ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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 Coconut breasts hanging from its chest, or head, / or whatever. The way a bamboo grove used to prick
our toes when Mudi and I wandered under its swampy / territory. That was before the time when women took
upon themselves to birth babies, even though men / knew how to, or before men went around boasting



Books by Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

Before the Palm Could Bloom  /  Becoming Ebony / The River Is Rising / Where the Road Turns

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Becoming Ebony

By Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

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In the Beginning   

In the beginning, there were women, and all things,
creeping and non-creeping, were good.

By Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

 That was before time could tell daylight from night.
When men could speak women's tongues; before

the sea turned blue and took up rolling, foaming, like
a big glass of fresh palm wine. Before oceans learned

to rise and fall, before rivers were first named rivers.
Before they named the Cavalla River, Cavalla, after

the fish or the fish after the town, or the town after
the river. When Cape Palmas, where I come from,

became Cape Palmas; before there was even a cape
or palm trees. Before Cape Palmas began to give birth

to palm trees that sprouted with fat bottoms and began
to rise, and the coconut learned to be sister to the nut

palm and the nut palm to the bamboo palm, the bamboo
palm to the thatched; or when their grandfather made

them blood relations, or straw relations or bamboo
relations, or cabbage relations or long, thin leaves

relations, or whatever it is that makes them seem
identical twins. But bamboo knows how to prick my

finger when I touch it with an angry heart; the palm tree
will prick lightly, while the coconut stands there, tall.

Coconut breasts hanging from its chest, or head,
or whatever. The way a bamboo grove used to prick

our toes when Mudi and I wandered under its swampy
territory. That was before the time when women took

upon themselves to birth babies, even though men
knew how to, or before men went around boasting

of having this many children and this many sons upon
their mere fingers. Iyeeh says men really birthed babies

then, and women boasted of being the fathers of babies
then, and the children ran for their fathers like they do

today for their mothers when a father calls them
for a whip with a cane. That was long before the car

road bulldozed the giant walnut, the oak, chopping up
the towns and the forests into roads, and rubber trees

sprang up where the forests were, and the coffee
became a tree, becoming first cousin to the cocoa,

and the palm nuts went to the city to be sold for coins.
Suddenly, we girls grew wings like pepper birds, no,

no, like eagles, or like jet planes, and could fly or hop
on a truck to the city where street lights cannot tell

the villager from the city dweller; where a man cannot
tell his wife from his lover; his inside children from his

outside children; where all have lost their hearts to the bars
and the dangling lights, and people fight on street corners;

and after all that, I and all the girls of the world learned
to run wild too, like wild flowers, no, no, wild, like men.

All the women of the world, becoming just men.

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Source: Becoming Ebony by Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

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Nobel Peace Prize Winners are Subjects of Prominent PBS BroadcastsThree women—Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, her compatriot Leymah Gbowee, and pro-democracy campaigner Tawakul Karman of Yemen — have been named co-recipients of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for their nonviolent role in promoting peace, democracy, and gender equality. Their remarkable stories are part of public media’s Women and Girls Lead pipeline of documentaries. Public media leaders from ITVS, PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting joined the rising chorus of voices congratulating Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, her co-patriot Leymah Gbowee, and pro-democracy campaigner Tawakul Karman of Yemen, the three women named co-recipients of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.” Pray the Devil Back to Hell   / Leymah Gbowee Wins 2011 Nobel Peace Prize

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Where the Road Turns

By   Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

In this her fourth volume, I witness Patricia Jabbeh Wesley courageously dipping her pen into her own wound and splashing vivid imagery upon the canvas of her own skin. That is an illusion, for that pen is really a scalpel cutting the gangrenous and the rotten out of her nation's violated flesh. But that too is an illusion. That scalpel is a steel tongue in a powerful Grebo woman's mouth weaving a fine gauze from dirges, love songs, praise songs, fragments of aphoristic wisdom, fables, new myths, narrative and lyrical dialogues in order to bind our own wounded psyches.

Proud Grebo women's voices burst through her mouth to chastise depraved men who harvest babies to stoke diamond wars as they blaze through forests of dry human bones in their imported death chariots. Beyond celebrating these fiery taboo-breaking warrior women who are passionate about peace, justice, their right to forbidden fantasies, she also claims her place, though exiled, in the lineage. Condemned to bear upon her back her home, she is the strong earthen vessel that safeguards the essential spiritual Grebo values bequeathed to her by the village elders in a circle. Because moving is never a leaving, memories of home constantly surge through the poet's wry humor and wit that serve as balm for the ever-nagging pain.

To honor her ancestors' memories Wesley has planted these enduring trees whose fruits must nourish us all if we are willing to avail ourselves of her poetic gifts. These are brave and fearless poems in a harsh dark season, yet necessary for the witness they bear to human folly while insisting on our capacity to love. With each new volume, her voice grows stronger as it blends with those of Ama Ata Aidoo, Alda do Espirito Santo, and Jeni Couzyn. She is without doubt among the most powerful of the younger generation of African poets.—Frank M. Chipasula, editor, Bending the Bow: An Anthology of African Poetry/ co-editor of The Heinemann Book of African Women's Poetry

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Pray the Devil Back to Hell

A film directed by Gini Reticker

Pray the Devil Back to Hell is a captivating new film by director Gini Reticker. It exposes a different story angle for the largely forgotten recent events of the women of Liberia uniting to bring the end to their nation's civil war. This film is amazing in the way it captivates your attention from the earliest frames. It doesn't shy away from showing footage of the violent events that took place during the Liberian civil war. But the main story of the film is that of Leymah Gbowee and the other women uniting, despite their religious differences, to force action on the stalled peace talks in their country. Using entirely nonviolent methods, not only are the peace talks successful, but Charles Taylor, the president of Liberia, is forced into exile leading to the first election of a female head of state in Africa. The women of this film are truly an inspiration and no one can fail to be moved by the message of hope that comes through clearly in this film. These are heroes that deserve to be remembered and with Pray the Devil we are able to do that, gaining both a knowledge of the history we are ignorant of through archival footage and an understanding of the leaders of this movement through close-up interviews with the many women who lead it. The film also offers a great soundtrack & inspirational song- "Djoyigbe" by Angelique Kidjo & Blake Leyh.Amazon Reviewer

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Mighty Be Our Powers

How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War

By Leymah Gbowee

As a young woman, Leymah Gbowee was broken by the Liberian civil war, a brutal conflict that tore apart her life and claimed the lives of countless relatives and friends. Years of fighting destroyed her country—and shattered Gbowee’s girlhood hopes and dreams. As a young mother trapped in a nightmare of domestic abuse, she found the courage to turn her bitterness into action, propelled by her realization that it is women who suffer most during conflicts—and that the power of women working together can create an unstoppable force. In 2003, the passionate and charismatic Gbowee helped organize and then led the Liberian Mass Action for Peace, a coalition of Christian and Muslim women who sat in public protest, confronting Liberia’s ruthless president and rebel warlords, and even held a sex strike. With an army of women, Gbowee helped lead her nation to peace—in the process emerging as an international leader who changed history. Mighty Be Our Powers is the gripping chronicle of a journey from hopelessness to empowerment that will touch all who dream of a better world.—Beast Books  / Pray the Devil Back to Hell

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Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (video)

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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

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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 October 2008 




Home Patricia Jabbeh Wesley Table    Transitional Writings on Africa   The African World 

Related files:  Willis Knuckles Saga  I, Momolu or Liberia in the Bush   African President Addresses US Congress  After All the Flame   Deposing Charles Taylor