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 Xhosa, a strong people who had fought the Boers to a standstill. Makanna and Nonggause

tell the Xhosa killing all their cattle will bring back the ancestors to help them fight.

The Xhosa killed the cattle and the Xhosa starved. The survivors were enslaved.



Rootwork and the Prophetic Impulse

By Arthur Flowers


I am Flowers of the Delta Clan Flowers and the Line of O Killens.

My mama had a stroke last Thanksgiving and shes not doing too well and I tell you aint nothing like watching your mama going down hard to put a little focus in your life.

lord legba, it is i, rickydoc rootdoctor,
ask that the gate be opened.

I once when I was a young hoodoo in training had this Discipline where one day a month I would speak Absolute Truth as I saw it. I soon abandoned that discipline because the Absolute Truth is often more trouble than its worth. A little fudging here and there keeps social life social but in my work, my fiction and my webwork, I still try to speak Absolute Truth as I see it.

And since Im in such a fey mood Ima tell you something I probably do better to keep to myself. Basically what I aspire to be is a Prophet of the Hoodoo Way.

When it first start manifesting itself in my work and my performances, a certain cultural, even mythic authority, what Ive come to call the prophetic voice, I repressed it. It refused to be denied. It kept leaking through, both work and performance. I should have known it was coming from fact that my current novel-in-progress, Rest For The Weary, (another riff on Highjohn the Conqueror mythwork) is about a Memphis based hoodoo sorceror who would be a prophet. Boy a pretty good sorceror, a questionable prophet.

But it wasnt until I was doing an after-reading Q&A in Knoxville, a headtied woman asked me, Do you consider yourself a prophet. I had never considered such a thing and had no idea what I was saying when I said, Well, yes I guess I do.

Some other reading or maybe that same one, this brother was on my case, Well who chose you to save the race, he kept asking me. I hem, haw and wiggle, mumble that I got the training, the skills, the vision, the fire in the belly, I can do this, I know I can. So I got to try. Yeah, but who chose you to be the one, he kept pushing and finally I told him God did.

Looking back Id have to say that was when I started manifesting the prophetic mode. Around about the same time, say about 10 years ago, Rest for the Weary started concepting itself. Which eventually became a meditation on the prophetic impulse. So Im researching for Rest, Im studying the prophetic impulse, Im studying the classic prophets of history, folk like Buddha and Jesus and LaoTze and Moses and Muhammad and the Prophets of Israel. And the black diasporic prophets, Nat and Gullah Jack, Boukman Dutty and Zumbi and Accompong and Harriet and Rembe and the prophetic traditions of Africa. Martin and Malcolm.

I note the dynamic between the person the culture and the myth. Interesting. I note the dynamic of the dialogues they establish with the generations of their tradition. Interesting. How to hook it up so that it is destinic and evolutionary and grows with time - the prophets True Instrument. Interesting. Real interesting.

The more I study it the more interesting a force I find it, this thing prophecy. I note that every tradition has a system of renewal and regeneration - the prophetic impulse - specially designated spiritual workers operating outside of priestly hierarchies and vested interests who are considered divinely guided to reform, renew and regenerate stagnant traditions. Offer new and improved Understanding of God.

I determine that a serious wouldbe prophet must first develop the Prophetic Voice. The Dinka ran nhialics, the Masters of the Fishing Spear, are defined by their power to make a thing so just be saying it is so:

As I Define So Shall It Be. Be I Then Worthy Of I Gift.

The wouldbe prophet then manifests through Works designed to interface destinically with the human condition, the human spirit and historical circumstances.

Works designed to evolve through time: a manifestation of sacred literature: working the tribal soul: the consciousness of a people, their communal soul as shaped and reflected in their culture and their literature, their spiritual traditions, their music and their art, their folklore, myths and legends, the lives its people live, the communities they build, their Way of Being.

It is the black psyche manifested through culture. The hoodoo premise is that you take care of the tribal soul and everything benefits. We call that Rootwork. If the soul is healthy our lifestyles are healthy, our strategies and our visions. If the soul is sick everything else is sick and dysfunctional.

All cultures are simultaneously dynamic and entropic, a constantly fluctuating blend of strengths and weaknesses. African American culture has been as much dysfunctional and entropic as it has been vibrant and illuminated. So weak sometimes you wonder how we will ever survive. Which shall it be. At best we are one of the most powerful cultures on the planet. Witness the worldwide influence of The Struggle. Witness the HipHop Nation.

