ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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When you smite your enemy with a glove, why the pretense of cuddling him in your embrace,

or the kiss on the cheek? For whom are such graceful acts, the larger public or a GOP which

seeks to recapture the ground they have lost? It is they who are out for blood.



An Open Letter to President Obama


Dear Mr. President:

We have held our breath. Two weeks have seemed like months, if not years. The efforts to get a Stimulus Package through the two Houses have chilled me to the bone. Mr. President, you have visited the Republicans in the two Houses and at the White House—wined and dined with them in the spirit of bipartisanship. I am uncertain to applaud you for your grace and style, or to criticize you for overestimation of Republican goodwill. As Frank Rich in "Herbert Hoover Lives" has pointed out, you have tried to accommodate the Republicans "perhaps to a fault." The Stimulus Package was written by Democrats with a sweet third of it tax cuts for the rich and not one Republican member voted for it. Your Dems naively thought that sweetening the pot (playing the same old politics)  would bring at least a dozen Republicans across the aisle.

Mr. President, you and the Dems were wrong. There’s a larger ideological war in play and it has moved to the Senate. To them, these desperados, ideological War is more important than the State of the Nation, the suffering of the many. They have figured out the insult and the statement of your intent as expressed in your inaugural address. That is to remake the country in your own image—that is, those who sent you to Washington, to make a needed revolution from the Bush years. These desperados have caught up with Jonathan Raban’s analysis in “The golden trumpet”:

I've read—or at least skimmed—every inaugural address since George Washington's, and none comes close to so categorically rejecting the political philosophy and legislative record of the previous occupant of the White House. Obama did it by stealth—so much stealth that most of the red meat of the speech has so far passed largely unnoticed.

When you smite your enemy with a glove, why the pretense of cuddling him in your embrace, or the kiss on the cheek? For whom are such graceful acts, the larger public or a GOP which seeks to recapture the ground they have lost? It is they who are out for blood. There's a difference between running a campaign, trying to convince an understanding and desiring public that wants changes, and running a government in which you have Republican politicians resistant to change or oblivious to the economic facts at hand. They are not going to be moved by the sweetness of your voice or the righteousness of your intent. For an Obama win is the nation's gain, but a GOP lost. Don't you get it: it's down and dirty?

It has been only two weeks. But because our souls are tuned to yours and our need for you to win, it has seemed like months. You need to step away—events have been like a freight train highballing across the plain or through the swamps. You have come to Virginia, to central Virginia for a retreat, to gather yourself, and in Air Force One. That’s good! Keep in mind you’re the president, not these guys’ buddies. Maybe you haven’t read your Lincoln sufficiently. I recommend to you the Gore Vidal version, Lincoln: there are those who are willing to see you dead than to see you win.

Michael Steele and Rush Limbaugh and their brigands have already declared war on you and the Dems. So it is good that you have taken a step back into the Old Confederacy. You all seem not to be on the same page, not to know what time it is. The Republicans in their minority are united to bring you down, to see you fail. You Dems are not united as they are in their message and their intent. There are too many mixed messages from the Dems. The name of the game is War not Love (bi-partisanship). Sweet words and your charming smile are not enough. Sitting down at the same table breaking bread will not get you any more votes from such politicians. It's hard ball: the honeymoon ended 20 January. These kinds of fellows without fear will poison your every effort.

Let us pray and hope that you, our Black Shining Prince, learn how to wield Power more concisely and effectively. We have not lost hope: it took Lincoln some time to get on track. These GOPers have no respect for poetry, the arts, or learning. They are the greedy ones (the obtuse ones): the ones who like torture and brutality: who love war and mayhem: who hate the poor and the working classes. Some of these fellows, Mr. President, are criminals who cannot be reformed, cannot be brought on board if you want your Ship of State to stay afloat. Embrace only those who can receive affection and respect.

The people need you to stay focused, Mr. President. Over a hundred thousand people are without electricity in Kentucky. Do they really care about the nation's suffering. Dogs whine when the temps are down to 20 degrees. These are hard times and getting harder for many. Forget about the courting. It is not only you that will lose: all of us are on the line. Don't be a McClellan: take the battle to the enemy. And for heaven's sake: fewer public confessions and keep your people on message, forcefully.

