ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


Home  ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)


Don't worry if the sun burns you black like the earth
Fly to Allah and be safe in the caves of your mind



Books by Marvin X

Love and War: Poems  / In the Crazy House Called America / Woman: Man's Best Friend Beyond Religion Toward Spirituality

*   *   *   *   *
Remembering Shani Baraka

                                                          By Marvin X


When will the murdering end in the land of murder
when will it end?
when will the talk and marching make sense to fools even?
Poets are not safe in this land
even their children are not safe
from the death angel who walks through fire untouched
until the white house turns black
murder will reign in the world
no families are secure
Baldwin said, "The murder of my child will not make your child safe!"
Connect the dots, America
arms merchant of the world
whose guns pollute the hood
shrines to death and eternity stand on every corner
candles, teddy bears and tears
notes of pain and love, RIP
and the shrines return to the same corners every full moon
when death does her dance in the moonlight of our madness
is it too much to ask for sanity in this blood soaked land
is it too much to ask for a moment of clarity and peace?
Woe to America, she has become the habitation of devils
the haven for every filthy, unclean bird.
Fly to Allah. seek refuge from the blood of the beast
who devours the souls of men, women and children
from Palestine to Newark, from Liberia to Congo
from Soweto to Hunters Point in Frisco
Fly to the mountains of peace, take refuge in the trees
feed the cows and horses
see how they run to you, happy to see you with the hay?
plant the corn with your fingers
don't worry if dirt is in your pretty nails.
Don't worry if the sun burns you black like the earth
Fly to Allah and be safe in the caves of your mind
away from the evil one who walks through fire.
who seeks to devour the children we do not protect
so the big bad wolf blows the house down
we stand wondering how and why and who.

I told Shani to take me to the ocean and she said OK
but we never went
she was busy and so was I
I told her to come to Cali
she said OK but never did
She told her Mama, "Marvin X is the only man I like!"
And I liked her
bow legs. point guard. room full of trophies
I didn't think about challenging her in a game of one on one.
I wasn't going to embarrass myself since I wasn't in shape
I fixed her breakfast
She said she never saw a man cook before.
No, not her father nor her brothers
Maybe that's why she liked me.
I was drunk one night and invaded Amiri's study
I told him I wanted to marry Shani
He told me the next day,
"Marvin, you get drunk and say the damnest things!"
Her mother said, "Take her!"
but I never did. so Shani lived her life with her girls.
Her brothers said, "Shani just mannish! She be all ite."
Last time I heard, she had joined church and coached basketball.
The little point guard with the bow legs. The feminine spirit of Baraka.
We love you, Shani. You and your girl, Rayshon. Peace.

*   *   *   *   *

When Parents Bury Children

                 By Marvin X

a pain nothing can kill
no words suffice
no tears complete
we are numb
but dead inside
walk with pride that hides
open wounds
only you can see
others try
some are true
but do they really know
the pain
of loss
a child
so young
so bright
now the emptiness forever
except the memory
of all the yesterdays
from birth to now
thoughts of joy confound
yet make us smile
if only for a moment
like eternity
and is gone
into the night of foreverness
and so we walk crippled yet brave
each day
the price of life and love
the cost of moments lost yet found again
as we walk
and talk to the spirit world
where death does not enter
only living water flows as we flow
between life and spirit
which are one.

posted 3 March 2006

*   *   *   *   *

The Politics of Life and Death

By Marvin X

Speaking at the funeral of his beloved sister Shani, Ras Baraka cried out, "Why couldn't we save her in all of our blackness, our prayers, our revolution talk, our [healing] conferences?" This is a most profound question that should rattle the hearts and souls of all activists, radicals, and revolutionaries. Indeed, how can we save the world yet neglect our families? Although my oldest son is forty years old, he still feels abandoned and neglected because I was fighting for freedom during the 60s. He told me I should have been home taking care of him and his mother, even though my struggle to teach at Fresno State University reportedly made things better for the whole town. After my fight, even black policemen admitted they were able to police white sections of town they were previously not allowed to enter.

Nevertheless, the cries of my child cannot be dismissed as the wail of an "ungrateful bastard." The cry of Ras Baraka must be considered so that in our struggle, our fights, our poems, our conferences, we do not neglect our families, no matter how ungrateful we might think they are. One problem is that they often become alienated from us when they see contradictory behavior, so we must first of all resolve contradictions.

Harlem radical Elombe Brathe commented on my play ONE DAY IN THE LIFE, "The reason Marvin's daughter Nefertiti became a Christian was because she saw the contradictory behavior of her father and wanted no part of his revolution or his Islam." This is the sad truth. And after some time for healing, the Barakas must ask themselves why did Shani become a Christian after growing up with Communist parents?

Of course her Christianity has nothing whatsoever to do with her tragic death and that of her partner, but I am responding to Ras's comments that have to do with revolutionary struggle and our families. Often we miss the point of struggle: to first unite our families.It is our families that slavery destroyed. It is our families that have been ravaged by street violence, domestic violence, drugs, alcohol, ignorance, and immorality. Save the family, save the nation.

I was recently told that I could not save the world. This was shocking news to me. My whole life has been dedicated to saving the world. I was told to come off the battle field sometime and just be me, drop the X and just be Marvin, carrying that X is a burden that can be overwhelming. I was told I had already made a great contribution to my people, me and my generation, had indeed, made things better, so relax and enjoy life, enjoy your family.

Only a few days ago, one of my daughters told me to stop thinking of myself all the time and think about her and her needs, even though she is an adult, she was crying out for my love, not my poetic love, revolutionary love, simply fatherly love!

I let her know I would come out of my ego trip and revolutionary pursuits to engage her, to spend time with her in an attempt to heal the trauma of her childhood, even though she has entered full womanhood. Will this not be a revolutionary act on my part? Will this not help strengthen the community, advance the world struggle against racism, sexism, and economic exploitation?

posted 31 July 2008

*   *   *   *   *

   *   *   *   *   *

"American Poem" Ras Baraka (Def Poetry) /  Lauryn Hill and Ras Baraka—Hot Beverage In Winter

*   *   *   *   *'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


#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

*   *   *   *   *

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.

*   *   *   *   *

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

*   *   *   *   *

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)

*   *   *   *   *

Ancient African Nations

*   *   *   *   *

If you like this page consider making a donation

online through PayPal

*   *   *   *   *

Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


*   *   *   *   *

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

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

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

*   *   *   *   *

*   *   *   *   *

 ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more) 





update 5 March 2012




 Home  Amiri Baraka Table  Marvin X

Related files: #1  #4  There Are Some Black Men  Baraka's Daughter Killed  Poems of Remembrance   Home-Going Celebration  A Plea from Amiri Baraka