ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes

   

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 it is our duty and responsibility to collect and synthesize the perceptions, concerns,

and desires of rank-and-file African Americans and give voice to those who

have been traditionally and systematically excluded from full and effective

participation in the American politico-economic system.

 

 

Books by Ronald Walters

 

Black Presidential Politics in America (1989) / Pan Africanism in the African Diaspora (1993) / African American Leadership (1999) 

 

Bibliography of African American Leadership: An Annotated Guide (2000) / White Nationalism Black Interests  (2003)

 

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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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A Conference Call

Black Studies Forty Years Later, 1969-2009

100 Day Assessment of the Barack Obama Presidency

From an African American Perspective

Friday, May 1, through Sunday May 3, 2009 at Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.

 

Sponsored by

Center for African American Research and Public Policy at Temple University and

The Philadelphia Community Institute of Africana Studies

 

Black Studies as a discipline was institutionalized in 1969. The first department was established at San Francisco State College.  Since then, over 200 Black Studies departments have been established at colleges and universities across the United States with several offering doctoral degrees in African American Studies or Africana Studies. As an academic discipline, Black Studies was originally designed to describe and explain the conditions and problems faced by African American communities and to identify and assess alternative solutions to improve their life situations. 

Over the years, Black Studies departments have struggled to remain true to the original mission. Faced with changing circumstances, Black Studies departments have attempted to interrogate these changes and their implications for the struggle for racial justice in the United States and throughout the world. Continuing this tradition, the Center for African American Research and Public Policy at Temple University and the Philadelphia Community Institute of Africana Studies propose to examine three historically significant developments: (1) the election of President Barack Obama, (2) the financial crisis of American capitalism and (3) the current state of Black Studies. Each is sure to have dramatic and long term consequences in the struggle for human rights, racial justice and equality in the United States.

The Call

As the Obama presidency begins, the crisis of financial monopoly capitalism threatens to devolve into a world-wide depression, a depression that would have dire consequences for African American and other oppressed communities around the world.  Precisely how the Obama administration plans to address the problem remains unclear.  It is widely agreed, however that the problem is urgent and that what happens during the early months of the Obama administration will have an undeniable impact on the course of the 21st century.  Thus the first one hundred days of the Obama administration are critical. The world needs a clear theoretically driven understanding of the financial crisis and a commensurate understanding of the initiatives proposed and undertaken by the Obama administration.  We invited scholars and activists to come and participate in the analysis of these critical problems that face the African American community at this juncture in American history with the goal of devising recommended solutions on Friday, May 1, through Sunday May 3, 2009 at Temple University, Philadelphia, PA. 

Plan  of Solutions

Today, as social activist and change agents for our respected Village here in America, it is our duty and responsibility to collect and synthesize the perceptions, concerns, and desires of rank-and-file African Americans and give voice to those who have been traditionally and systematically excluded from full and effective participation in the American politico-economic system.  We propose to do this and we propose to go further. We will not only give voice to those not traditionally heard, we will also identify and evaluate proposed solutions and develop strategies for their implementation. From an African American perspective, we propose to examine the first one hundred days of the Obama administration with a view to determining:

1.      What it is and what it is not?

2.      What specific initiatives have been offered to address what particular problems?

3.      To what extent is resource allocation commensurate with both the problem and proposed solution?

4.      What are the potential impacts of proposed solutions on the long term growth and development of African American communities and individuals?

5.      What are some alternative solutions being discussed in African American communities?

6.      What can we do as African Americans to maximize community interests in this unfolding process?

7.      What is the role and function of Black Studies in the global 21st century?

This call grows out of our understanding of the world as a global system, a system in which the pursuit of distinct community interests is bound by global realities.  Thus our theme, “Think globally, act locally.  We envision developing a portfolio of alternative solutions that will be incorporated into the national discussion and public policy debate.  We also expect that our proposed solutions will become agenda items for independent African American socio-economic and political groups.

Contacts

Please fax a one page abstracts to Dr. Muhammad Ahmad at 215-204-5953. If you have any questions or need any further information, please contact Dr. Muhammad Ahmad at 215-204-1995 or mstanfrd@temple.edu, Amiri Baraka at 973-242-1346, Mack Jones at 404-699-0631, Ron Walters at 301-421-5919, Dr. Nathaniel Norment, Jr. at 215-204-5073 or norme01@temple.edu, LaFrance Howard at 215-204-3159.

