ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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 Dyson did this piece Why I Love Black Women that was so shameless it was a farce.



Books by Tavis Smiley


My Story of Growing Up in America / The Covenant with Black America  /  The Covenant in Action


Never Mind Success: Go for Greatness  /  Keeping the Faith   /  Black Rage, Black Redemption


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Books by Cornel West

Democracy Matters: The Fight Against Imperialism  /  Race Matters  / Cornel West Reader  /  The Future of the Race  

The American Evasion of Philosophy  /  African American Religious Thought  /  The War Against Parents 

The African American Century White on White / Black on Black  / Prophesy Deliverance  / The Soul Knows No Bars

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Pass the Mic! Tour 

Responses to Editorial


My boy Tolbert up in Philly, though I haven't read his piece, I understand he didn't like the "Pass The Mic" tour.  Can't wait to see yours. 

Charles Siler

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Outlaws and Superstars: Cornel, Tavis, Michael Eric and Rudy

By Arthur R. Flowers


Recently my boy Rudy over at ChickenBones did a review of a Black Superstar Review touring Baltimore in which three black public intellectuals, Cornel West, Tavis Smiley, and Michael Eric Dyson did a show at Baltimores Lryic Theatre.

Clearly Rudy was not impressed. I understand his irritation. Apparently they came out rocking and rolling a blend of hiphop preaching like they do before an adoring crowd of over a thousand blackfolk at $60 a pop. (Surely $20 would have been sufficient.) Got to give the brothers their propers, their heart is good, and they perform a service. But it irritates those of us laboring unappreciated in the vineyards to see Slick get over like it does today.

Mostly because it reflects a grievous African American loss of direction in the Struggle and where we are as a People when Media Superstardom defines our leadership.

Which in order to be anointed must almost by definition have to be shallow and commercially inclined. (Or demagogic and bombastic foolishness).

I like Cornel and I think he plays a significant role but I remember when him and Skip Gates did a book called The Future of the Race and I picked it up looking to see something real and it was like academic popcorn. I was offended that they had wasted a good title like that.

I try my best to be Serious and Significant and whenever I Speak I try to make a Contribution and I get ignored by everybody. I carry the prophetic curse. I speak and no one listens.

Makes you wonder sometime if you wasting your time and need to focus on making a living like everybody else instead of trying to Save the Race. Trying to be Serious and not just Pandering to the Crowd and the Times. Dyson did this piece Why I Love Black Women that was so shameless it was a farce. These the people everybody jumping up and down about. Cause they got their media game together. I too respect and admire these brothers at their Best. Cause they Committed and they got Game. Ive tried but I just cant get no traction. Emerge Magazine once did a piece on invisible black male writers and I didnt even make the Invisible List.

Oh well. Aint no sense in being upset that folk dont see my Vision. Thats why they call it a Vision. But its hard sometime not to resent it when you just got to sit there and watch Bullshit Walk.

I hear folk talk of public intellectuals and its hard not to sneer. A buddy of mine once said I was an Outlaw. I was offended, "I aint no Outlaw" I told her. She said, I didnt say you were a Criminal, I said you were an Outlaw. Since Ive known you youve operated outside of the system.

Ive since embraced the term. Outlaw Intellectual. Rather proud of it. Cause I know Im doing what Im supposed to do. Im making my contribution like my mentor, John O Killens, another unappreciated warrior, trained me to do. Ima Do What I Do and hope that History treats me better than my Own Times have.

And am I sometimes dismayed by the media superstar leadership mode that has left us directionless in these perilous times. But Ima keep my Perspective.

Cause I am even more Dismayed that Im not one of them.

I hope one day to get some play, a larger platform from which to make my points and get taken seriously.

And I hope that if I ever do get some play that I dont lose sight of whats Real. Ima keep the Faith. Like John O Killens taught me to.

I am a Master of the Longgame and Im proud of it. And whatever price it cost me to be Real, to be True Force, Im willing to pay it.

