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The world castrating Black men, and by the world

I really mean this society, this society

Cutting our manhood off and making it impossible / For us to be men.


Photo: Troy Johnson of



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)


*   *   *   *   *


Malcolm, My Son

A Play By Kalamu ya Salaam



Amina. African American woman. Late 30s, early 40s. A single head of household. her son has been away at college. She is an aged militant who has been worn but not defeated by dealing with the necessities of daily life.

Malcolm. A 21-year-old African American male. Amina's son. Intelligent but emotionally troubled. Ambivalent about his father and their non-relationship. Growing into what is supposed to be his transition to manhood and grappling with how to successfully actualize this struggle.

Production Notes

The male actor should be "gay and proud" (i.e., out of the closet) and should not be a heterosexual actor pretending to be gay.

If professional lighting is available, each time the characters "cut" to re-begin the confrontation, the lights should get slightly brighter until they are full up after the last "cut." Because the play is in verse, the actors should be directed to bring as much emotional resonance to their voicings as possible, that is, they don't have to "play like" this is a naturalistic confrontation. The actors should employ a great deal of "body English" and movement in the delivery of their lines.

The play is to be done as an encounter between the audience and the actors as well as an encounter between a mother and her son. It is important that the actors be responsive to the audience and, when they address the audience, that they actually engage individuals in the audience rather than simply looking at or speaking in the direction of the audience.

*   *   *   *   *

(When the lights come up, Amina and Malcolm are facing each other, a chair between them, neither one moving. A second chair is off to stage rear, left.)


(Softly, tentatively) Hello.


Hello. Is that what you say?

(She wants to move to him, but does not.)

What will you tell me this gray afternoon?

What marks are on your chest?

What spear has been thrust into your side?

What do you have to show?

What do you have to hide?

What light shines in your eyes?

What shame do you deny?

And what will you expect of me this moment?

Should I hold you?

Is there any embrace that can hold you?

Should I just kiss you lightly on the cheek?

A quick peck perhaps, something that will not keep

You anchored to me?

Or maybe even a gigantic hug?

Or should I just wait quietly and see?

What you are, what you have become? What you

And what the world have made of my son?





But not like before.

Today I have come to leave you forever.

Though I will still be your child,

I have come to announce that now I am me,

And just me being me will hurt you,

Not that I want to hurt you

Or hurt me. It's just when children become adults

Parents are sometimes hurt.


But never again like before.




How was it before?




How can I forget?

How can I not remember seeing the redness

Of your blood falling everywhere and

My own efforts not to panic, and

My not knowing what to do

And wrapping your hand in a towel

And driving like crazy to the hospital

And watching them sew your finger

Back together?

How can I forget?




(He holds up his hand as she talk. When she finishes, he points his forefinger to her and she reaches out her forefinger. They touch over the chair. Just fingertips. And they laugh, the chair between them.)






(Drops her hand, steps back.)


You don't remember when you were conceived?

No, of course not. How could you?

How could you remember that night

Or those many mornings after?

How can a child remember what the mother

Will never forget?




(He smiles for the first time. Chuckles.)


I was nothing but energy in the universe,

Spirit pulsating, waiting for the creator

To give me form, waiting for a woman

And a man to snatch me in a moment of ecstasy,

To reach into an intensity and transform

My energy into a warm-blooded mass,

Laser burn a hole in the spirit atmosphere,

Open a flesh window through which I could crawl.

And that's how I climbed inside of you.

I was born to you because I was cruising

through that night when you were with that man

When you were wet and he was stiff

And your sweat-gleaming torsos were slipperily

Connected together, joined in ritual union

And yall was so beautiful I had to choose

That moment to climb through from the other side

into this dimension of time and being

You didn't make me.

I chose you. I chose both of you.




How can a baby choose its parents?


(Smiles. She is amazed at the perceptions being dropped by Malcolm -- perceptions she has never considered before, but perceptions that are both daring and sensible.)




No. (Correcting her) Really the question is

How can parents choose a child?

At conception,

At that moment you have no idea where you are

At that moment everything is out of control

Even if you are trying to have a child, still

You have no way of choosing anything. All you can

Do is open the window

You have no way of knowing who will come

Flying into the womb.




(Sits. Smoothes her dress. thinks a moment, then looks over at Malcolm, who is still standing has not moved.)


How do you

How does your . . . your being . . . I mean as infinite energy

You don't yet have a body, you don't have a brain,

A mind, nothing. How do you . . . how can you choose?

How can you possibly choose anything?

You didn't exist before. You weren't anything, how could you . . . ?




Some realities we choose, and . . .

Some realities we submit to.

Perhaps choose is a wrong word.

The window was open.

I was shooting by.

The creator created the coincidence.

I just submitted.

You're talking about nature.

I'm talking about the supernatural.




Is this what they have taught you in school?




They would never teach me to be me.

They can never give me identity.




(Proudly) Where did you get it then?

From where came this insight into the unseen?




Ultimately, from you . . .

And . . .


(He hesitates, as if he were about to say something dangerous or possibly distasteful.)


And from all of us, our various histories,

What we did, what we didn't,

From when I really listen

Listen to our music. yes, especially that,

Even though it is true I still don't know

Our music the way I will when I am older.

Ultimately, it will come from that,

Or at least that is from where I think

My deepest knowledge of self will surface,

Gushing out of our music

It's just a feeling I have, not knowledge,

Nothing I've rationally deduced, something

I've intuited even though I've yet to learn

To fully trust my feelings.


(Pause. As he says this next line, he touches Amina's shoulder. At first she returns his touch, but quickly withdraws her hand when she hears about Malcolm's father.)


From our music comes a lot of the unknown,

 And from you and from man,

That man: your man, my man, Rudy, as he is named,

Cowboy as he was called in the street,

Those seldom times he was here, and even

Briefly Chimarenga, the warrior, the resistance

Leader, the six shooter, the sperm shooter

Your man, your lover

My man, my father

from you, Amina

From Cowboy

From history . . .


