ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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Remember Rose, at this time, a father has the right to give his daughters away in marriage to any man

of his choosing; it was unheard of that a girl would flout her father’s command.  And so, I came to be

known as . . . Chiege Iwuji, Onye nma hiara di without a husband because of my beauty.



Books by Rose Ure Mezu


Women in Chains: Abandonment in Love Relationships in the Fiction of Selected West African Writers (1994) / Songs of the Hearth (1993) /

Homage to My People (2004) / A History of Africana Women's Literature (2004)

 Black Nationalists: Reconsidering Du Bois, Garvey, Booker T. & Nkrumah (1999) Chinua Achebe: The Man and His Works (2006)

*   *   *   *   *

Of the Passing of Mama Ezinne Bessie Chiege Iwuji Okeke



With deep gratitude to God for a life well spent, we announce the passing away and calling to God of our most beloved mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, and aunt, Mama Bessie Chiege Okeke, née Iwuji who was born in 1915 and died Thursday, November 6th, 2008.  She is survived by her five children—

Sir. Hope J. Okeke

Dr. Rose Ure Mezu, 1st Woman Commissioner (1979-1983) for the Greater Imo State

Mrs. Anne U. Okoli

Mrs. Margaret N. Nwobia

Mrs Caroline A. Ufere

Twenty-eight (28) grandchildren, both in the United States and in Nigeria; eleven (11) great-grandchildren, resident in the U.S.A.; a sister, Mrs. Ego Opara, Nene Titi Veronica Okeke; sons-in-law, Dr. Sebastian Okechukwu Mezu, Engr. Okechukwu Dike Nwobia, Chief Kingsley Ufere; daughter-in-law, Lady Gertrude Ebere Okeke; many nephews and nieces both in the United States and in Nigeria. 

Mama Bessie Chiege Okeke, née Iwuji, is a mother without parallel.  Born in Umuokoro, Amuzi, she grew to become a young beauty in her hometown where she met and married the love of her life, the young teacher John Oguguo Okeke on posting to her home after completing his studies at Emekuku.  The couple lived in many towns of the old Eastern Nigeria wherever her husband John was posted. Then, they moved to Lagos where her husband worked as a policeman and where they had two (2) children before moving eventually to Port Harcourt where they lived until the Nigerian Civil War and the sack of Port Harcourt by the Nigerian soldiers.

Mama Bessie Chiege Iwuji Okeke  as the wife of a rising politician and businessman, she helped her husband develop Mile 1 Diobu (D Line —Orije Layout), a new residency town in where they had the pioneering honor to be among the first to develop their plots of land, and move to settle. When J. O. Okeke, as he was popularly known, became the first Municipal Councillor representing Orije Layout and serving under Mayor Nzimiro of Oguta, she was there to help in many capacities as wife, mother, hostess and business woman.

Bessie Chiege Iwuji Okeke as she called herself went through many difficulties early in her marriage to John Okeke.  She was barren for many, many years, having her five children late in life.  Her husband John pledged to stand by her with stalwart courage until she is able to have children,. knowing the many heartaches and contempt she suffered then for being childless.

On her own right, Mama Bessie Okeke was a pioneering, female entrepreneurvariously starting and training others in businesses such as cake making, soap making, cloth trading, farming, oil trading, and many other business endeavors. She was well-loved as a Community Othermother for men, women and children came to her for advice / help and she gave as generously as God abundantly blessed her. Bessie Chiege Okeke was a pioneer Christian mother par excellence, setting example with her life and proselytizing activities. She was one of a committee that worked and achieved the founding of St. Gregory’s Catholic Parish, Ihitteafoukwu in Ekwerazu. 

She became a mother to Umu MaryLegionaries, and to seminarians who came and were fed and counseled by her; many of them became priests, including one, a Bishop. In 1980, she went on a pilgrimage; among the group was Eze Acholonu, the Igwe of Orlu with whom she formed a close bonding as the two oldest pilgrims, visiting Lourdes, France, Rome, Italy and the Holy Land

Rose Mezu and her mother Bessie Chiege


. With Eze Acholonu, Mama would exult always that they, the oldest and supposedly most frail, were the first to climb to the top of Mount Calvary while the younger pilgrims huffed and puffed behind them. So great was their faith!

