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So despite my petty miseries of 2008, I expect 2009 will be one of the greatest years America

has ever experienced. That is, historic and wondrous in more ways than one: ChickenBones

supporters will expand, as it has now with Paul Coates and Black Classic Press.



Opened Letters

The N Word, Go Tell Michelle, and Other Books

By Rudolph Lewis

30 December 2008


Eartha Kitt was a magical woman who always demanded respect. There was always a youthful daring restraint, and an exotic exuberance ever ready to explode in indignation—Rudy

She was indeed some kinda woman: sexy, exuberant, independent, and opinionated. I saw her on the stage in Boston when I was in college, and she blew me away—Miriam

My Dear Miriam

ChickenBones needs to do something on the wondrous Eartha Kitt. At this moment I am rather exhausted. Tuesday I had six teeth pulled and a rocky upper denture installed. Though I have put to bed my protest of my mother leaving me an insulting dollar in a suspect will, the whole experience has left me somewhat numb in that I lost my temper with my brother whose publicly propagated will left me rather cold. The only protest I made was rather a literary one in ChickenBones, Rattlers and Other Acts of Love, especially the section at the end of the page. Such are the depths to which "family" stoop on the death of a "mother."

Other than that I am fairly well. I am taking pain pills and an antibiotic. Yet I look forward to the New Year and the installation of the new president. He will have his plate more than full: wars and rumors of wars. I am sick of the Middle East tragedies. Too bad that entire section of the globe cannot be ejected into middle space away from all concern. But it is probably as much wishful thinking as my hope to put out of mind my brother, the Weasel. But all such familial conflicts make our measure. I prefer the righteous life, but I am ever pulled back into the muck and mire of greed and wrestling with "angels."

In any case, my energies will return and I will get something up about Eartha Kitt as well as Freddie Hubbard, the jazz trumpeter and composer, who also recently pass. Maybe tomorrow, the sun will shine brighter than today and God will send Sunday, again. And all my bothers and sisters will greet the new year joyously filled with the hope of possibility.

Meanwhile, I orient myself pleasingly by stargazing. Here in my third winter at Jerusalem, I have located the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper. They seem to shift in the night sky by the season. You well know the Myth of the Drinking Gourd. If I have read the stars correctly, where the Big Dipper was in the summer, say at 6 centered low on a clock face, now in the winter it is at 2 in the ceiling of the night sky. As you know we are in a forested landscape, with tree tops jutting up into the sky: my view is roughly from a deep high rimmed jagged green bowl. Not on a plain our view of the outer cosmos is much more restricted than a planetarium. Over the last two clear cold nights  Venus rushes closer in her chase of the new crescent moon. Her chase invigorates me on each new nightly sighting.

I have been recently in contact with several ChickenBones writers which you admire. First, there is the beautiful and vivacious New Orleans poet, Mona Lisa Saloy. I have not seen her subsequent to Katrina, though we have been in communication. She inspires poetry by her life and her charms. Her Red Beans and Ricely Yours is not only award winning but is a significant book about a New Orleans that will never be again. She recently read one of the poems—“The N Word” (in the last section of the book) at a prep school in Seattle. The poem and the reading have became  an online controversy. I have published an overview, including the poem and a letter to parents, in the file headed Mona Lisa, Lakeside and the N-Word.  You will find this recent ChickenBones publication of great interest and the purchase of the book, Red Beans and Ricely Yours, as a great Kwanzaa gift.

Second, Floyd Hayes at Johns Hopkins shared this note with me that he sent to poet-scholar Jerry Ward:

Dear Jerry,
My wife gave me a copy of The Richard Wright Encyclopedia for Xmas. It is a marvelous resource! It's not like any encyclopedia I've seen before. Already, I have spent hours reading through the various entries. So much is there: people, themes, issues, events, bibliographies, etc., related to Wright. Yours is a monumental contribution! The more I read Wright (and about him), the more I am amazed at the depth and breadth of his work and its impact on the worlds of literature, philosophy, politics, sociology, history, psychology, etc. He was formidable!

Thanks so much for your scholarship in keeping his life and work alive and vibrant. I will offer my Wright seminar next semester.

Floyd has also purchased Jerry’s The Katrina Papers: A Journal of Trauma and Recovery, which is ChickenBones'  Best Book of 2008. It can be purchased online at UNO Press. ChickenBones remains interested in  reviews of Jerry’s wondrous book and his recall of events from 2005 to 2006 by the use of a number of genres, including poetry, emails, letters, reviews, etc. There’s a stunningly vibrant creative use of language throughout, which includes a report of a night spent in a New Orleans jail. It is like a report from the belly of a slave ship. There is also a letter for and comments on Mona Lisa and her work at Dillard University.

Mary E. Weems’ An Unmistakable Shade of Red & The Obama Chronicles is ChickenBones' Best Poetry Book of 2008.  She too has a stunning use of words. It too will make an excellent Kwanzaa or all year around gift. She is prolific and has begun another "series" of poems she has called  4 Closure Poems. I have published several poems from this contemporarily relevant manuscript. I am most proud of is my involvement in the Dear Michelle project headed by Barbara Seals Nevergold and Peggy Brooks-Bertram of the Uncrowned Queens at the University of Buffalo.

