ChickenBones: A Journal

for  Literary & Artistic African-American  Themes


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as we are moving to a higher awareness and advance front of class struggle, our whole

world is again overturned in the militant and fiercely interpersonal struggle around sexism.



Books by Kalamu ya Salaam


The Magic of JuJu: An Appreciation of the Black Arts Movement  /   360: A Revolution of Black Poets

Everywhere Is Someplace Else: A Literary Anthology  /  From A Bend in the River: 100 New Orleans Poets

Our Music Is No Accident   /  What Is Life: Reclaiming the Black Blues Self

My Story My Song (CD)


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Our Women Keep our Skies From Falling

Six Essays in Support of The Struggle To Smash Sexism/Develop Women



It Ain't Easy

By Kalamu ya Salaam


Writing these essays has been an intensely educational and qualitatively critical experience in my life effort to contribute to the ongoing defense and development of African-americans. 

"Women's Rights Are Human Rights" was first presented at an international Human Rights conference that was held during November 1978 at Xavier University in New Orleans; later, it was published in BLACK SCHOLAR (Vol.10, Nos. 6,7).

 "Revolutionary Struggle/Revolutionary Love" was written as a contribution to the 1979 THE BLACK SCHOLAR (Vol. 10, Nos. 8,9) forum, "The Black Sexism Debate," which was generated around responses to an earlier article written by Robert Staples. 

"Debunking Myths" was written in my preparation as a panelist at AHIDIANA's 2nd Annual Black Woman's Conference 1979. "RAPE: A Radical Analysis From An African-American Perspective" was written in 1978, extensively discussed within our organization, AHIDIANA, and revised in 1979 and 1980. A shorter version of the rape essay appeared in the "Meaningful Relationships" issue of BLACK BOOKS BULLETIN (Vol.6, No.4). 

"The Struggle To Smash Sexism Is A Struggle To Develop Women" was presented in outline form at AHIDIANA's 2nd Annual Black Woman's Conference 1979. "On Getting Together" was written in preparation for my participation in AHIDIANA's 3rd Annual Black Woman's Conference 1980. "And Raise Beauty To Another Level Of Sweetness" is a poem written as part of a promotional effort for the May/June Woman's issue of THE BLACK COLLEGIAN Magazine (Vol.10, No.5).

Writing these pieces has required an all-around reassessment of social relationships. In fact, my study of the so-called "woman's question" has helped broaden my understanding of how necessarily deep a revolutionary transformation must go into our "personal" lives. This is particularly true for those cadre who strive to be responsible and leading elements of our people's struggle for peace and power.

What has been most difficult - and concurrently most rewarding, most valuable - is getting outside the strait-jacket of my individual self, i.e. my own experiential limitations, and being able to study and begin to understand the experiences and viewpoints of people different from myself. While this process has been facilitated by traveling to different Third World countries, study and struggle around sexism in combination with attempts to practice what is preached has made the biggest difference in opening my eyes to the reality of others.

The socialization of this society, and likewise of most societies in the modern world, intentionally blinds us, not only to the situation of other peoples, but indeed, such crippling socialization also blinds us to the reality of different forms of oppression, exploitation and their effects on us in America. 

For many of us, the only vision we have been taught and believe, concerning the possibilities of human existence, is: "niggers," "white folks," and "foreigners." That's a very narrow, destructive and self-limiting conception of human potential and actualitybut it has been this vision of life choices which has (misguided us down the river of underdevelopment. Unknowingly, we have labored mightily at the oars pushing the boat of ignorance further into the social jungles of prejudice, self-alienation and cynicism about human nature and the human condition. In some cases, our twisted perceptions and lifestyles have led us unconsciously, although still backwardly, to become either "oreos" or, worse yet, "brown eyed, red necks." 

Far too many of us have not yet realized how socially damaging the Euro-american indoctrination has been. And now, just as we are struggling through the anti-social aspects of having been victimized by racism, just as we are moving to a higher awareness and advance front of class struggle, our whole world is again overturned in the militant and fiercely interpersonal struggle around sexism.

In the cases of race and class struggle, the human agents of enemy philosophies and actions were, for the most part, external to African-american women and men. However, struggle around sexism is a different matter. Macho-isms are mouthed by and manifested in the beliefs and behavior of African-american, as well as Euro-american, men. Now the rain falls on our heads. 

Many of us do not like this and even go so far as to absurdly suggest that because we are Black we can walk between the raindrops and somehow, incredibly, not get wet. But this is no quickly passing, brief spring shower. What we are facing is a full strength st6~m whose flood water will wash away all of the sexually exploitive, macho-designed social structures which crowd the landscape of our living in this country. Whether we like it or not, we African-americans must swim or sink, must either construct sexually non-exploitive relationships or else socially drown as our various unions crumble and fall apart.

Only after a long period of individual and collective study and struggle have I been able to move toward actualizing, in my own personal life, thorough going anti-sexist/pro-feminist principles and practice. Like many men before me, and, I'm sure, like other men who will come after me, dealing with the truism that "the personal is political," in the context of struggling around sexism, has called for a qualitative transformation of my own social life, a transformation whose magnitude and importance I had not anticipated.