As a mother to her children, Mama was without compeer.  In time, her children and their families became her life and passion.  She cared when we were sick; she cooked and she served, and she saved and she gave completely of herself. If we were in trouble of any kind, she stood by us. In return, her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren treasured her.  And as she went through her numerous illnesses, accidents and overseas treatments, Mama was given the best and most loving of all cares any set of children could give a parent, which as she said made up for our father who died too early to witness the successes of his children and their families.

Mama spent her remaining years on earth cared for by her children in their respective homes and in her own home over which she superintended in order, as she said, to be able to render account to her husband John when she meets him in heaven. After an eye-operation, this 93 year-old-woman left the United States of America on January 1st 2007 back to her home where she lived out the rest of her days in peace.

On Thursday, November 4th, 2007, her friend and Parish Priest Fr. Godson Okoro came and gave her the last of many anointings and Holy Communion.  He did not know she was to die peacefully shortly thereafter. Her family truly thanks God for her great accomplishments, and time well spent on this earth by Bessie Chiege Iwuji Okeke. It is truly hard to describe how greatly all will miss Mama’s wisdom, solid, reassuring presence, her indomitable faith, her rollicking good humor, and her shining love of family and neighbors. Without doubt, Mama Bessie Chiege Iwuji Okeke died a holy death and is a saint in heaven where, in the company of her husband John and first daughter Bernadette, she is smiling down on us.  She will be buried in her home estate in Umuediabali, Ihitteafoukwu, Mbaise, Imo State of Nigeria on the 28th of November, 2008.

May the soul of Bessie Chiege Iwuji Okeke rest in eternal peace!

                        Signed by Dr. Rose Ure Mezu, and Sir. Hope Joe Okeke Family     

*   *   *   *   *

The Woman Who Bore Me

                             By  Rose Ure Mezu

I came home and I beheld her sitting down, legs propped up on a table

I beheld her eyes shut, face wan and frame shrunken

I beheld her and my heart melted with so much love for her

She who bore me, who loves me and whom I hold in reverence


She was once young and now she is old and as I gazed tenderly

Time sped on; I saw the image of me several decades yet to come

A wise friend once spoke plaintively about his father in waning years:

Old and blind and helpless, it does injury to heart, mind and sight, he sighed,

For one once agile, vigorous and bustling to lay now wan, weak and fragile


My voice reached her first, “It is you, my daughter,” she said quite simply

"Rose, I always see you with the eyes of my spirit, she had once said to me

She went on, “they said you were sick. How could I have been eating, sleeping

And not know it?” Stretching out her hands, so emaciated yet velvety smooth,

She beckoned to me, “Come lie on me.  Let me carry you.”

A wistful smile came for that order I could not carry out. How could I lie on

This ninety-something year-old body so fragile, so smooth, so loved!


My arms encircled the frame of her who bore me, this dear, dear woman

Gathering her into my arms, I held tight her frame once robust now diminished

“You will all bury me as is the natural rhythm of life,” she said to me,

“I will not bury any of you!”May her spoken thought be her prayer, Amen!

The thought came to me of John the Baptizer saying to his Lord Jesus:

“You must increase as I must decrease.” 


This is Chiege’s time to wait for that eternal call. It is her time to listen. She readies herself.

I can feel it, and she knows it, chortling: “Rose, I have really grappled with old age.”

“So, so old you are!” I teased. She had wrestled down old age and become mistress of it

She never read Dylan Thomas but she is going truly and gently into that good night.


That Sunday, my presence became her food. “Not hungry,” she shooed away the platter,

“I am full of your presences,” said she who now near death can see with blinding sight

Yet, I fed her, she from whose womb I came forth, and who had fed me first.

But still I fed her and she ate obediently, the mother who now is my old woman child.


