ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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You must visit the castles of Ghana and realize that this experience was the birth

of both the African and unavoidably also the nigger. Both the African

and the nigger were conceived in the mind of a White man, and born in the womb

of the slave castle because only the African and the nigger survived that.



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)


*   *   *   *   *

Tarzan Can Not Return to Africa But I Can


By Kalamu ya Salaam


I: Cape Castle

             We were early. Or, I should say we arrived before the procession got to the castle. We had paid attention to the schedule rather than to the reality of the people marching through the streets, walking to the castle with candles. So we arrived when the paper with the numbers on it said that things should start. Of course, none of our trio was surprised when nothing had started "on time." We took the opportunity to explore.

            At the back edge of the castle, we stood in the semi darkness at the precipice facing the sea. Stood beside the cannon.

            Where I stood, centuries before a European soldier stood, a slave trader stood, a ship's captain stood. And perhaps they and I wondered the same thing. How will this venture turn out for me? What, if anything, will Africa mean to me?

            Isn't it pathetic that it is easier to identify with the mind set of the colonialists then to imagine all the misery and anguish of our raped innocence? What did our ancestors think? Under the conditions they faced, what was it possible to think? But of course none of our ancestors were allowed to stand here on the wall and look out across the water, listen to the waves and leisurely dream of lands far away.

            I am stymied. I hear the sea. I feel the fort's immensity. I am covered in the dust of African travel. And I can not even imagine what to think. This is the trauma of birth. I am leaving the certainty of a Black womb and cast into something so shattering I can not even think. No wonder they characterized us as dumb and stupid. We were probably catatonic, unable to do little more than move.

            The dungeons have stone floors. We were chained there. Pissed there. Shat there. Some of us probably were even born there. Lay there. Spit and cried. And bled. The whole life cycle of Africa seeped into and absorbed by those stones.

            Peering into the unlit magazine (the small room where they kept the munitions), I try imaging that dark as it appeared centuries ago. Imagine being wrapped in that dark. You go down into the dark and everything is damp with body fluids, and the doors are closed and you are left alone, chained in your misery. Your sense of sight is useless. You can't see anything. You wish you couldn't smell anything. Every odor is pungent. And it seems that everything you touch moves, or slips, or slides, or is slimy, or something. Everything is moving except the dead body next to you, but everything else moves when you touch it. And of course, in the dark, you hear everything. Everything. And what you don't hear, you imagine you hear. You hear memories. You hear that seabird you heard cawing days ago when they first pushed you down the stairs into this sinking hole. You hear your heartbeat. You sharply hear a multitude of sounds. Noises. You can not imagine what causes all the sounds you hear. It is sensory overload.

            What must it have been like to breath there. Every time you breath in you suck up the tears and terror of someone next to you. They characterized us as scared of our own shadows, as believing in ghosts.

            Suppose you woke up naked, enchained, on a cold stone floor wet with your own piss that you tried to hold but couldn't, and your arms are wrapped around your brother who is dead. Over in another room, your sister is having the same experience but you do not know what she is experiencing.

            Suppose you woke up after a night of shifting shades of darkness. Of different languages shouted, languages you've never heard before. Some praying, some cursing the name of a god you did not even know was a god.

            Suppose you woke up and found yourself still alive but hugging a corpse for warmth. It had been cold in that hole, and you clung to each other for sanity. Clung desperately to this body which had been breathing when you fell asleep a few minutes ago, a few hours ago.

            Suppose the live one was you, could you still be sane? 

            You have to go to Ghana to understand. You have to wade through the vibrancy of the people and confront the mute witness of white rock castle. You have to stand facing the sea. Walk the yard. Look into the darkness you are afraid to confront even with a  torch or flashlight.

            At the bottom of one stairwell where there was nothing except solid wall surrounding a small floor, even when we shone the light the roaches did not scurry away.

            Imagine being there in the dark and insects are crawling all over you. Across your lips pressed tightly close you feel little legs running toward your nose and because you are chained one to another, you can not always get your hand up fast enough, so you exhale hard trying to blow the roach off your face or at least keep the thing out of your nose. This is when you learn to press close to the person beside you, press your face into the back of their hair and smell the sweat of their fear all night and wake up to discover that you have embraced a dead person. Could you handle it?