(He pauses, then steps away from her briefly before speaking to her over his shoulder.)


Did you ever go looking for him after he left,

Or did you just wait to see if he would come back?


(He does not wait for her answer. She does not give a verbal answer, but hugs herself, remembering the loneliness, and drops her head in silence.)


I looked for him.

I looked for him with all the hatred . . .


(He turns and looks at her. She senses his stare during the pause, looks up, returns the look briefly, then looks away, but then quickly goes back to his eyes. They lock eyes.)


With all the hatred you taught me, like you,

I hated my man.




(Looks away.)


Actually, I hated him because I loved him,

But you can't understand that, can you?

So did you ever find . . .

Did you ever find him?




You know I did.

I am he. I found my man

Inside of me . . .


(She gets up, looks at him, and starts to step to him. Stops. Steps tentatively. he has not moved.)


Mama, I must tell you something.


(His voice stops her just as she reaches to embrace him.)




It must be serious. You're calling me mama

In such a serious tone.

It is serious,

Isn't it?








(Sits again. Waits. Looks at him.)


Will you tell me, or must I pull it out of you?




(Softly) I'm going to tell you.


(She clasps her hands.)


But I don't know how.




(Shakes her head, anticipating something awful.)


what is it?




It's really two things.




(Tries to make a joke.)


Oh, well I'm relieved. At first I though

You had just one terrible tale to tell, but

It's easier to take now that you tell me

There are two tales to be told. or do

I understand you correctly?




Yes, yes, you understand.




Should we talk some evasion, talk

About the dog's puppies, your grades,

The latest book I've read . . . you know

How people do when it's time

To talk seriously?


(Points to the audience.)


Should we provide them some entertainment,

Some non-critical, covertly political propaganda

That they can believe is free of political lessons

Like we used to believe cigarettes and sex

Were a safe high we could indulge day and night

Without affecting our lives?

Shouldn't we at least give a disclaimer?

After all this is a play,

And plays are not supposed to be too real,

Too real.




Maybe. I don't know.




You do know,

You know unhappiness has a desk in your heart

And is a late-night-working fool.

You know you're looking for answers

To questions you're afraid to ask.

You know that you question

The reason for your birth, and sometimes wish

That you were something or someone else

Other than who you are

And you know most audiences have been trained

To be supremely uninterested

In confronting this about themselves.


You know.




Cut! Let's start this over.


(He exists. Amina gets up and stands next to the chair, waiting for her son to come home. Malcolm enters. Cheerfully.)


Hey, what's up?




Malcolm, Malcolm, you're home


(Crosses quickly to hug and kisses him.)


How's school?

How're you feeling?

Are you hungry? What do you want to eat?

Can I fry you something?

Do you have a girlfriend yet?

Does your father know you're here?

Do you know your father?

Would you like it if I didn't ask so many questions?

Do you know why I ask so many questions?

Do you know all the questions Black women have

For Black men?

Do you have answers for even half of our questions?

Like why can't we be friends, friends, forever?

What's happening to us?

Do you remember your father?

Do you remember the few years he was here

And we were happy?

Do you remember my version of our family history?

Do you understand how terribly hard it has been

For me to raise you by myself, and keep

Myself together?

Do you know all the things a Black mother

Will do to make sure her son becomes a man?

Are you using your penis yet?

What color is your love?

Will you make some woman happy?

Are you going to be just like your father?

will I have to hate you?

What . . .





let's try it one more time.




And why do you want to cut now?

Do questions bother you?

Should I speak in statements, declarations,

Petitions, supplications, jokes, sly asides,

Demure completions of your every desire, son?

Is it not enough for me to be your mother?

Do you also need me to be your emotional servant?




Cut, because the world does not understand,

Cut, because this audience is confused.








And I'm confused too.


(He exists and re-enters. he starts to speak, but cannot find words. Suddenly Malcolm turns to the audience and begins to speak. As he does, Amina freezes. Malcolm steps to face the audience directly.)


I'm trying to figure out how to talk to her,

How to tell her the truth about myself.

Of course, part of the problem is figuring out

What's the truth and then finding the words

To talk the truth.




(Amina steps to Malcolm's side and speaks to the audience.)


Sometimes we just don't have the language

We need to deal with the world

Did you notice, at first, how everything

I said was a question?




Do you know how much it feels like

We're always being questioned, our manhood

Is always being challenged?




There are no words for liberating talk

In the master's lexicon. part of the reason

Men find it so hard to understand women

Is that men don't accept women making words,

Making concepts, making language.

So even to express myself I must speak with male words.




The first question some of you will ask

Is, How can words be male?




(He exist and re-enters.)


Hello, I'm home.


(They hug.)


God, I'm glad to be home. This semester was a bitch!


(They pause, but continue hugging each other.)




(Turns to face the audience.)


Now, why does something hard and difficult

Have to be referred to as a bitch?


(Amina looks at Malcolm.)




Ain't that a bitch! I never thought of that.




There you go again.




Ain't that a bull, i mean, ain't

That a dick, shit, I don't know what to say?




We're trying to work this out

Let's start again, okay?


(They part. Amina smiles at the audience. Malcolm re-enters.)




Hi, Mom!




Hello, son.


(They embrace and kiss quickly on the lips. Hug each other with glee.)


And how long has it been that you've been gone?

Only five or six months really,

Yet it all seems so long

How's momma's man?




(Breaks the embrace. To the audience)


Now is she talking to me asking me about my father?

Or is she talking to me but thinking I am my father,

You know, like seeing my father in me?

Is she talking to me and addressing me in a sort of

I wish you were, I want you to be "a man"

Sort of way?

I mean it's deep.




It's not really that deep.

It's not really a sexual thing. It's . . .




Since when is being a Black man not a sexual thing?




We don't hate Black men.




Let me finish. I'm not saying yall hate

Black men. I'm saying yall hate the way most of us

End up being. Yall hate what we become

Under the knife of the world.