So goes the human story and blessed is she who near close of day has readied herself.

Bessie Chiege Iwuji Okeke, matriarch, wife, mother, grand- and great-grandmother

At the dying of the light, the blind eyes of this prophetess can still blaze like meteors

She who can always see me with the eyes of her spirit.  Yes, though blind, yet she sees!

She indeed is as ready as she can ever be. My mother, dear, dear woman who bore me.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

 *   *   *   *   *

Bessie Chiege Iwuji Okeke

Her Story in Her Own Words


My Ancestry:

I am Bessie Chiege Iwuji. I was born at Umuokoro, Amuzi then in Ahiara but now in Ahiazu, Mbaise.  My father’s name is Iwuji Nwosu Nwoke Mgbaja.  Nwachukwu Ehiemene was a notable from my clan.

I married John Oguguo Keke Ekwugha Nwokoro of UmuNwokoro, Umuonyewuzo, Umu-ucho, Umuediabali, Umueze, Ihitteafoukwu of Ekwerazu now in Ahiazu in Mbaise.

My mother’s name is Erikem  - Erikonye Nwagwu Iwuoha whose father was Amos Ihejirika of  Akumefuohia from Erikem, Umuerikaruru, UMUOÑAMAKA, Amakohia Owu.  Her people own Ekeonumiri market near the C.M.S. Church, Nkwoala, Amakohia Owu.  A notable personality at the time from my hometown was Oparachukwu Onyerima.

My Encounter, Falling in Love and Marriage to John Keke:

In Umuodah Ngwuru, Mbaise, there lived a rich woman called Adaoparaji Gwogwo whose mother hailed from Umuezi, Enyiogugu, Mbaise.  Adaoparaji was a very rich trader but barren and so, she went to Obetiti and bought an orphan baby boy called Nwalohie or Nwalozie. She brought him up as a son.  When he grew up, he came to marry me. Nwalozie was so ugly and so small that I refused to marry him. Nwalozie became a cattle trader who slaughtered cows / llamas and grew very rich himself. Yet, I could not stand the sight of him.

My own village is Umuokoro, Amuzi.  To get to it, one has to cross Umuokazi and Umuodah. My father was Iwuji Nwosu Nwoke Mgbaja with the Christian name of Michael even though he did not go frequently to the church.  My father was tall, very light complexioned and dashingly good looking. And so, Adaoparaji and her son Nwalozie concluded the marriage arrangements had been with my father.  But when Nwalozie and his adoptive mother Adaoparaji Gwogwo took me home to Umuodah Ngwuru, I refused to stay and ran away the next day.  But they physically brought me back and forced me to stay. 

My parents’ marriage was not a success, for my mother ran away from my father Iwuji. She had taken me along as a baby to live in Emekuku at the compound of Chief Obi of Ezedibia with her lover, a man from Obodo Ujishi, Mbaise. My father Iwuji went to Chief Obi and filed a suit to recover his baby daughter – Me.  Chief Obi and his cabinet tried the case and I was awarded to my father who brought me back to Amuzi. My father had pleaded that since his wife had a lover, he should be given custody of his own daughter, for then she would be free to have children with her man, if she wished. It was a general opinion in my home town that girls from Umuerikaruru, Amakohia Owu were reputed to be flagrantly unfaithful in marriage; this charge my mother’s action proved to be true. 

Thus, my mother abandoned me as a baby and later went to live with a new husband, a man called Ohanu who hailed from Umuchoko also in Amuzi.  It was this man who refused to reimburse my father Iwuji for the dowry he Iwuji had paid on my mother when he married her.  My mother would have additional three children for Ohanu, and my father would have many more children from his other wives. And so, I am the oldest and only child that my mother Erikem and my father Iwuji had together even though I had siblings of both sexes from my father and three sisters from my mother and her husband, Ohanu. The youngest would be called Ego and she is still alive and comes to visit me often, as did my other siblings before they died. Ogu was the eldest son of my Father and he died a long time ago.  So also his sister Ukwunna who married a man from Umuezi, Enyiogugu.  Eleba, my youngest brother died a few years ago leaving very loving children who visit me from time to time. As at this time, I must be the oldest mgboto from Umuokoro, Amuzi as well as from Umuediabali.