The Question is will we or will we not be one of the Definitive Cultures of the Future. Which shall it be. Will we survive and prosper as a people and culture or will we decline and wither. Disappear. For all the problems that come with it I like being Black and I would rather we not disappear as a distinct people and culture.

One cares for the tribal soul by monitoring it through its cultural products, contributing what it needs to balance out its weaknesses and emphasize its strengths. Minimizing the dysfunctional components and emphasizing the transformational. The battles over gangster rap and mercenary literature are battles for the control of our cultural traits. Of our Destiny. Our Fa.

As are issues and dialogues regarding the shape and evolution of African Traditional Religion.

In the old days this was done primarily through prophetic exhortation and exhortation still has it place. But depending on exhortation alone in this age of Mass Media and Internet Access would be foolish. Oxcart thinking.

My most important understanding came relatively early. That the prophetic voice is more than a Foreteller of the Future. True Prophecy is Prophecy that Guides individual, social and destinic actions. Prophecy connects current behavior w/future consequences in order to force social change through divine sanction.

The wouldbe prophet uses the Prophetic Vision to see as far into the future as possible and anticipate the changes, the crises and opportunities the tribe will have to overcome in its generations long struggle for survival and prosperity. The aspiring prophet then determines what social traits will be necessary to meet those challenges and tries to program them into the cultural soul through ageold techs of magical, prophetic and ideological orchestration.

Basing authority to do so on the deceptively simple proclamation, God told me to.

"Cast your vision young hoodoo as far as you can see, determine the challenges the tribe will face, prepare the tribal soul to meet them." (rickydoc)

My biggest fear is, of course, that I am further making a fool of myself. My work carries enough mystical baggage as it is and true prophets are a once in an era thing. Got to assume that most anybody claim to be a prophet is most likely fooling themselves. Or trying to fool you.

Or maybe peddling escapist dreams that lead to behavior not suitable to the Historical Moment. I note the case of the Xhosa, a strong people who had fought the Boers to a standstill. Makanna and Nonggause tell the Xhosa killing all their cattle will bring back the ancestors to help them fight. The Xhosa killed the cattle and the Xhosa starved. The survivors were enslaved. A sincere but uninformed prophet is probably worse than a false one.

The aspirant prophet must manifest through selfless service and the fruit of their labor.

In traditional societies it is often a diviner, such as Rembe of the Lugbara, who would, because of their focus on the future and often in response to some cultural crises, become known as prophets. What distinguishes the traditional diviner from the prophet/diviner among the Nuer or the laibons of the Masai, is the prophets concern with political and social guidance, often through ceremony more public than the private performance of the diviner.

It was Bob Law during an interview once asked me, How does it feel to be part of the mythopoetic tradition of the Delta. I had to think about it a moment, savor the concept, Feels good, I told him, feels real good.

I have since been conscious of my own life as a work - the mythmakers greatest myth. I want in my lifework to play out that Returning Hero myth. Who comes whenever the people are in need. If you can program it right, it constantly renews itself throughout the generations. According to need.

For I am the Horse of Highjohn the Conqueror. I am a Tricking Man. In the Line of Ishmael. And Baba John O Killens. The Great Griot Master of Brooklyn.

So Im walking that thin private/public line. Im struggling to be the prophet I know I can be. Im speaking out on weak bullshit in the race no matter who it offend. Im Working my texts, Im Working my cosmology, Im Working the tradition, Im preparing the ground and Im planting my seeds, Im walking the walk Im talking the talk.

Of course I'm walking blind, defining the role as I go along. Dont think much of fundamentalist demagogues and newage spiritual marketers. (I guess Im just a traditionalist at heart, just trying to help the Tribe survive another winter.) And I don't go around trying to convince nobody of nothing. I just do my Work.

And I Will Not Abide A Thief Of Souls.

My understanding of the prophetic impulse is that it is in my own Tradition that I must be heard. That I must be willing to challenge the weaknesses in my own Culture. The actions of our enemies and competitors are not my primary concern. My primary concern is the strength of the Blackrace. Period. I have to forge a strong people that will meet any challenge.

In Mojo Rising: Confessions of a 21st Century Conjureman, I propose an African American Way. An Enlightened Way. A Highroad.