(To the audeience)

Now you see, here we go back into the male language

Mess: "the knife of the world"!

Next we're going to get to women castrating men,

Women accusing men of being eunuchs . . .




No, not women castrating men,

The world castrating Black men, and by the world

I really mean this society, this society

Cutting our manhood off and making it impossible

For us to be men.




Can't you be a man without a penis?




Get serious




I am serious, sunrise serious,

A bold break for something completely different.




(Breaks character.)


Hold it. Hold it. Wait a minute.

What's going on here?




Male language.

Male insecurity.




Female anger. Female insecurity.




What do you mean "female insecurity"?

I know I'm a woman.








How what?


How do you know you're a woman?

And before you say, "Because, I had you,"

Let's ask the question: Does having a child

Make you a woman, or conversely does not

Having a child mean you're not a woman?





Let's do this again.


(To the audience as Malcolm exists)


You see how deep this stuff gets?

The male/master's language.




(From offstage)


You know it's not all a question of male language.

Some of this stuff is about more than language,

It's about the reality of social relationships,

Even when we don't say a word to each other.




Malcolm, shut up and let's do this.






Hi, God, I'm glad to be home.


(They embrace. Look at each other wordlessly, and release from the embrace. malcolm sits in the chair.)




What's wrong?




I need to tell you something.




(Crosses to him. Touches his shoulder, gently.)


I don't know how to say this.




That's because you don't have language

Not for the deep things in relationships.

You have power words but no connecting words,

No way to talk about what's inside yourself

Without making yourself sound like an insect,

An abomination that should be cast into the fire.




You're assuming that this is something bad.




I'm assuming that if a man has a hard time

saying something then it's probably

A personal revelation which is hard for him to make

Precisely because he thinks that the revelation

Will mark him as being less than a man.

And what man wants to be seen as less than a man?

So, unless it's like the rare moments

When you are helpless in a lover's arms,

Spent, caught in the throes of the after-tremble,

At that one milli-moment of ultimate vulnerability

When you know how weak you are and simultaneously

Also recognize how warmly secure

You feel wrapped in your lover's embrace . . .

It is usually only then that you own up to those deep

Revelations of vulnerableness. I know that

Every lover who has ever held a trembling man

A vulnerable, trembling, tears-in-his-eyes,

Whispering, babbling, post-ejaculation man . . .

Every lover knows that.

You see all it is that you don't have anything

At this moment but what you perceive to be weakness,

Weak words to describe yourself, and you are ashamed.




I'm not ashamed!




You're afraid




I'm not afraid.




You're confused.




I'm not confused!




You're a man.




I'm not . . .


(Catches himself)


It's not like that.




No, not when you conquer someone,

Not when you're just doing it to reach your climax,

Your pitiful little moment of pleasure . . .




(To the sudience)


You see how she talks!




Am I lying?

Don't you conquer your lovers?

Don't you just ride them like a jockey?

And if not that,

Aren't you afraid to admit how it is

When you're not conquering,

When you're in love?

That is, if it happens, because

It doesn't always happen for you all

Sometimes you never achieve love,

Only mastery.

Malcolm, you know precisely what I mean,

And you know how precisely I'm correct.




This is getting out of hand.




Why, because you're in in control?

Male language/master's language--

Isn't that it, lack of control?

"Out of hand"? Ha, you mean out of control.

Hold your head up and answer me.








But you know--

And even as I say this,

I recognize that most likely

You don't know, but you should know,

And for you survival's sake you must learn--

You're no less a man when you're not in control.




We don't control this society.

We don't control space ships.

We don't control slave ships.

We don't control mean green.

we don't . . .




Stop the litany of what you don't,

What you ain't got,

What you can't get,

What you'll never have!

You have life, and no matter

How severely circumscribed

You also have spirit, energy, imagination,

An ability to create brilliant colors

Even when enchained in the dankest dungeon.

You don't have to be simply a billpayer.

You have paid dues, you can be

Anything, everything,

No matter what it is you perceive

You lack or what you think they have

So much more of than you.

They wish they had the lips with

Which your creative history kisses life.




What good are music and pyramids

Of bygone years in the face of the knife?




My son, my son.




Who's not a man, not a man

I'm not a man.




Is that what you wanted to tell me?

Is that the thing that was so difficult to say?




No. It's something else.




What else?




When I found myself . . .

I mean when I found my father . . .




(She catches his meaning and completes his thought.)


You found yourself.




Yes! Exactly.

We played a game of checkers

In the barbershop and I realized

All the soft parts of him were dead

Or buried so deep that those softnesses

Seldom saw the light of love's touch.


he was a genius at camouflaging

His emotional amputations.


In his eyes I saw Black holes

Where everything went in

But nothing came out.


I think he had been hurt

By his self-perceived inadequacies,

Maimed by his personal assessments

Of powerlessness.




Did you also see that some men know better

Than to fall into the trap of hating themselves

For not being what they think a man should be?

The trap was not the inadequacy of the man

But the impossibleness of the definition of manhood.


the musicians know, those old blues singers

And jazz men with their horns in their hands . . .

No hope of fortune or fame but dedicated nonetheless

To the creation of an artform

That the majority of society disdains.

Yes, they knew and actualized, knew

That there was another way to be a man;

And created an oh so beautiful language

They simply called "the music,"

An impossibly gifted language

In which tongue they could express feelings

English can never express.

Prez's tear-tatooed tenor rising

In what some would consider feminine sensualness,

A delicacy otherwise never, never ever

Associated with being a man, or even swaggering

Lee Morgan in all his macho hardness

Being tender as an azalea petal

As he blew a ballad, and God, the beauty

Of Dear Clifford, or Fats Navarro . . . I wish

You had known him, his virtuosity and bravura

As a trumpeter, and you know his nickname

Was Fat Girl. And then there is the sensitiveness

Of the man I most remember, gentle,

Gentle Eric Dolphy, his expressiveness

So open, so free, so full of feeling, or

Charles Lloyd licking the sky in trance

Meditation with crying eyes transforming pain

Into the beauty of majestic music, and

Of course Trane, a magnificent man of such

Forceful gentleness.