The Uncrowned Queens put out  a call for poems, recipes, and letters to Michelle, who will be our new First  Lady, that will be published by SUNY Press in January 2009, in a book titled, “Go, Tell Michelle: African American Women’s Letters to the New First Lady.” You were in your hour of grief then and so I do not know whether you got my emails that I sent out to ChickenBones’ black female writers. I know some of the excellent writers whose entries were accepted, including Jeannette Drake, Bev Jenai, and Mary Weems. I suspect that “Go, Tell Michele” will be on the New York Times Bestseller List: Michele will love the book. She will tell Oprah and Oprah will tell the rest of America.

So despite my petty miseries of 2008, I expect 2009 will be one of the greatest years America has ever experienced. That is, historic and wondrous in more ways than one: ChickenBones supporters will expand, as it has now with Paul Coates and Black Classic Press. Their support is a good omen. I have a new bite and so I, as with ChickenBones, may grow healthier and more prosperous.

Well, in any case, we have many substantial reasons to think that we all will feel some relief: Bush leaves office in 20 days or so for a new house in Texas and then we will have one of the smartest men in America replacing him at the helm, Barack Obama. We may not get all that we want, but we'll get a lot of what we need. Lincoln, Roosevelt, Johnson, and Kennedy look down with a kindly smile, ready to send their angels of mercy.

Again, I hope as you continue to heal you will go beyond the obituary, The Life and Legacy of Beautine Hubert DeCosta-Lee, to write that promised something much more personal about your mother. It is odd indeed we both had mothers to pass in 2008: mine in the spring and yours in the fall. Thanks for sharing your Xmas family photos. I too hope knowledge and purchase of your 2008 book, Notable Black Memphians, will grow as well. I have yet to receive my review copy.

I must go: Deer Woman deep in the dark woods is calling me. Below the Jerusalem forest, the moon waxes and I wait with new teeth to howl again at the full moon.—Rudy

Eartha Kitt—Santa Baby! 1953

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Dear Rudy,

You never fail to amaze me! It is incredible that you could write such a long and sentient letter after having lost six teeth just the day before. That is evidence of a true writer, a gifted writer who must put fingers to the keyboard come hell or high water. I am just a poor excuse for a writer, having put off a piece on Pinkie Gordon Lane, missed the deadline for the Michelle Obama book, never finished the Etheridge Knight piece, and delayed the article on my mother.

I am grieving, more deeply than I could ever have imagined since the terminus ad quem of Mother's life has been apparent for a long time, and now the umbilical cord is irreparably severed. But finally, after rituals of separation, travel to Washington, Baltimore & Charleston, and family celebrations, I had a Day of Silence and Solitude on Monday when I could be totally alone to pray, meditate, chant, practice Pranayama, read The Prophet, and go deep inside to my soul site. I wrote in my journal and wept tears of grief.

I also finished Isabel Allende's Portrait in Sepia, which is a beautiful novel about a 19th-century Chilean-Chinese woman who lived during a very turbulent period. Then, I tried to read a memoir, a Christmas gift, by a journalist, an incredible writer, who chronicled his daughter's descent into madness (she was bipolar), but that was too painful, too close to home, so I picked up Toni Morrison's A Mercy, also a gift. The language was so lovely that I had to read it aloud to hear the sounds of the words, the voices of the English-Portuguese girl-child, Florens, and her "a minha mäe" (mother). It's the kind of novel that you never want to end: the characters are so poignant, the landscape—9th-cent. Vermont and Virginia—so lush, and the feelings so palpable. I still haven't ordered Jerry's book and must do that tomorrow or the next day.

Your mother, your mother, your mother . . . so unfeeling, so hurtful, but it seems that you have forgiven her or at least dismissed her. Your brother must be some kind of sadist. I don't understand people like that; how can they live with themselves? My brother was not a kind person and, as adults, we hardly spoke, so it was ironic that I had to bury him, arrange for his cremation, transport to Baltimore, and burial. For months, his urn was lodged in the bedroom where I slept when I visited Mother in Baltimore, and then I carried his ashes around in the trunk of my car for another few months. We cannot begin to understand this life that we lead, these experiences that we have, and these people who come into and out of our lives. All of those things shape who we are, we imperfect human beings.

Like you, I look forward to the new year with hope and optimism, under the leadership of our new president. May your blessings be many in 2009. Love, Miriam

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Remembering Eartha Kitt17 January, 1927  – 25 December, 2008)When I think of Eartha Kitt, I think of the complete artist. She was supremely accomplished, audacious, vocal, and creative. She remained beautiful and physically fit. When I was coming into manhood, how I fantasized about Ms. Kitt, whom I thought was just the most sensuous woman on the planet! Yet, as a Black American female, she spoke out of an experience of racist-induced pain, anguish, and despair that gnawed at her existence, which could produce a good amount of anger and clear thinking about the meaning of America.Floyd Hayes                               

  I Want to Be Evil  / Just An Old Fashioned Girl  / Santa Baby

posted 31 December 2008 

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



#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 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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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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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 1 April 2012




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