The Hoodoo Way.

For ultimately the battle for the survival of our culture and generations will be one of Grace. Which is the Better Way.

And if we are to be a Better Way we must first clean our own House. Its so very easy to call out other folks fanatics and fundamentalists. Its our own fundamentalists that we are silent on. The wouldbe prophet must often challenge the powers that be - be they Elites, Activists, Fellow Players, Fundamentalists, or even The People - when trying to forge new responses to cultural crises. Often the very people you want to listen to you.

If your tradition of prophecy is one respected by the tribe, you are given the Dispensation. I have accepted the fact that it takes time to build a prophetic reputation, time and patient service until I am awarded the Sacred Asson by the will of the tribe. Trusted as a font of spiritual and strategic advice. I will with my life define just what it is that a Hoodoo Prophet do. I am what you might call a Sacrifice.

And I hope I aint never scared to speak true. I hope that I am always true hoodoo.

This is my understanding of Conjuration: You must conduct yourself as you Aspire to be. And then you Are.

In the spirit of David Walker, strategic analysis in Rootwork will conduct itself as if we were in truth A Powerful People and True Players in the Course of Human Events.

Brother Walker, walk with me.

Of course, always best if you serious about what you do to maintain a Low Profile. To speak in code. Not only is it embarrassing to flaunt such megolamaniac impulses, if I was taken seriously Id be dangerous. Vulnerable. Im always gon maintain a Low Profile. But this is the commitment I make to my readership. Rickydoc Flowers gon speak Truth to the People. For as long as I can sustain it Rootwork is where you come to hear the best Truth I can give you.

And in honor of my new commitment to significance and in my mothers name, Eloise Ross Flowers, a racewoman from the oldschool, Im changing the title of my webblog to Rootwork. My website is called so I didnt want to call my blog Rootwork too but this gon be where the Action is.

I fear folk think I am a joke.

A failed novelist w/metafictional mindburn. Emerge did an article awhile back on invisible black male writers and I didnt even make the invisible list. Guess God dont want me resting on my laurels. No sense having an attitude cause folk dont see my Vision. Thats why they call it a Vision.

My Vision is a simple one: Blackfolk as a Wise and Wondrous People: Humanities Guide and Guardian.

A Star Faring Race.

I would that the struggle for Black Empowerment be synonmous with the struggle for Human Dignity. I would wed these two tribes of mine, the black race and all humanity. I would our generations survive and prosper.

I call for the Highroad, Blackpeople. It is a Good Plan. It is A Luta Continua. It is Irie. It is Geas by Rickydoc. To Regain our Legacy as Gods Holy Instrument and Reach Our True Potential as a People we must Stand on Higher Ground.

I ask then that we strive always to be the most Magnanimous, most Magnificent and most Beautiful People on the Planet. I ask that we take Responsibility not only for our own Destiny but for the Destiny and Wellbeing of all Peoples and all Jah creature great and small.

I ask only that we be the Great and Glorious People we were meant to be. The Illuminated Children of the Sun. Humanities Living Ancestors. Gods True Chosen.

Im probably the slackest holyman ever been. It cross my mind sometime that if I really am the hope of the race we in bigger trouble than we thought. But what can I do. Im in it now. Be damn if Ima let history say I had the power but I didnt have the heart:

I will continue to conduct myself as I aspire to be. A 21st Century Conjureman. A Prophet of the Hoodoo Way. Your friendly neighborhood hoodooman doing I job best I know how. Strategically implanting my Destinic Vision into the Historical Record and Leaving a Message for Future Generations:

I am Rickydoc
When you need me
You call me
I will come

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"Folks still thinking of mobilization 60s style, antiwar marches, online petitions, teachins and so on, the makedo strategies of the weak and powerless, but innovative infoworld based approaches (such as the Black Radical Congress' underutilized cyberorganizing initiative) possibly more appropriate to the historical moment." Mojo Rising: 5th Movement

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"A good empowerment strategy should train us as a people in the skills that we need to survive and prosper in the 21st Century. What do Reparations train us to be. Better beggars. Pleasepleasemrwhitefolk, pleasepleasemakeuswhole. I thought we dumped waiting for whitefolk to save us round about 1975. How did we get back to this as primary strategy. " A. Flowers

Arthur Flowers, a Memphis native, is the author of two novels, De Mojo Blues and Another Good Loving Blues (Ballantine Books), and a children's story, Cleveland Lee's Beale Street Band. He is a Vietnam veteran, blues singer, co-founder of the New Renaissance Writer's Guild. In addition, he is the webmaster of Rootsblog: A Cyberhoodoo Webspace and a performance artist whose presentation, Delta Oracle: A Griot Speaks in Tongues, keeps him busy and Professor of MFA Fiction at Syracuse University.

