ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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In the history of African American journals of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, I rank

your magazine with Negro Digest/Black World, which was "blessed" to have the financial

backing of Johnson Publications. It is required reading for people who wish to be informed



Reaching Racial Heights

Obama for President, ChickenBones almost 50, and Rudy at 60


24 August 2008

Peanuts. Shrimp, and Martinis

I also hope that you're doing something nice for yourself today, like treating yourself to dinner and a beer . . . Miriam

I have no friends here at Jerusalem. No, not one, just family folks with long held grievances. Maybe it is my own doing. I seldom venture beyond the Village of Jerusalem. So I spent most of the day watching previews of the Democratic National Convention on CNN and MSNBC, as the day before I watched the commentary on the excellent selection of Joe Biden as Obama's VP running mate. For the Democrat Party all seem to be shaping up nicely in swinging toward the center right in order to capture the white blue-collar vote in places like Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Late in the afternoon, family members assembled to sing me happy birthday over cake and ice cream. That was organized by my aunt Ann, who is still suffering from having both her knees replaced. It was of short duration. There was one card but there was no money or gifts.

At dusk I drove out to Emporia, about fourteen miles south of Jerusalem, which was paid a surprise visit Thursday afternoon by presidential hopeful Barack Obama.

He said he stopped by for peanuts. He and his entourage of campaign workers, security agents and a busload of regional and national press pulled into Virginia Favorites Ltd., at 1000 W. Atlantic Street (next to Shoney's on Route 58) shortly before 4 pm.  Entering the establishment, he told owners Dorothy Bass and Judy Whittington, and employee Donna Harrell. "I need some peanuts! I heard this was the right place to come." He also told them he was a "peanuts fanatic" who eats them all day long and that "I am in peanut heaven here" (Independent Messenger, p. 1).


Obama Visits Emporia

Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama shakes hands with Dorothy Bass Thursday afternoon during a visit to Virginia Favorites Ltd. on Route 58. He said he was here for peanuts, but while in the shop spent a of deal of time trying to get Bass' vote

Barack at Shoney's

Patrons of Shoney's were pleasantly surprised in the adjoining parking lot when Barack emerged from Virginia Favorites. He stopped to greet them and signed a few autographs while among the crowd.

Not too far from Shoney's is Applebee's, a bar restaurant. The only place with a bar I know within 30 miles. I went there for a couple of drinks and conversation. Blessed, I had both. I had two delightful Stoli martinis, and a couple glasses of ice water. Soon after I sat at the bar, a younger woman came in, a tall and good looking woman with no affectations. I looked her way and she came and sat two chairs down from me. It seems we had the same mind—a drink and appetizer, and relief from unresolved issues swirling around in the brain.

At the upper end of the bar a young black fellow was talking about the choice of Biden, whom he believed was made for the working class white guys in his company who insisted they didn’t like Obama’s name and that they had no intentions on voting for him. They complained also the company he kept with Reverend Jeremiah Wright, whom they believed to be a separatist. Surely, these white Virginians were the great-grandsons of segregationists. And they have the historical ignorance to speak of separatism, as a reason not to vote for Obama. Both young white guys continued to make such stupid remarks about Obama. I shut them out.

So it was fortunate that I had an intelligent woman whose voice was like that of an angel. We began a conversation over what drink to order. She ordered a cosmopolitan. It was reddish, but in a martini glass, with a slice of lemon. We both ordered grilled shrimp and she in addition ordered a salad with grilled shrimp.

Her name was Beverly, an Army master sergeant, who had arrived back recently from Iraq. I asked her did she shoot anyone. She said that she was with Logistics, which supplied those who were shooters. She was on her way back to Savannah, where she is stationed. I told her I had been to Savannah, for brief periods, passing through, and I described it in such a way that she knew I had been there. But she was a Virginian from Dansville, which I knew was west of where we were. She had just bought a house near Emporia. Her husband, her second marriage, was a guard at the prison up in Jarratt, not far from Jerusalem. I discovered this fact late in the conversation.

