ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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People often asked me if I knew Ja Rule, 50 Cent, or Jennifer Lopez. 

Many of my students were shocked when I told them that Tupac is quite dead. 



Pieces of a Dream

By Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie


Piece One

The truth is that the eight months I spent in Namibia saddened me.  I have read at least a hundred times that the way to go into anything is without expectations.   But tell me, how can an African-American go anywhere near the African continent and have no expectations?

I did not think that there would be a “Welcome-Home Long-Lost-Sister-Committee” greeting me at the airport. I did not expect to see traditional dancing every night. I didn't exactly know what to expect, but I know what I did not expect.

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journal entry

And being American, people drive me crazy with their assumptions about who I am and what the US is. There is a lot of ignorance.  The lady at the market is crazy.  She is a grown woman and she thinks the US is Hollywood. I know people get all their ideas from television but they need to think more critically. 

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People often asked me if I knew Ja Rule, 50 Cent, or Jennifer Lopez.  Many of my students were shocked when I told them that Tupac is quite dead.  When I asked my students if they had heard of Martin Luther King or Malcolm X, most of them hadn't.  Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes were also new names for them. There is a fascination with the West, with popular images of Blacks from the States, but there is no real foundation for understanding who we are and why or how we are related.

A colleague and I were talking about the slowly changing roles of men and women in Namibia.  My colleague asked me, “What is it like in your culture?”  Then he corrected himself, “Oh, you don't have a culture.”  Living in Namibia often meant putting myself in context.

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My students were the light of living in Namibia.  In my first classes, I asked the students to interview and introduce each other and then I gave them the chance to interview me.

“What is your mother tongue?” A few students asked.  


They stared at me shocked. 

“You’re surprised right?”

They'd offer a collective, “Yes.”

“Does anyone here know how it is possible that my mother tongue is English?”

Usually the students had no idea.  I would talk to them about the slave trade and what happened to those languages, cultures, and religions we had known so well before we were forced to the other side of the Atlantic. I would tell them how special it was for me to be in Africa after being away for three generations.  Often students would applaud or announce that they were happy I'd come home.

While most of my Namibian colleagues were distant for my first few months, my students were warm, full of life, enthusiasm, and curiosity. My students taught me about apartheid.  My students taught me to put my disappointment in context.

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Maybe I had expected something.  I'd expected the Africa I heard about countless times:  the one where people invited you home for dinner, called you sister, the Africa of traditional healing, the Africa my neighbour from Sierra Leone embodied, I'd expected to have a constant stream of people of good-will-people flowing in and out of the house.  I'd expected unity.

Namibia, I learned through my students, was the lab for apartheid.

“My mother was beaten.”

“My father was murdered in front of me.” 

“We were forced into exile.”

“Blacks were divided into territories depending on their tribes.” 

“We were forced to speak Afrikaans.” 

“My brother disappeared.”

 “They came to our school and tortured the teacher in front of us.” 

“Blacks were forced to work for Afrikaners for little or no money.” 

“The teacher had a rifle in the corner of the classroom.” 

“People were buried alive.” 

“My uncle is in a wheelchair to this day.”

These are lines from some of the essays I received from my third year students when I asked them to write about life before independence.

Apartheid was so brutal that even 15 years after independence I could see the scars immediately.

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journal entry

Oppression and colonization mess up people's heads.  They are made to think that they're not good enough.  They are good enough. Smart enough.  Capable enough.  But I already see some of the same things in Namibia that I see in the US and that disturbs me.  I see Afrikaners, Germans, Portuguese, and Chinese people creating businesses and controlling industry and I see the black people whose country this is, working for them and giving them all their money.  Maybe the cuca shops (also know as shebeens, drinking establishments) are black-owned but those are certainly not building healthy communities.  Who owns the lodges and the tour companies here? No one African.  Black folk here need to get up on it financially while they still can or else Namibia will only be African because it is on the African continent.

