ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes

   

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You have given the best of yourself to your country within the past two years, and I am confident

you will continue to do so until late 2012.  Let the future praise you for audacity of sacrifice, but do

not seek a second term as President.  Retire into private life and write good, wise books

 

 

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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Books by Barack Obama

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance  / The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream

Obama's Greatest Speeches (CD set)  / Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters

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Open Note to President Barack Obama

 By Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

 

26 November 2010

 

Dear President Obama:

Because I have great respect for you, I urge you to read and digest a brief passage from Chapter 15 of Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince (1513). I quote Daniel Donno’s translation:

Many men have imagined republics and principalities that never really existed at all.  Yet the way men live is so far removed from the way they ought to live that anyone who abandons what is for what should be pursues his downfall rather than his preservation; for a man who strives after goodness in all his acts is sure to come to ruin, since there are so many men who are not good. (Bantam Books edition, 1981, page 56)

Your tragic flaw, Mr. President, is your steadfast belief in the goodness of human beings. To put Machiavelli’s truism into a contemporary context, recall how very influential the thinking of the political philosopher Leo Strauss is in elite universities, in daily government, and in conference rooms where decisions regarding the world’s economy are made. In its more vulgar forms, Strauss’s ideas have been twisted and trimmed to fit nicely into our national discourses about a future for the United States of America.

You have given the best of yourself to your country within the past two years, and I am confident you will continue to do so until late 2012.  Let the future praise you for audacity of sacrifice, but do not seek a second term as President.  Retire into private life and write good, wise books.  Do not taint your noble character with complicity in the devolving of the United States into fascism.  Unfortunately, such a death-trap enterprise seems to be the telos of America in the new world order of the twenty-first century. I would pray that my intuitions about this state of affairs were “out to lunch,” but I do fear they are “coming to dinner.”

Sincerely yours,

Jerry W. Ward, Jr.

 posted 3 December 2010

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Noble lies and deadly truths—Leo Strauss noted that thinkers of the first rank, going back to Plato, had raised the problem of whether good politicians could be completely truthful and still achieve the necessary ends of their society. In The City and Man, Strauss discusses the myths outlined in Plato's Republic that are required for all governments. These include a belief that the state's land belongs to it even though it was likely acquired illegitimately and that citizenship is rooted in something more than the accidents of birth. The journalist Seymour Hersh opined that Strauss endorsed "noble lies": myths used by political leaders seeking to maintain a cohesive society.

According to Strauss, Karl Popper's The Open Society and Its Enemies had mistaken the city-in-speech described in Plato's Republic for a blueprint for regime reform. Strauss quotes Cicero, "The Republic does not bring to light the best possible regime but rather the nature of political things—the nature of the city." Strauss argued that the city-in-speech was unnatural, precisely because "it is rendered possible by the abstraction from eros." The city-in-speech abstracted from eros, or bodily needs, and therefore could never guide politics in the manner Popper claimed. Though skeptical of "progress," Strauss was equally skeptical about political agendas of "return" (which is the term he used in contrast to progress). In fact, he was consistently suspicious of anything claiming to be a solution to an old political or philosophical problem. He spoke of the danger in trying to finally resolve the debate between rationalism and traditionalism in politics. In particular, along with many in the pre-World War II German Right, he feared people trying to force a world state to come into being in the future, thinking that it would inevitably become a tyranny.—Wikipedia  

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Left’s pressure moves Pelosi toward clashes with Obama—By Russell Berman—22 November 2010—When President Obama meets with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi next year, he may face a lot more resistance than he’s used to from his longtime ally.The shift from Speaker to opposition leader will undoubtedly change Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) relationship with the White House, and may force her away from a president she has rarely abandoned in the past two years. . . . “We’re going to have to really push the White House and the Senate,” Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said. “I think the greatest failing in this Congress was that the House … enabled the White House, and the White House was not always right.  “We’ve got to push them harder from our position,” he added, “to do what Democrats need and what’s expected by Democrats.”