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Dr. Muhammad Ahmad was national field chairman of the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM) during the mid-60s and founder of the African People's Party in the 1970s. He has worked closely with Malcolm X, Jesse Gray, Amiri Baraka, Stokely Carmichael, James and Grace Lee Boggs, James Forman, Robert and Mabel Williams, Queen Mother Audley Moore and others, in founding and carrying out various Black liberation projects and organizations. Who better, then, to pen a major assessment of some of the most important Black radical organizations of the 60s? Here is a study of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Black Panther Party (BPP), the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM), and the League of Revolutionary Black Workers (LRBW), that only he could have done. "Drawing upon his extensive network of personal and political contacts and his unique understanding of the connections between persons, organizations, and events (too often viewed in isolation), Ahmad has made a significant contribution toward deepening our understanding of a period whose complexities might otherwise be lost to future generations." [from the Introduction by John Bracey]

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On Cecil Brown's Dude, Where's My Black Studies Department  -- Thus Africans and Caribbean Negroes were in many cases less radical, even though much of the African American radical tradition comes from immigrants, such as Marcus Garvey, George Padmore, Kwame Toure, Malcolm X and Farrakhan. As Amina Baraka informed me, "We're all West Indians."

And this is true because kidnapped Africans were brought to the Caribbean for "the breaking in," then transferred to North America and elsewhere. And we must ask ourselves would we rather have a radical immigrant African in black studies or a reactionary Negro only because he is a Negro. Marvin X,  Africa or America: The Emphasis in Black Studies Programs

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From Black Power to Black Studies

How a Radical Social Movement Became an Academic Discipline

By Fabio Rojas

The black power movement helped redefine African Americans' identity and establish a new racial consciousness in the 1960s. As an influential political force, this movement in turn spawned the academic discipline known as Black Studies. Today there are more than a hundred Black Studies degree programs in the United States, many of them located in America’s elite research institutions. In From Black Power to Black Studies, Fabio Rojas explores how this radical social movement evolved into a recognized academic discipline. Rojas traces the evolution of Black Studies over more than three decades, beginning with its origins in black nationalist politics. His account includes the 1968 Third World Strike at San Francisco State College, the Ford Foundation’s attempts to shape the field, and a description of Black Studies programs at various American universities. His statistical analyses of protest data illuminate how violent and nonviolent protests influenced the establishment of Black Studies programs. Integrating personal interviews and newly discovered archival material, Rojas documents how social activism can bring about organizational change.

The Trouble with Black StudiesScott McLemee—9 May 2012—Black studies was undeniably a product of radical activism in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. Administrators established courses only as a concession to student protesters who had a strongly politicized notion of the field’s purpose. “From 1969 to 1974,” Rojas writes, “approximately 120 degree programs were created,” along with “dozens of other black studies units, such as research centers and nondegree programs,” plus professional organizations and journals devoted to the field. But to regard black studies as a matter of academe becoming politicized (as though the earlier state of comprehensive neglect wasn’t politicized) misses the other side of the process: “The growth of black studies,” Rojas suggests, “can be fruitfully viewed as a bureaucratic response to a social movement.”

By the late 1970s, the African-American sociologist St. Clair Drake (co-author of Black Metropolis, a classic study of Chicago to which Richard Wright contributed an introduction) was writing that black studies had become institutionalized “in the sense that it had moved from the conflict phase into adjustment to the existing educational system, with some of its values accepted by that system…. A trade-off was involved. Black studies became depoliticized and deradicalized.” That, too, is something of an overstatement—but it is far closer to the truth than denunciations of black-studies programs, which treat them as politically volatile, yet also as well-entrenched bastions of power and privilege.

As of 2007, only about 9 percent of four-year colleges and universities had a black studies unit, few of them with a graduate program. Rojas estimates that “the average black studies program employs only seven professors, many of whom are courtesy or joint appointments with limited involvement in the program”while in some cases a program is run by “a single professor who organizes cross-listed courses taught by professors with appointments in other departments.” The field “has extremely porous boundaries,” with scholars who have been trained in fields “from history to religious studies to food science.”