I have not really heard them yet.

I'm still very young, so I can not yet really know

These men you remember with such reverence.




These are men.

Black men not defined by their genitals

Or the depth of their pockets,

But by their spirits and creative acts.

Black men, I tell you,

Men who knew themselves

And who shared the breadth and depth

Of their manhood.

With the whole of this world

In a language of their own,

A language they created

And indeed the very creation of their language

Was also the instrument needed

Not only to manifest

But, indeed, also to actualize

Their true manhood.




You really believe that, don't you?

You really believe a musician is a man?




No, you misunderstand me.

Not simply the act of creating music

But the creation of language . . .

You can make someone else's music,

You can make musical entertainment

Without creating language,

But . . .




And does what you're talking about

Apply to women, too?




Yes, of course.

Except women are less likely to be listened to,

And we all know the rare conceptions.

But let's not change the subject.

We were talking about knowing manhood

And how both you and your father

failed to know and love your own manhood.


I want you to live your potential manhood,

Know it, live it like your father never did

Like Rudy never did

Like Chimarenga almost did

Like Cowboy . . .




Cowboy didn't know




He never realized,

Except in extremely self destructive ways,

The potential of his manhood.

He never knew.




No one taught him

And he never learned, that's

What I'm trying to learn.


Mama, I want to be a man.

I don't want to be like my father,

I wish Cowboy had known.


He hated himself.

He hated the weak parts of himself.

He hated that he could not be all the man

You wanted him to be.




It was never about all the man

You think that I wanted him to be.

Instead it was always about

Not being able to be like what he thought

A man should be.


Don't you know that I know you can't be white.




You mean, that I can't be a man.




No, I mean that you can't be white

Or, rather, that you shouldn't be white,

Because we both know that daily

There are Black men out there

Proving how coldly white they can be.


But this is my point

What you're calling your manhood

Is just some projection of being a master,

A conqueror, a barbarian on a ship

With a gun and a whip

Sailing the seven seas and conquering the world.


But, my dear son,

You don't have to be that to be a man.

It is enough to be your creative self,

To be a vibration of the universe

Manifesting energy through real time.

That's enough.


I know America

Will never leave you alone,

But it is not the knife that is the killer,

It is your acceptance of their definitions.

Once you accept what they mean by man

Then you're doomed never to be able to be a man

Simply because you can't really be a human being

And at the same time be like their definition

Of man,

A man should never strive to be the master

Of another human being.




But is not there a way for me to be in control

Of my own life?

That's all.

That's all I want --

To control my own Life.




The power to create is life.

Discipline yourself, yes-- but control

What is that? In al the history of the world,

What has that ever been but an excuse

For militarism, for fascism,

Sometimes a seductive and seemingly

Logical fascism, but rule by force

Nonetheless in the name of

The greater good?




You make it sound so easy, too easy,

But we both know one can not eat creativity.

Creativity will not keep the rain and wind

From your hair, out of your eyes--

And besides, everyone wants what everyone

Else has.




Be honest, do you,

Do you really want what everyone else has?




Yes, sometimes




Which would you rather: to be rich

Or to be in love, surrounded by

And supported by those who love you

And whom you love?








Not really . . . because

To be rich, especially in this society,

Means to impoverish others.

The wheels of your shiny ride

Are purchased by the bared and bunioned

Feet of others, your mansion

At the expense of thousands of homeless . . .




That is all didactic.

I'm not talking about hurting anyone

I'd just like to be comfortable.




Your comfort is expensive.

Just the energy it takes to maintain your comfort

Means starvation for others, not to mention

Pollution of the land and atmosphere.

But you know this as well as I do,

Maybe without detail but from the lash of history

You know this;

You know how this country was raised,

Whose broken and flogged back, whose blood 

Vampired, and not just ours, Native Americans

Literally millions and millions, and millions

of us, millions and millions, more millions

Than it is sane to count or think about.

Just like matter, just like energy,

Richness is neither created nor destroyed

Just transferred and transformed.

You already know this.


(She pauses, looking at him.)


You are testing yourself, teasing

Me. What you really want is to be happy, healthy,

And surrounded by people you like,

To travel in peace

And have time and space to live

Howsoever you envision life.


Given the choice of making an extra dollar

Or spending an hour with someone you love,

I know love would be your choice . . .




That all sounds nice, except our love ones

Are poor, we need that dollar.





That is precisely my point

What we need is a different society

Dollars will never make us happy

We are human beings.

We need each other to be happy.

Only each other living productive

And creative lives; living full out

Imaginations blowing for all we

Know and can learn, all we can

Dream and conceive,

Like life has always meant

before machine makers enchained out labor.

Do you understand?




You always talk these theories,

Dazzling as the sun, and though I feel

Them and know the truth of them,

They are so far away I am here

On the ground struggling in the here

And now, struggling to make my way,

To find my way. I've got economic

Dragons to slay and your dream words

Are a flimsy sword, and inadequate shield.




You're slipping back into the male language

Of militarism. Besides, you know,

Where has your male rejection of this vision

Gotten you? Are you happy, any happier

Trampling on people, denying

What's in your heart? I don't think so.


I think the reason you're listened this long

Is because inside you're empty,

You're searching for food and shelter.




The truth is that you must be a warrior.

The world can not be healed unless you stop

Those who are raping us. These mad, mad people

Must be forced up off us. I know that

My only only insistence is that we be clear

Why we are fighting and what our goals are,

Be clear that we are rainbow warriors

Calling a halt to coldness--emotional

Coldness as well as the wintering

Of the environment. And, simultaneously,

In the process of resisting we are also rebuilding,

By example and vision creating anew our humanity.