 DeFazio and other House Democrats criticized Obama for spending too much time and political capital trying to negotiate with Senate Republicans on bills like the stimulus and healthcare reform. They say those talks resulted in watered-down legislation with weak public support. Complaints with the White House have festered for months on Capitol Hill, but they resurfaced in the aftermath of the Democrats’ devastating defeat in the midterm elections.TheHill

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Obama the Great Placator, needs to throw some elbows—By Courtland Milloy—30 November 2010—Watching President Obama walk back to the White House with a busted lip from a recent basketball game, I was hoping he would step toward the TV cameras and show off his scar. Taste the blood in his mouth, tell us that he'll just have to take it out on the Republicans or something. Instead, Obama trudged on by, nursing his wounds, looking like a kid who had just been sucker-punched in a schoolyard brawl. . . . I don't mean to pile on with more criticism of Obama as a wimp, but a White House spin doctor to make him look tough after a pickup basketball game? Man up, Obama. Let us see you with blood on your teeth and fire in your eyes. Or does being the first black president mean you can never show yourself to be a man in full?

Now he wants a pay freeze for federal employees, announced just in time for Christmas - and only two months after proposing to give them a modest raise. Did the Republican leadership pop him in the mouth, too?

Obama's decision will be a devastating blow to the Washington area's economy, not to mention a betrayal of some of his most loyal supporters and the nation's most dedicated public servants. After throwing nearly a trillion dollars to rescue banks and big business, he turns around and picks the pocket of everyday working people.

Has there ever been a president who treated his sworn enemies so much better than his proven friends?  What a milquetoast. . . . Much of this criticism against Obama has to do with his resolve, not his race. But I see the president as a black man first. It's a pride thing. Obama's victory wasn't just about his progressive platform. It was a historic, racial barrier-busting victory that was supposed to make it just a little easier for black boys to imagine being president.

But Obama is proving himself to be a most peculiar commander in chief. Maybe another black boy will someday grow up to become president, but if he turns out to be like Obama, it'll be hard to call him a black man.—WashingtonPost

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Open Letter from an African to the American President Barack Obama on the War in Libya

By Jean-Paul Pougala

translated from French by Sarli Sardou Nana



Mr. President,

It is with a heavy heart that I am writing this letter to appeal to you to take heed to the message that the House of Representatives sent out to Americans yesterday (24/06/2011) by rejecting the text authorising U.S. military intervention in Libya, and to end the on-going attacks against the Libyan people with the most extravagant excuses like that is to protect them.

Three years ago you ignited an entire continent, the African continent during the presidential primaries of the Democratic Party. And when you were elected president, we believed and saw in you, this son of Africa who had succeeded and could now serve as reference for a billion Africans. You seemed to be the hero we have never had, because our heroes have become legends based on the emotions aroused by their short lives (all killed by the Europeans). With your election as President of the United States of America, we thought for a moment that you were that Black Demi-God that Africa is still searching for after all these years of shame while in contact with Europe. Yes Mr. President, we knew that you were voted by Americans to maintain the interests of your country, but what did you expect?

Did you think you were also our President, that you had our genes? We had dreams with our eyes wide open that you are also our black brother. All of us saw you as one of us, as someone who was able to understand the cries and sufferings of Africans better than any other person in position of power on earth. We wore your shirts, we chanted your strapline YES WE CAN, but in our minds in Africa, we had given it a different meaning. The explanation was that the fate of a forsaken race had suddenly taken a new turn for the better, the same process of evolution of other races. CHANGE! Indeed.—
P
ougala

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New Call for Letters for sequel to Go, Tell Michelle‏

By Peggy Brooks-Bertram and Barbara Seals Nevergold

Why White America Perhaps Fears Michelle More Than Barack

Excerpts from a “Jack & Jill politics” newsletter  

Responses to Post-Midterm Elections

Hunger for a Black President  / Biko Speaks on Africans  /  Introduction I Write What I Like

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Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters

By Barack Obama / Illustrated by Loren Long

 

 