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People distrust people from different tribes. Western clothes and music abound. White folks still go straight to the front of the line at many institutions and no one questions it.  When my husband asked a woman waiting in line about this practice she said, “Maybe we think the whites are better than us.”  Honestly, there are many things I am still processing, so while I might want to, I don’t think I am ready to talk about relationships between Namibian men and women where it appears that men have absorbed the behavior of their former oppressors.  Nor will I talk about the coloureds, the abundance of shebeens—there were eight in the tiny village next to me—or the complete rejection of traditional spiritual beliefs.

And while SWAPO, the freedom fighters and the ruling party of Namibia, freed the people's bodies, I often looked around and saw a people whose spirits, psyches, and dreams were deeply damaged by apartheid.  I wondered what exactly freedom had, would, and could mean for them.

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Afrikaner/Boer-White South African of Dutch ancestry, often with German or other European ancestors.  Their language is a Dutch derivative called Afrikaans.

Shebeen/Cuca shop-Sometimes licensed, other times not, these are local bars where folks gather to drink, talk, and dance.

SWAPO-Armed liberation movement formed in South West Africa in 1959 to oppose South African rule

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Namibian History

Namibia—known as South West Africa before Independence— is a country with a complex history. The country was taken over by the Germans in the 1880’s, but Germany faced fierce opposition from the Namas and the Hereros, two of the tribes living in the territory.  This opposition led to the massacre of tens of thousands of Hereros, who have started a reparations movement. At the beginning of World War I, South Africa took over the country. In 1948 South Africa’s Afrikaner led National Party won elections and began enforcing the system of apartheid in South African territories.  SWAPO, the South West African People’s Organization, formed to end apartheid and gain independence for Namibia.  On March 21, 1990, after numerous negotiations, armed struggles, and deaths, Namibia became independent.

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The following timeline is from the BBC News website:

1886-90 - Present international boundaries established by German treaties with Portugal and Britain. Germany annexes the territory as South West Africa.

1892-1905 - Suppression of uprisings by Herero and Namas. Possibly 60,000, or 80 per cent of the Herero population, are killed, leaving some 15,000 starving refugees.

South African occupation  

1915 - South Africa takes over territory during First World War.

1920 - League of Nations grants South Africa mandate to govern South West Africa (SWA).

1946 - United Nations refuses to allow South Africa to annex South West Africa. South Africa refuses to place SWA under UN trusteeship.

1961 - UN General Assembly demands South Africa terminate the mandate and sets SWA's independence as an objective.

1966 - Swapo launches armed struggle against South African occupation.

1968 - South West Africa officially renamed Namibia by UN General Assembly.

1972 - UN General Assembly recognises Swapo as "sole legitimate representative" of Namibia's people.

1988 - South Africa agrees to Namibian independence in exchange for removal of Cuban troops from Angola.

1989 - UN-supervised elections for a Namibian Constituent Assembly. Swapo wins.

Independence 1990 March - Namibia becomes independent, with Sam Nujoma as first president.


posted 26 august 2005

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Karma’s Footsteps

By Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie

Somebody has to tell the truth sometime, whatever that truth may be. In this, her début full collection, Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie offers up a body of work that bears its scars proudly, firm in the knowledge that each is evidence of a wound survived. These are songs of life in all its violent difficulty and beauty; songs of fury, songs of love. 'Karma's Footsteps' brims with things that must be said and turns the volume up, loud, giving silence its last rites. "Ekere Tallie's new work 'Karma's Footsteps' is as fierce with fight songs as it is with love songs. Searing with truths from the modern day world she is unafraid of the twelve foot waves that such honesties always manifest. A poet who "refuses to tiptoe" she enters and exits the page sometimes with short concise imagery, sometimes in the arms of delicate memoir. Her words pull the forgotten among us back into the lightning of our eyes.—Nikky Finney /  Ekere Tallie Table  / I Leave My Colors Everywhere

ChickenBones Black Arts and Black Power Figures (Compiled by Rudolph Lewis)    

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The Bembe

                   By Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie


Chorus of city dwellers
fanning ourselves
In a basement
Boasting tropical heat
Water of shekere
Randy pours the rum
Of his voice into the thirsty
Ear of Oggun
Tree and animal speak again
When Baba’s hands
Translate scripture to rhythm
Agogo unravels a thin
Veil between us
And the unseen
The unsuspecting basement
becomes dizzy with praise
giddy with movement,

this moment
echoes itself.
Echoes itself across land and water
happens simultaneously
in a far flung living room,
a courtyard where greetings
are exchanged in Patois
or Potuguese, where abichuelas
y arroz are heaped on paper plates,
where dark hands wrapped brown spirits
around tired shoulders
and did away with slavery,
where family was broken
dragged away to begin the journey
this exact moment happens.