Rojas found from a survey that 88 percent of black studies instructors had doctoral degrees. Those who didn’t “are often writers, artists, and musicians who have secured a position teaching their art within a department of black studies.” As for faculty working primarily or exclusively in black studies, Rojas writes that “the entire population of tenured and tenure-track black studies professors—855 individuals—is smaller than the full-time faculty of my own institution.” In short, black studies is both a small part of higher education in the United States and a field connected by countless threads to other forms of scholarship.

The impetus for its creation came from African-American social and political movements. But its continued existence and development has meant adaptation to, and hybridization with, modes of enquiry from long-established disciplines. Such interdisciplinary research and teaching is necessary and justified because (what I am about to say will be very bold and very controversial, and you may wish to sit down before reading further) it is impossible to understand American life, or modernity itself, without a deep engagement with African-American history, music, literature, institutions, folklore, political movements, etc.

In a nice bit of paradox, that is why C.L.R. James was so dubious about black studies when it began in the 1960s. As author of The Black Jacobins and The History of Negro Revolt, among other classic works, he was one of the figures students wanted to be made visiting professor when they demanded black studies courses. But when he accepted, it was only with ambivalence. "I do not believe that there is any such thing as black studies," he told an audience in 1969. ". . . I only know, the struggle of people against tyranny and oppression in a certain social setting, and, particularly, the last two hundred years. It's impossible for me to separate black studies and white studies in any theoretical point of view."—insidehighered

 Left of Black: Race, Writing and the Attack on Black Studies

with Adam Mansbach & La TaSha Levy

 

Host and Duke University Professor Mark Anthony Neal is joined via Skype by writer Adam Mansbach, the author of several books including Angry Black White Boy (2005), The End of the Jews  (2008) and the New York Times Bestseller Go the F**K to Sleep.  Mansbach discusses the inspiration for Macon Detornay—the protagonist of Angry Black White Boy—the surprise success of his “adult children’s book” and his new graphic novel Nature of the Beast.  Finally Neal and Mansbach discuss race in the Obama era and the legacy of the Beastie Boys.

Later, Neal is joined, also via Skype, by LaTaSha B. Levy, doctoral candidate in the Department of African-American Studies at Northwestern University.  Levy and several of her colleagues including Keeanga Yamahtta Taylor and Ruth Hayes, the subjects of a celebratory profile in The Chronicle of Higher Education, were later attacked by a blogger at the same publication, raising questions about the continued hostility directed towards the field of Black Studies.  Neal and Levy discuss the responses to the attack, as well as her research on the rise of Black Republicans.newblackman

 

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

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On Cecil Brown's Dude, Where's My Black Studies Department  -- Thus Africans and Caribbean Negroes were in many cases less radical, even though much of the African American radical tradition comes from immigrants, such as Marcus Garvey, George Padmore, Kwame Toure, Malcolm X and Farrakhan. As Amina Baraka informed me, "We're all West Indians."

And this is true because kidnapped Africans were brought to the Caribbean for "the breaking in," then transferred to North America and elsewhere. And we must ask ourselves would we rather have a radical immigrant African in black studies or a reactionary Negro only because he is a Negro.

Marvin X,  Africa or America: The Emphasis in Black Studies Programs

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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. WashingtonPost

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Hopes and Prospects

By Noam Chomsky

In this urgent new book, Noam Chomsky surveys the dangers and prospects of our early twenty-first century. Exploring challenges such as the growing gap between North and South, American exceptionalism (including under President Barack Obama), the fiascos of Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S.-Israeli assault on Gaza, and the recent financial bailouts, he also sees hope for the future and a way to move forward—in the democratic wave in Latin America and in the global solidarity movements that suggest "real progress toward freedom and justice." Hopes and Prospects is essential reading for anyone who is concerned about the primary challenges still facing the human race. "This is a classic Chomsky work: a bonfire of myths and lies, sophistries and delusions. Noam Chomsky is an enduring inspiration all over the world—to millions, I suspect—for the simple reason that he is a truth-teller on an epic scale. I salute him." —John Pilger

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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

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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 23 February 2012

 

 

 

Home Amiri Baraka Table   

Related files: Africa or America: The Emphasis in Black Studies Programs   Askia Touré and Marvin X on Black Studies    Black Studies Forty Years Later

    No New Thinking on Africana Politics and Philosophy  Interview with Franklin Knight  Black Studies in the Age of Obama    Reading Africana

 Stirrings in the Jug Adolph Reed