            No matter what you know intellectually, you have to go to Ghana to even begin to grasp the magnitude of this deflowering of our innocence. I always thought the middle passage was where we suffered, but climbing back up the steps out of the dungeon, I now know. I know. Men separated from women. Each of us going through hell and having no words to tell each other about it. Only the look. Only the haunted look of surviving the castle experience.

            You are a human being when you are marched into the fort, and if you survive howsoever long you are held captive there, if you survive you face the middle passage. And if you survive that, you face chattel slavery in the new world.

            How can any human remain human after centuries of that? Look at how fanatical the Jews are after less than two decades of Hitler (1933 - 1945).

            Tarzan has been among us for generations.

            Our psychosis as a people started in the castles. At the top of the steps, pausing as I cross the doorway into the yard, I wonder what cure can there be for the illness that the castle wrought?

            This is too much to think about. There are no words for this story. There is no language to talk about this. Tarzan's yells? The chants of traditional Africa? Standard American English? No, none of that is enough to communicate the transformation that the castle wrought.

            I have never known this before. I may have thought about it a little, but never  really imagined it. When I left New Orleans, flying north to New York and then southeast across the Atlantic into Africa, I had no way of knowing that everything I thought I knew about how we became Africans and what being an African (in the generic sense) meant had to be revised significantly in the face of the reality of the castle.

            I had been to East Africa. I stood in the sand and touched the chains. I understood slavery. I had seen ancient auction block in Africa. In the Caribbean, even in the USA. I had read books and talked with wise women and men, but I never understood before now the profound reach of history.

            If you want to know why we hate ourselves and each other. Why African dictators can be so brutal sometimes. Why we have these blood feuds which divide us even more than fighting Europe unifies us. Why we never ever seem to be able to get it all together. If you want to understand anything, everything. You must visit the castles of Ghana and realize that this experience was the birth of both the African and unavoidably also the nigger.

            Both the African and the nigger were conceived in the mind of a White man, and born in the womb of the slave castle because only the African and the nigger survived that. When you left the castle either you were dead or you were irreversibly changed forever. Some of us became more of one than the other, but all became at least a little of each. We became really Black (and blue) there in the stone wombs of those castles.

            We became something new. We became an African: an all encompassing identity that overrode whatever social identity we had, and, at the same time, we became that traumatized individual who can never fully trust his brother, never fully love his sister, never again fully be a member of the group, the tribe, the village, the land because most of us were captured by Black hands and sold into slavery.

            I understand the mitigating circumstances.

            I understand that the chiefs were often overwhelmed and forced to either capture others and sell them into slavery or watch their own people be marched off to never-never land.

            I understand that more than a few fought, and that our weapons of warfare were far inferior.

            I understand that many of the chiefs had no idea of what slavery meant in the new world and how it was so unlike being a slave in Africa.

            I understand all of that now, but a few centuries back, enchained in that roach laden, dark, filthy, lightless hole, I am not sure what I understood, or even if there was anything I could have understood.

            How does an adult understand that everything they have been they no longer are, and, while reflecting on that awesome thought, simultaneously understand that an identity they could never have conceived on their own, they are now in the process of becoming?

            As is the case with all humans, while most of us are not stupid, the majority of us are not geniusesit would have taken an African genius to figure out slavery at that moment. What slavery meant, how it happened, and how not just to survive, but to overcome. Based simply on the weight of numbers, the luck of the draw, there were probably more than a few geniuses among the millions who passed through those holes. 

            I learned I wasn't one of those geniuses when my little white candle faded momentarily. Nia had handed the candle to me as I was the first to charge into the magazine. Earlier in the evening I had already gone part of the way in and had looked down through a portal at the processioners exploring the dungeon below where I stood. I had not felt any fear or any spirits for that matter, so I did not hesitate to take the candle and go further into the magazine.

            Moving resolutely into the unknown, I probably appeared to fearlessly trod down the steps. There was nothing there, just a dead-end cavity. After we saw nothing but a wall and a low ceiling, some bats and insects, everyone turned to go exploring other parts of the castle. Because I had descended the steps first and held the candle, I felt like I was the only one who walked around on the floor.

