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 The Roman Catholic Church in Rwanda . . . failed to denounce the . . .

use of violence against Tutsi, failed to . . .to apologize

for the many clergy who aided and abetted the genocidaires



Rwanda Ten Years after the Genocide

The International Response to the Crisis

By Gerald Caplan


Around the world, commemorations of the 10th anniversary of the Rwanda genocide are about to be launched. The central actors responsible for allowing Hutu extremists to perpetrate the genocide are well known: the government of France, the United Nations

Security Council led by the USA with British backing, the UN Secretariat, the government of Belgium, and, by no means least, the Roman Catholic Church. The Organization of African Unity also refused to condemn the genocidaires and proved to be largely irrelevant throughout the crisis. As a consequence of these acts of commission and omission, 800,000 Tutsi and thousands of moderate Hutu were murdered in a period of 100 days. . . . The following is a selection of some of those events. ...

1. Time and again in the months prior to and during the genocide, the Commander of the UN military mission to Rwanda (UNAMIR) pleaded with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations in New York to expand his very limited mandate. The only time his request was ever approved was in the days immediately after the Rwandan president's plane was shot down, triggering the genocide. UNAMIR was then authorized to exceed its narrow mandate exclusively for the purpose of helping to evacuate foreign nationals, mainly westerners, from the country. Never was such flexibility granted to protect Rwandans.

2. Heavily armed western troops began materializing at Kigali airport within hours to evacuate their nationals. Beyond UNAMIR's 2500 peacekeepers, these included 500 Belgian para-commandos, 450 French and 80 Italian troops from parachute regiments, another 500 Belgian para-commandos on stand-by in Kenya, 250 US Rangers on stand-by in Burundi, and 800 more French troops on stand-by in the region. None made any attempt to protect Rwandans at risk. Besides western nationals, French troops evacuated a number of well-known leaders of the extremist Hutu Power movement, including the wife of the murdered president and her family. All non-UNAMIR troops left within days, immediately after their evacuation mission was completed.

3. From the beginning of the genocide to its end, no government or organization other than NGOs formally described events in Rwanda as a genocide.

4. From beginning to end, all governments and official bodies continued to recognize the genocidaire government as the legitimate government of Rwanda.

5. The months of the genocide happened to coincide with Rwanda's turn to fill one of the non-permanent seats on the Security Council. Throughout those 3 months, the representative of the government executing the genocide continued to take that seat and participate in all deliberations, including discussions on Rwanda.

6. Almost all official bodies remained neutral as between the genocidaires and the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the mostly Tutsi rebels in the civil war that was being fought at the same time as the genocide. As if they were morally equivalent groups, both the genocidaire government and those fighting to end the genocide were called upon by the UN, the Organization of African Unity and others to agree to a cease-fire. They did not call on the genocidaires to stop the genocide. Had the RPF agreed to a cease-fire, the scale of the genocide behind government lines would have been even greater.

7. Only days after the genocide began, 2500 Tutsi as well as Hutu opposition politicians crowded into a Kigali school known as ETO, where Belgian UN troops were billeted . . . the Belgian soldiers were ordered to depart ETO to assist in evacuating foreign nationals from the country. They did so abruptly, making no arrangements whatever for the protection of those they were safeguarding. As they moved out, the killers moved in. When the afternoon was over, all 2500 civilians had been murdered.

8. After 10 Belgian UN soldiers were killed by Rwandan government troops the day after the Rwandan President's plane was shot down, Belgium withdrew all its troops from the UN mission. So that Belgium would not alone be blamed for scuttling UNAMIR, its government then strenuously lobbied the UN to disband the mission in its entirety.

9. Two weeks after the crisis had begun, with information about the magnitude of the genocide increasing by the day, the Security Council did come very close to shutting down UNAMIR altogether.  Instead, led by the USA and the United Kingdom, it voted to decimate the mission, reducing it from 2500 to 270.

