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You are not alone, in doubting the madness, of the African shame, no sane person can articulate a condition so grossly

dehumanising and demeaning of a people also, created in the image and likeness of GOD, and sharing humanity

with the rest of the 'VILLAGE'. Please let your lot know this oddity of our time, perhaps, it might be the beginning

of the realization of the rest of the VILLAGE that the celebrated slogan has not been qualified.



ChickenBones Visitors Respond

 Photos of African Poverty Crises 


The most recent message arrived today from Nigeria. We have a growing audience in Africa's most populous nation. This growing popularity has resulted from the great work of such writers and scholars as Rose Ure Mezu, Uche Nworah, and Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye.

Dear Rudy,

For a variety of reasons I only saw your letter of May 16 today. I would not have published the pictures. I don't know who took them where and when. I don't know whether the child is mentally incompetent or has been paid to pose. I don't know that the photographs are typical of anything or that they means anything other than to demonstrate the levels to which human beings may be degraded. But the degradation of human beings is not confined to any ethnic group or continent. Krafft-Ebnbing reports on some of his patients eating human excrement.In any case I am immediately suspicious of any African who dismisses the role of the west in the devastation of Africa.Finally, is the boy in the picture the learned author himself? Regards, John

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Dear Rudolph.

Please forgive my amusement, at your reaction of the graphic representations of the African reality. The global village syndrome as functional as it is, down plays the imbalance of the social economic conditions of some of its inhabitants especially Africans.

It would have been nice if "global villagism" is postulated to go beyond the conquest of technology and the glory of the satellite, to embracing the full meaning of the slogan. To the African, a village is a community of brethren where everybody is his brothers keeper, a fraternity of very close associates, who mourn and rejoice with each other It is almost a taboo in the African village for one to be hungry when the other is full. The abiding practice is the "village for us all." Please imagine, then, the agonizing contrast to the situation of the African as a dejected outcast in the global village.

The truth, dear Rudolph, is that the pictures Mr Nworah sent to you are not only today's reality of the African case but might pale structurally to fully capture the agony of today's African. As, you might have noticed, the pictures do not portray an unwilling act; but, strongly indicates a normal inclination to that practice of "searching for food" and using "available water."  You are not alone, in doubting the madness, of the African shame, no sane person can articulate a condition so grossly dehumanising and demeaning of a people also, created in the image and likeness of GOD, and sharing humanity with the rest of the 'VILLAGE'. Please let your lot know this oddity of our time, perhaps, it might be the beginning of the realization of the rest of the VILLAGE that the celebrated slogan has not been qualified. Many thanks to Mr Uche Nworah and his likes who are genuinely challenged by the intimidating contrast of their adopted countries with their home countries.Yours, Sunny Ogbu.

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A friend had spoken to me soon after I pointed out the photos to him. His Ghanaian friend thought that they were a bit much and that the photos distracted from Uche's words. So I broadcast the question whether the photos in the article African Poverty Crises should be suppressed?


I have just shown the pictures to my Ghanaian colleague.  He felt that the pictures could back fire, and people not read the article.  He felt as I did that the pictures were a bit too graphic. He was very knowledgeable about the situation in the Sudan. As ever, Herbert

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It may be that I baited the question, an emotional response to the notion of self-censorship. We showed the sexual perversions of American across the international media. Why shouldn't the horrors of African poverty, and the desperate measures used to endure just one more day, one more hour.

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My own view is that pictures of such atrocities should be shown.  Why not?  It is reality of what is happening. Pat

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One African American writer believes that balance is necessary. He wrote

Hello Rudy,

I read the piece and true this piece spotlighted some significant challenges Africa as a whole may need help in tackling m however those pictures of hopelessness have to be balanced with pictures of hope for a better future or even a class of learners or something where people are working together. A balance could be a picture of a Lagos traffic jam. If there is balance okay and not without balancing shots lest we fall into the pits of the white media in our own media.