Thats why folk like Rudy and myself and the folk over at The Black Commentator and Freedom Rider have begun to forge our own vehicles for Speaking Truth to the People.

I often feel that I am speaking to the void with Rootsblog but Ive decided to maintain it at least a year without whining or worrying about my lack of acknowledgement for what I do - for my efforts to make a contribution. By then I hope it will just be a habit.

Cause I am a child of the 60s and I believe in the Struggle. I am a Drummajor for Righteousness and Ima do what Im Supposed To Do and Im not going to worry about not getting no props for it.

History will Absolve me.

I am Flowers of the Delta Clan Flowers and the Line of O Killens.

I am an Outlaw.


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Mon, 22 Dec 2003 


I have read, in fact, your editorial on the tres amigos now several times. Although, I don't agree with you in total, your arguments are sound.  You have a beautiful mind.  I think if you ever met Cornel West, you might have a different opinion of him.  I have a friend who met Cornel and had a totally different opinion of him after meeting him.

I don't think Travis is in the same league, that is, intellectually as West and Dyson.  I think Travis is really more of the entrepreneur of the three. I would agree with you that $60.00 is much too much money to hear a speech with Travis, Dyson, or West. I do know, in the case of West, that he has donated all the money from one of his books to a very worthy cause.  I have the book at home.  It was a book he edited with a young scholar. Have a great holiday! As ever, Herbert

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Friday, 19 Dec 2003 

I just read your editorial on Dyson, West & Smiley. Wonderful! Thank you! We need(ed) that!!! Take care. Happy New Year! Later, Louis

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read your review of the three amigos you the man. i love knowing folk who got the courage to say what we all know to be the truth when the emperors walking around naked in these perilous times you go boy im proud to be your comrade in arms arf

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Hotep brotha! Just read your analysis on the "Pass the Mic Tour" on your great web site. Although I know you were being objective, Imma say it: dem Negroes ain't trying to liberate the people!

But I wanted to say that it was an excellent review and I really enjoyed it. How can I get a copy(VHS or audio) of that event? Did u tape it?

Recently Bob Law was in my city of St. Louis, I will soon submit my analysis on that talk to a number of outlets including yours. Law was da bomb. a true warrior indeed. maybe you and I can share(trade) knowledge materials cuz I did tape Bob's lecture. Warmest, Njai

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Monday, 15 Dec 2003 


I guess I was damned lucky not to have gone to the Pass the Mic thing. I asked Bilal to go with me but he was otherwise tied up. So, I pocketed the money and went home. I was so tired I fell asleep and didn't  wake up until 1am. Your analysis is what mine would have been. I just wanted confirmation of my suspicions that all the current and all too much promoted leadership has nothing going for it. You saved me a lot of anguish and late hours of writing. I thank you for that and congratulate you on the article.

Secondly, your interchange with Joe seems to be bearing some fruit. And, I guess this is good. But, as they say, it is hard for a leopard to change his spots or an Ethiopian his skin. So, we will have to see how Joe does in the future. He very well may not be able to do any better despite his best intentions. The fact that he seems to be almost universally despised is something that I suspected. I must commend you for your tact. But, I suspect

you were up to something when you placed his article next to mine. The thing is that I respect Joe's courage and persistence. On the other hand, these are the qualities that make him so adamant and stubborn in outlook. But only time, will tell. I understand that you are going home for the holidays. Be safe and get some rest. amin sharif

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Tavis Smiley is a broadcaster, author, advocate and philanthropist. TIME Magazine honored Smiley in 2009 as one of "The World's 100 Most Influential People." He is currently the host of the late night television talk show, "Tavis Smiley" on PBS and "The Tavis Smiley Show" distributed by Public Radio International (PRI). In 2007, Smiley made television history as the moderator and executive producer of the All-American Presidential Forums on PBS, the first Democratic and Republican presidential debates broadcast live in primetime with a panel exclusively comprised of journalists of color.