10. After the deaths of 18 American soldiers in Somalia in October 1993, the United States decided to participate in no more UN military missions. The Clinton administration further decided that no significant UN missions were to be allowed at all, even if American troops would not be involved. Thanks mostly to the delaying tactics of the US, after 100 days of the genocide not a single reinforcement of UN troops or military supplies had reached Rwanda.

11. Bill Clinton later apologized for not doing more to stop the genocide. However, his claim that his administration had not been aware of the real situation was a lie.

12. French officials were senior advisers to both the Rwandan government and military in the years leading to the genocide, with unparalleled influence on both. Virtually until the moment the genocide began, they gave unconditional support as well as considerable arms to the Hutu elite. . . . To this day the French have never acknowledged their role nor apologized for it.

13. After 6 weeks of genocide, France, which offered no troops to the UN mission, suddenly decided to intervene in Rwanda. Within a week of the decision, Operation Turquoise was able to deploy 2500 men with 100 armored personnel carriers, 10 helicopters, a battery of 120 mm mortars, 4 Jaguar fighter bombers, and 8 Mirage fighters and reconnaissance planes---all for an ostensibly humanitarian operation. The French forces created a safe haven in the south-west of the country which provided sanctuary not only to fortunate Tutsi but also to many leading Rwandan government and military officials as well as large numbers of soldiers and militia---the very Hutu Power militants who had organized and carried out the genocide. ...

15. The Roman Catholic Church in Rwanda was the largest and most influential denomination in the country, with intimate ties to the government at all levels. It failed to denounce the government's explicit ethnic foundations, failed to denounce its increasing use of violence against Tutsi, failed to denounce or even name the genocide, failed to apologize for the many clergy who aided and abetted the genocidaires, and to this day has never apologized for its overall role. The Pope has refused to apologize on behalf of the Church as a whole.

16. Within months of the end of the genocide, relief workers and representatives of the international community in Rwanda were telling Rwandans they must "Quit dwelling on the past and concentrate on rebuilding for the future" and insisting that "Yes, the genocide happened, but it's time to get over it and move on."

17. George W. Bush, during the campaign for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination, was asked by a TV interviewer what he would do as president if, "God forbid, another Rwanda" should take place. He replied: "We should not send our troops to stop ethnic cleansing and genocide outside our own strategic interest. I would not send US troops into Rwanda."

18. The new Rwanda Patriotic Front government inherited a debt of close to $1 billion, some of it incurred by the previous government in genocide preparations---expanding its army and militias and buying arms. After the genocide, the RPF was obligated to repay in full the country's debt to its western lenders.

19. Following the genocide, the World Bank was left with a $160 million program of aid to Rwanda that it had extended to the previous government. . Even though the new government was penniless, the Bank refused to activate that sum until the new government paid $9 million in interest incurred by its predecessor. A Bank official told a UN representative: "After all, we are a commercial enterprise and have to adhere to our regulations. " The sum was eventually paid by some donors.

20. In the first nine months after the genocide, the donor community provided $1.4 billion in aid to the Hutu refugee camps in eastern Zaire and Tanzania. Since, as was universally known, genocidaires had taken over the camps, a good part of these funds went to feed and shelter them and to fund their re-training and re-arming as they planned cross-border raids back into Rwanda. For Rwanda itself, while donor funds for reconstruction were generously pledged, in the first year after the genocide only $68 million was actually disbursed. To this day, Rwanda has never received reparations remotely commensurate with the damage that the international community had failed to prevent.

21. Once the genocide ended, the UN military mission was finally expanded. As UNAMIR II, it remained in Rwanda for almost two more years as a peacekeeping force, costing the UN $15 million a month. But the main challenge had become less one of peacekeeping and more one of peace-building -- the reconstruction of a totally devastated country. UNAMIR had the equipment, the skills and the will to play a major role in reviving the country's shattered structures. What it lacked was the mandate and modest funding from the Security Council to perform such a role. But UN headquarters never sought such authorization from the Security Council, nor did the Council ever initiate such a move. ...

22. So far as is known, not a single person in any government or in the UN has ever been fired or held accountable for failing to intervene in the genocide. In fact, the opposite is true. Some careers flourished in the aftermath. Several of the main actors were actually promoted. We can consider this the globalization of impunity.