If in the process of ending slavery

We do not resurrect community, then in truth

We will not have ended but rather merely transformed

Our current slavery into a more sophisticated slavery,

A slavery of another and more difficult



(She laughs.)


I know, I know, I know.

Sometimes I preach, but all of my wordiness

Is just a deep longing to get through this phase

Into a different dimension, into a space

Where love is unmolested by systematic slaughter.




The poor will be amongst us.




Your quoting of the Bible sounds cynical.




We can't change human nature, there

Will always be wrongdoing--rape, as you did it,

Exploitation, inhumanity, always. Evil is eternal.




In particular terms, of course, in individual

Human expression, of course, but for now

I'm talking on a social level. Systematic manifestations.

Malcolm, don't believe so much of the master's





What do you mean?





Humans have been here for thousands and thousands

Of years, only in the last century

Has the planet itself been endangered

By the actions of people. If we could live

for millennia and not destroyed the earth,

Why should a mere four or five hundred

Years be so destructive?


Do you see we are talking both quantity

And quality? If the quality of life

Is maintained, then the quantity of life.

Can go on and on and on for thousands

And thousands of years. But if the quality

Of our living becomes rapacious,

Then the quantity of our existence

Will also diminish. This is a basic

Karma, surely you understand.




Mama, I'm tired of talking about problems.




That's because you are basically a lover

Of life and being forced to fight

Places your life out of balance

But the truth, the awful truth,

My dear son, is no matter how tired

You are, these problems will not disappear

Just because you do not deal with them,

This life will force you to deal

With problems--and the longer you delay

The more difficult the dealing.




You know the most difficult dealing

Will be learning to live together.

We've been so thoroughly indoctrinated

In exploitation, we've been slaves so long,

That now we are experts on slavery,

On slavery and little else, at least

On a conscious level. Little else do we know

How to do. Fortunately awe still feel

Other paths, other ways, but unfortunately

We don't know how to fight on the one hand

And how to love on the other. Yes,

This world is tiring, but

As the old folks counseled

Members, don't get weary,

Don't get weary.




This is why love is so necessary

Love to heal our wounds,

Love to rejuvenate us, massage

The weariness away.




You say love so easily,

And yet you are so alone, so without.




Malcolm, my son,

Actualizing love will be no easier

Than fighting our enemies. Indeed,

Achieving love is probably an even deeper

And more difficult struggle, especially

Since we are all so flawed, some of us fatally,

So terribly flawed.




(As he hears this, turns very somber.)


We are, as you say,

So terribly flawed--fatally,

In truth we are.




Whatever the truth, we can handle it.

What is your name?

Why do you think we named you Malcolm?

You should be alive with energy

And unafraid to transform yourself.

Every time you recognize the truth

Be what you are, whatever you are

Just be that, choose truth-love the truth.




Suppose the truth is I'm not a man?




Male language again.

The truth is you're alive

You are human.

You can be beautiful

No matter how ugly the rest of the world is.

You can zoom beauty.

You can touch people.

You can sing.

You can be all of that.

And to be all that is to be a man,

Regardless of what and how the master is

Or what this society forces you to swallow.




Hi, mom. This is your beautiful son, Malcolm,

And I'm . . . gay.


(He looks at Amina, she does not avoid his gaze. He is trying to shock her, trying to force her revulsion and rejection.)


I love men.

I swallow their seed.

I putt heir dicks in my mouth,

And in my ass.

And yall always told me that a faggot

Wasn't a man.


So maybe I'm not a man.

The Bible says I'm going to hell.

The Koran says cut off my head.


(She patiently waits for him to finish and continues her gaze at him with her eyes of love. Malcolm softens and admits his terror.)




(Moves to the chair slowly and sits.)


I knew already.

We've always known that some of our sons . . .




Were not men.

Are you saying that you always knew

That I was not a man, that I could never be

A man?




(Softly) This is not new.




I didn't hear you.




I said this is not new.


(They look at each other.)


What is it you're waiting for me to do?

Do you want me to act out?

I can do that. Watch. Just give me a minute.


(She lowers her head briefly, hand to forehead, obviously concentrating.)




What are you doing?




I'm watching television.

I'm reading the daily paper and Ebony magazine.

I'm putting relaxer in my hair I'm putting on green contact lenses. 

Now I'm ready to hate you. 

To curse you out . . .


(Suddenly she springs to her feet. She begins very quietly but builds in intensity and volume as she goes on.)


You are pitiful. Pitiful.

You hate yourself. You hate your father.

You hate your manhood. The reason you love men

Is because you can't be a man yourself,

So you open your flesh to men,

Like a woman does, taking men inside yourself

Thereby coming as close to manhood as you can.


What did Cowboy say to his son?

Does Cowboy know his son is a punk?

Did you tell your daddy you love men

Because you hate men, because you hate him?


Get out. Get out.


(Trying to regain her composure.)


I'm sorry, but I, I can't stand this.

I can't love that you're not a man.

And I don't know how you can stand yourself.

Get out, just get away from me.




(He turns and begins to walk away slowly, then pauses.)


I knew you would hate me.




I don't hate you.

I pity you.

You hate you




Don't pity me.

You made me.

You raised me.

Where do you think my love of men comes from?

School? Ideas in books?

White professors whispering Plato in my ear?

Reading James Baldwin at night

Looking for the juicy parts

And finding homosexual love?


The hatred in the mirror,

The morning after as I brush my teeth

And feel like I can't get the stain

Of a man's cum off my tongue?

The failed attempts to fuck a woman?

Or should I just have done

Like the man around the corner, the one who fixed

Our air conditioner, the one with two kids and

A very lovely wife, the man who one day jumped up

And just left home to live with his male lover?


Should I have taken you on that trip?


Or should I have just gone and found my father

And shot him down for being a dog?




Malcolm, don't say anymore

Don't say anymore,

Just go away.

Please go away.

It'll be easier for you where nobody knows you

And you can be something twisted.