I say this with all due respect to Brother Uche whom I have communicated with once or twice. The piece is a realistic and an honest observation of some hard to solve issues in our motherland. However we owe it to our ancestors and ourselves to be better about presenting pictures of  our motherland in a balanced manner even if the western news media continue to cast our motherland in negative terms. Sincerely, Larry Ukali Johnson-Redd

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This writer believed the presentation was graphically honest, unforgettable. 
Mr. Lewis,

I think the pictures are graphic, yet honest. I don't think you should have to sugarcoat the conditions. If we did not have the visuals we would not have the true picture(s) of how our Brothers and Sisters are living. We would have lipservice and written documents. Not uncensored reality. These pictures are worth a million and one words. They are graphic and honest. The viewers will not forget them--that should be the aim; to raise awareness! All the best, Van

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There were those who were absolutely certain the photos needed more exposure:

Absolutely not, Rudolph.

Please do not remove these photos. Folk ought to be grown enough to look the truth in the eye. What is being gained by removing these photos from their proper context?  For too long we have remained ignorant and uninformed. If these horrific photos can help move the discussion from the abstract to the concrete, pushing conscious people to action, then it would be for the good. My two cents, SRT

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There were those moved to tears:

Peace and blessings Rudy,

I agree with Kinya. Although these photos bring tears to my eyes, it is important that people be informed. When we consider all that is happening, we can all become even more humble. . . . When things are not going well, please reflect on your great accomplishments with ChickenBones. be blessed, Yvonne

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One author in Accra  thought the whole matter was sensational, unproductive:

Dear Rudy,

I have little sympathy with Uche's plea - stripped of the rhetoric Blair's commission seems to me just one more manifestation of neo-colonialism, this time with a gloss of paternalism. That said, I cannot see what these photographs contribute to Uche's argument. I suggest that you ask him, "What are these photographs intended to say?" I would remove them (not suppress them - this is not censorship - no doubt they have been published elsewhere.) Best wishes, Manu Herbstein, Accra. 

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My best supporter and mentor buoyed my spirits:

Part of being a librarian and (RE: ChickenBones) a journalist is to disseminate information. While the objections to the photos obviously come from the viewpoint of "gruesome," we should keep in mind that the description is from someone who thinks the rest of us already understand what we really don't understand--the onslaught visited upon human beings in countless forms.

There is still an Arab slave trade in motion. There is still the callous exploitation of people and resources, etc. There is still no rectification or reparation set into place. I say, keep the photos. It's an honest reminder and a strong pull towards activism. Over this way, we've grown too complacent. Later. Louis.

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My brother who doesn't brook any nonsense had just a few words:

Rahim -- put the photos up!!!!!!!! Sharif

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The photos made my dear sister Frances think more reflectively how universal suffering is and how we all are one button away from destruction:

Greetings Rudy,

In full appreciation I understand your position. I still 'feel' the photo's ... so vivid, clear and internally shattering . . .  Even though I have a very quiet mannered spirit, my Mother made sure we beginning as very young children learned to look to our Heavenly Creator for hope, wisdom, compassion, answers, empathy and guidance, not to just acquire these qualities and place them aside, but to use them to let others know of a future, grand, glorious and free from the atrocities, inhumane and degradation befalling mankind . . .

We can not know of the existence of such, if no one tells, shows, speaks, writes, read, hears, . . . Cry . . . Cries out in love and spirituality, especially for the children, the sweet precious and innocent children. Lives lost before they were found, souls broken . . . what goes through their minds... the insaneness of sanity causes these sanctioned horrific times... children doing whatever is possible to have the basics, food, cleanliness and care... through all of this they still yearned to be clean, to have food, to live...

think about it, they want to LIVE... nourished and clean…and if this is what it takes... their sanity guides them their spirit keeps them their life strengthens them in anyway possible... if they can live it, we must see it… tell it, say it, fight it, assist in erasing its happening ever… again. (Are we too not a button/click/faction from destruction and life as we know it?)

Pray and pray for help, help and more help… Oh, My Brother, My Dear Brother, I say again In full appreciation I understand your position. I still 'feel' the photo's ... so vivid, clear and internally shattering . . .  I say this in support of your struggle...May you always have passion and may passion always embrace you . . .Frances

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I just don't know what to say.  Thanks for doing what you do.  I read the article on Omar in Chicken Bones a while ago I believe.  These pictures . . . brother, they are so sad.  And I just feel mad at myself when I look at them for complaining about the little inconsistencies in my life that I complain about from week to week.