23. Despite the unanimity of every major study undertaken and in the face of the testimonies of survivors and the first-hand accounts of international humanitarian workers in Rwanda at the time, denial of the genocide persists. Deniers include Hutu Power advocates, many of them still active in western countries, as well as lawyers and investigators working for Hutu clients at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Denying the Rwandan genocide is the moral equivalent of denying the Holocaust.

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[Gerald Caplan was on the staff of the International Panel of Eminent Personalities appointed by the Organization of African Unity to investigate the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and is the founder of "Remembering Rwanda: The Rwanda Genocide 10th Anniversary Memorial Project".]

Source: The full text of this editorial originally published in Pambazuka News for February 5 is available at 

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History of the Genocide in Rwanda

As the smallest country in Africa with the largest population, 7 million, Rwanda has had to overcome famine, overpopulation, and, most recently, a massive genocide which reduced their population by a huge amount. The country of Rwanda has had an interesting history due to their two supposed ethnic groups, the Hutus, the majority, and the Tutsis, who consist of about 15-18% of the population. The Tutsis were more prominent in the royalty and hierarchy of the country but most of them were still peasants. The Hutus were the farmers and the Tutsis ran the cattle. During the time of European Colonization, the Belgians came to Rwanda and decided to further the gap between the peaceful Hutus and Tutsis. The Belgians saw the Tutsis as more like themselves; therefore, they took them under their wing and educated them and brought them up to be the upper echelon of society. The Europeans created tribal cards to differentiate between the two groups. Believing that they were just furthering what the Tutsis had created, the Belgians created a class system. Due to their presence, the Belgians made the discrimination between the two groups greater and yet the Hutus and Tutsis were still living together peacefully. The Hutus, having no power, accepted the role of the oppressed.

In 1962, Rwanda gained their independence from Belgium. The Europeans, however, left the country in a state of discord due to the majority of Hutus who were able to gain back their power from the Tutsis, who were viewed as feudal overlords. Soon the Party of the Hutu Emancipation Movement (PARMEHUTU) came into power. The once oppressed Hutus decided to take revenge and many Tutsis were killed. 200,000 Tutsi refugees fled to neighboring country to escape the violence that was taking place in their country. . .  .—Trincol

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A Brief History 1400 - 1994

Once, Hutus and Tutsis lived in harmony in Central Africa. About 600 years ago, Tutsis, a tall, warrior people, moved south from Ethiopia and invaded the homeland of the Hutus. Though much smaller in number, they conquered the Hutus, who agreed to raise crops for them in return for protection.

Even in the colonial era—when Belgium ruled the area, after taking it from Germany in 1916—the two groups lived as one, speaking the same language, intermarrying, and obeying a nearly godlike Tutsi king.

Independence changed everything. The monarchy was dissolved and Belgian troops withdrawn—a power vacuum both Tutsis and Hutus fought to fill. Two new countries emerged in 1962—Rwanda, dominated by the Hutus, and Burundi by the Tutsis—and the ethnic fighting flared on and off in the following decades.

It exploded in 1994 with the civil war in Rwanda in which hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed. Tutsi rebels won control, which sent a million Hutus, fearful of revenge, into Zaire and Tanzania.

In Burundi, the Tutsis yielded power after a Hutu won the country's first democratic election in 1993. He was killed in an attempted coup four months later, and his successor in a suspicious plane crash in 1994, in which the Hutu leader of Rwanda was also killed.CNN

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Why is there conflict between Tutsis and Hutus?

The bloody history of Hutu and Tutsi conflict stained the 20th century, from the slaughter of 80,000 to 200,000 Hutus by the Tutsi army in Burundi in 1972 to the 1994 Rwanda genocide in which Hutu militias targeted Tutsis, resulting in a 100-day death toll between 800,000 and 1 million.