Peace and love, Rudy

Rudolph Lewis, Editor

ChickenBones: A Journal


posted 6 February 2009


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Rudy, those are my sentiments exactly.  No one could have said it better.  The Republican brigands want the President and all who support him to just die.  There is no  middle ground when your enemy wishes you dead.  The Republicans are too cowardly to say that publicly but they do say publicly that he must  fail.  And, they do not care how!  His Presidency brings up images of Reconstruction and the swiftness with which the old Southern Democrats organized to immediately weaken and destroy the newly elected Black Congressmen and Senators.  And, yes our new President gets more eloquent by the day but eloquent words alone will not quiet or subdue the beast.  They want blood and they want it now.  Yes, the dogs are howling and people are freezing to death in their homes and the beast wants more blood.Anonymous

Powerful Rudy...Black Shining Prince took me right to Ossie Davis's eulogy for Malcolm X...I'm confused by the Lincoln reference though...Lincoln who was not against slavery but rather for the Union, and believed until he was assassinated that Black people were inferior to whites and did not deserve the same shot at success??—Mary

No one has said it better!  Send this to the New York Times, Newsweek, The Washington Post, Atlantic Constitution...Your precise, incisive, prophetic words tell it like it is. You're right, he's in the den of the bloodthirsty lions, the fiery furnace. He needs all the prayer that we feeble, humble people can muster for this ideological WAR. Hmph, Hmph, Hmph!—Dorothy

Thanks . . . for this powerful statement of reality. It is the kind of critical cognition we must engage in to make it through this  period of potential loss of economic stability, of cultural solidarity, of some  control of our collective destiny. I hope President Obama can step away from his gentle Ivy League intimates, less Emanuel, and understand the class and  racial war that could engulf him and us. I heard our brother, my long time friend, Molefi Asante, last night at Ft. Lauderdale's Black History celebration. It was comforting  to be in the company of a Black scholar who knows what time it is.—Don

The Obama election was the biggest political con game in world history.  Elections have never changed power relations from the oppressor to the oppressed.  It does not matter what party or candidate wins, the ruling class wins every election.  If a candidate is honest, naive, crooked, gullible, hypocritical, or whatever, one individual has never changed social relationships.  And Obama is a fraud.  The ruling class is using a black face (who will throw a few crumbs to the masses to pacify them) to carry out their plans to maintain class domination domestically, and spread their vicious tentacles throughout the world. 

Africa is a prize that they believe his half-black face and African name will aid in winning the battle with China and other competitors, in the scramble for its wealth of natural resources.  Obama has already proven that he is a POLITICAL PROSTITUTE.  The so-called electoral campaign (actually an electoral fraud) was a competition between two idiots and two political prostitutes, all of whom wanted to represent the ruling rich.  There is no basic difference between Obama's political program and goals and that of every previous criminal (all 43 of them) that became president: all represented the wealthy. 

And Lincoln was an arch criminal: He was an officer in the Black Hawk Indian War in 1838, and always supported stealing their land and putting them into concentration camps (called reservations), and in December 1862, gave orders for lynching 38 or 40 Sioux Indians who were guilty of the crime of fighting their oppressors in Minnesota.  Lincoln and the Republican Party represented the capitalists against the slave masters and their Democratic Party, in competition to rule the United States and territories taken from the aboriginals. 

During the Civil War, Lincoln sent generals out west to kill, rob, and remove the aboriginals from their land.  He gave away millions of acres of land stolen from the aboriginals to the railroads.  What did Lincoln ever do for poor whites, workers, and women? Nothing.  Also, he never freed a single slave in his entire life.  He was never part of the abolitionist movement.  Read the Emancipation Proclamation carefully, and find out the truth about that hypocrite.  Lincoln made many racist statements during his life, and the 13th amendment was passed 8 months after he died.  He stated that the war was not being fought to free slaves, but to save the Union. 

I could take Barack Obama apart in political, and historical debates.  He is presently the figure head leader of the largest, and most dangerous criminal government in world history.—Kwame M.A. Somburu

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The Action Americans Need—This plan is more than a prescription for short-term spending—it's a strategy for America's long-term growth and opportunity in areas such as renewable energy, health care and education. And it's a strategy that will be implemented with unprecedented transparency and accountability, so Americans know where their tax dollars are going and how they are being spent.

In recent days, there have been misguided criticisms of this plan that echo the failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis—the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems; that we can meet our enormous tests with half-steps and piecemeal measures; that we can ignore fundamental challenges such as energy independence and the high cost of health care and still expect our economy and our country to thrive.