What I now realize is that the three main "personal" social relationships of American society - woman/man relationships, home life, and childcare/child rearing - are all designed to support male lifestyle choices. As men, we could actively participate in past struggles against racism and economic exploitation without confronting the wrongness of our interpersonal relationships. 

Furthermore, these relationships invariably were male-dominant and female exploitive, thusly providing African-american men a sphere of social control which compensated for our exclusion from broader avenues of power within the American political and economic system. So comes this question of sexism and everything is upset. There is no rest, no pleasure. "Our women," literally and figuratively, no longer "belong to us. We men were extremely comfortable with the way our relationships were in the past. Today, there is an element of brooding anger at "them" those "women libbers" who have messed up our "good/Black thing" by injecting ideas which originated from "bored bourgeoisie white housewives." 

This anger and blindness, this refusal to deal with the reality of our woman/man relationships, this reactionary stubbornness is but the emotional skin which covers an adherence to a sexist system of social relationships which affords men both social and material privileges, as well as, automatic authority over the lives of women.

This is the skin and the sexist social system I'm happily shedding. I understand that for women and men in America, the restructuring of our personal lives is a major and difficult revolutionary step. And though it ain't easy, we are steady stepping on, steady struggling toward a qualitatively better social system within which women and men have political and economic equality.

Cover Drawing by Douglass Redd copyright July 1980 By Kalamu ya Salaam

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Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement

 A Radical Democratic Vision

By Barbara Ransby

One of the most important African American leaders of the twentieth century and perhaps the most influential woman in the civil rights movement, Ella Baker (1903-1986) was an activist whose remarkable career spanned fifty years and touched thousands of lives. A gifted grassroots organizer, Baker shunned the spotlight in favor of vital behind-the-scenes work that helped power the black freedom struggle. She was a national officer and key figure in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and a prime mover in the creation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Baker made a place for herself in predominantly male political circles that included W. E. B. Du Bois, Thurgood Marshall, and Martin Luther King Jr., all the while maintaining relationships with a vibrant group of women, students, and activists both black and white.

In this deeply researched biography, Barbara Ransby chronicles Baker's long and rich political career as an organizer, an intellectual, and a teacher, from her early experiences in depression-era Harlem to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Ransby shows Baker to be a complex figure whose radical, democratic worldview, commitment to empowering the black poor, and emphasis on group-centered, grassroots leadership set her apart from most of her political contemporaries. Beyond documenting an extraordinary life, the book paints a vivid picture of the African American fight for justice and its intersections with other progressive struggles worldwide across the twentieth century. UNC Press

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Who Was Ella Baker—Ella Baker began her involvement with the NAACP in 1940. She worked as a field secretary and then served as director of branches from 1943 until 1946. Inspired by the historic bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955, Baker co-founded the organization In Friendship to raise money to fight against Jim Crow Laws in the deep South. In 1957, Baker moved to Atlanta to help organize Martin Luther King's new organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). She also ran a voter registration campaign called the Crusade for Citizenship.

On February 1, 1960, a group of black college students from North Carolina A&T University refused to leave a Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina where they had been denied service. Baker left the SCLC after the Greensboro sit-ins. She wanted to assist the new student activists because she viewed young, emerging activists as a resource and an asset to the movement. Miss Baker organized a meeting at Shaw University for the student leaders of the sit-ins in April 1960. From that meeting, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)  was born.

Adopting the Gandhian theory of nonviolent direct action, SNCC members joined with activists from the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to organize in the 1961 Freedom Rides. In 1964 SNCC helped create Freedom Summer, an effort to focus national attention on Mississippi's racism and to register black voters. . . .

With Ella Baker's guidance and encouragement, SNCC became one of the foremost advocates for human rights in the country. Ella Baker once said, "This may only be a dream of mine, but I think it can be made real." Her audacity to dream big is a cornerstone of our philosophy. Her influence was reflected in the nickname she acquired: "Fundi," a Swahili word meaning a person who teaches a craft to the next generation. Baker continued to be a respected and influential leader in the fight for human and civil rights until her death on December 13, 1986, her 83rd birthday.—EllaBakerCenter

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#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

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

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

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

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

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

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

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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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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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."Lisa Adkins, University of London

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The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family

By Annette Gordon-Reed


This is a scholar's book: serious, thick, complex. It's also fascinating, wise and of the utmost importance. Gordon-Reed, a professor of both history and law who in her previous book helped solve some of the mysteries of the intimate relationship between Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings, now brings to life the entire Hemings family and its tangled blood links with slave-holding Virginia whites over an entire century. Gordon-Reed never slips into cynicism about the author of the Declaration of Independence. Instead, she shows how his life was deeply affected by his slave kinspeople: his lover (who was the half-sister of his deceased wife) and their children. Everyone comes vividly to life, as do the places, like Paris and Philadelphia, in which Jefferson, his daughters and some of his black family lived. So, too, do the complexities and varieties of slaves' lives and the nature of the choices they had to make—when they had the luxury of making a choice. Gordon-Reed's genius for reading nearly silent records makes this an extraordinary work.—Publishers Weekly

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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 2 March 2012




Home  Kalamu ya Salaam Table  

Related files: "Revolutionary Struggle/Revolutionary Love"  Our Women Keep Our Skies From Falling  Preface: It Aint Easy   Debunking Myths  Rape: A Radical Analysis   "Women's Rights Are Human Rights"