ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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Remembering My Adult Education Students

The Learning Place Northwest (1990-1993)

By Rudolph Lewis

Thoughts from the Hood



Good Man, But Wrong Choice

By Pamela White


The last weekend of June, Thurgood Marshall announced his retirement from the Supreme Court because of failing health. President Bush then announced his nomination of Clarence Thomas to fill the “legal giant shoes “of Marshall. There have been numerous articles and editorials written daily in newspapers and magazines. Prominent individuals and organization have taken sides pro and con on Thomas’ nomination. I haven given considerable thought to the matter. Although Thomas is qualified to become Associate Justice., he should not be confirmed by the Senate to replace Thurgood Marshall.

Clarence Thomas was born in Pin Point, Georgia. Thomas is 43 years old. He was raised by his grandparents. He attended all Catholic schools, including Holy Cross, until he enrolled in Yale Law School.

I’m pleased that a black man was nominated, but Thomas’ record as a lawyer is not so impressive when compared to that of Marshall at the time he was nominated for the Supreme Court. Marshall had over twenty years as a lawyer. He won 29 out of 32 civil rights cases he took before the Supreme Court.

Admittedly, Thomas’ experience as the administrative head of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for seven years during the Reagan Administration is impressive. But all of his experiences, including his sixteen months as Circuit Court judge, falls short of expectations. There were many well-qualified black judges with considerably more experience than Thomas that President Bush could have chosen.

Another difficulty I have with Thomas is his conservative positions. Thomas is in favor of individual relief in discrimination cases. He believes that blacks will never have a fair chance with whites. He is skeptical about integration as a goal because he doubts that it is attainable. Thomas believes that blacks should pour their energies into building their own institutions, including schools.

On the abortion rights issue, he believes a right to life of the unborn child, rather than the right of the woman to make such decisions about her body. He criticizes unfairly welfare programs. He thinks people on welfare can find a job.

I have written a letter to Mikulski and Sarbanes, requesting that they vote against Thomas for all the above reasons. I hope that others will do the same. Otherwise, we might live to regret Thomas’ eventual confirmation.

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By Victoria Beason

Early that morning, a cab driver picked my son and me up from Johns Hopkins Emergency Room. He had taken North Avenue to Druid Hill Lake Drive. But as we approached the ramp, he drove about one foot, and then I realized what was happening. The cab was hitting the right guard rail and then the left guard rail. The only thing I could do was to grab my son and protect him with my body by holding him tight as I could. I was also praying at the same time. Eventually the cab finally came to a stop.

The cab driver wasn’t driving slow. He should have realized that it snowed last night. Even though the salt trucks sprayed salt to melt the snow, roads were still slippery. He should have realized that it snowed. On the news, the weather men were saying there was a Phase Two warning.

The cab driver was on a ramp in which the wind could blow from different directions. What seemed to have happened was the snow melted into a thin sheet of ice. Unaware of this situation, the driver did not take necessary precaution.

I have a complex now when I’m in any type of vehicle, especially when the driver crosses a bridge or ramp of any kind. Even though my son wasn’t hurt, I was relieved. Since I was hurt in the process of the accident, I have a little pain every now and then.

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A Valentine’s Day To Remember

By Acquinetta Johnson

On November 4, 1982, I had a daughter. Her name is Tiesha Shan’ti Williams. On February 7, 1983, she departed this life. Ever since she was born, it seems as if she kept this cold. I kept taking her back and forth to the Emergency Room. They kept telling me all she had was a common cold, but it turned out to be bronchial pneumonia.

On February 7, 1983, I went to the Social Security Building up Mondawmin Mall. I was gone for about four hours. When I returned home, I saw my family all in my house sitting around crying. So I said where’s my baby? My mother asked me to come upstairs so she told me the bad news.

I went up to the hospital’s morgue where she was and that’s when I saw her just lying there. It was as if she was just sleep. That was the worse I’ve experience. Her funeral was on Valentine’s Day February 14, 1983. It was delayed because of bad weather

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Basketball Game

By Jasann Jones

June 26, 1992

When I was younger, I could never understand why my dad and brother would watch a bunch of men run up and down the court and shoot the ball in the basket. It seemed so dumb to me. All these years I never sat down to watch a basketball game, until recently.

My boyfriend loves the Bulls. The final game of the season was the Bulls vs. Portland. I got so excited about the game I surprised myself. The game was very interesting. I really enjoyed it.

When my boyfriend explained the rules. I understood the game and liked it. I will be looking at more basketball games in the future. It goes to show you that you should not knock anything you don’t know anything about.

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A Drive By Shooting

By Michelle Edwards

June 26, 1992

I was sitting on my steps Friday night enjoying the cool air when a group of people drove by in a car and started shooting at a young boy named Kevin. This took place in the Oliver Community of the 1400 block of Preston Street. He was shot four times. The first bullet hit him in the left shoulder. The second one was in his hand, and the third and fourth were in his right leg. I saw blood coming from all parts of his body.

His mother who was thought to be about 46 years old wouldn’t even come over and see if he was all right. She just went back into her house. Kevin only had one sister and no brothers. His sister was screaming and crying. Kevin’s friends couldn’t believe that something like this could happen to their friend. The police was asking a lot of people questions.

I wonder why would anybody want to shoot another human being. It made me feel scared to go anywhere because you never know what is going to happen next. It has made more concerned about my children playing outside at any given time.

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By Willie J. Cowan

July 24, 1992

My home is located in West Baltimore, at 1912 Lauretta Ave. I have been living there for fourteen years. It is the seventh house going up Lauretta.