When I grew up, I was reputed to be a beautiful maiden.  Quite young, I started trading in soaps.  At the time, I was still wearing ringed rows of beads around my hips, anklets, and necklaces.  I was forced to stay at the home of Adaoparaji as his son’s affianced bride. To prospective suitors who saw me in public, I would tell them that I was the daughter of Adaoparaji who whenever she got to hear of it would debunk the story, for these suitors came to her home wanting to marry me because I claimed to be her daughter. But I disliked Nwalozie, my affianced future husband, his llamas (cows), the meat he sold; in fact, I hated everything about him. And when I became a maiden, I still refused to marry him.  All this caused a lot of palaver in our home and in theirs. Till today, I do not like fresh meat. 

TheyNwalozie and his familythreatened me with forced rape if they caught me walking alone along the road.  But I swore at them and cursed myselfto die during childbirth if I was ever raped by him, and if I ever got pregnant.  So, my brothers Ogu and Eleba took to escorting me everywhere.  And Adaoparaji and Nwalozie refused to take back the dowry they paid on me.  They insisted that if ever I am to marry someone other than the arranged husband Nwalozie, I should move to a place so far away that they could not encounter me either in the marketplace or in the Church, for they were a prominent family and did not need the shame of being spurned and humiliated. 

Remember Rose, at this time, a father has the right to give his daughters away in marriage to any man of his choosing; it was unheard of that a girl would flout her father’s command.  And so, I came to be known as being stubborn. They called me “Chiege Iwuji, Onye nma hiara di without a husband because of my beauty.

As a daughter of Mother Mary (member of the Umu Mary), I was sent to the Catholic Church to sweep, fetch water and collect firewood.  There, I met John Keke who was posted to my hometown from Emekuku boarding house.  Paul Emecheta from Umuofor, Amuzi was then the catechist.  John asked Paul for my name and the catechist told him the story of my marital enchainment, for I was one of the women in chains.  I was still trading on soap, needles, and thread.  John was a very handsome man, and very tall.  I fell in love with him.

Now, my father loved me very much. So, when I went to him and threw myself at his feet weeping bitterly, pleading to be allowed to marry the man of my choosing, John, my father at last relented because of his love for me.  But John Oguguo Keke would pay double dowry for me. Immediately, John proposed to marry me through Paul Emecheta. Next, they came together to meet and speak with my father Iwuji.  Six months later, I agreed to marry John. Later, John came again with a bicycle repairer from Ogbor Nguru who validated him because he himself also married a woman from Ihitteafoukwu.

Later, John’s half brother Kyrian Keke came to escort me to Ihitteafokwu to visit with my in-laws for the first time. On the road from AforOru and Nkwoala, we saw neither cars nor bicycles except vehicles belonging to government or to a chief.  My father-in-law Keke Ekwugha saw me and loved me, calling me Ugwuezithe pride of the family / compound.  Women and children came out to view me and they probably liked what they saw, for I was lavishly entertained by all. In the morning, Kyrian again; passing through Nkwoala, escorted me back to my home in Amuzi.

My marriage engagement caused big uproar in my hometown for Umuodah and AdaOparaji took my father to the local court house with Joseph Amadikwa presiding, to have the dowry they paid returned to them. My father defeated them but my father never got back the full dowry Nwalozie paid on me because my mother Erikem  - Erikonye Nwagwu Iwuoha refused to let her new husband release the part of the dowry which she had received for being the mother of the bride.