            Nia had been at the bottom too. This place does strange things to your sense of perception. Even though we were a group crowded into such a small space, I felt utterly alone. Utterly.

            As I started back up, my candle faltered while I was still on the bottom step. I looked up and could hear voices above me and see pinpoints of light bouncing off the curved wall, but around me and behind me was darkness and all I could think about eleven o'clock that Friday night on the 9th of December, 1994 was getting out of there.

            The candle flared back up quicklyit was less than a second. But in that second, all I could think about was getting out. Getting out.

            The castle changes you forever.

J: Only the Strong Survive

            You know that the world is never the same after "the man" shafts whatever he encounters.

            In the process of being shaped into Africa, Africa was also raped and robbed. Africa suffers from the trauma of that rape and robbery. The lost of millions and millions of her strongest people. The lost of self esteem as her elders were rendered impotent, her traditions shattered, her culture trampled by the unmerciful wheels of commerce. The pain, the disease, the shame, the slavery. Centuries after centuries.

            Under European chattel slavery, a century is three generations, at best. Imagine over nine generations of us ground to human meal betwixt the rock and the hard place of racism and capitalism. Auschwitz was one generation. Elmina was Auschwitz nine times over.

            Before Tarzan built one church, Tarzan built the castle. A fort was his foothold and from there he swung through the countryside. But regardless of what Tarzan said in the bush, the fort reveals his real intentions.

            According to one of our guides, the coast of Ghana contains twenty-eight of the thirty-some existent slave castles. Pre-Hitler, concentration camps of whitewashed stone with holding cells instead of ovens. The vast majority of these thick walled way stations were the beginning of a long journey into an unimaginable new identity. Instead of a train ride to a ghastly hell of tattoos and death, the ticket of slavery led to a long boat ride into a living hell of generations of chattel existence for those who were so unfortunate as to survive -- and while millions and millions of us died, we were so strong that millions also survived.

            For every five of these wombs, these wounds on our humanity where we bled, and bled, and bled and dropped pitiful as poisoned cattle. For every five of these social cankers blighting the body of Africa's west coast, four festered on Ghana's shores.

            These castles were the dining rooms of Europe's ascending bourgeoisie.

            The traders picked over us, sucked the strong ones, the succulent ones, the ones who would build up mercantilism, industrialism, capitalism and all them isms. They ate us, belched and threw the bony ones of us aside, scraps for scavengers.

            Europeans literally consumed us in these castles, greedily shoved us through the maws of the front gates and defecated us out of small holes in the rear of the castles, loading us onto the ships, where we were packed into the bottoms destined to become the fertilizer of the "New World's" phenomenal economic growth. Capitalism was the cook and we were the meal.

            The scavengers of land, sea and air grew fat on the edge of Ghana. Huge, slow moving crabs feasting on fingers, toes, intestines and the soft parts of the face. Big bellied vultures plucking the delicacy of eyeballs. Huge-eyed hyenas laughing in the night dragging off thigh bones. The castles supplied nature's clean up crew with plenty, plenty dark meat.

            For every five of these terrible, fetid dining halls, four were in Ghana. Our flesh was not all Ghana born, indeed a small number of us came from as far as the East African coast, but even if we were born two months-walk away, no matter, four out of five of us left Africa with Ghana dust in our nose, coughing and hacking up blood while the Harmattan winds covered us with dull red granules of Saharan sand. Ghana air was the last of Africa we breathed.

            Thus, there is no surprise that Ghana is where the idea of Pan Africanism was really born. Here is where Africa's first bloody birth was consummated. Here is where Garvey and Padmore, C.L.R. and Walter Rodney got their intellectual ancestral start. Right in these slave castles: Cape Coast, Elmina, and twenty-six others. Locked up within these walls, our great philosophers first achieved the understanding that we were all Africans with the same immediate destiny: over the wall in death, on the ship if we lived.

            Even those who avoided capture because of stealth, or because of resistance, or because of, well, because of just plain luck, no matter, because even those who avoided captivity were traumatized in the bush by the cruel beauty of Tarzan. Whether Tarzan was called plantation master, or governor sir, or savior Jesus Christ.

            Don't you think the sudden shock of experiencing de-evolution at this level will produce at least one or two profound philosophers? In the castle we were stripped of everything except the essential spiritual kernel of our Africanness.

