ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes

   

Home   ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)

Google
 

 

we are more comfortable with a fabled Africa then we are with Virginia

or the Deep South. There is no fear connected in our minds

to the wide savannahs, beautiful coasts, etc. of Africa.

 

 

 

photo left:  Mama, a painting  by Kaki                                                                                         photo right: a photograph by Sonny Rivers of Jerusalem Church

 

Mama's Letters from Jerusalem

Beyond the Potomac or Beyond the Atlantic?

A Response by Amin Sharif

 

 

Peace. 

I have just read your essay about Jerusalem and consider it to be a jewel in the crown of CBAJ. It shows a man at peace with his rural, southern roots. As you know, I find it difficult to deal with my own. Perhaps, this is because my own family roots are so fragmented and scattered.

Your letters give me a chance to once again take up the subject of African and African-American ancestry. As you know, I am not greatly enthused with Afro-centrism-although there is some merits to it. I find that part of its appeal is the replacement of real past (in America) with a fabled one (of Africa). In fact, we are more rooted to the past of slavery, Jim Crow, etc. than we will ever be to our ancestors and kin in Africa. As I have told you, we will always know more about Uncle Joe, Aunt Mary or, in your case, Mama--than we will ever know about those who were/are our cousins in Africa. It is this turning away from the familiar faces we know to unknown faces across the sea that bothers me.

Of course, I know why we are more comfortable with a fabled Africa then we are with Virginia or the Deep South. There is no fear connected in our minds to the wide savannahs, beautiful coasts, etc. of Africa. We have a primordial urge, as all humans do, to return to paradise. Perhaps more than any people on earth, we Africans-in-America need a paradise after dwelling in hell for so long. On the other hand, our experience in America is rooted in fear (white racism) and continues to be so. If we are to look at the past we have experienced in America, we must come face to face with it all -- lynchings, rapes, cotton fields, and a thousand humiliations. We can not see our families and not be touched by the fear that pervaded their lives. By turning to Africa, we move beyond all of this.

Now, those who embrace Afro-centrism will say that I have no understanding of the damage done by the separation of Africans-in-America from Africans-abroad. My answer is simply that I fully acknowledge that damage. But only if they will acknowledge that a similar damage is constructed when we honor our African ancestors more than the ones who have fed us, clothed us, and loved us in flesh and blood. Why should near-mythical ancestors who we have never looked upon be more dear to us than those we know? I am a thousand times more comfortable with your mother, my mother than any ancestors I might have abroad.

It is time that we come to realize that we are far from Africa. Africa was our cradle but all men (and women) must leave their cradle to experience the world. We acknowledge Africa as the place we came from and honor her. But I refuse to be fixated by all of that. We have long left Africa. And when we return to her (if we choose), we will be like a son or daughter returning after having gone out into the world. We have seen different things. Yet we are a new kind of African raised up from an American experience that we can not deny. Your letters are my proof -- beautiful and vibrant! You have made me wish to hold your mother's hand and kiss her cheek. She is, as all our ancestors in America are, a testament to our greatest. 

There is much to be considered in your letters and I hope that you will time to time make your experiences accessible to others in the CBAJ family. I have little to contribute in this regard. Let my envy of you and your family be an impetus for further writings. It is late and I will speak to you further about this subject tomorrow.

 

The Editor Responds

Your remarks are a great uplift to my spirit. I appreciate them greatly. In such expositions as Mama's letters, many will miss the point. But your statement above has come very close to giving expression to the sentiment and motivation of this letters project. In a manner these letters are related to the slave narratives collected in the 1930s by the Federal Writers Project. Of course, Mama was not a slave though she worked like one (as little as fifty cents a day or five cents an hour); but she was indeed the granddaughter of Christian slaves. And it has been through her and her stories that I have gained a vital sense of our antebellum ancestors and their children.

These letters are a kind of praise song, given in her own words, to a life that is now fading -- a life in which family and extended family were substantially important, carriers of traditional values and ethics and a great means that sustained life and culture. In those times, that era, there was a great respect of parents and the "elders" or the "patriarchs" (as Mama has phrased it) and the leaders of the village and the church. It tells of a time, a pre-cynical time, before today's hyper-exploitation and individualism which has more or less generated greater classism and criminalization within our communities.

These letters recall a time, though harsh materially, that was rather great and boundless in spirit and community. Hopefully, it will remind us that much that exists today is far below what is indeed possible for the human spirit, namely, the spirit of endurance and sacrifice. They set a high spiritual standard that must be a part of our daily meditations if we are to extract ourselves from this present oppression and surpass the horrors of post-modernism and unbridled world powers, too willing to unleash to dogs of war and destruction when such resources are needed to alleviate the worldwide problems of poverty.

As ever and always, RL

 

Family Stories

 

Black Mama, White Son

                A Response to "Black Mama, White Son" by Lewis Lawson

The Confessions of Walter Cotton

Conjuring & Doctoring  

Dwarf's Lament

Father Son and Mary

Me & the Devil at CrossHairs  

Tale for Sam Williams

TeeJay’s Song: Shadows at Midnight  

Driving the Blues Away: Or Dying by Degrees  Responses to “Driving the Blues Away”     Home to Jerusalem   / The Education of Black Folks in the South: 1860-1935

*   *   *   *   *

AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#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 Eroticanoir.com 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

Non-fiction

#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

*   *   *   *   *

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.

*   *   *   *   *

The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story

of Citizenship, the Economy, and the Role of Government

By Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer

American democracy is informed by the 18th century’s most cutting edge thinking on society, economics, and government. We’ve learned some things in the intervening 230 years about self interest, social behaviors, and how the world works. Now, authors Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer argue that some fundamental assumptions about citizenship, society, economics, and government need updating. For many years the dominant metaphor for understanding markets and government has been the machine. Liu and Hanauer view democracy not as a machine, but as a garden. A successful garden functions according to the inexorable tendencies of nature, but it also requires goals, regular tending, and an understanding of connected ecosystems. The latest ideas from science, social science, and economics—the cutting-edge ideas of today—generate these simple but revolutionary ideas: (The economy is not an efficient machine. It’s an effective garden that need tending. Freedom is responsibility. Government should be about the big what and the little how. True self interest is mutual interest.

*   *   *   *   *

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)

*   *   *   *   *

Ancient African Nations

*   *   *   *   *

If you like this page consider making a donation

online through PayPal

*   *   *   *   *

Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues


1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        

Enjoy!

*   *   *   *   *

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

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

*   *   *   *   *

*   *   *   *   *

ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)

 

 

 

 

 

update 14 May 2012

 

 

 

Home Letters Table of Contents Rudy's Page

Related files:  The Official History of Jerusalem Baptist Church     Black Church     Public Education in Sussex County  Sussex County A Tale of Three Centuries