I reject these theories, and so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change. They know that we have tried it those ways for too long. And because we have, our health-care costs still rise faster than inflation. Our dependence on foreign oil still threatens our economy and our security. Our children still study in schools that put them at a disadvantage. We've seen the tragic consequences when our bridges crumble and our levees fail.—Barack Obama

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Potomac’s Postpartisan Depression—Republicans, pulled out of their existential lethargy and re-energized by the president’s charm offensive, immediately mounted an offensive against him. Just as Michael Bloomberg learned the perils of cuddling a groundhog when it bit him, Mr. Obama learned the perils of coddling conservatives. . . . “I would rather do the right thing and have one term than be mediocre and have two,” Mr. Obama told House Democrats at their Williamsburg retreat Thursday night. The lawmakers had been feeling disillusioned that they were carrying Mr. Obama’s water on the bill, while Obama aides triangulated and promised that the bill would “improve” in the Senate.

Nancy Pelosi told her leadership team that she had told the president, “I don’t mind you driving the bus over me, but I don’t appreciate your backing it up and running over me again and again.”

The Obama wizards’ tactical skills seemed to desert them. The White House often ends up making its inhabitants tone-deaf (or even nuts), but this was an unusually quick trip into the cognitive third dimension. NYTimes

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The Destructive Center—By Paul Krugman—I blame President Obama’s belief that he can transcend the partisan divide — a belief that warped his economic strategy. After all, many people expected Mr. Obama to come out with a really strong stimulus plan, reflecting both the economy’s dire straits and his own electoral mandate. Instead, however, he offered a plan that was clearly both too small and too heavily reliant on tax cuts. Why? Because he wanted the plan to have broad bipartisan support, and believed that it would. Not long ago administration strategists were talking about getting 80 or more votes in the Senate. NYTimes

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I always knew you were idealistic.  Your open Letter to the President was so right on all counts. You were visionary enough to guess ahead of time that what has been unleashed is an ideological war and no amount of cuddling, wooing or arguments will sway the Republican party determined to see President Obama and the Democrats fail.  Indeed, Rush Limbaugh and the Congressional and Senate Leadership have said so - openly. The ideologies of the two political parties are polar opposites in direction.  While the Rs care for the rich and Mighty, the Ds are poised to help the down-and outers - provide jobs for them and help the starving and homeless survive this our harsh winter of poverty, starvation and bitter discontent  - the culmination of eight years of irresponsible policies, blatant disregard of the welfare of over 90% of the population  (borne out by the case of the drowning of New Orleans).  What could be farther apart than the attitudes of these two parties.

For the first time in a long, long time, this nation has a leader who is at once smart and compassionate, youthfully energetic, charismatic and ready to work as well as inspirational with verbally emotive speeches, determined to take this nation and the world to" a peaceful new world predicated on the fundamental values of humaneness, decency, and fair play, a world that holds out 'dignity and hope' which full citizenship into the human community demands (The Fourth World Multiculturalism as Antidote to Global Violence).Thus, all President Barack Obama needs to do is to buckle down without distractions to the business of governance with malice towards none and goodwill to all.  The people are responsible, watching and do know who cares for them. 

Furthermore, this era calls for some sacrifice from the populace - more caring towards one's neighbor.  JFK's "ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country" can be adapted today to mean - help the nation recover by helping out one another. The people are truly hurting, lives are being wasted, and the eyes of the poor  are brimming over with tears  of helplessness.  Everyone, not just the President and Congress, everyone can buckle down with hands on deck through useful labor to help Fanon's wretched of the earth that have become the Fourth World of Amin Sharif's concept which I have written about in The Fourth World Multiculturalism as Antidote to Global Violence).

It is worth reiterating the closing paragraphs of The Fourth World Multiculturalism  essay which contains very anguished sentiments from members of the conference audience, viz:

When this essay was read out before the 2007 North East Modern Language Association (NEMLA) Conference assembly, it sparked a most intense, soul-searching question-and-answer discussion.  Concerned conference participants wanted to know how the Fourth World population can be lifted out of their quagmire of  poverty, illiteracy, and misery.  What role could intellectuals play? . . . Can ideologues help?.  .  Certainly, it was agreed, national governments around the world have the most responsibility  through structural reforms to provide the tools needed to give the Fourth World population good educational and professional tools needed to make good wages with which they can maintain families, and lead a meaningful existence.

