ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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 They have taught me that people of my kind are black, and that white is the opposite of black.

I took a second look at my sister. She is not black. I have seen a very hard, heavy,

dark-coloured wood before. My sister is ebony. 



The Second Slavery Ship

By Hakeem Babalola


The boat came ashore. It was a huge boat, and enough to contain a billion people. The lettering still reads SSS. My brother, sister, and I struggled to embark, thinking Success Story Ship. I still do not know how we misinterpreted the inscription on that scorching day. But I remember that many people had struggled to board that big boat. I still remember how certain parents abused and flogged their unwilling kids. They must enter the Success Story Ship. They must go learn the white man magic – to enslave their peers and, or the unfortunate ones.

It was like yesterday. I remember a man and a woman wearing white uniforms. They are not as white as the uniform, but everyone called them white. It was not until I managed to enter onto the ship that I took a closer look. The woman is closer to red, while the man is more of pink. I was confused. My English and history teacher always referred to people of this kind as white. They have taught me that people of my kind are black, and that white is the opposite of black. I took a second look at my sister. She is not black. I have seen a very hard, heavy, dark-coloured wood before. My sister is ebony. 

It was the woman who smiled at me. My stomach rumbled and fear came onto me. It was as if she knew my thought. At this point I wanted to tell her that her colour was red and not white, but I dismissed the thought, for she might refuse to ship me to their land. If that had happened, my father would have killed me. My father would have rebuked me saying, “Curiosity kills the cat”. I had seen how much respect my father had for these people. As a kid, I grew up knowing that people like this woman are superior. Like my forefathers, my own father worships white man.

I did not smile back. I was just occupied with the reasons behind my teachers calling her white, and why they insist I am the opposite of her; why my father holds her in high esteem; why my father had said he would kill me if I couldn’t make it to the white woman land. It pained me that I have to listen to my father’s voice. “White man is superior.”    

The woman came nearer. She flashed another smile. It was radiant but my quick glance detected something suspicious. Her uniform even attracted me more than herself. I did not look up even when she tapped me on my shoulder.

"Young man," she said. "What's on your mind?"

My heart leapt. "Nothing," I lied.

I must have disappointed my father, for he had told me several times never to show my emotion, especially to the "white man".

"You must have been thinking about the journey…"

For the first time I looked at her penetrating eyes. It was like that of my grandmother's dark cat. And so she began:

"This is SSS. We have brought it for a purpose. It is a long time project, and it's all over this continent. We know that you're intelligent people. We know that given the chance you people would become world power. But that would be over the white man's dead body. Your continent shall remain a dumping ground quite a while. And I am not talking about half a century. Much longer! This is how it has been planned. Forget about debt cancellation, poverty eradication in Africa, AIDS for Africa. These are all slavery slogans. And we know it.

"The only way out for you people is to reject white man's system. As long as you follow him, be sure you will never beat him in his own game. You have to develop your own unique line of thought – quite different from ours. Some deep thinkers among you have proposed this line of thought but are being rebuked as lunatics. Anyway, we won’t let you discover yourselves. We would confuse you the more because it is a do or die affair…Your only hope is revolution but we would prevent that at all cost.

"This ship is a metaphor of our message. We had thought we would use force to recruit young men and women but see, you all aboard voluntarily. I am sure that the brightest among you are on this ship, meaning the future of your continent is in our palm. My colleagues and I were actually dumbfounded to see many of you being caned by your parents for a place on this ship. But young man, there's a possibility to turn this journey into another SSS (Success Story Ship). However, you must be ready to do more than just follow...follow like your so-called leaders.

"We are actually making a research about the thinking faculty of leaders in Africa. We are curious about their instinct to kill the best to grow. For example, we would like to know why any reasonable government would allow its future to be easily taken away as it is happening on this very ship. We really want to know why they must kneel before the White House in order to feel important. In fact we want to know whether leaders in Africa do think or not. When are they going to realise that we don’t respect beggar, but your leaders are professional beggars; we don’t respect moron, but your leaders are close to being morons…" 

Two things had struck me about this woman: her candid double-talk and her ability to read my mind. A gift I would later know as the science of mental life. My grandmother had been good at it, too. I remember people always troop to our house in order to benefit from her wise counsel. Her prediction was always accurate. And then one day, the same people stoned her to death. “You’re a witch,” they shouted.

The woman's harangue was the vehicle by which I rode to my own thought. As we continued the voyage in which I have already lost many of my brothers and sisters (some swept away by water, some died of hunger, some committed suicide, some executed), I began to torture myself. Why did they murder my grandmother for being an oracle who was benevolent to her society? Who killed Fela Anikulapo-Kuti? What killed Bob Marley? What prevents African intellectuals like Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Ali Mazrui, Niyi Osundare, etc., from living permanently in their continent? Why do African rulers siphon money and/or prefer to die in white woman land? Is it because they have – at one time or another – boarded the Second Slavery Ship?

Happy Birthday to Bob Marley  @ February 2007

posted 18 February 2007

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Escape from Slavery: The True Story  (Francis Bok) / Slave: My True Story (Mende Nazer)


Alek: My Life from Sudanese Refugee to International Supermodel (Alek Wek)

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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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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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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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Home Transitional Writings on Africa   The African World

Related files: The Second Slavery Ship  Living with Immigration Torture   A Nightclub Forbidden to African  Nigerians Blood on their Hands  Gambian Godfather  They Make Me Hate My Type   Life as African Hungarian 

African Hungarian Union   Oil Wars in the Niger Delta  Africa: 50 Years of Independence   Libya: The Return of Colonialist Bondage  Subsidising, Fraud, Lies, and Blood