It seems that army life is hard on marriages, and she cared little for country lifethe lack of jobs, the lack of interesting people, the repressiveness of traditional rural life. She had two grown sons,  and a couple of grandkids and she was retiring from the military in a couple of years, though she was thinking about spending another year in Iraq. The money is good, about $60,000 a year. But she was also considering becoming a contractor, armed securitypersons who make about a 100Gs a year. . . .

My shrimp arrived and I told her that I was a teacher of writing and that I owned a literary website and some of the work that appeared on the site, including stories and poems, and that some military people visit the site. I could have told her much more:

It is a site of over 3000 pages made up primarily of materials on African American life and culture. But our work has become more varied than that. It includes Turkish poetry. Articles from Germany, the UK, Hungary, South Africa; Juba, Sudan; poetry from Kenya; visual art work from Toronto, Canada; Houston, Texas; and the UK. We have film criticism. We have a writer now on her way to Montreal for the World Film festival; and more.

We have articles on religion, on sports, on hip hop, and other kinds of music; black librarians; obituaries; education and Katrina; and tables of links to pieces by numerous writers, including Louis Reyes Rivera, Mackie Blanton, Mona Lisa Saloy, and many others including Kola Boof and Jim Jordan, root doctor. We have a great swath of writings by Kalamu ya Salaam.

We are a dynamic website; not a weekly, or a monthly, but a daily update. We have also culled excerpts of articles we believe important from alternative as well as mainstream media. We have done photo exhibits of church openings and birthdays. ChickenBones is the most unique broad-reaching website on the internet. Financial response from our massive audience is so-so. We barely take in $5,000 a year, if that much. On that I pay the bills of the website and give myself a small token for my services to ChickenBones. I am not rich, just frugal. I have taken a stipend only within the last two years of our seven year history. When I moved to the countryside, it was partially to cut down on my bills so that I could build and work ChickenBones.

ChickenBones is not only my "baby." In dog years it is almost 50 years old. It is not only a personal project, but also a national resourcea Historic Website -- Collected by Library of Congress 

The downside is that ChickenBones: A Journal is under-funded. Although we pay our internet service provider (ISP) $70 a month to be online we still do not have sufficient bandwidth and power to do all the things we would like. I had to shut down a day to recover the power necessary to publish recent material sent to us. I still think that too many do not appreciate what is gained through a site like ChickenBones. Maybe that is my own fault in that I am not a great salesman and that probably too often my own personality overwhelms the wonder of ChickenBones.

But I said none of that. I could have also pointed out the fine words written to me by Jerry Ward Jr.:

In the history of African American journals of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, I rank your magazine with Negro Digest/Black World, which was "blessed" to have the financial backing of Johnson Publications. It is required reading for people who wish to be informed about the trajectories of thought in the contemporary world.  It is a dynamic, growing textbook that ought to be used in courses on African American literature and culture.  I am using it as an external link for the course I teach this semester on the Foundations of African American Literature.  My students need to know that academic journals do not tell us everything. So, thank you Rudy for your gift to black folks and everybody else.

If I had had her locked down at a booth, paying for her drinks and appetizer, I probably would have ventured into that long spiel. But she was a beautiful brown-skinned woman who knew she was attractive, independent and with money and she did not need to listen to another's extensive trials and tribulations. . . . She said that there were soldiers who with nothing to do probably would like to tell their stories and published their poems. I told her that none had sent me their writings but that would be a nice addition to the site. I asked her was she a poet and she said no. I told her we also had interviews on ChickenBones. But she did not want that. I felt she thought she might get in trouble with that kind of exposure and jeopardize a safe retirement.

I asked Beverly a few questions and she was forthcoming. She said there was indeed a huge military base complex near Baghdad, but there were many more across the country. I asked were there foreign workers. She mentioned Filipinos and Ugandans working in the laundry department. I asked her did she know about rapes. She knew of six in which she was involved in investigating on behalf of the rape victims.

The rape victims were white on white or black on black. The rapist was usually of a higher grade, among enlisted soldiers. There was one instance in which the female soldier was so drunk that she did not recall she had been raped. Alcohol is illegal in Iraq, even on US military bases. Unlike Vietnam drugs seem infrequently used by soldiers. . . . She took a call on her cell phone.