            Pan African was the indestructible seed we carried into the Americas as we were literally wrenched naked out of Africa. When this philosophical seed sprouted, it would flower most articulately from the mouths of those thousands of miles and several generations removed from African soil. Du Bois returned to work and die in Ghana because Du Bois the philosopher was spiritually born in the castles of Tarzan.

            The idea of unifying Africa and expelling Tarzan was born within the restrictions of the slave castles where hundreds of thousands of us died in captivity waiting sometimes as long as a year for a ship to transport us away.

            Up until imprisonment in the castle, some of us were willing to coexist, to accommodate, to seek what would later, in the post cold war world of international relations, be called "détente". We already knew resistance. But, within the castle was born the philosophy that there can be no coexistence with this evil, Tarzan must be expelled. 

            The debate still rages today. Some of us can not live without Tarzan. Some of us can not live with him. All of us are having a hard time living.

Source: WordUp

K: Pick Your Favorite

            Since 1918 there have been forty-eight Tarzan movies. Forty-eight. 40 + 8.


            1918   Tarzan of the Apes      

                        Elmo Lincoln


            1918   Romance of Tarzan

                        Elmo Lincoln


            1920   The Revenge of Tarzan



            1920   The Return of Tarzan

                        Gene Pollar


            1921   The Son of Tarzan

                        P. Dempsey Tabler


            1921   The Adventures of Tarzan

                        Elmo Lincoln


            1927   Tarzan and the Golden Lion

                        James Pierce or Frederick Peters


            1928   The Mighty Tarzan

                        Frank Merrill


            1929   The Tiger Tarzan

                        Frank Merrill


            1932   Tarzan, The Ape Man

                        Johnny Weissmuller


            1933   Tarzan The Fearless

                        Buster Crabbe


            1934   Tarzan and His Mate

                        Johnny Weissmuller


            1935   The New Adventures of Tarzan

                        Bruce Bennett


            1936   Tarzan Escapes

                        Johnny Weissmuller


            1938   Tarzan and the Green Goddess

                       Bruce Bennett


            1938   Tarzan's Revenge

                        Glenn Morris


            1939   Tarzan Finds a Son

                        Johnny Weissmuller


            1941   Tarzan's Secret Treasure

                        Johnny Weissmuller


            1942   Tarzan's New York Adventure

                        Johnny Weissmuller


            1943   Tarzan's Desert Mystery

                        Johnny Weissmuller


            1943   Tarzan Triumphs

                        Johnny Weissmuller


            1945   Tarzan and the Amazons

                        Johnny Weissmuller


            1946   Tarzan and the Leopard Woman

                        Johnny Weissmuller


            1947   Tarzan and the Huntress

                        Johnny Weissmuller


            1948   Tarzan and the Mermaids

                        Johnny Weissmuller


            1949   Tarzan's Magic Fountain

                        Lex Barker


            1950   Tarzan and the Slave Girl

                        aka Tarzan and the Jungle Queen

                        Lex Barker


            1951   Tarzan's Peril

                        aka Tarzan and the Jungle Queen

                        Lex Barker


            1952   Tarzan's Savage Fury

                        Lex Barker


            1953   Tarzan and the She-Devil

                        Lex Barker


            1954   Tarzan's Hidden Jungle

                        Gordon Scott


            1957   Tarzan and the Lost Safari

                        Gordon Scott


            1958   Tarzan and the Trappers

                        Gordon Scott


            1958   Tarzan's Fight For Life

                        Gordon Scott


            1959   Tarzan the Ape Man

                        Denny Miller


            1959   Tarzan's Greatest Adventure

                        Gordon Scott


            1960   Tarzan the Magnificent

                        Gordon Scott


            1962   Tarzan Goes to India

                        Jock Mahoney


            1963   Tarzan's Three Challenges

                        Jock Mahoney


            1964   Tarzan and Jane Regained... Sor of

                        Taylor Mead


            1966   Tarzan and the Valley of Gold

                        Mike Henry


            1967   Tarzan and the Great River

                        Mike Henry


            1968   Tarzan and the Jungle Boy

                        Mike Henry


            1970   Tarzan's Deadly Silence

                        Ron Ely


            1970   Tarzan's Jungle Rebellion

                        Ron Ely


            1981   Gummi Tarzan

                        aka Rubber Tarzan

                        Soren Sjogreen


            1981   Tarzan, The Ape Man

                        Miles O'Keeffe


            1984   Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes

                        Christopher Lambert


            Isn't the reoccurrence a bit redundant?

