ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes

   

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I grew up watching my father pushed into the corners of rooms at family gatherings in Brooklyn. No

one ever looked to him for an opinion. I never heard him having any major political agreement

or disagreement with someone. My father was invisible . . .

 

 

Books by E. Ethelbert Miller

 

How We Sleep on the Nights We Don’t Make Love  /  Fathering Words  / In Search of Color Everywhere

 

First Light: New and Selected Poems Where are the Love Poems for Dictators?  /  Whispers, Secrets and Promises

 

Beyond The Frontier: African-American Poetry for the 21st Century  / Season of Hunger/Cry of Rain

 

Synergy: An Anthology of Washington D.C. Black Poetry

 

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On Silences and Father's Day

By E. Ethelbert Miller

 June 20, 2009

 

Tomorrow is Father’s Day. I’m hundreds of miles away from my son and daughter. They are 22 and 27 and living in two different cities. I’m not a missing dad. I’ve never been missing. Neither was my father. I come from the tradition of quiet and silent men. The tradition of fathers who never left their wives and children, but instead “disappeared” into basements, backrooms, back porches and bedroom corners. The tradition of men who could always be found asleep in front of a television set or sitting in the dark mumbling at walls.

I come from the tradition of fathers who were watchers and providers; men who were ignored or unable to help during emergencies. My fatherhood has been defined by such things as the inability to drive, master the tools in a toolbox, or place a star at the top of a Christmas tree. How many times during a family crisis did my wife just pick-up the phone and call her brother in Iowa or a friend living down the street?

Within his own home, my father was never viewed as “the smart one.” This title was bestowed on my brother Richard, his first born and later my sister as a result of her becoming a nurse. Every family should have someone in the medical profession. It’s like having a second key or a smoke detector that works.

I grew up watching my father pushed into the corners of rooms at family gatherings in Brooklyn. No one ever looked to him for an opinion. I never heard him having any major political agreement or disagreement with someone. My father was invisible until someone died. That was when he became a man of comfort for relatives that he always considered distant.

When I think about my father, I am reminded about the loneliness that comes with fatherhood. I am reminded of the intimacy that never raised its hand. Stoic is a word I can’t use to describe him. Sadness seems like the proper sweater he could have worn.

My father, Egberto Miller coming home late from work, night after night. My mother always up and ready to fix him something to eat. Yet how often did she join him at the table? Where was the intimacy? Was it the darkness outside the kitchen window? Did my parents just simply speak a common language?

The shadow of my father continues to fall over my fatherhood, as the period of my life moves toward fall.  My children are grown. They are perhaps a few years from becoming parents. I picked up the newspaper today and read where President Obama wants to begin a national conversation on fatherhood. A conversation, maybe that’s what was missing during all my days of fatherhood. A conversation, not a lecture or an explanation. A conversation where one talks and listens, and where one is listened to. How many of us live quiet lives of desperation? We live without partners, within and outside marriage.

We talk about fathers and fatherhood but we often lip sync. We say those things we want others to hear. My father never really said much to me. My conversation was always with my mother, as I find my own children are with theirs.

What we never seem to talk about is how the men who stayed with their families suffered from the absence of intimacy in their lives. We never talk about the quiet death of their hearts. We fail to record these stories because we prefer myths and fairytales. We want to believe in happy endings, especially on Father’s day.  I remember my father this June because he was a good man. Was he happy?  No. I overheard my father’s praying one day to God. I was little at the time. I was surprised to see my father on his knees in the bedroom. I was even more surprised when God didn’t answer.

E. Ethelbert Miller  June 20, 2009

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#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
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#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 Eroticanoir.com 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

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#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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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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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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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 20 June 2009

 

 

 

Home  E Ethelbert Miller Table

Related files: Fathering Words  Poem for Our Fathers    A Response to Professor Cleanth Brooks   Fathering Words  My Father Is Dead   My Father Still Comes to Me What do you say to fathers   

The Weight and Substance of A Father's Law    Understanding London: A Review