But yet, they questioned, what can individuals do?  Every individual has the capacity to create an oasis of comfort through useful activities from any location, using available tools. People of privilege can always set up foundations, organizations or whatever that can promote literacy, compassion, improved quality of life, justice and empowerment towards reclaiming full human equality that is every person’s Divine birth right. For Achebe, for  Rudy Lewis with ChickenBones: A Journal, for me Rose Ure Mezu  or for Ishmael Reed as he reiterates with each work, indeed in a world of inequities, writin’ is fightin.’  . . . Thus, if serious, sustained efforts are to be made towards erasing the category that Amin Sharif has termed the Fourth World and uplifting its population from being the wretched of the earth, if multiculturalism is adopted as a means of mutually respecting cultural living, hope exists that these would constitute viable antidotes to global violence—a revolution to be achieved not through conflicts but with values that promote peaceful global  cohabitation. NB

Since 1994, I have run an international organization called Our Lady's Food Kitchen that help in food, clothing to the poor, disabled, widowed, etc. Thus, I am not just fightin' through writin', I am working concretely.  Rose Ure Mezu

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". . . there are those who are willing to see you dead than to see you win. . .  . These GOPers have no respect for poetry, the arts, or learning. They are the greedy ones: the ones who like torture and brutality: who love war and mayhem: who hate the poor and the working classes. Embrace only those who can receive affection and respect. Some of these fellows Mr. President are criminals who cannot be reformed, cannot be brought on board if you want your Ship of State to stay afloat."— Rudy

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I had always thought this piece you wrote so prescient—written before the Chimpanzee shooting and Stimulus incident. However, I believe everyone including our "Black Shining Prince" knows exactly how high the stakes are.  He should be careful yet his mission must be accomplished.

How nice it is to wake up in the morning, flick on the television and see a face at the helm of affairs that reminds you of someone you know.  How extraordinarily lucky this nation and our globe are at this time to get a young, intellectual  Leader, full of ideas, imbued with  a vast compassion, boldly committed to remaking the face of  this nation to somehow reflect its rainbow cultural heritage!  How wonderfully godly to find a president truly being seen briskly going about the business of governance with full vigor, and not taking a 3-week holiday out in some ranch.  At such a time as this, teeming with myriad problems, each facet sufficiently problematic to stand for the whole, this President is the Man of the Moment - young, intellectually forward-looking, loving the arts, science and technology, inspirationally charismatic, and undauntedly fearless.

Moreover, Obama carries with him the admiration of other nations of the world and the support of the youth of this nation, motivating them for the first time to massively participate in debates affecting their own lives and in the ultimate decision as too who leads them. Now is the time if there is ever to be a little more equalizing of the classes, and if today's poor and marginalized youth, the elderly and members of the Fourth World (Black, Latino, White, etc.)—shiftless, jobless, drug-addicted, prison-prone—can be motivated to do a turn-around, go back to school, get employed and not plunge even more deeply into Floyd Hayes's "intergenerational disconnect," this youthful Black President is the man for the job. He is this generation’s role model, not the dour-faced old-timers opposing him and whose antiquated, self-serving theories and practices helped to bring this nation to the present economic downsliding.

Truly, in these very hard times there is so much at stake, that your advice to President Barack Obama to stay "focused" is well-timed, for as you starkly worded the warning, "it is not only you that will lose: all of us are on the line."   We can all spare this Brother, a daily prayer.Dr. Rose Ure Mezu, Chinua Achebe: The Man and His Works

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Open Letter from an African to the American President Barack Obama on the War in Libya

By Jean-Paul Pougala

translated from French by Sarli Sardou Nana

Mr. President,

It is with a heavy heart that I am writing this letter to appeal to you to take heed to the message that the House of Representatives sent out to Americans yesterday (24/06/2011) by rejecting the text authorising U.S. military intervention in Libya, and to end the on-going attacks against the Libyan people with the most extravagant excuses like that is to protect them.

Three years ago you ignited an entire continent, the African continent during the presidential primaries of the Democratic Party. And when you were elected president, we believed and saw in you, this son of Africa who had succeeded and could now serve as reference for a billion Africans. You seemed to be the hero we have never had, because our heroes have become legends based on the emotions aroused by their short lives (all killed by the Europeans). With your election as President of the United States of America, we thought for a moment that you were that Black Demi-God that Africa is still searching for after all these years of shame while in contact with Europe. Yes Mr. President, we knew that you were voted by Americans to maintain the interests of your country, but what did you expect?

Did you think you were also our President, that you had our genes? We had dreams with our eyes wide open that you are also our black brother. All of us saw you as one of us, as someone who was able to understand the cries and sufferings of Africans better than any other person in position of power on earth. We wore your shirts, we chanted your strapline YES WE CAN, but in our minds in Africa, we had given it a different meaning. The explanation was that the fate of a forsaken race had suddenly taken a new turn for the better, the same process of evolution of other races. CHANGE! Indeed.—

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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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Related file: An Open Letter to Barack Obama   Open Note to President Barack Obama