In this tender, beautiful letter to his daughters, President Barack Obama has written a moving tribute to thirteen groundbreaking Americans and the ideals that have shaped our nation. From the artistry of Georgia O’Keefe to the courage of Jackie Robinson, from the strength of Helen Keller to the patriotism of George Washington, President Obama sees the traits of these heroes within his own children, and within all of America’s children. . . .This beautiful book is about the potential within each of us to pursue our dreams and forge our own paths. It celebrates the characteristics that unite all Americans, from our nation’s founders to the generations to come.—Excerpted from the inside cover

Of Thee I Sing is basically a baker’s dozen, brief biographies of important figures in American history, from Father of the Country George Washington up to Maya Lin, the artist/architect who, while still an undergraduate at Yale, designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial located on the National Mall.

Each subject’s entry is accompanied by an evocative airbrush portrait by Loren Long, an award-winning illustrator who has previously collaborated with the likes of Madonna and Walt Whitman. For example, the drawing of Jackie Robinson’s captures the late baseball great at bat in his Brooklyn Dodgers uniform, while that of artist Georgia O’Keefe shows her in the midst of painting one of her trademark flowers in full bloom.

My only quibble with President Obama’s picks here is with his predecessor Washington, a wealthy plantation owner who never emancipated his 300+ slaves at Mount Vernon, not even upon his death. This opus conveniently makes no mention of that glaring moral failing, opting to focus instead on the first President’s “principles” and on his patently hypocritical belief “in liberty and justice for all.”  

Although I’m willing to give the author a Mulligan since he presently has many more pressing issues on his plate, I was nonetheless pleased by the inclusion of the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Sitting Bull, and Albert Einstein. There was a method to Obama’s madness, here, as each choice is hailed for a prevailing trait, ranging from creativity to intelligence to bravery and beyond. The literary equivalent of a “Yes We Can!” rally led by our charismatic Commander-in-Chief for the benefit of the Sesame Street set.Kam Williams  

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#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

Non-fiction

#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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Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work

By Edwidge Danticat

Create Dangerously is an eloquent and moving expression of Danticat's belief that immigrant artists are obliged to bear witness when their countries of origin are suffering from violence, oppression, poverty, and tragedy. In this deeply personal book, the celebrated Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat reflects on art and exile, examining what it means to be an immigrant artist from a country in crisis. Inspired by Albert Camus' lecture, "Create Dangerously," and combining memoir and essay, Danticat tells the stories of artists, including herself, who create despite, or because of, the horrors that drove them from their homelands and that continue to haunt them. Danticat eulogizes an aunt who guarded her family's homestead in the Haitian countryside, a cousin who died of AIDS while living in Miami as an undocumented alien, and a renowned Haitian radio journalist whose political assassination shocked the world.

Danticat writes about the Haitian novelists she first read as a girl at the Brooklyn Public Library, a woman mutilated in a machete attack who became a public witness against torture, and the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat and other artists of Haitian descent. Danticat also suggests that the aftermaths of natural disasters in Haiti and the United States reveal that the countries are not as different as many Americans might like to believe..CaribbeanLiterarySalon  / Review and Interview by Kam Williams

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To create today is to create dangerously. Any publication is an act, and that act exposes one to the passions of an age that forgives nothing. Hence the question is not to find out if this is or is not prejudicial to art. The question, for all those who cannot live without art and what it signifies, is merely to find out how, among the police forces of so many ideologies (how many churches, what solitude!), the strange liberty of creation is possible. It is not enough to say in this regard that art is threatened by the powers of the State. If that were true, the problem would be simple: the artist fights or capitulates. The problem is more complex, more serious too, as soon as it becomes apparent that the battle is waged within the artist himself. The hatred for art, of which our society provides such fine examples, is so effective today only because it is kept alive by artists themselves.Create Dangerously, A Lecture by Albert Camus, December 14, 1957 at the University of Uppsala in Sweden

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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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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update 1 April 2012

 

 

 

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Related files: Black American Narrative Does Not End  Richard Wright Print Resources  China II Report  Making the Wright Connections  November 28, 2010 and Richard Wright