ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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Baraka's poetry reflects the moment and his moments are in constant change,

always searching for the right note that puts him in harmony with his people, t

hat is the search, that is the reason for his season.



Books by Marvin X

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

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Books by Amiri Baraka

Tales of the Out & the Gone  / The Essence of Reparations / Somebody Blew Up America & Other Poems  / Blues People

 Autobiography of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka / Selected Poetry of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones / Black Music

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Marvin X Reviews

Somebody Blew Up America & Other Poems

By Amiri Baraka

who killed the most niggers

who killed the most Jews

who killed the most Italians

who killed the most Irish

who killed the most Japanese

who killed the most Latinos….


Who/ Who/ Who/


Who own what ain't even known to be owned

     Who own the owners that ain't the real owners…

Not since "Howl" has a poem rocked America like Baraka's “Somebody Blew Up America,” a catalogue of American imperialism without ever naming the perpetrator, although it caused controversy when it questioned whether Israelis showed up for work at the world trade center on 9/11.


Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get


Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers

                            To stay home that day

                                                   Why did Sharon stay away?

Who, Who, Who/


Firstly, one should recognize it as a great poem with or without the controversial lines, they do not make or break the poem. As any great poem must, it forces us to think and think hard about the causes of 9/11 and to search deeper into the American psyche to decipher why a people can be so delusional to think that what goes around will never come around.

Great poets change stylistically and Baraka is no different, actually, he is a guy in constant change, style and otherwise, especially politically, but he began among the beat poets of New York's Greenwich Village, abstract, sounding very white even, his wife would say, until he came under the influence of African American poets like Yusef Rahman and Askia Toure. 

Then he changed, not only style but a more black nationalist content, also as a result of associating with Malcolm X and then the pain and torture of his assassination rocked Baraka one more time, and with the closing of the Harlem Black Art's Repertory Theatre/School, he returned to Newark, NJ. "A Poem For Black Hearts" could sum up this period. But time passes, things change in the politics of Newark, a black mayor is elected with critical support from Baraka's political machine.

Disillusionment set in, black power remained white power in black face, climaxing in the Gary convention of 1972—seen by Baraka and others as a betrayal of the grassroots by the black elected officials. He turns from black nationalism to communism, joining Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, Richard Wright, and others who saw no other way out of our morass. Has Communism destroyed his creativity and/or spirituality? Absolutely not. He showed me a video of his performance at Harlem's Schomberg Library.

When I saw him literally transform from mere poet to prophet/preacher, I demanded he stop the tape—that I had seen enough, that he was a Communist fake (yes, I assaulted him in his house, in his bedroom, with his wife, assaulted her too) because the video revealed more spirituality than most black preachers. And if you want Africanity, check Baraka on that David Murray CD, no African is more African than Baraka on this album.


My brother the king

Sold me to the ghost

When you put your hand on your sister and made her a slave

When you put your hand on your brother and made him a slave

Watch out for the ghost

The ghost go get you Africa

At the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean

Is a railroad of human bones

The king sold the farmer to the ghost….

What horn player is without Coltrane's or Parker's touch? Now if one is politically afraid or economically afraid to be associated with Baraka, say so. But to say his poetry suffered, became mere propaganda, is simply untrue. Some poets negate him to placate their masters, even reject any comparison to him, when we know no African American poet is without Baraka's touch, or shall we say Baraka's ghost?

Baraka's poetry reflects the moment and his moments are in constant change, always searching for the right note that puts him in harmony with his people, that is the search, that is the reason for his season. His recent use of Ebonics suggests an attempt to reach the hip hop audience as well as assault, debase and desecrate the King's English, not that he spares the King.


Who the biggest only

Who the most goodest

Who do jesus resemble

Who created everything

Who the smartest

Who the greatest

Who the richest

Who say you ugly and they the good lookingest

(from Somebody Blew Up America)

His search is to create poetry digging into the history and myth of our blackness in this land and throughout Pan Africa, to dig into the history and myth of humanity and make it plain, as plain as Joseph Campbell's myth/ritual lectures.