Soon, the marriage ceremonies commenced in earnest.  More suitors flocked to stop me from going to settle in this regionIhitteafoukwu which my people considered at that time to be the primitive backwoods. A little closer to the administrative headquarters of Owerri, Amuzi town prided itself on being more civilized than my husband’s hometown. John Oguguo Keke had to pay twice for my dowry; first, he paid eleven (11) pounds in order to procure an annulment from the arranged marriage to Nwaloziethe entire dowry of which my mother had a part.  Next, he paid an additional twenty or more pounds for my real dowryall paid in cowries

John now got transferred to Ulakwo Obube. For the marriage, Kyrian, John’s half brother brought a basket of four (4) huge yams, one stockfish and a piece of cloth.  I was quite very stylish.  My father asked John to go to Emekuku and collect the marriage bans.  Rev. Fr. Howell gave John Okeke a teaching job, posting him to Agbaraghara Nsu in Mbaino where we were married in 1932 with headmaster Charles and Janet Dozie from Emekuku as our sponsors.  These two are the parents of Pascal Dozie of Diamond Bank. My husband’s Godparent was Teacher Pius Anyamkpele of Mpam Owerre, in Ekwerazu. He attended the wedding. 

In time, John left Teaching and went to Enugu where he underwent recruit training.  We then traveled to Lagos on an Ajassi boat.  There, John, my husband would become a police man.  Later, he was recruited also for the army to go fight in World War II, but I was pregnant with my only son Hope, and John refused because we had lost a daughter many years earlier.  As he said to me, “What palaver do I have with the Germans, or with Hitler?  What if I am killed over there, would that not be the end of my bloodline?” Bloodlines are very important to our men, and I later, I would have our only son, Hope.

John Oguguo Okeke whom I now called Papa Hope loved me truly.  I was the original Nwanyi Agabarren woman.  Barrenness was like a curse. But I flourished as a trader, and once a woman said to me, “You go ahead and make money while I make my babies.”  You can imagine how I felt. Although I married in 1932, I did not have a first child until 1937 when I had a daughter called Bernadette who is now in heaven.  The village midwives handled her roughly and the soft part of her front head (fontanel) got broken and she caught an infection. We took her to Emekuku hospital where she shortly died. 

Then, I was barren again until 1942 when I had my son Hope.  In those days, a woman with no child was a miserable woman.  Because I became barren again for sometime, people advised my husband to go and marry other wives.  When I heard this, I started weeping, asking him if he had exhausted treatment options.  Then, I was started on the potions and herbal treatments, and then hospital tests. But John, my husband assured me he would stay married to me as long as I had no children, because if he married again, I would never believe that he loved me.  But he also told me bluntly that he came from a line of Ogaranyas and they were polygamous by tradition; and that when once I had a first set of children, he would feel free to go ahead and marry because he needed many, many children to inherit his wealth.  But would you know it, I had not only Hope, but three other children before my husband married Titi Anyanwu, now called Veronica.

I fought him with all my energies, but he was bent on marrying again.  Rev. Fr. Flynn of the Christ the King Catholic Parish (C.K.C.) at the time advised me to let it go since my husband was too stubborn. At last, John Okeke did as he wanted.  He went back home to bring the girl home.  Now, I was established in business, making cakes, farming, etc.  On the day, they were to come back home to Port Harcourt, I dressed up in my finest damask and velveteen from ala igbe or bottom box fashion, so to say, and then I sat on a high-backed easy chair like a queen waiting to see this woman that was coming to break up my home.  When I saw her, my heart melted and I was sad for her. She looked so helpless and so young.  If I had had children early, she could have been my daughter. 

I said to myself, “Poor girl!  It is not her fault that her parents are selling her for money to an older man!”  That has always been the plight of helpless girlsto be given away to men they might not even like to marry, or to men old enough to be their fathers, or to ugly men.  I remembered how much in my youth I had resisted and fought not to marry Nwalozie, Adaoparaji’s ugly, adopted son.  

Therefore, I made up my mind to make the best of a bad situation. To make ukwaAfrican bread fruitthe ripened fruit has to be mashed and treshed to make the ukwa seeds clean; and then a mother can feed her children on this delicious soft food. I think that God allowed these trialsbarrenness and polygamyto mash and tresh and wash me clean me so that my life can then become the breadfruit with which to nourish others. These trials made me strong and I did not know that more trials were ahead in my future. Once I decided to welcome the girl and be kind to her, I had peace.  She is a human being after all, and the situation was not of her choosing. 