My living room has white wall paper, two lamps, sofa, love sofa, and tables, coffee table and stereo. The window has a dark purple fabric curtain. The floor has a reddish and greenish colored rug. Also, there are two pictures on the wall.

The dining room has a hardwood floor, china-closet, six chairs, dinner-table. The wall has beige wall paper with flowers on it. There is a center rug on the floor.

The kitchen has a gas stove, refrigerator, dinette tables, and six chairs. The floor has white tiles, and the wall is white with interior paint. The window has a three piece curtain.

On the second floor there are three bedrooms. In the first room there are a dresser, chest or bureau, and a queen-size bed and queen-size mattress, two lamps, end tables and carpet. The wall is a pinkish color.

The middle room has a regular bed and mattress, dresser, chest. The wall is covered with a dark blue colored wall paper. The floor has a light blue carpet.

The last room has a regular-size bed and mattress, dresser, and chest. The floor has a dark brown carpet. The wall is covered with a dark brown wall paper.

That’s is the history of my home. And it is the dream home.

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by Tenna Richburg

In 1955, we lived in the 2500 block of McHenry Street. This was when I was six years old. I had a friend named Mary Lou; she live next door to us. Mary Lou was white and my best friend. We would play in the backyard.

Mary Lou and I liked to play in each other’s hair. We also used to play jump rope and hide-and-go-seek. At the time, there was a song out whose refrain was “Mary Lou had a new pair of shoes.” We used to tease Mary Lou with the song. But it was all in fun. But as I gold older it was hard to find a white friend like her.

When I started to go to school, it was different. The white children didn’t want to play with us. When I was eight years old in 1958, my brother Ernest and I had to walk ten blocks to a school in East Baltimore. Sometimes we would take a shortcut to keep the white children from picking at us.

It was not as it was when we lived on the West Side. The white children on that side of town were different. The children on the East Side did not want to play with us. I didn’t like it. I wished that we would move. But as we got older, things were different.

I think I was about ten years old. I used to go down town with mother. I remember I asked my mother why the white people could eat in the store and we could not. It was a store down town. I can’t think of the name of the store, but white people could sit down and eat. Black people, however, could not eat in the store. When segregation ended and blacks were allowed to eat in the store, the store closed.

When we live on McHenry Street, the white boys would pick at my brother. They would call him a black Negro and chase him from school. If we would go pass a group of white children, they would say, “What are you looking at us for.” We would run.

My brother and his friend were walking in the 1900 block of Pratt Street. A group of white boys chased them. My brother Ernest could not run that fast, so the white boys beat him up for nothing. My brother’s friend called us and told us he was in the hospital. When we saw my brother’s face, it really hurt us to see that he was beaten up just because he was black. I was about twenty-five years old when this happened.

So I know that being a black person living in the neighborhood that we live in today is not so good. It is different these days. I hope and pray that people would learn to love and respect each other.

posted 5 April 2006

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The Ditchdigger’s Daughters

By Yvonne Thornton

Dr. Yvonne Thornton’s memoir The Ditchdigger’s Daughters has captured the hearts of readers everywhere since it was first published in 1995. Translated into 19 languages, featured on Oprah, and made into a TV movie, this heart-warming and inspiring story chronicles Yvonne Thornton’s family; at its center is her beloved, unschooled but wise father Donald Thornton, who demanded that all five of his daughters not only excel in school, but go on to become doctors. Four of them did; the other found her calling in law and became a lawyer instead.—Dafina

Thornton's frank, relaxed manner makes it accessible to general readers as well as students of women's or African American memoir. Worth considering also for those looking for inspirational reads.—Library Journal

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Freedom's Teacher: The Life of Septima Clark

By Katherine Mellen Charron

Freedom's Teacher traces Clark's life from her earliest years as a student, teacher, and community member in rural and urban South Carolina to her increasing radicalization as an activist following World War II, highlighting how Clark brought her life's work to bear on the civil rights movement. Katherine Mellen Charron's engaging portrait demonstrates Clark's crucial role—and the role of many black women teachers—in making education a cornerstone of the twentieth-century freedom struggle. Drawing on autobiographies and memoirs by fellow black educators, state educational records, papers from civil rights organizations, and oral histories, Charron argues that the schoolhouse served as an important institutional base for the movement. Clark's program also fostered participation from grassroots southern black women, affording them the opportunity to link their personal concerns to their political involvement on the community's behalf.

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#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

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#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.” We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

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The Persistence of the Color Line

Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency

By Randall Kennedy

Among the best things about The Persistence of the Color Line is watching Mr. Kennedy hash through the positions about Mr. Obama staked out by black commentators on the left and right, from Stanley Crouch and Cornel West to Juan Williams and Tavis Smiley. He can be pointed. Noting the way Mr. Smiley consistently “voiced skepticism regarding whether blacks should back Obama” . . .

The finest chapter in The Persistence of the Color Line is so resonant, and so personal, it could nearly be the basis for a book of its own. That chapter is titled “Reverend Wright and My Father: Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism.”  Recalling some of the criticisms of America’s past made by Mr. Obama’s former pastor, Mr. Kennedy writes with feeling about his own father, who put each of his three of his children through Princeton but who “never forgave American society for its racist mistreatment of him and those whom he most loved.”  His father distrusted the police, who had frequently called him “boy,” and rejected patriotism. Mr. Kennedy’s father “relished Muhammad Ali’s quip that the Vietcong had never called him ‘nigger.’ ” The author places his father, and Mr. Wright, in sympathetic historical light.

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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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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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