            No. Not really. Not unless you think colonialism is redundant.

*   *   *

            I wish I heard more drums in the night. In Africa. Meaning the natives are restless. I would feel better if we were restless. Much more restless.

            The real Africa is life without western morality clouding the issues. Without the eternal heaven hanging over our heads. Without the eternal hell burning our feet. How is it we are alwaysin all and every way: physically, mentally, spiritually, realistically, and, above all, imaginativelywe are always closer to hell than to heaven?

            Does god want us in heaven? Why make heaven so hard to enter and so far away from our reality if god really wants us there?

            I can not imagine heaven. 

            I can not imagine anything eternal.

            To be is to change. That which is unchanging does not exist. The very definition of what something is is what something isn't. In that sense in order for Christians to believe in heaven, they must believe in hell. Now, did god create heaven and hell or did man?

            Africa is hallucinatory.

            "You can say that again, old chap."

            You again.

            "Shall we finish our fifty questions?" Tarzan does not wait for me to answer. "What is an African?" Tarzan does not wait for me to answer. "That's a man who has gone through hell and believes in dying to get to heaven. Isn't that something?" Tarzan does not wait for me to answer. "What is a heathen?" Tarzan does not wait for me to answer. "That's a bloke who refuses to go through hell, would even commit suicide rather than submit, but at the same time he's not dying to get to heaven. Isn't that something?" Tarzan does not wait for me to answer. "What's a bloody revolutionary?" Tarzan does not wait for me to answer. "That's a guy who's living in hell, is willing to kill you to get out, and doesn't believe in heaven? Which one are you?" Tarzan does not wait for me to answer.

            Back in the States it's hard not to believe in White people. They're everywhere. They do everything. They have great luck. Like this is the absolute last part of the book to be written; everything else is complete except this little section, and yesterday this airforce pilot who was shot down in Bosnia walks out the forest essentially unharmed. This is the kind of shit that makes you think White people are invincible. They trumpet it in all the media. Thanks to CNN we have instant pictures. They start talking about survival training. His radio. His rations. His gun. And above all his belief in God and country. How he never gave up on western civilization. Wow. I wonder if this guy could have survived slavery. Wow. That's a "wow". Surviving slavery. But nine generations later, we are not feted, we are laughed at. And we are also confused. Too confused to answer fifty questions from Tarzan.

            And it's hard to believe in Black people.

            "I believe in Blacks. That's why I made so many movies. I know your potential better than you do."

            "You know us better than we know ourselves?"

            "As long as we're talking about the you that I created, of course, I do. But the rub, old chap, is that it's not about you. Tarzan is not about you, even though you may believe in Tarzan. Tarzan is about me."

            He sees I don't believe him, no, that I don't understand him. I believe him. If I didn't believe him, he couldn't appear as Tarzan. His naked truths wouldn't be clothed in myths.

            "Do you realize that most Tarzan movies are American creations. Yet, you blokes didn't have any African colonies even though you had one of the largest and most influential populations of Africans on the face of the earth. Besides my movies are philosophical. They're about desire and fantasy, and framing reality to conform to said drives. Whites were my audience more than you guys. You guys were . . . oh what's that term you use in Louisiana for something extra, lagging, napping, oh it's one of those French words?"


            "Yes, that's it. Lagniappe! That you guys believed in me was lagniappe. Each of my movies was really designed to justify my need to bugger you. My need not just to conquer you but to desire you. Me, Tarzan. My movies are the only place where it is respectable to 'go native'. Sure, I'm the king of the jungle, but the point is not only do I own the jungle, I also desire the jungle. The jungle is not my home but I desire the jungle." Tarzan falls suddenly silent. His face clouds.

            "Is that why there have been more Tarzan movies than any other single character? I don't think Jesus has had as many features."

            "Jesus would never have made it without me."

            "What do you mean?"