In addition to his radio and television work, Smiley has authored fourteen books. His memoir, What I Know For Sure: My Story of Growing Up in America, was a New York Times bestseller.

His latest book, Accountable: Making America As Good As its Promise, addresses how our political leaders, corporations and finally, American citizens themselves can enforce accountability and effect change.

The Tavis Smiley Foundation, a non-profit organization, was established to provide leadership training and development for youth. Since its inception, more than 6,000 young people have participated in the foundation's Youth to Leaders training workshops and conferences.

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Tavis Smiley (born September 13, 1964) is an American talk show host, author, political commentator, entrepreneur, advocate and philanthropist. Smiley was born in Gulfport, Mississippi and grew up in Kokomo, Indiana. After attending Indiana University, he worked during the late 1980s as an aide to Tom Bradley, the mayor of Los Angeles. Smiley became a radio commentator in 1991, and starting in 1996 he hosted the talk show BET Talk (later renamed BET Tonight) on BET. Controversially, after Smiley sold an exclusive interview of Sara Jane Olson to ABC News in 2001, BET declined to renew Smiley's contract that year. Smiley then began hosting The Tavis Smiley Show on NPR from 2002 to 2004 and currently hosts Tavis Smiley on PBS on the weekdays and a weekly self-titled show on PRI. . . .

Smiley was honored with the NAACP Image Award for best news, talk, or information series for three consecutive years (1997–99) for his work on BET Tonight with Tavis Smiley. Smiley's advocacy efforts have earned him numerous awards and recognitions including the recipient of the Mickey Leland Humanitarian Award from the National Association of Minorities in Communications.In 1999, he founded the Tavis Smiley Foundation, which funds programs that develop young leaders in the black community. Since its inception, more than 6,000 young people have participated in the foundation's Youth to Leaders Training workshops and conferences. His communications company, The Smiley Group, Inc., serves as the holding company for various enterprises encompassing broadcast and print media, lecturers, symposiums, and the Internet.

In 1994, Time named him one of America's 50 Most Promising Young Leaders. Time honored him the next year as one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World." In May 2007, Smiley gave a commencement speech at his alma mater, Indiana University at Bloomington, Indiana. In May 2008, he gave the commencement address at Connecticut College, where he was awarded an honorary doctorate. In May 2009, Smiley was awarded an honorary doctorate at Langston University after giving the commencement address there.

On December 12, 2008, Smiley received the Du Bois Medal from Harvard University's W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research.Wikipedia

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Michael Eric Dyson to President Obama  /  Michael Eric Dyson: To The Young & Disillusioned

Michael Eric Dyson: Obama isn't Moses, he is Pharaoh  /  Smiley and West: Obama & Sharpton

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Cornel West to Take a Job in New York—Laurie Goodstein—16 November 2011—Cornel West, the peripatetic public intellectual and political activist, plans to finish out a teaching career that has taken him from Yale to Harvard to Princeton by moving back this coming summer to Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, where he began as an assistant professor in 1977. Dr. West, the author of 19 books, including Race Matters, and a ubiquitous television and radio commentator, said he was taking a significant pay cut to become a professor of philosophy and Christian practices at Union.

The school, where the eminent theologian Reinhold Niebuhr taught, is also known as the birthplace of black theology. James H. Cone, a foremost scholar in that tradition, is still on the faculty.In an interview from Seattle, on his way to visit Occupy protesters there, Dr. West said that his liberal politics were formed in Progressive Baptist churches, and that Union was “the institutional expression of my core identity as a prophetic Christian.”—NYTimes

*   *   *   *   *'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 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 Last Holiday: A Memoir

By Gil Scott Heron

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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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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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 5 March 2012




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Related files: Cornel West Moves to Princeton  West Cites Reason For Quitting  Cornel West: An Editorial    Kam Williams Interviews Cornel West   Responses to Pass the Mic   The Tavis Smiley Presidential Forum  

Pass the Mic   The State of the Black Union 2009  Smiley vs. Sharpton