But many observers would be surprised to learn that the longstanding conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi has nothing to do with language or religion—they speak the same Bantu tongues as well as French, and generally practice Christianity—and many geneticists have been hard-pressed to find marked ethnic differences between the two, though the Tutsi have generally been noted to be taller. Many believe that German and Belgian colonizers tried to find differences between the Hutu and Tutsi in order to better categorize native peoples in their censuses.

Generally, the Hutu-Tutsi strife stems from class warfare, with the Tutsis perceived to have greater wealth and social status (as well as favoring cattle ranching over what is seen as the lower-class farming of the Hutus). The Tutsis are thought to have originally come from Ethiopia, and arrived after the Hutu came from Chad. The Tutsis had a monarchy dating back to the 15th century; this was overthrown at the urging of Belgian colonizers in the early 1960s and the Hutu took power by force in Rwanda. In Burundi, however, a Hutu uprising failed and the Tutsis controlled the country.WorldNews

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Hutu vs Tutsi

With the arrival of catholic missions in the African great lake Region, there was a resistance from Tutsi community against conversion. The missionaries were successful with the Hutu. Properties of Tutsis were taken away from them and given to Hutus. This was the beginning of the conflict between the two ethnic groups.

Culturally, Rwanda has a monarchy system of Tutsi monarch, the Mwami. The other area that is the northwestern part is ruled by Hutu society. The rule of the king was demolished after it received independence. Currently there seem to be no cultural difference between the Tutsi and Hutu and they speak the same Bantu language. There were marriages between a Tutsi and a Hutu. The child was reared up as per the father’s culture. The impression is that Tutsi is a class and not an ethnic identity. But there are several dissimilarities in the two groups of societies.

German rulers gave special status to Tutsis as the rulers found them to be superior to Hutus. Tutsis are well turned-out people in relation to Hutus, who are shy and timid. This earned Tutsis the chance to get educated and find a place in the government. The Hutus were in majority and this special status sparked off conflicts between the two groups. This policy was followed by the Belgians who took over control of the region after World War I. Finally in the year 1959, Belgians changed their stand and allowed Hutus to form the government through proper mandate.DifferenceBetween

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Tutsi, Hutu and Hima—Cultural Background in Rwanda

Burundi and Rwanda had already become separate Tutsi kingdoms before European occupation as the Tutsi-Hima empire broke up.  The Tutsis were a minority in both territories, and currently make up about 15% of the Burundi population and about 9% in Rwanda.  But do not overlook the fact that the Tutsis and Hutus had intermarried considerably, even with the tribal class distinctions.

Some Tutsis have more Bantu features than the "pure" Tutsis.  But the Tutsis have commonly been referred to as "the tall ones" and the Hutus "the short ones."  Many observers of the region comment that there has been no real difference other than superficial differences in features, and that the "tribal" division referred to in recent history was a class distinction exploited by the Germans and treated only by the colonialists as a difference in ethnicity.

The Colonial Era
Animosity between the "indigenous" people and the Tutsis increased due to the German, then the Belgian, colonial pattern of indirect rule.  The colonials chose the Tutsi minority as their ruling class under the suzerainty of the Belgian Empire.

Under German colonial domination from 1890, Germany first occupied what is now Burundi until the end of World War 1, when Burundi and Rwanda were joined by the League of Nations under Belgian administration as Rwanda-Urundi.

Initially Belgian indirect rule supported Tutsi power, but tension built between the two tribes.  Clashes have broken out periodically in both countries.  The Tutsis have remained dominant in military and politics in Burundi, though recently Hutus have been brought into the government.OrvilleJenkins

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Hutu and Tutsi

It has been theorized that the distinctions between Hutu and Tutsi were not emphasized until the area was colonized by European settlers. When conducting census counts, the Belgians separated Africans into Tutsi and Hutu groups based solely on appearance or wealth. The colonists believed that the Tutsi were superior because they were taller and had longer noses and therefore more similar to Europeans. On this basis, only Tutsi were allowed to participate in government or seek education. Naturally, this caused dissatisfaction among the Hutu majority. In 1959, the Belgian government reversed this practice and implemented a Hutu government. Civil wars and genocides instigated by both sides have occurred periodically ever since.Mahalo

