ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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Africans reshaped European Christianity for their sensibility, including interpreting myths

to make slavery more bearable with songs and sermons preaching heaven

after you die while the slave master enjoyed heaven on earth



Myth and Spirituality

 By Marvin X


I don't want the Christian truth, Muslim truth, Buddhist truth, Hindu truth, gay truth, straight truth, Communist truth, white or black truth—I want the whole truth, so help me God.—Marvin X

The myth is the words or story. Myths can be secular or religious. They can have divine authority or they can reinforce social taboos. All people have myths, all cultures and civilizations. There are historical myths to explain the origin of the world or the origin of a people. There are myths about heroes and sheroes, about events of significance in a people's culture.

Myths function to explain what otherwise cannot be explained. Thus, myths sometimes go beyond the facts, beyond reality into the supernatural. Myths help heal the gaps in a people's psychological repertoire, especially when they have suffered collective amnesia or some other mental condition as the result of a horrific or traumatic event. Zionist mythology is an example. It has turned Israel into a racist regime in its occupation of Palestine. It is a case of mythology gone wild, gone mad, backed by an even sinister mythology called white supremacy or US imperialism.

In the case of African Americans, slavery was an event so terrible, so genocidal, including mass rape, cultural destruction, including language, religion, social institutions, family relations. Despite the terror and destruction, Africans managed to reconstruct and salvage aspects of their culture in the new world.

They syncretized African and European mythology in order to survive, especially in religion since it was such a danger to their continued subjugation. Syncretizm took place not only in the USA but throughout the Americas, in Cuba with Santeria, Brazil with Condomble, in Haiti with Vodun. In North America it was expressed in Holy Ghost ritual.

Africans reshaped European Christianity for their sensibility, including interpreting myths to make slavery more bearable with songs and sermons preaching heaven after you die while the slave master enjoyed heaven on earth. Some of these songs and sermons were in code to inspire revolt and escape, such as the songs "Steal Away" and "Go Down Moses."

But it wasn't until the coming of Master Fard Muhammad and his initiate Elijah Muhammad that a truly original African American mythological system was created, serving as a therapeutic tool in healing the sick psychological condition of the North American African. Master Fard and Elijah tricked the trick out of the so called Negro.

Slavery had turned the African into a trick and whore for the American pimp, but Fard and Elijah taught supreme wisdom that dispelled the inferiority complex of slavery. Supreme wisdom was the Balm of Gilead that healed a multiple of sins in the so called Negro. It gave him mental stability, a historical continuity, restoring his African/Asian roots as the original man.

The Fard/Elijah mythology gave new dignity through its liberating theology that taught freedom, justice and equality, and preached national liberation and independence through separation, mentally and physically. Islamic culture, especially Elijah's Sufistic version (tempered for the so called Negro) was a powerful antidote to the passive, slavery teachings of black Christianity.

The Islamic mythology expedited the decolonization of North American Africans. It was a spiritual force in harmony with the worldwide decolonization of so called Third World peoples in Africa, Asia and Latin America.  It countered the racist policy of divide and conquer by stressing unity as the mighty weapon of liberation.

It took Malcolm X to express this mythology most effectively with his unique oratorical and organizational powers, helping Elijah become the most feared black man in America, and the Nation of Islam grew into the largest black organization since Marcus Garvey's UNIA.

Islamic mythology became the foundation of the Black Arts Movement aesthetics, the inspiration of poems, plays, music, paintings and other artistic expression. While BAM's ritual drama's attempted to utilize the Christian ritual energy, it was the Islamic mythology that gave it substance. See the works of Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Askia Toure, Larry Neal, Henry Dumas, Marvin X, the Last Poets and others. We cannot stress the importance of musicians who expressed this myth/ritual energy, such as Coltrane, Archie Shepp, Sun Ra, Milford Graves, Chicago Art Ensemble and others.

After his assassination, Malcolm X became the great hero of BAM and the liberation movement in general. Malcolm's spiritual journey expanded his consciousness and black people's when he turned to orthodox Islam, although Elijah's Islam continued to exert an influence in Black American culture, from black art to black studies, politics and economics.

Ron Karenga's myth/ritual Kwanza was a rehashed African harvest festival designed to negate Christmas, although it has now degenerated into another commercial holiday. The so called Negro never seriously instituted the seven principles of Kwanza. Hallmark has made billions selling cards and the Koreans have made billions selling phony Kenti cloth and outfits for the Kwanza ritual and other Afro-centric occasions.

But surely the Kwanza myth/ritual has had some positive effect on the traumatized African American psyche, thus his spiritual condition.

In summary, myth is the story, ritual is the enactment of the story or the drama. The myth is the word, ritual is the action. Nathaniel Turner took the Christian mythology to another level with his liberation theology and ritual slave revolt. Before and after ole prophet Nat, brothers and sisters enacted the myth/ritual of liberation. And this resistance continues to this day.

Spirituality that does not embrace total liberation from colonialism and neo-colonialism is merely religiosity, thus dysfunctional, whether Christian, Muslim, traditional African or New Age, New Thought.

Religiosity has not and will not lead to the national advancement of North American Africans, rather it keeps us stunted and retarded, instead of guiding us into the upper room of spiritual and political liberation. We shall not realize spiritual maturity until we achieve both.

Church that is merely big business is a sham and desecration of the teachings of Jesus Christ and Muhammad. Meaningless ritual dramas at mega prayer meetings and million people marches have not and cannot lead to liberation, only to the economic benefit of the few. When we free the spirit of the people with revolutionary liberation theology, the vestiges of slavery shall be no more, and strong men and women shall dance into the new day.

posted 5 July 2006

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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#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

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#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

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#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

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#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

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#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

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#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
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Weep Not, Child

By Ngugi wa Thiong'o

This is a powerful, moving story that details the effects of the infamous Mau Mau war, the African nationalist revolt against colonial oppression in Kenya, on the lives of ordinary men and women, and on one family in particular. Two brothers, Njoroge and Kamau, stand on a rubbish heap and look into their futures. Njoroge is excited; his family has decided that he will attend school, while Kamau will train to be a carpenter. Together they will serve their countrythe teacher and the craftsman. But this is Kenya and the times are against them. In the forests, the Mau Mau is waging war against the white government, and the two brothers and their family need to decide where their loyalties lie. For the practical Kamau the choice is simple, but for Njoroge the scholar, the dream of progress through learning is a hard one to give up.—Penguin 

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The Warmth of Other Suns

The Epic Story of America's Great Migration

By Isabel Wilkerson

Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a sharecropper's wife, left Mississippi for Milwaukee in 1937, after her cousin was falsely accused of stealing a white man's turkeys and was almost beaten to death. In 1945, George Swanson Starling, a citrus picker, fled Florida for Harlem after learning of the grove owners' plans to give him a "necktie party" (a lynching). Robert Joseph Pershing Foster made his trek from Louisiana to California in 1953, embittered by "the absurdity that he was doing surgery for the United States Army and couldn't operate in his own home town." Anchored to these three stories is Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Wilkerson's magnificent, extensively researched study of the "great migration," the exodus of six million black Southerners out of the terror of Jim Crow to an "uncertain existence" in the North and Midwest. Wilkerson deftly incorporates sociological and historical studies into the novelistic narratives of Gladney, Starling, and Pershing settling in new lands, building anew, and often finding that they have not left racism behind. The drama, poignancy, and romance of a classic immigrant saga pervade this book, hold the reader in its grasp, and resonate long after the reading is done.

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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s 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. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s 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, I’m 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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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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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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