            "It's rather elementary, old chap. You wouldn't, indeed you couldn't believe in Jesus except that I conquered you. My gun. My bible. My language. My morality. Those are the real drugs." Tarzan holds up the brandy sniffer. Quickly throws back the entire contents. "Besides, don't you understand that Tarzan means one thing to you and another thing to me." Pause. Tarzan looks at the brandy bottle. Pauses. His face brightens. "Enough. It's not good to get drunk in the presence of one's lessers."

            Tarzan walks off into the night. He has left a sign on his chair: "The Never Ending SagaComing Soon To Theaters Everywhere. EVERYWHERE!"

L: What Time Is It?

            On our third day in Ghana we traveled to Cape Coast for a week long colloquium which opened with a special candlelight procession to the castle. Because we were so late, after checking into the guest house, we drove straight to the castle and arrived before the program began.

            Time is just another means of oppression. Tarzan introduces the concept of schedules, a clock that must constantly be adjusted to the sun, and a calendar that is always falling behind. Every four years they add a day trying to catch up. If we counted like that in traditional society, they would call us stupid. Since they are not stupid, they just say "leap year."

            Calendars and clocks are conveniences of government, necessitated by the need to time the arrival of troops, of ships, of supplies.

            "Tributes must be paid on . . ."

            "Taxes are due on . . ." 

            "You may apply for your license to sell the things you have made between . . ."

            "The plane arrives at . . ."

            "The ship leaves on . . ."

            Show me a government with an army and I guarantee they will have a calendar and clocks.

            Calendars and clocks are a hold over from creating a culture in a climate that would kill you if you did not plant at a certain time of the year.

            Calendars and clocks are not needed near the equator where the weather is roughly the same year round. You can plant yesterday, today and tomorrow. So here we are imitating Tarzan with our pieces of paper. Putting numbers next to everything we want to do. A time for this. A date for that. And when we fail to be on time we blame ourselves. But we set ourselves up for our own fall. 

            Because Tarzan is everywhere, calendars and clocks are everywhere. And everywhere we use Tarzan's calendar and Tarzan's clock, even if we already had one of our own. Even if people keep going the way they did for centuries, rising with the sun  and resting with the moon. We can not escape the tick tick tick of Tarzan's time whip. As long as we have to conform to Tarzan's time, we are not free.

*   *   *

            Ghana teaches you the wisdom of patience, of moving on a human scale, of taking conditions into consideration, of being inclusive. That's what the elastic time concept is about: embracing. 

            Embracing everyone. Africans know time should be made to fit people rather than people forced to fit time.

            When we get to the airport to leave Ghana, we are informed that the outbound flight is delayed four hours. Instead of round midnight, estimated time of departure is now 4:00 a.m. in the morningemphasis on "estimated." It seems the plane had to go to London and was delayed in London which meant that it will get to Ghana late, which means that it will leave Ghana late.

            And what is wrong with that? What is wrong with dealing with changing conditions. Industrialism was the rule of the assembly line, the time clock, the schedule, and there was nothing human about it. We bent to it, conformed, fought, resisted, submitted, tied our stomachs in knots, made Excedrin rich. Headaches became the order of the day, and we keel over at forty-five, victims of Type A heart attacks and strokes.

            At the end of your life, a clock will not be the measurement of your contribution so why let a mechanical object determine how you move about and interrelate with others?

            I have never forgotten Malcolm X's admonition to organizers to respect people's time and to try always to be on time in keeping one's word. But I doubt Malcolm would mechanically apply that dictum, especially to the point of being impatient when people exhibit a non-Western sensibility.  

            Working in cultural production in the Caribbean throughout the '80s taught me to appreciate that the hustle and bustle characteristic of the business world in the USA just doesn't cut it in many places outside of the tyranny of computerized time keeping. My rule of thumb for doing business in the developing world is to plan no more than two appointments a dayone in the morning, one in the afternoon, and to count myself lucky if I accomplish both.

            I know there are those who think I'm simply making excuses for people who would be better off joining the industrial world and learning to be punctual. I know there are those for whom the maxim "time is money" is gospel. But what is time to poor people, people who don't have a chance in the world of making a million dollars in their lifetime? Regardless of what being in the West might teach us, time is not money. Time is simply a measurement of change. Where change is slow moving. Where change is routine, grinding relentlessly the same, day after day after day. Where indigenously determined order is constantly subverted by external authority. In those places, time is, relatively speaking, expendable.

