dream-script, these things are undeniable components of our post-1968 America.

Ms. Tucker’s juxtaposing the memory of King’s death with the success of trafficking in lawlessness is sobering. It is regrettable that, on the other hand, she failed to place the abuse of King’s sacrifice in the context of the pervasive lawlessness that is honored at the highest level of American government and business.

Her critique only urges us to recall that some dreamers die young and that their dreams eventually become material for nostalgia. Ms. Tucker teaches us a lesson that is probably quite remote from her intentions. History is a hurricane. It has no respect for the integrity of dreams or dreamers.

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Rev.Dr. MLK Jr Day
Mon, 16 Jan 2006

Good day, Rudy,

Thank you for your continuing waveor should I say Tsunamiof poems and article links concerning the vast world of African-American issuesrather American and human issues, some of which most deeply affect African- American citizens.

Dr. King’s impact on me has been experienced not just by the rhetoric but by making me conscious of the world in which I was raised. The only person of color I ever really met in my childhood were one or two African-American women who did some weekly housework for several of my aunts. My other image was conditioned by street car and bus rides to downtown Baltimore past street corners which always seem to have many men standing around near bars. 

I remember visiting an aunt at Baltimore and Gilmor sometimes at night and hearing brawls nearby. Obviously an impoverished view of the local community to carry with me in my first decade of lifemy pre-MLK time. I was blessed with parents who gave me example of treating everyone the same, though obviously our social world was part of the color divide characteristic of 40s-50s Baltimore. My father worked as stock clerk in the basement of the Bugle Linen Company on Chester St for decades with the African-American women and men involved in laundering rented sheets and tablecloths.

From him I learned to think of everyone as equal. But certainly being immersed in Jamaica for ten years was the defining element in my education about race. Many Jamaicans never experience prejudice until they come to the USA, and I sense it “with” them though I can do little to protect them from it.

Today the NY Times crossword (17 across) refers to Nat Turner – which would have meant little to me before I met you. Thank you for YOU.Fr. Zilonka


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Father Zilonka, I recall your making a similar statement about our ignorance of one another. I believe most Americans want to do the right and believe in the right thing. We all suffer under the great weight of not knowing each other very well, of not knowing ourselves. We have not fully embraced what it means to be American.

Of course, we know various classes of us, at least, in myth. David Brooks sees Alito's confirmation as the rise and conquest of a certain ethnic class of Americans, the children of immigrants (without government assistance) who went to Princeton and Yale and such prestigious schools. Yesterday, it was the glorification of the Asians. That is not heard so often now.

Well, there's this young black scholar McWhorter who did the exact same thing on a news program. He contrasted the immigrant plight of the 30s and 40s with those of blacks in the 60s and 70s. He believes he got to Harvard purely on individual achievement. It's very important now more than ever to have alternative media and commentary beyond the Establishment.

This is the rhetoric, of course, that got us where we find ourselves today. We've gotten three decades of itanti-government (social welfare), anti-poor, anti-black rhetoric and legislation. Government for those who know how and want to play the game of exploiting those least able to defend themselves, that is what we’ve talked ourselves into. But even the best laid plans go awry.

Legislators, judges, the presidents since Reagan have made it very hard for us to turn from the present course. But I believe in the connectedness of which King speaks. It will come clear soon enough we will all have to pay for this hypocrisy this time around.Rudy


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Dear Rudy, here's a song I thought apropo.Anita

"Abraham, Martin and John"   3:03   Trk 23   Disc 3
(Dick Holler)

Smokey Robinson And The Miracles
Tamla Records single #54184
Producer - Smokey Robinson, June 11, 1969
Pop Chart #33 July 5, 1969

Album: 35th Anniversary Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
(1994 Motown Records) 37463 -6334-2.


Abraham, Martin and John

Anybody here seen my old friend Abraham?
Can you tell me where he's gone?
Oh, he freed a lot of people
But the good they die young
I just looked around and he's gooone-gone

Anybody here seen my old friend John?
Can you tell me where he's gone?
Oh-ooh, he freed alot of people
But the good they die young
I just looked around and he's gone

Anybody here seen my old friend Martin? ah
Can you tell me where he's gone-ooone?
He freed some people
But the good they die young
I just looked around and he's gone

Now didn't you love the things they stood for?
Didn't they try to find some good for you and me?
(For you and me) and we'll be free
Someday, soon it's gonna be one day

Anybody here seen my old friend Bobby?
Can you tell me, can you tell me
Where he's gone?

I-I-I thought I saw him walkin'
Way over the hill
With Abraham, Martin and John
(Abraham, Martin and John)
(Abraham, Martin and John)

Thought I saw him walkin'
(Abraham, Martin and John)
Thought I heard them talkin'
(Abraham Martin and John)
About we the people
(Abraham Martin and John)
How to free the people
(Abraham Martin and John)
This world's still terrorized
And now they're all


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The People Are the True Poets

When asked if she

was getting tired

of walking,

one old sister said:


“My soul has been

tired for a long time.

Now my feet are tired

and my soul is resting.”


The rest of us

are just journeymen

making a dishonest living.

Julius Lester, Search for the New Land (1969)


There Was No Spring in 1968

The winds of winter died

as our northern half

of the world tilted

toward the sun, but

there was no spring, April

was scarcely old enough

to know its name

when Martin Luther King

was hurled into Death


King was not cold

before blacks turned

night into day. They

knew that the bullet

had killed a little

of each of them.


For ten days blacks

“joined together”

and “worked together”

and the smoke

from the purifying

flames even drifted

over the White House

in huge black billows.

Julius Lester, Search for the New Land (1969; pp150-151)


King Preaches His Own Funeral

If any of you are around

When I have to meet my day,

I don’t want a long funeral.

And if you get somebody

to deliver the eulogy

tell him not to talk too long.

Tell him not to mention

That I have a Nobel Peace Prize—

That isn’t important.

Tell him not to mention

That I have 300 or 400 other awards—

That’s not important.

Tell him not to mention

where I went to school.


I’d like somebody to mention that day


Martin Luther King, Jr.,

tried to give his life serving others.


I’d like somebody to mention that day


Matin Luther King, Jr.,

tried to love somebody


I want you to say that day

that I did try

to feed the hungry

I want you to be able to say that day

that I did try in my life

to visit those who were in prison.

And I want you to say

that I tried to love and serve



Yes, if you want to

Say that I was a drum major.

Say that I was a drum major for justice

Say that I was a drum major for peace

Say that I was a drum major for righteousness

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Only a dying culture would seek to save itself by feeding upon its dead. Only a dying culture would exult about putting some men on the moon while half of mankind lives on the starvation level. (Julius Lester, Search for the New Land (1969; p. 148)

Martin Luther King, Jr., called upon black people to be as Christian as Christ.Julius Lester, Search for the New Land (1969; pp151-153)


Revolutions proceed, not by the intensity of one’s desires, but by their own laws. The revolutionary’s duty is to know that what to do can never be separated from when to do. There is, however, always something to do.Julius Lester, Search for the New Land (1969; p. 160)


(Jet—April 18, 1968)

posted 16 January 2006

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The Katrina Papers is not your average memoir. It is a fusion of many kinds of writing, including intellectual autobiography, personal narrative, political/cultural analysis, spiritual journal, literary history, and poetry. Though it is the record of one man's experience of Hurricane Katrina, it is a record that is fully a part of his life and work as a scholar, political activist, and professor.  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 formthe 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 historylies 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

*   *   *   *   *'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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#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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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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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.WashingtonPost

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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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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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