(Malcolm tries to reach Amina. he crosses to her, wants to touch her, wants her to embrace him.)


You're still my mother.

I still love you.




(Strikes him forcefully on the chest in a fury.)


Why can't you be a man?

Why can't you be a man?

Why can't you be a man?

Why a freak?

Why a faggot?

Do you wear women's clothes:

Pantyhose, lacy underwear, blouses,

Slips, and lipstick?


(She collapses momentarily in his arms. When he embraces her, she backs away, slapping him twice.)


Be a man. Why you want to be a woman?

We've got too many women now/

What we need is men.

We need men.




(Sarcastically) Thanks. I needed that!




You see, I can act as big a fool

As anyone else, but

I also have other emotional vectors

To guide my living.


(Long pause. They look at each other lovingly.)


Malcolm, be careful, lest you're dead of AIDS

Before the year is out,

Infected by someone whom you think

Loves you.




Safe sex




Is that not somehow contradictory,

Ironic, or at least paradoxical--

You need to protect yourself

From your lover?

You live in such a way

That it is necessary to take precautions

When you love someone.

If that is the case

Then where is the love?




We live in a time when love is at risk,

When love is a risk.




And that ultimately is so sad

Is it not? It is truly sad

To live in a time

When love is a risk.





But . . .


(He is at a loss for words. however, Amina cuts him off before he can collect his thoughts.)




And you know what is also sad about this age?

As terrible as AIDS is,

We women and our children, we Black women,

Are the ones who are dying with no notice,

No acknowledgment often, not even an obituary mention.


It is we dying, we infected, we the carriers

Passing on the illnesses of our times--

And ignored, not even included as raw statistics.

Many of us die from related diseases

But the counters don't even tally our deaths

Much less treat our lives.


I know it seems like I'm always talking woman talk

But the silence around us is so incredible,

So incredible . . .


(Silence, a long pause)


But you were going to say something. What?




I don't know.


(With a mixture of force and bewilderment)


I'm alive. I'm me, what I am,

What I sometimes wish I wasn't,

What I am struggling to learn to accept

I'm here, in this time.

I don't know.

What else can I do?




Do you believe your great-great-grandfather

Was a man?








Your slave forefather,

Was he a man?








Think of the time he lived in,

The conditions under which he was forced

To find a way to manifest his manhood,

Cut off literally from land, from tongue/language,

From self, castrated metaphorically

And sometimes, indeed often times, castrated

Literally. Think of him

And what he faced, and the fortitude

Of his manliness to overcome that

To remain a man, be a man

In an era of chattel slavery

Think of the immensity of that

Struggle for wholeness, for manhood

And know that you are the descendant

Of men who have had to piece their manhood

Together in the eye of the hurricane,

Be self-surgeons sewing together their severed



Imagine that,

Malcolm, my son.

Rise above what you consider your limitations.

If a slave could be a man

Then certainly a free homosexual can.


Okay. Cut


(To audience)


Let's deal with this.


Is homosexuality a sickness?


Is it the sickness of white society

Infecting us like so many people keep thinking?


Let's assume that it is.


(To Malcolm)


Let's assume you're sick and twisted.


Even if we assume that, the real question remains:

What are you going to do?


You're here, on this planet, in this era,

Whether we like you or not,

Think you're normal or freakish,

Healthy or sick,


The point is you're here

And our responsibility to each other

Is not to change each other

But to help each other.


Do you really believe that your sexuality

Is a dysfunctionality?

That you are father-famished and therefore

Gay because of the absence of a male?

Do you really believe that if your father were here

You would not be gay?

Do you really swallow that madness?




We are dysfunctional.

We were never, well maybe only for a moment!

But mainly we were never a whole family.




What can any of us,

Oppressed and exploited,

What can any of us

Know of a fully functional nuclear family?

When were we ever simply

Husband/wife/children family

Except in our extended

Bonding defiance of the society that told us

We were less than ourselves because

We were not family units, and at the same time

Were constantly tearing us asunder?


Do you think we were family on auction block?

In cotton fields and slave shack?

And later in the ghettos

And laboratory high rises?


If you believe

That you are the way you are

because of some social dysfunction

In your family tree

Then you are branding yourself pathological

In the extreme as if night were all 

There was to your day.




Were there ever any other gay men in our family?




If you open the closet in the hall,

If you root around in the corners of the attic,

If you dig in the crevices of basements,

Go to the old picture books

And look into the eyes of our blood . . .

The felt hat worn across that great aunt's eye

With a man's tie dividing her breasts, 

The big-eyed youth hiding on the edge of the picture

His hands clasped in his lap staring with terror

At something way beyond the camera . . .


In the tear-strewn trail

Of all those still-missing ones

Who left home and disappeared

Somewhere across the Rockets or into

The soft belly of Europe,

The cousin you never heard from again

After he reached fifteen and left the church choir

And had the beautiful voice

That broke your heart to hear him

Reluctantly sing goodbye,

Or the one you only heard from through

Occasional phone calls at odd times

During some randomly selected decade . . .


Like I said, this is nothing new

We just keep pretending we've never

Dealt with all this before, pretending.

But we are now no more sick

Than we've ever been during this sojourn

In the wilderness of being forced to make do,

Striving, although often valiantly failing,

To create wholeness from the twisted scraps

Of what's left after labor rape

And racist assault on our human selves.




Dou you understand?




Somewhat, somehow, some parts . . .


(He starts to say something but can not find the words.)







Don't cut. Don't turn from the difficult.

Don't cut, deal with it!

Stop looking for alien blueprints

When you have as birthright

All the tools you need to be,

A chest full of all the sinew and nexus

Needed to construct a whole human being.

Don't cut. Deal.


You ain't dead until you stop singing,

And if you don't sing,

Then you're not fully alive.


Break past this tendency to surrender

Just because living may mean choosing to die

Rather than accepting and accommodating madness,

And if not death, at least choosing

A form of sanity that the status quo

Will tell you is insanity.