Since that day, we had lived in peace and cooked and ate as one family.  She looked after me when I had my last child, and in subsequent miscarried pregnancies but sadly, she never had any children. John accepted with resigned patience the fact that Titi or Nene as she is fondly called could not and did not have children of her.  Papa Hope, my husband would tease me for years afterwards, saying that I had jinxed her with my prayers, but no, it was the Lord’s doing all the way.

In 1975, he died a holy death after reconciling with, and receiving all the last rites of, the Catholic Church.. At the time, Titi was still young enough to go and marry again and was so told, but she chose to stay and had been my companion in old age ever since. And all the children love her and she has loved them too. Thus, I think does our good God turn every temptation into a plus and a blessing! John Oguguo Okeke was a strong and stalwart man. He was also a loving father to his children.  He proved his love for me, standing by me through my years of barrenness. Therefore, throughout our journey together on this earth, I loved and honored him, and still love the memories he left with me.  

My father Iwuji Nwosu Nwoke Mgbaja died in 1952 while we were living in Port Harcourt, and I went home for his burial.  In 1956, my mother Erikem died at Eziala Ogwu at her daughter Ego Opara’s house but she was brought back to her hometown and buried at Umuerikonye, Amakohia Owu.  She was never able to see my children. I did not have those daughterly feelings towards my mother Erikem because she had abandoned me as an infant.  And so for the rest of my life, I made my husband and children my mother, my father and my all, always following the example of the Virgin Mary and trusting in God.

(From Interviews Conducted by Dr. Rose Ure Mezu with My Mother on Her Early Life with My Father – John Oguguo Okeke)Bessie Chiege Iwuji Okeke, December 2007.

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An Account of the Last Hours of Bessie Chiege Iwuji Okeke,

We spoke to Ngalezi, my mother's relation who with her daughter Ahaoma looked after Mama.  They gave a clearer account of the events of the day she died, as follows:

On Monday, Dr. Ogoke of Crystal Clinic, Afor-Uzi Umuohuo, Mpam Ekwerazu, Mbaise came to check up on Mama, take her blood pressure and draw blood for testing.  He diagnosed her with malaria and treated appropriately.  Hope came on Wednesday and made sure Mama took her medicine. 

On Tuesday, November 4th, the parish priest of St. Gregory, Ihitteafoukwu, Fr. Godson Okoro came and anointed Mama and gave communion.  Fr. Okoro said that for the first time since his normally routine visits to her, he felt like anointing her.  He asked her, "Mama, would you like me to anoint you?"  At the "Yes!" answer, he did and gave her communion.

On Thursday, November 7, her dies natalisday of birth into Heaven, Mama asked Ngalezi to go to her daughter's home in Emekuku - Akwuosa and weed and clean up the compound, take care of the Ugu she had planted while I was at home, cut down some palm nut fruitsNkwufor oil and get her some pink grapesshadock fruitfor her.  Ngalezi asked her if she would still be around by the time she comes home, and Mama said "Yes!"  She held Ngalezi close to her heart, and Ngalezi started to cry.  Mama comforted her and asked her not to cry, saying, "Ogadicha Nma!All will be well!"  Ahaoma then asked her why she was no longer praying, and Mama said she had prayed enough - "Ekpejuolam!

Later, around 4 p.m., Mama asked for a priest and Ahaoma telephoned a young priest who loved her and he came.  He prayed over Mama and sprinkled holy water over her.  She asked for foodplantain fufu and Oha soupwhich she had asked to be prepared and it was brought to her.  The priest helped to feed her and even took a photograph of Mama eating. Then, the priest left.