            Once immersed into the Third World, time, as both a thing and a concept, becomes subordinate to people. Life ceases to be measured by the ticking of a clock or the speed by which things are made.

            Making widgets on time is not living. Relating to others is living.

            Loving one's neighbordo we even know who our neighbors are? Rearing children. Dancing with friends. Sharing conversation and music. Traveling with a soul mate. Eating fresh food. Learning what one doesn't know. That's living.

            In Cape Coast at night we would sit out under the tree and talk. The art of conversation as the main source of adult "entertainment" is passé in the contemporary West, and I realized just how unfortunate that was as we sat exchanging ideas, drinking tea, water, juice, and getting to know one another in ways that don't happen at meetings and conferences, or at panel sessions and at formal banquets.

            Making quiet love in the morning, aroused by the continuance of a conversation that started yesterday is living. Being artificially aroused to sexual activity by subliminal advertising, or by explicit equations of random copulating with happiness and satisfaction is not living. That's being sexually manipulated.

            Once away from the constant stimulus of violence and sex which is the social ambiance of America, after awhile the body adjusts. I could actually hold a conversation with a woman without wondering how it would be to be in bed with her.

            We are under an unrelenting mindfuck in the USA, behavior modification so severe that it twists our every perception of what the nature of social relationships ought to be.  Because we go through life looking only for what we have been told to look forat 9:00 a.m. a meeting with . . . at 7:30 p.m. we'll meet for dinner at . . . at whatever "tick-tick-tick" time we will whatever . . . we are lost. We find ourselves unable to reach out, unable to communicate with others. 

            Our ability to see what is in front of us becomes very, very myopic because we spend most of our time looking for the scheduled that is not there rather than appreciating the unscheduled that is always there.

            We had gone for a performance at the National Theatre in Accra. When we got there we found that it was really an upscale, Eurocentric oriented, US$50 per person fashion show with music performances interspersed. Rather than waste money, we decided to get something to eat in the adjoining cafe. After eating, Nia and I were sitting and talking. A fellow passed. I said he looked like he was from Trinidad. Something told me to speak to him. I spoke up, but he was already well pass me. He didn't hear me. I hadn't spoken very loudly. Then he came back and sat at the next table from us, talking with some people he obviously knew.

            I looked at Nia. I decided to try again. I reached over, "Excuse me. Are you from Trinidad." He was. "How did you know?" One thing led to another. We introduce ourselves and Bob Ramdhanie, Administrative Director of Black Voices, an acapella, female singing group from England, joins our table. We talk. Delightful coincidences abound. I have played selections by Black Voices on my radio program in New Orleans. Bob also knows Marta Vega of the Caribbean Cultural Center. Plus, he was a participant in one of the England based regional meetings of the Global Network for Cultural Equity. I am representing the Global Network at PANAFEST. We begin talking about people we both know in England. Before the night is over, Bob introduces us to F. Nii-Yartey, the Artistic Director of the National Dance Company of Ghana, who in turn invites us to see a children's dance program which we otherwise would not have checked out.

            The next evening, Nia and I attend Nii's program which focuses on the world of the children who basically live on the streets of Africa.

            The dancing was exuberant, some of it on a par level with any of the professional  companies we have seen at PANAFEST. There was a strong element of Western pop dance incorporated into many of the moves. I could not help but smile because what is generally identified as Western or American pop, is actually African American.

            Even though much of our culture is presented under the general rubric of "Western" and even though the "star" performers are often Whites, the fact is, at its core, Western musical culture is African.

            Part of Nii's praxis of choreography was the stylization of everyday movements. Children as young as five and six years old were performing as though they were professionals. At some point the dance floor was filled with at least forty children creating scenes of chaos, brutality, caring, anger, love. All with a minimum of dialogue. It was smoking.

            Suppose I hadn't reached out to Trinidad? My tendency is to remain aloof, but everywhere we went in Africa, people were there, people who, to an extraordinarily large degree, shared our interest in Africa and development. In the West we ride through our lives encased in shells and don't routinely reach out to others.