You make yourself less than a man

When you choose to live with a chain on your mind,

Your beautiful infinite spirit harnessed

In the carcass of a negro, a dead thing

Who stops thinking, stops creating

In a confused and ultimately futile effort

To reach detente with oppression.


(She laughs. Deeply.)










(Disappointedly) Malcolm.




No. I'm ready.




I'm just going to do my entrance again.








(Exits, then re-enters.)




(He goes to her. They embrace.)


I have something to tell you.




Sit down, Malcolm.

Wait, let me get a chair.


(She brings a chair from the rear and sits next to him.)


You want some coffee?




(Nervously) No.




You hungry?








What is it?




I don't know how to say it.




Just say it.




I'm afraid you'll hate me.




I love you


(Touches his face tenderly.)




Like you hate my father




You are not your father. I love you.




You'll hate me like you hate him.








I'm glad that you're releasing your fears,

Telling me what teeth are at your throat,

What's causing you to turn your head

And seal your lips. I'm glad

You're sharing fear,

Because fear is the secret destroyer

Of struggle, and the only solution

Is shared strength.

Alone, you can never be as strong

Or as gentle, for that matter, as when

You are intimate with someone

With whom you share struggle, 

I'm glad, yes.


Facing the debilitations of our own

Deficiencies, all the major things we feel

Are wrong with ourselves, and being

Able to share that bitter drink

With another in effect

Releasing the repressed self,

That self so often branded ugly and

Repulsive, the thing whose very removal

Leaves a gapping open wound

Sensitive and vulnerable to touch

And hurt, and then too

The bitterness of misuse

By those close enough to smell the blood,

Facing all of that and finding out,

After we dry our eyes

That those deformities were only paper tigers,

Props held fast in place by our own refusal

To clear the deck . . .




Much of this is so abstract.

I know you, you're not your father.

You understand?

Not that you can't love whomever you choose to love.

It's just that it would really be good to be able

To point to you as an example of Black manhood . . .






(laughingly, bitterly)


Yeah, people be pointing at me all right,

But not as no example of Black manhood.


You've seen me in the street,

A young man whose effeminacy

Made you wince because I so obviously

Looked like what I am

And it makes you uncomfortable.




Yes, and I've wondered how terrible

Your torment must be

To be the way you are,

Knowing how cruelly streets

Will callously treat you

When you are like that . . .

To see you young and defying

All the social images

Of young manhood you've been taught . . .

I've seen you and wondered

How I would see you

If it was not you but

Some other mother's child

Whom I saw walking sideways

Into the day, but defiant still, and, yes,

Though I would rather you go a different way,

Still, not only is this sway your walk, the walk

You must walk if you are to be true to yourself,

But also I have come to admire your bravery

Your daring to be so out of step.


(Pauses. Turns to the audience.)


We are not just what society shapes us

To be, we are also what we become,

What we make of ourselves, and that is

The Most most difficult knowledge to grasp

Movers, with their minds made up,

Can make waves, waves which will

Give motion to the ocean,

Shake the ship of society and stitch a flag

Out of song sent soaring into the atmosphere,

Your smile a people's anthem.


(She starts a spontaneous dancing in place.)


Oh it feels so good to be a creative human being.

Just the thought of self-determination

Makes me dance. Yes,

If you're looking for an answer

Start with everything you can do

And build up to doing everything you can't do now

But want to do, everything

Do we have to do this again?

Now that I think about it,

Yes, surely, every day, every day,

Every day we have to reach into ourselves,

Find the sun, create the sheltering skies

Under which we can live,

And this god-light is inside the dark of self.

Your brightest light is revealed

Only when you open your deepest self,

Give birth to yourself.


(The lights fade down. In the dark we hear Malcolm and Amina.)


Speak, Malcolm!




(Addresses the audience through the dark.)


Whether you, or me, or anyone else

Can dig it or not,

I exist.

Whether you think I'm a freak

Or I'm just another human being,

I exist.

No Matter what you think,

And for that matter,

No matter what I think,

I exist.




Yes, you exist.




And you're going to have to deal with this man.




(Laughs. Exits with Malcolm)


Go on. Malcolm, my son

My son--a man, yes.

That's what men do.

You force the world to make space for



And you sing in your own tongue.

Not the male master's language,

But your own words fashioned to express

Your own realities,

Just as I will speak my tongue

And will reach for our tongues to be





Singing, the yes of life!




*   *   *   *   *

Kalamu ya Salaam is a New Orleans writer and arts producer. His latest book, What Is Life? is a collection of poetry and essays. All rights are reserved by Kalamu ya Salaam, P.O. Box 52723, New Orleans, LA 70152.

*   *   *   *   *

Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A.

By Jonathan Ned Katz

Coming Out!

A Documentary Play About Gay Life and Lesbian Life Liberation

 By Jonathan Ned Katz

Love Stories: Sex Between Men Before Homosexuality

By Jonathan Ned Katz

The Invention of Heterosexuality

By Jonathan Ned Katz

Foreword by Gore Vidal. Afterword by Lisa Duggan

Jonathan Ned Katz (born 1938) is an American historian of human sexuality who has focused on same-sex attraction and changes in the social organization of sexuality over time. His works focus on the idea, rooted in social constructionism, that the categories with which we describe and define human sexuality are historically and culturally specific, along with the social organization of sexual activity, desire, relationships, and sexual identities.Wikipedia

My work on the play Coming Out! initiated my new life as an open gay person, my long professional career as a historian of sexuality and gender, and furthered my movement into the world of human relationships, with all their pleasures and, of course, their pains. My work on Coming Out! helped make me human.Jonathan Ned Katz, Recalling My Play "Coming Out!" June 1972

Gay/Lesbian Almanac: A New Documentary. Written by: Jonathan Ned Katz A new documentary in which is contained, in chronological order, evidence of the true and fantastical history of those persons now called lesbians and gay men; and of the changing social forms of and responses to those acts, feelings, and relationships now called homosexual, in the early American Colonies, 1697 to 1740 and in the Modern United States, 1880 to 1950. Harper & Row, 1983; reprint NY: Carroll & Graf, 1994. Number 21 on list of 100 Best Lesbian and Gay Nonfiction Books, a project of the Publishing Triangle, the association of lesbians and gay men in publishing.