Ngalezi came back from Emekuku around 7 p.m. with grapes and all. Then, she went home. Mrs. Anna Okoli, my sister had then gone into the village. Only the mother of Engr. Okechukwu Nwobia, my sister Maggie’s husband, was around. At about 8 p.m., Mama asked Ahaoma to help her ease herself.  This was done.  She asked for some water to drink, and was given water.  All along, the girl had no idea this was the end.  Mama then gurgled or coughed as if she was about to throw up, but did not throw up.  Then, she shut her eyes and went to her God, sitting there in her chair, near the entrance to the dining room, there on that chair in August where I last saw her sitting when I wrote the poem to "The Woman Who Bore Me!" 

We her family are deeply consoled that our Mother died the way we envisioned and prayed she wouldstill neat, no pain, in peace, with full alert consciousness, in full communion with her faith and in full reception of the last rites of the Faith that had been her rock and anchor all her life. She was at last ready and she knew it.  It gives all of us great hope to know that our belief and trust in a Good and Merciful God, in His Mother Mary and in the Saints, and our daily prayerseven the Rosaryare not in vain.  It is a wonderful Faith that we have received and that we practice.  Call no person good until you see the end.  Mama ended her life with a lot of grace and serenity. Ultimately, it pays to live a good life, a productive life and an unselfish life, doing Good to others through love for our God.November 10, 2008. Dr. Rose Ure Mezu.

*   *   *   *   *

Mama, I Still Think of You


You know, Mama

We kind of thought

You will live forever


Even though old, bent and a mere shadow

Of the woman you were, yet still indomitable,

Your fragile frame packed so much substance

So much vibrant life.


Mama, every waking day, I think of you because


So much of you was simply amazing

So much of you was so solid

So much of you so endearing

So much of you so reassuring

So much of you still enduring


You battled so hardily, so bravely

To overcome so many obstacles

We thought you were the rock of our times

That forever, you will remain

                                                a keeper of dreams,

                                                a tenderer of our common garden

                                                a nurturer of our new offspring


Now, your kind presence is to be felt everywhere

The thought of you is in every breath we draw

 And now all know that you are a saint we know you are


Because that about you which I knew and felt and wrote about

That which is the very same essence of you that

                              The Bishop saw and knew

                              The priests felt and testified

                               The neighbors sampled and confessed


It is the haloed aura of you that friends keep speaking about

                 For to all you were compassionate

                  To all you were so very wise and just

                   To all you were so grandly giving

                    To all you were prodigally consoling


Your life, sweet Mama, was layered like the onion

Each layer tells a different story

Each phase marks a different phase

You near-century was prodigiously and richly endowed

Each decade reads like a different book of history.


To us your offspring you are so very precious

To each you gave your all with yet more to give

Such that each tells a different, special tale of your love

Your talent was to make each feel so very specially loved

Each of our faults you knew and yet, you still loved us

So, so very fair-minded, you always spoke the truth of things


Our memories of you, mother dearest, make of your life

                                         a varied, multi-colored quilt of love

Our Mother’s love, as nearly pure as our Maker’s perfect love


You were humble too, for you begged pardon for all your faults

Bessie Chiege Iwuji Okeke, intercede with the Lord for your family

To know how to be penitent, honest, humble and lovingly peaceful.

Rose Ure Mezu

December 2008 – January 12, 2009

posted 23 November 2008 

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#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—WashingtonPost

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Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered

the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It

By H. W. Brands

In Greenback Planet, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands charts the dollar's astonishing rise to become the world's principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. Brands explores the dollar's changing relations to gold and silver and to other currencies and cogently explains how America's economic might made the dollar the fundamental standard of value in world finance. He vividly describes the 1869 Black Friday attempt to corner the gold market, banker J. P. Morgan's bailout of the U.S. treasury, the creation of the Federal Reserve, and President Franklin Roosevelt's handling of the bank panic of 1933. Brands shows how lessons learned (and not learned) in the Great Depression have influenced subsequent U.S. monetary policy, and how the dollar's dominance helped transform economies in countries ranging from Germany and Japan after World War II to Russia and China today. He concludes with a sobering dissection of the 2008 world financial debacle, which exposed the power--and the enormous risks--of the dollar's worldwide reign.  The Economy

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

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

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update 3 April 2012




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