These pictures may be embarrassing to the African American, but in ChickenBones they have a place.  Your readership is largely black, and we need to be made aware of what is going on with our people in the Sudan. I'm a military spouse, and this week a white friend of mine was stressed out. Her husband's a marine officer who has been in Jabuti (sp.), and the last time he called he was on his way to the Sudan where he could not where his military clothing, only civilian clothes.  She's worried about him and the dangers in the Sudan. She didn't have a clue, and I could feel that pain because I felt it the whole year my husband was in Iraq.

About these pictures, as disgusting and sad as they are, people need to know about this.  Black America and Black intelligentsia everywhere need to see the causes we have become too busy or too caught up in our own lives to fight for.  This is a sadness, and I hope that everyone who sees them will feel the sickness. Tell me, what can we do . . . I just don't know.  Thanks for sharing these. Latorial

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Another pot was emphatic, ready to take on the challenge: do not suppress. we got work to do. -- lmsekou

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One writer suggested a warning for those with delicate sensibilities: Yes, show the photos.  I agree with Kinya.  Considering the dire circumstances, I think that "censoring" the story by not publishing the photos would diminish the effect this harsh reality should have on anyone who either cares or needs to become aware. As you did with all in this mailing, preface the story with a "caution" about the photos so that viewers will be prepared.  Otherwise, I say go for it. SD

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A theologian also pitched din with this support: Yes -- they are disturbing and no one should be forced to live under these conditions -- that is why they should be posted. On a side note - I will be shutting down my website and creating a new one at the school I'm going to.  I know you are linked to my present site so I'll let you know when the changes are made. Miguel

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Dear Rudy,

This is a very personal reaction. Right now, I don't know whether or not you should suppress the photos. My own temperament (and history) lets me know from your letter that today I should not open the article. I am incredibly sensitive. On most days, the news fills me with despair, anger, rage and sadness. I try hard not to watch it because I cannot function when I am filled with despair, anger, rage and sadness. (It's a long complicated story which is one reason why I write.) 

I have to work hard to remain sane in a crazy world. So, not watching the news regularly or taking in graphic detail of the world's evils is one way I take care of myself. Thanks for your letter and the question. I appreciate being warned. I may open the article. I just don't know when. Peace and love, Jeannette

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Rudy, this is bad stuff. No, I do not think it should be suppressed. Rudy, the black intellectuals and politicians are completely out of it.  As far as President Omar al-Beshir is concerned.  We have been there before, haven't we?  When Amin and Obote were killing millions where were the black voices of outrage.  The fact is that Congo, Rwanda, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Sudan have all been killing fields.  Most Negroes are not aware of that fact.   Today I got an unsolicited black news article in which a black congressperson was quoted saying that hip hop is "the civil rights movement of the 21st century?" 

What a stupid idea!  Hip-hop is neither
the cure nor the cause of our problems.  It is totally irrelevant, except as an index of the banal. I still don't know why the Negroes of the United States abandon their Anglo-Christian slave names to assume Arab-Islamic slave names.  I guess Negroes just like to have masters.  For my own part, I can understand an interest in Islamic art, history and culture, but what I don't understand is the need to submit to the social norms and religious biases of an alien part of the world, which has dealt no more kindly with Africans than has the West. Wilson

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Dear Rudy,

Personally I think you and the author should receive The Pulitzer Prize. I see the publication of these photos as up there with Tom Paine and The Muckrakers. Certainly they are horrific and shocking but they are true and honest. The Holocaust was kept a secret during the war, but this is no secret. This bell tolls for you and me. If your critic wants genteel journalism let him read The Christian Science Monitor. I suspect Uncle Tom's Cabin brushed a few readers the wrong way but it rallied a nation. ChickenBones may well rally the world. I think it is our job to distribute this article to the millions on the internet. Thank you, Ben

post 6 June 2005

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#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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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 26 March 2012




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Related files: African poverty crises photos