            In the West we are living under threat of a slave culture, a culture which enslaves and arrests the human spirit. We don't trust each other. The person we talk to might turn around and rob us. Kill us. Steal our dreams.

            It's not about rejecting Euro-centric concepts of time in an abstract sense but  rather about making the embracing of other humans the primary consideration of our living. Choosing to elevate the creation of community rather than the manufacture of things. The patient embracing of each other, in all our contradictory and sometimes inspiring, sometimes disappointing humanity, rather than the artificial adherence to a schedule which forces us to flagellate ourselves with the Western whip of time until our social backs are bloody.

            How can we be free if we have neither the time nor the temperament to love and relate to each other?

Source: WordUp

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Ghana—Samia Nkrumah

hGhana became African's first country to gain freedom in 1957 and has since grown tremendously both politically and economically. Kwame Nkrumah is known as the country's founding father and we meet his daughter Samia Nkrumah in our next story -- who is determined to follow in her fathers footsteps.


Cape Coast Castle. A Collection of Poems By Kwadwo Opoku-Agyemang

Forts and Castles of Ghana by Albert van Dantzig

Dr Robert Lee passes on

Dentist Championed African-American Community In Ghana

Dr. Robert Lee Interview

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Ghana Music Video  / The Curse of Gold—Ghana  / Rice Farming in Afife, Ghana

Busy Internet Ghana  /  Africa Open for Business—Ghana / African Slave Castle  / Coming Home—Ghana

Basil Davidson's  "Africa Series"

 Different But Equal  /  Mastering A Continent  /  Caravans of Gold  / The King and the City / The Bible and The Gun

West Africa Before the Colonial Era: A History to 1850 (Basil Davidson)


African Slave Trade: Precolonial History, 1450-1850 (Basil Davidson)


John Henrik Clarke—A Great and Mighty Walk

The Slave Ship

By Marcus Rediker

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Men We Love, Men We Hate
SAC writings from Douglass, McDonogh 35, and McMain high schools in New Orleans.

An anthology on the topic of men and relationships with men

Ways of Laughing
An Anthology of Young Black Voices
Photographed & Edited by
Kalamu ya Salaam

*   *   *   *   *'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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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

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The Looting of America: How Wall Street's Game of Fantasy Finance

Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions, and Prosperity—and What We Can Do About It

By Les Leopold

How could the best and brightest (and most highly paid) in finance crash the global economy and then get us to bail them out as well? What caused this mess in the first place? Housing? Greed? Dumb politicians? What can Main Street do about it? In The Looting of America, Leopold debunks the prevailing media myths that blame low-income home buyers who got in over their heads, people who ran up too much credit-card debt, and government interference with free markets. Instead, readers will discover how Wall Street undermined itself and the rest of the economy by playing and losing at a highly lucrative and dangerous game of fantasy finance. He also asks some tough questions:  Why did Americans let the gap between workers' wages and executive compensation grow so large? Why did we fail to realize that the excess money in those executives' pockets was fueling casino-style investment schemes? Why did we buy the notion that too-good-to-be-true financial products that no one could even understand would somehow form the backbone of America's new, postindustrial economy? How do we make sure we never give our wages away to gamblers again? And what can we do to get our money back? In this page-turning narrative (no background in finance required) Leopold tells the story of how we fell victim to Wall Street's exotic financial products. Readers learn how even school districts were taken in by "innovative" products like collateralized debt obligations, better known as CDOs, and how they sucked trillions of dollars from the global economy when they failed. They'll also learn what average Americans can do to ensure that fantasy finance never rules our economy again. The Economy

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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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posted 7 August 2010




Home   Kalamu ya Salaam Table  The African World  Transitional Writings on Africa 

Related files: Dark Tourism in Ghana: The Joseph Project   Tarzan Can Not Return to Africa (A-B-C-D)   Tarzan Can Not Return to Africa   (E-F-G-H)  Tarzan Can Not Return to Africa  (I-J-K-L)  

Tarzan Can Not Return to Africa   (M-N-O-P-Q-R)    Tarzan Can Not Return to Africa (S-T-U-V-W-X-Y-Z)  Wright's Ghana in the 1950s    Miriam in Ghana  Pilgrimage  to Ghana    Randolph Visits Ghana 

Right to Abode  Where Ghana Went Right