A remembering
solid and present as
smooth river stones
in rebellious bellies
in these rooms
swirling with white cloth and song
we become a river
reaching back
to cleanse

Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie is a mother, poet, educator, and performer who is studying the healing power of herbs. Her first book of poetry Karma's Footsteps was published by Flipped Eye Press last year. Her work has also been published in the anthologies Listen Up!, Catch The Fire, Role Call, Beyond The Frontier, Bum Rush the Page and Revenge and Forgiveness.

Source: oyansoro

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"More than a guide to a holistic, healthy pregnancy; it's a confessional, a warning, and a roadmap for navigating the rewarding, relentless terrain of motherhood." No, it is not for the faint-hearted. But if you are a mom, have friends who are new or expectant mothers, or if you work with pregnant women, this is 33 pages of advice that most of us never got about motherhood.
And while you're visiting, do look around. We've added an audio file of me reading my piece from the anthology, Go, Tell Michelle, a new mothertongue piece, and links to new poems. Hope you enjoy all the new offerings. one love, ekere
PS: Please spread the word  Mother Nature 33 pages $8

*   *   *   *   *'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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The Black Press: New Literary and Historical Essays

By Todd Vogel

In a segregated society in which minority writers and artists could find few ways to reach an audience, journalism gave them access to diverse U.S. communities. The original essays in this volume show how marginalized voices attempted to be heard in their day. The Black Press progresses chronologically from abolitionist newspapers to today's Internet and reveals how the black press's content and its very form changed with evolving historical conditions in America. The essays address the production, distribution, regulation, and reception of black journalism, illustrating a more textured public discourse, one that exchanges ideas not just within the black community, but also within the nation at large. The contributors demonstrate that African American journalists redefined class, restaged race and nationhood, and reset the terms of public conversation, providing a fuller understanding of the varied cultural battles fought throughout our country's history. Dayton Library  / Questia

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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.

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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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P.B. Young, Newspaperman

Race, Politics, and Journalism in the New South, 1910-1962

By Henry Lewis Suggs

P.B. Young, the son of a former slave, published the Norfolk Journal and Guide , a black weekly, for more than 50 years, until his death in 1962. From a circulation of a few hundred in 1909 to a circulation of 75,000 during the 1950s, the Guide became the largest press in the South. This book explores P.B. Young's personal history and charts his positions on a variety of social issues.

Historians have largely neglected the Guide and its editor. Henry Lewis Suggs, mainly using Young's personal papers (heretofore closed to scholars) and the files of the Guide, fills that historiographical void  . . .The book will almost certainly remain the definitive study of P.B. Young.—David B. Parker,

Another neglected figure in black history has been rescued from obscurity in this biography of Plummer Bernard Young . . .Suggs has thoroughly researched his subject.—Theodore Kornweibel, Jr.

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Jefferson's Pillow

The Founding Fathers and the Dilemma of Black Patriotism

By Roger W. Wilkins

 In Jefferson's Pillow, Wilkins returns to America's beginnings and the founding fathers who preached and fought for freedom, even though they owned other human beings and legally denied them their humanity. He asserts that the mythic accounts of the American Revolution have ignored slavery and oversimplified history until the heroes, be they the founders or the slaves in their service, are denied any human complexity. Wilkins offers a thoughtful analysis of this fundamental paradox through his exploration of the lives of George Washington, George Mason, James Madison, and of course Thomas Jefferson. He discusses how class, education, and personality allowed for the institution of slavery, unravels how we as Americans tell different sides of that story, and explores the confounding ability of that narrative to limit who we are and who we can become. An important intellectual history of America's founding, Jefferson's Pillow will change the way we view our nation and ourselves.

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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  19 June 2012




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