ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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She is mama to sinners and winners alike, / Seeing champions emerging veiled

deep from our sight The unsung first love of Nelson Mandela

It was she who wiped tears from our yet-to-be hero

And bade him be strong for the love of all man




To breathe life into bones grown weary from kneeling

Poems by Betty Wamalwa Muragori


Queen Africa: A Poem in Two Parts


                             By Betty Wamalwa Muragori




 You want to know who she is?

She is Queen Africa!

A fountain, outpouring with love,

A torrent of endless friendship and joy

Wise words breathe on the tip of her eloquent tongue,

Knowing just what to say to soothe wavering feelings,

She councils a turning away from the brink

The one to trust with a hero in peril,

From her she’ll hear what she needs to stand tall

Hail the queen!


She is mama to sinners and winners alike,

Seeing champions emerging veiled deep from our sight

The unsung first love of Nelson Mandela

It was she who wiped tears from our yet-to-be hero

And bade him be strong for the love of all man

To go one step more when ravaged with fear,

Stand up to bullies wielding jamboks and guns,

Seizing conquest unseen in jaws of defeat!

A noble queen!


Leading assemblies with compassion and wit

Once dedicated solely to raising Wangari Mathaai,

She stays us from folly of careless harsh pride

With gracious delight she dispenses her healing

Directing her daughters to liberty’s prize,

To breathe life into bones grown weary from kneeling

Queen Africa has broken her silence,

She is yielding no more!


 II Queen of the World


Hmm, you call me queen of Africa?



I am queen of the world!

Does my bold speaking leave you somewhat surprised?

Good, I’m glad for your shock!

Get ready for more,

I am giving you notice,

Enough has been said!


Centuries listening to those words from your mouth,


Making claims on my silence as if I were dull!



I am tired of odes, extolling one virtue,

Making me out to be only Mandela’s poor mama


I’m drained of being seen as a good little thing, so true, so pure, so long suffering,


Oh please!


You leave me bristling with your language of pain,

Your surprising poor wit and repeating expressions

Long years have I waited for unveiled gaze?

To grasp the breadth of my virtuoso eye,

To spot the swish in my eager round hips,

And count the fruit of my inquisitive mind

Instead you stole my acclaim!


I will do it myself, speak up and be heard!

I am African queen, queen of the world,

Watch me sashay down catwalks, seducing the crowds,

See me merciless siren in the arms of your man

Remember Queen Sheba that stole foreign kings?

That was I!


I have shaped grand inventions from wind, sun and rain,

Invoked lullabies rocking babies to sleep

My long neck grew graceful from balancing time

My back strong and firm nursing tendrils on rock

What can I not do?


Now sparkling diamond communing with God

An act of conception, cherished adored!

An eagle am I, soaring on high

The wide universe is mine

Hear me roar with enjoyment a full throated noise,

Rapturous pleasure bouncing unbound!


I command you!

Stop mealy mouth words of constant distress,

Desist, from disfiguring quiet malaise!

My visage is empress, noble and proud,

Befitting a sovereign of the whole firmament

Rise up, stand free, grant me your hand,

All hail Queen Africa,

Queen of the world!

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                                    By Betty Wamalwa Muragori


Words of love coiled from your lips,

Gleaming like burnished brass,

And I swallowed them whole.

Your words filled my mouth,

And popped open,

Out flowed the sweet nectar of a thousand desert blooms!


Your love words held me close,

Lighting me with incandescence

I was gloaming, lost in the hour before waking

I danced to the rhythm of your song!

Sweet and beguiling,

Your careful love words left me aching.


I savored your words of love and held them long in my mouth

Too soon they left me craven with tears of sorrow

Shadows fell when you walked away

Grown tired by my heedless hunger

Alone and lost

Your words turned acrid smoke.

*   *   *   *   *

Chameleon Stretch

(Inspired by Edith Mbigi)


                                By Betty Wamalwa Muragori


She stretched, a chameleon reaching for the next branch.


Seduction on his mind,

He watched, a veil of half-closed eyes.


Alone, she smoothed kinks out of her lean lithe form.


Delectable, she left him sitting up,

He lost his breath!


A smiling secret played on her fulsome whole lips.

Captured, by her pleasure,

Her thoughts formed before him.


Interrupted, she uncovered him staring open mouthed, mesmerized.


Brazen, he put his thoughts away,

And screened his unseemly longing.



*   *   *   *   *

Betty Wamalwa Muragori is especially interested in how Africans are constructing new identities as they redefine their place in the world.  She believes in the power of words.  She has a BSc degree from the University of Nairobi and MA in Environment from Clark University in Worcester Mass. USA.  Currently Betty works for an international conservation organization in Nairobi, Kenya. 

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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Exporting American Dreams

 Thurgood Marshall's African Journey

By Mary L. Dudziak

Thurgood Marshall became a living icon of civil rights when he argued Brown v. Board of Education before the Supreme Court in 1954. Six years later, he was at a crossroads. A rising generation of activists were making sit-ins and demonstrations rather than lawsuits the hallmark of the civil rights movement. What role, he wondered, could he now play? When in 1960 Kenyan independence leaders asked him to help write their constitution, Marshall threw himself into their cause. Here was a new arena in which law might serve as the tool with which to forge a just society. In Exporting American Dreams: Thurgood Marshall's African Journey (2008) Mary Dudziak recounts with poignancy and power the untold story of Marshall's journey to Africa

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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.

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The Last Holiday: A Memoir

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Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King's birthday ended up becoming a national holiday ("The Last Holiday because America can't afford to have another national holiday"), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel. Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered.

Gil uses Lennon's violent end as a brilliant parallel to Dr King's assassination and as a biting commentary on the constraints that sometimes lead to newspapers getting things wrong. Jamie Byng, Guardian 

Gil_reads_"Deadline" (audio)

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To the Mountaintop

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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 12 March 2012




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