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Hutus vs. Tutsis

The ethno-racial clashes between African tribes have been particularly murderous in Rwanda and Burundi because these two small areas are the densest in Africa. Rwanda, for example, has about seven million people in an area the size of Vermont – not a lot by Western European standards, but very dense for Africa. In this relatively small area there have lived for centuries, side by side and at each other's throats, two very different racial tribes: the Hutu and Tutsi. The Tutsi are familiar to all those who saw the grand epic movie, King Solomon's Mines (the 1950 version with Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr); they are a tall, slender, graceful, noble-looking tribe, there called the Watusi. The Tutsi are an Ethiopid, Nilotic people. The Hutu, on the other hand, are short, squat Bantu, a closer approximation to what used to be called "Negro" in America. "Negroes" are now called "black," but the problem here is that the skin color of both the Tutsi and the Hutu are much the same. The real issue, as in most other cases, is not skin color but various character traits of different population groups.

The crucial point is that, in both Rwanda and Burundi, Hutus and Tutsis have coexisted for centuries; the Tutsi are about 15 percent of the total population, the Hutu about 85 percent. And yet consistently, over the centuries, the Tutsi have totally dominated, and even enserfed, the Hutu.LewRockwell

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Hutu and Tutsi  

By Aimable Twagilimana

Gr 5-9—A Rwandan linguist explains the people of Rwanda and Burundi. He deals primarily with Rwanda, and a large portion of the book (17 pages of 60) concerns Hutu/Tutsi politics and violence since 1959. This emphasis tends to obscure the roots of the problem in the colonial period. Twagilimana accurately stresses that the Hutu, Tutsi (and Twa) share language, religion, and space, with their identities having been somewhat flexible and based on unequal status. He discusses the European colonials' racial stereotypes but does not specify the profound impact of European "scientific" racism, which assumed that Tutsi and Hutu were different "races," with the Hutu born to be forever inferior.Western-educated Africans absorbed this view. Moreover, the Belgians therefore recruited Tutsi to dominate the Church, army, and civil service; most secondary school places went to the Tutsi minority; Hutu kingdoms were "Tutsified"; and changes in land rights benefited the Tutsi. —School Library Journal

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As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda

By Catherine Claire Larson

Rwanda—bloodied, scarred and nearly destroyed by the 1994 brutality of the Hutu genocide of Tutsis—is now called an uncharted case study in forgiveness by author Larson, who was inspired by the award-winning film As We Forgive. Individual stories form prototypes: there is Rosaria, left for dead in a pile of bodies, who forgives her sisters killer. And Chantal, whose family is brutally murdered yet who forgives her neighbor for the crimes. Devota, mutilated and left for dead, survives, forgives and eventually adopts several orphans. Each story is horrible and deeply personal as Larson mines the truths of forgiveness deep in each ones tale. Helpful interludes offer readers hands-on ways to facilitate forgiveness and take the next step to reconciliation in their own lives. This isn't an easy book to read or digest, yet its message is mandatory: Forgiveness can push out the borders of what we believe is possible. Reconciliation can offer us a glimpse of the transfigured world to come.—Publishers Weekly

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Rwanda Ten Years after   Rwanda Genocide Conference  Clinton Administration  The Struggle Odes  Ode #95

The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo (Film Review by Kam Williams)



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Rape Crisis in Congo Tied to Mining ActivityWashington Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues, helped launch an international awareness raising campaign called V-Day in 2007 to end sexual violence in eastern Congo. UNICEF estimates that hundreds of thousands of girls have been raped in the last decade in the two eastern provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu. "Corporate greed, fueled by capitalist consumption, and the rape of women have merged into a single nightmare," Eve Ensler said at U.S. Senate hearings on May 13. "Women's bodies are the battleground of an economic war." Ensler said that international mining companies with significant investments in eastern Congo value economic interest over the bodies of women by trading with rebels who use rape as a tactic of war in areas rich in coltan, gold and tin.