Katz, whose groundbreaking 1976 Gay American History is foundational to contemporary gay and lesbian studies, has researched deeply and widely, uncovering astonishing materials: a relationship between John Stafford Fiske, the U.S. consul to Scotland in 1870, and famous British cross-dresser Ernest Boulton; the existence of the Slide, a male-male pick-up bar in Greenwich Village in the 1890s; romances between older sailors and their "chickens" during the Civil War. Walt Whitman, noted Harvard mathematician James Millis Peirce, writer Charles Warren Stoddard, English philosopher Edward Carpenter Katz finds these men engaged in deeply loving and erotic friendship with no specific labels of sexual orientation attached. All of this is described and shaped with enormous sensitivity and judiciousness. Written clearly, succinctly and free from postmodern jargon, Katz's arguments are strong and vibrant. By contextualizing "sexual, acts, sexual desires, sexual identities" in their historical periods, but never avoiding the specifics of sexual activity or emotional connection, he contributes surprising, even shocking, insights into how sexual and emotional relationships are constructed, as well as demonstrating the enormous diversity and malleability of human eroticism.—Publishers Weekly

*   *   *   *   *

I Am Your Sister: Collected and Unpublished Writings of Audre Lorde

Edited by Rudolph P. Byrd, Johnnetta Betsch Cole, Beverly Guy-Sheftall

The editors of this abundant feast of a book remind us of the importance of [Audre Lorde's] work, which for 40 years has served as a foundation and catalyst for questions of identity, difference, power and social justice. There is much to ponder, discuss, teach, and revere in this compilation.—Ms. Magazine

I Am Your Sister is a collection for those who want and need to be introduced to Audre Lorde's thinking, and it is a great anthology for those who have read and been inspired by Lorde's writing all of their lives...a celebration, an honoring, and a thoughtful presentation of who Lorde eye opener to how the struggles of past times continue to be what we grapple with today...a tool for survival—a teacher to help us realize our possibilities for change.—Feminist Review

I Am Your Sister combines some of Lorde's most powerful essays with previously unavailable writings, as well as reflections on her work from other influential artists and activists.—Southern Voice  

In "harsh and urgent clarity" Audre Lorde spoke directly to "that chaos which exists before understanding," insisting on work to be done, the necessity for difficult alliances, for standing up to be counted, and for inclusive liberation. The poetic realism of these essays and speeches resonates here and now.—Adrienne Rich, poet, essayist, activist

Audre Lorde's unpublished writings, combined with her now classic essays, reveal her to be as relevant today as during the latter twentieth century when she first spoke to us. This new collection should be read by all who understand justice to be indivisible, embracing race, gender, sexuality, class, and beyond, and who recognize, as she so succinctly put it, that "there is no separate survival."—Angela Y. Davis, author of Women, Race & Class and Are Prisons Obsolete?

Provocative and profound, the work of poet, essayist, and autobiographer, Audre Lorde, has positively affected scholars and writers, teachers and students, feminists, gays, lesbians, and indeed countless individuals in the United States and elsewhere who have struggled with the question of how to integrate aesthetic, cultural, and political concerns. Now, with the publication of this collection of some of Lorde's best writing, we all have the opportunity to consider seriously Lorde's legacy and to continue in our efforts to resist the silencing of our various communities, our various selves in these wondrous and difficult times.—Robert F. Reid-Pharr, author of Once You Go Black: Choice, Desire, and the Black American Intellectual

*   *   *   *   *

Joseph F Beam (December 30, 1954 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – December 27, 1988 in Philadelphia) was an African-American gay rights activist and author who worked to foster greater acceptance of gay life in the black community by relating the gay experience with the struggle for civil rights in the United States. . . . Joseph F. Beam was working on a sequel to In the Life at the time of his death of HIV related disease in 1989. This work was completed by Dorothy Beam and the gay poet Essex Hemphill, and published under the title Brother to Brother in 1991. Both books were featured in a television documentary, Tongues United in 1991. “As a writer, Joe was more profound than prolific,” wrote his friend Craig Harris after his death. “His articles and essays were poetic, containing turned phrases and puns, metaphors in meters that made his writing musical with penetrating meaning. He took great pride in his skill and devoted time to multiple rewrites, crafting his work to create the style which other writers of the Black genre dubbed `Beamesque'.”—Wikipedia

*   *   *   *   *

Essex Hemphill—poet, editor, and activist—was born April 16, 1957, in Chicago, Illinois. Hemphill's first books were the self-published chapbooks Earth Life (1985) and Conditions (1986). He first gained national attention when his work appeared in the anthology In the Life (1986), a seminal collection of writings by black gay men. In 1989, his poems were featured in the award-winning documentaries Tongues Untied and Looking for Langston. In 1991, Hemphill edited Brother to Brother: New Writings by Black Gay Men, which won a Lambda Literary Award. In 1992, he released Ceremonies: Prose and Poetry, which won the National Library Association's Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual New Author Award. His poems appeared in Obsidian, Black Scholar, Callaloo, Painted Bride Quarterly, Essence, and numerous other newspapers and journals. His work also appeared in numerous anthologies including Gay and Lesbian Poetry in Our Time (1986) and Life Sentences: Writers, Artists and AIDS (1993). He was a visiting scholar at The Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities in 1993. On November 4, 1995, Hemphill died from complications relating to AIDS.


Mythology of Pussy and Dick (Toward Healthy Psychosocial Sexuality) and A Look inside Baraka's Toilet

By Marvin X

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*   *   *   *   *

Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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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 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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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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update 18 January 2012




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