I ordered my second martini. The green olives in each glass were almost better then the vermouth but not quite as potent as the Stolichnaya. She had nearly finished her salad. She was considering leaving her husband, though not for me. I got the impression she was rather bored. The stress and high energy of a desert  war zone contrasts greatly with that of the rural sparse piney woods population of churchgoing, tradition church folk. She asked me about the schools nearby because she was thinking about being an elementary school teacher through a military program. I told her what I knew from subbing last spring at the high school in Sussex.

She was considering selling the house she had just bought and moving to Richmond. She made me laugh describing the locals and the numerous family churches and the community bickering. The chairs were being pulled away from the bar and she was pulling her things together to depart. It all ended too soon and we had not mentioned politics at all, or Obama.

Applebee's closes at ten on Sundays and so Beverly and I said a quick goodbye. I had to go pee. When I returned she was nowhere to be seen. The martinis were nice, so were the shrimp. This face-to-face conversation with the Master Sergeant about her adventures at home and abroad was a rare pleasure. And with all the kind responses from my internet friends, I had a swell birthday.

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Birthday Responses

I hope that today will usher in a year of good health, peace, creativity, and continued success with your baby, ChickenBones. I also hope that you're doing something nice for yourself today, like treating yourself to dinner and a beer, hanging out with friends, and reading a really good book. Wishing you all the best, Miriam


Dear Rudy,

Congratulations on your 60th birthday. Not many make it up to that age in this stressful world, and your creativity and productivity could also be much of that stress. But you do enjoy what you are doing and it is giving greater value to others than you can immediately reap any material reward for. But be sure that your effort and contribution gives you an undeniable place in the history of the world, certainly not just of America nor Africa, for you have a global perspective. I have also had your journal as recommended reading for my students as well as colleagues and friends. Yours,  Arthur Edgar E Smith

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Happy solar return Rudy. I wish you enough. Always, WordSlanger

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Bon Anniversaire Redux, Felicitations et Bon Souhations Vince

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Happy Birthday Rudy! . . . the writers club will be getting a little donation off to ChickenBones when we pick up on our meetings again in the fall. easy, Eugene

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Peace and blessings my friend,  Happy birthday! I sent you an e-mail this morning before church. I just noticed that it was returned to me because I left a letter out of your name. I can't believe I did that. I want to wish you peace in the home and heart. Tell Annie and Mama I said hello. I wish you many more birthdays. I whish you continued blessings with ChickenBones. Peace and Love, Yvonne

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Hi Rudy, Happy Birthday To You! Thank you for the three great gifts of knowledge and communication (and friendship!) The one and only ChickenBones web site has something for everyone to enjoy and contemplate. It's a big Shining Star! Music, art, history, geography,  political pros and cons and great stories! I wish you all the best in all you do this year with good health and strength to keep up your excellent work!  

"It's been a long, a long time coming But I know-oh-whoa, A change gon' come."  Sam Cooke Jan 30, '65 Obama  '08!  Love, Anita

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In honor of your BD...a check is on the way next week...and I hope others from my crew have sent something in to support the site...I've passed your site on to many...and they love it.  I do appreciate our past interactions online and especially...your publishing my work wonderful Black Man... not only today, but on your actual Birthday, and for many many years to come for that matter !!  I believe...that If you declare personal Happiness to be yours (as elusive as it may seem at times ) acknowledge your past/present blessings, and expect a fruitful, spirited and Spirit blessed life to be yours...then that's the reality that will prevail in your life (not the realities of others)...but the trick is to BELIEVE, HAVE FAITH and then take these realities that you've created each day... and own them !!  You are truly a brilliant man, and you should not only continually celebrate the gifts you've been given...but your ability  to pass these gifts on to others in such a massive and meaningful way.  The Spirit's work is not always easy, convenient, nor necessarily OUR chosen way. bev jenai

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Dear Rudy,
May you have a birthday free of stress. You really do have the  weight of the world on your shoulders. I tried to find your house on a Google map yesterday. I appreciate what you are doing with your journal. Maureen is in Minneapolis this week. It makes me feel good that she  is recovering, and now gets around very well. I woke up screaming two nights ago, and I am certain woke half the neighborhood.
The newspapers could talk about nothing for the past week other than Obama's choice for VP, which they guessed correctly. Boring!
I have not been watching the Olympics, which I really find offensive. I think they should ban all nationalistic displays, all flags, national colors and the playing of national anthems. They should also get rid of the medals and all other competitive aspects, and let
the people perform at the highest level of excellence for its own sake. Further proof that I am weird. Wilson