*   *   *   *   *'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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Black Americans in Congress, 1870-2007

By Matthew Wasniewski

Black Americans in Congress, 1870–2007 beautifully prepared volume—is a comprehensive history of the more than 120 African Americans who have served in the United States Congress. Written for a general audience, this book contains a profile of each African-American Member, including notables such as Hiram Revels, Joseph Rainey, Oscar De Priest, Adam Clayton Powell, Shirley Chisholm, Gus Hawkins, and Barbara Jordan. Individual profiles are introduced by contextual essays that explain major events in congressional and U.S. history. Part I provides four chronologically organized chapters under the heading "Former Black Members of Congress." Each chapter provides a lengthy biographical sketch of the members who served during the period addressed, along with a narrative historical account of the era and tables of information about the Congress during that time. Part II provides similar information about current African-American members. There are 10 appendixes providing tabular information of a variety of sorts about the service of Black members, including such things as a summary list, service on committees and in party leadership posts, familial connections, and so forth.

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Michelle Alexander: US Prisons, The New Jim Crow  / Judge Mathis Weighs in on the execution of Troy Davis

The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness 

By Michelle Alexander

The mass incarceration of people of color through the War on Drugs is a big part of the reason that a black child born today is less likely to be raised by both parents than a black child born during slavery. The absence of black fathers from families across America is not simply a function of laziness, immaturity, or too much time watching Sports Center. Hundreds of thousands of black men have disappeared into prisons and jails, locked away for drug crimes that are largely ignored when committed by whites. Most people seem to imagine that the drug war—which has swept millions of poor people of color behind bars—has been aimed at rooting out drug kingpins or violent drug offenders.

Nothing could be further from the truth. This war has been focused overwhelmingly on low-level drug offenses, like marijuana possession—the very crimes that happen with equal frequency in middle class white communities.

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The Persistence of the Color Line

Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency

By Randall Kennedy

Among the best things about The Persistence of the Color Line is watching Mr. Kennedy hash through the positions about Mr. Obama staked out by black commentators on the left and right, from Stanley Crouch and Cornel West to Juan Williams and Tavis Smiley. He can be pointed. Noting the way Mr. Smiley consistently “voiced skepticism regarding whether blacks should back Obama” . . .

The finest chapter in The Persistence of the Color Line is so resonant, and so personal, it could nearly be the basis for a book of its own. That chapter is titled “Reverend Wright and My Father: Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism.”  Recalling some of the criticisms of America’s past made by Mr. Obama’s former pastor, Mr. Kennedy writes with feeling about his own father, who put each of his three of his children through Princeton but who “never forgave American society for its racist mistreatment of him and those whom he most loved.” 

His father distrusted the police, who had frequently called him “boy,” and rejected patriotism. Mr. Kennedy’s father “relished Muhammad Ali’s quip that the Vietcong had never called him ‘nigger.’ ” The author places his father, and Mr. Wright, in sympathetic historical light.

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Jefferson's Pillow

The Founding Fathers and the Dilemma of Black Patriotism

By Roger W. Wilkins

 In Jefferson's Pillow, Wilkins returns to America's beginnings and the founding fathers who preached and fought for freedom, even though they owned other human beings and legally denied them their humanity. He asserts that the mythic accounts of the American Revolution have ignored slavery and oversimplified history until the heroes, be they the founders or the slaves in their service, are denied any human complexity. Wilkins offers a thoughtful analysis of this fundamental paradox through his exploration of the lives of George Washington, George Mason, James Madison, and of course Thomas Jefferson. He discusses how class, education, and personality allowed for the institution of slavery, unravels how we as Americans tell different sides of that story, and explores the confounding ability of that narrative to limit who we are and who we can become. An important intellectual history of America's founding, Jefferson's Pillow will change the way we view our nation and ourselves.

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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 8 March 2012




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