The poems are thus history lessons, cultural explanations and explorations, education for a people lost in darkness or whiteness, uplifting, smashing ignorance, for example “Why Is We Americans” is as powerful as “Somebody Blew Up America,” and of course the real power is seen or heard in his public readings. But within the poetry itself is the mind of a wise man teaching constantly, integrating jazz, blues, and sounds unheard into the heard so the blind, deaf, and dumb can see, hear, and understand.

Why Is We Americans


but how is we then, by that

Americans? by what….

by burn

by scar

by slavery

by ghetto and darkness in the

night of pain

for race a dumb idea, to be a

thing that is bet upon

How we be then them. How we

be that say

why is we, then, they who it is

you say, Americans.


was they them Americans

with us in the fields. Not as

bush one or two. To say Work

nigger work. Was they there,

any. Who felt the pain of whip

and still was hip. How is we

americans. we never lived with


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The controversy over “Somebody Blew Up America” at first reveals the utter hypocrisy of constitutional freedom of speech. I maintain, with or without the US constitution, a poet can say whatever the fuck he wants to say, anytime anywhere. And yes, we know poets, writers, and journalists are murdered throughout the world for this very reason, because they are determined to speak the truth as they see it, to deliver the truth to their people, not for money, but for truth, which clearly distinguishes revolutionary poets from commercial vipers, pimps, whores, pharaoh's magicians who dumb down the people for a mess of pottage. 

Would you tell Picasso what colors to paint, Miles what tunes to play, then don't tell poets what they can or cannot say, write. After all, what do you know about language, words, poetry? What do you know about profanity and obscenity—has it ever occurred to you that your life is profane and obscene simply because you accept it as such without protest? What is more profane and obscene than wage slavery? Persecution is worse than slaughter, says Al Qur'an. See Claude McKay's “If We Must Die.”

Baraka's beauty is in his ability to respond to his critics with a high level of  intellectuality, the man is simply not the dummy that can be sent into the other room. He is too bright, too well read, well traveled for this, maybe some dumb rapper would crumble and be silent, but Baraka has stood his ground throughout the matter, essentially, the attempted silencing of a black man who is, yes, a smart nigguh who refuses to shut up, no matter what the price, even the murder of his daughter, that may or may not have been the result of domestic violence, it could very well be political. 

These devils will murder and eat dinner in the same instant. After all, this is not the first time the Baraka family has been terrorized by America. Remember, he was beaten bloody, teeth knocked out, on the streets of Newark during the 60s National Guard riot. Meanwhile, his wife, Amina, and children were terrorized in their home by police and national guard.

Anyhow, this recent collection will let you enjoy a poetic moment with Malcolm and Betty, a praise song to Kwame Toure, and my favorite “Why Is We Americans,” a poem every American must read, and the book ends with the now classic “Somebody Blew Up America.” We thank the brothers from the Caribbean for publishing this collection.

posted 20 December 2003

*   *   *   *   *'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

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Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered

the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It

By H. W. Brands

In Greenback Planet, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands charts the dollar's astonishing rise to become the world's principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. Brands explores the dollar's changing relations to gold and silver and to other currencies and cogently explains how America's economic might made the dollar the fundamental standard of value in world finance. He vividly describes the 1869 Black Friday attempt to corner the gold market, banker J. P. Morgan's bailout of the U.S. treasury, the creation of the Federal Reserve, and President Franklin Roosevelt's handling of the bank panic of 1933. Brands shows how lessons learned (and not learned) in the Great Depression have influenced subsequent U.S. monetary policy, and how the dollar's dominance helped transform economies in countries ranging from Germany and Japan after World War II to Russia and China today. He concludes with a sobering dissection of the 2008 world financial debacle, which exposed the power--and the enormous risks--of the dollar's worldwide reign.  The Economy

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."

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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

Browse all issues

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


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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 4 March 2012




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