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Man shut yo mouf! Now you've even got me talking like an old man. Looka heah, Leo, I turned 67 this past Thursday but I don't feel old. I get tired sometime, but that's because I stay up well into the wee hours. It's almost 2:00AM now. Maybe you're eating too much fat back and grease. You need to mosey on over to the fitness center, or get you a rolling or walking machine. Or just take long walks. Have your brain make friends with your heart. Smile more. Embrace psychology. Meditate. Don't fight it, Brohim. We love you, man.

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happy 60th and thank you for all you do for us. you are admired and appreciated. kahlil koromantee

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Wishing you a happy birthday from Frankfurt. I wouldn't know the date of your birthday, but mine which was on the 22nd of August seem to be around yours. Well, I wish you all the best and may success attend all your endeavours. Franklyne Ogbunwezeh

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Nice description of your pleasant, serendipitous birthday evening with BeverlyKam

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Happy Birthday . . .  I wish you many, many more. Coz, Caroline

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Salaam.  Sixty is the new fifty they say. But to old war dogs like you and me, it means nothing. I look at the hundreds of young men around me and see their powers rising and mine fading. I wonder how many battle are left in me. Then I shrug my shoulders and go on to the next thing on the list. I guess we should be glad to have a list to check. 

Happy Birthday. Despite our differences, I love you like a brother. amin sharif

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Rudy. Back from Louisiana.  Happy Birthday to you and I'm trying to make enough money to send something other than the cartoons, though I hope they help with keeping interest up.  60 was a good age. . . . You've been asking for a photo.  Here's two that I found recently. By the way, I happened to have this feeling that the ideal Obama would be the same guy with straight hair and very pale skin. . . . but he would still be married to that sister. . . . Keep laughing. Chuck

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Hey now Rudy, A heartfelt yet belated Happy Happy Birthday to you.  May this year bring you joy, abundance, and lots of laughs. Be well, and take some time to smell the Jasmine. LUV, Mona Lisa

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Happy Birthday, Rudy. I wish I had said this earlier, but I could not check my mail till two days after. At 60, you have so much to make you happy and fulfilled. ChickenBones has acquired an appreciable stature, a lot of influence and widespread readership. I find your industry, sacrificial and generous spirit exceptionally striking, and your style quite disarming. May God keep you longer and closer to Him, and continue to energize you. Wishing you many happy returns of the day. Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

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Dear Rudy, I'm just getting back online after some traveling this summer. I want to join Miriam in wishing you a Happy Birthday. Stay strong,  Floyd

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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#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
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#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

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."

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Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President

By Ron Suskind

A new book offering an insider's account of the White House's response to the financial crisis says that U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner ignored an order from President Barack Obama calling for reconstruction of major banks. According to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Suskind, the incident is just one of several in which Obama struggled with a divided group of advisers, some of whom he didn't initially consider for their high-profile roles. Suskind interviewed more than 200 people, including Obama, Geithner and other top officials . . . The book states Geithner and the Treasury Department ignored a March 2009 order to consider dissolving banking giant Citigroup while continuing stress tests on banks, which were burdened with toxic mortgage assets. . . .Suskind states that Obama accepts the blame for mismanagement in his administration while noting that restructuring the financial system was complicated and could have resulted in deeper financial harm. . . . In a February 2011 interview with Suskind, Obama acknowledges another ongoing criticism—that he is too focused on policy and not on telling a larger story, one the public could relate to. Obama is quoted as saying he was elected in part because "he had connected our current predicaments with the broader arc of American history," but that such a "narrative thread" had been lost.—Gopusa

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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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ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)






posted 25 August 2008 




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Related files: The Need for a Democratic Electoral Sweep   Reaching Racial Heights   Putting the Country First  Reaganite Denounces Bush      A Theology of Obligation & Liberation   Obligation to Fight