"Military solutions are no longer an option," she said. "All they do is bring about the rape of more women." The United States has invested more than $700 million in humanitarian aid and peacekeeping to Congo, according to the U.S. Department of State.

Prendergast said this money will do nothing to root out the economic causes of eastern Congo's conflict and sexual violence.

He said a comprehensive long-term strategy to combat rape needs to change the economic calculus of armed groups. Prendergast asked senators to support the Congo Conflict Minerals Act, which was introduced by Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin and Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold in April of this year.

The bill aims to break the link between resource exploitation and armed conflict in eastern Congo by requiring companies trading minerals with Congo or neighboring states to disclose mine locations and monitor the financing of armed groups in eastern Congo's mineral-rich areas.

"The sooner the illicit conflict minerals trade is eliminated, the sooner the people of Congo will benefit from their own resources," said Prendergrast. U.S. consumers, Prendergrast said, can also help by pressuring major electronic companies - from Apple to Sony - to certify that cell phones, computers and other products contain "conflict-free minerals," a campaign tactic popularized by the Sierra Leone-based film Blood Diamonds.     Such a process would use a tracking system for components, similar to that developed in 2007 under the Kimberly Process. This international certification scheme ensures that trade in rough diamonds doesn't fuel war, as it did in Angola, Cote d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone during the 1990s.

Germany has already developed a pilot fingerprinting system for tin that could be expanded to other minerals and help establish certified trading chains, linking legitimate mining sites to the international market. Truthout

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Congo has attracted attention in the media [as a place that is suffering] systematic rape in war. One statistic quoted is 200,000 rapes since the beginning of the war 14 years ago, and it is certainly an underestimate.

When in Congo, I met government representatives and particularly women who had been raped and violated. It was interesting but also disappointing - nothing is getting better and more and more civilians are committing rapes.

But I should be fair and say that there has been progress, the government has introduced laws against rape, it has a national plan and there is political will. There is a lot to do to implement the legislation, but now there is an ambitious legal ground to stand on to be implemented by the police, judiciary and health care. Margot Wallstrom - "There Is Almost Total Impunity for Rape in Congo"

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How did Rwanda cut poverty so much?—16 February 2012—The small African nation of Rwanda recently announced that it had cut poverty by 12% in six years, from 57% of its population to 45%. That equals roughly a million Rwandans emerging from poverty -- one of the most stunning drops in the world.It's a remarkable achievement for Rwanda, which has emerged from civil war and a bloody ethnic genocide in the 1990s. How did it happen? The Times quizzed Paul Collier, director of the Center for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University, about the  numbers.

How did Rwanda cut its poverty so much?—There were one or two helpful events, notably the rise in world coffee prices, which pumped money into the rural economy, but, of course, overall the global economy since 2005 has not provided an easy environment for success. Hence, most of the achievement is likely due to domestic policies. Rwanda is the nearest that Africa gets to an East Asian-style “developmental state,” where the government gets serious about trying to grow the economy and where the president runs a tight ship within government built on performance rather than patronage. There were strong supporting policies for the rural poor—the “one cow” program [that distributed cows to poor households free of charge], which spread assets, and the improvements in health programs. Alongside this, the economy was well managed, with inflation kept low, and the business environment improved, both of which helped the main city, Kigali, to grow. Growth in Kigali then spread benefits to rural areas—the most successful rural districts were those closest to Kigali.

When you say well managed, what do you mean? What choices did the government make that were signs of good management?—Basically, [President Paul] Kagame built a culture of performance at the top of the civil service. Ministers were well paid, but set targets. If they missed the targets there were consequences. Each year, the government holds a whole-of-government retreat where these performances are reviewed: good performance rewarded, and poor performers required to explain themselves.An example is the strategy to improve Rwanda's rating on the World Bank's “Doing Business” annual rating, where over the course of six years the country moved from around 140th to 60th in the world rankings. Each component of the ratings was assigned each year to an appropriate minister. So over time, a cadre of government officials has been built up who believe in their ability not just to strategize but to get things done.— LaTimesBlogs

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.”

Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.WashingtonPost

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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.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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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

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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 29 January 2012




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