ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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Unfortunately for us, we African Americans have internalized the psychology of

the oppressed. After fifteen generations or more of subservience, Black inferiority

is all we know. A major corollary of our inferiority complex, is a high tolerance

for suffering. Indeed, our tolerance of downpression verges on an addiction to suffering.



Books by Kalamu ya Salaam


The Magic of JuJu: An Appreciation of the Black Arts Movement  /   360: A Revolution of Black Poets

Everywhere Is Someplace Else: A Literary Anthology  /  From A Bend in the River: 100 New Orleans Poets

Our Music Is No Accident   /  What Is Life: Reclaiming the Black Blues Self

My Story My Song (CD)


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Tarzan Can Not Return to Africa But I Can


By Kalamu ya Salaam


S: What's Your Name

            Wangui wa Goro is from Kenya. A long way from Kenya. She lives in exile in England. Unable to return to Kenya because of the clash of her human rights activism with Kenya's current barbaric administration.

            She is both a creative writer and a translator. Her most well known work is the translating of Ngugi wa Thiongo's books into English. She is often identified as Ngugi's translator. Some people even assume they are related.            

            So there is a double frustration in her life. She can't go home because home is politically inhospitableshe will be jailed or, worse yet, assassinated should she return. Additionally, her important work of translating overshadows her creative writing.             

            For a day or so, Wangui stays at the Marnico guest house but eventually moves to another hotel. Later when we all return to Accra after the colloquium, we are staying together at the Mariset Hotel in the East Cantonment area of Accra.             

            There are two Mariset Hotels in Accra. This one is a lovely little, isolated accommodation. There is original contemporary Ghanaian art decoring the walls. The rooms are, for my taste, more comfortable than the Novatel. They have a small fridge in each room. We use ours for water and juice concentrates. There's a basket in the room with a fragrant potpourri and the telephones have the "standard American plugs" on them. Mariset's brochure notes them as "international" telephone hook-ups. I resist the temptation to jump on line and check my E-mail.           

            We see each other at breakfast and are soon conversing.            

            Wangui is traveling with her six year old son, Mbuguah. A son who has never seen Kenya. "The only time he was in Kenya was when he was a small seed growing inside of me." Mbuguah nevertheless identifies Kenya as home.

            Wangui is also joined by Adotey Bing, the director of Africa Centre in London. I share some of the Tarzan manuscript with them.

            I have been working at night throughout the trip and have already completed over seventy-five percent of the writing. Fortunately, in Cape Coast I was able to print out the manuscript. My Mac Powerbook has Apple file exchange. I've brought both Mac and DOS discs with me. The setup in the temporary Cape Coast colloquium office is DOS-based. I transfer the file to a DOS disc and print with no problem. There is no way I could have written all of this without a portable computer.           

            Even while many of my colleagues continue to resist using computers and hooking up E-mail, the fact is the computer revolution is irreversible. In Accra, one small record store on a nondescript side street had a computer. Between computers and advances in telecommunications, Africa will quickly be able to close a significant developmental gap.

            Day to day communications across the continent, as well as between Africa and the rest of the world will take a gigantic leap in the next two or three years. This will unavoidably also advance Pan Africanism, a philosophy which seeks unity of the African world and thus grows closer to fruition simultaneously with increased, easier, and more accessible communications. To my way of thinking, the computer revolution is a boon for our movement.            

            As the manuscript goes around the table, we talk. Wangui asks me about my name. She speaks Swahili and wonders how my Swahili name came about. I tell her I took my name at Kwanzaa in 1970 and that it was a political choice. 

            While we knew that the majority of African Americans came from the West Coast of Africa, we chose Swahili because it was the only African language that was the official language of an African country. Most African countries use the former colonial language as the official language. Swahili was also a Pan African, trade  language spoken up and down the East Coast and throughout parts of Central Africa. It was a language that was not associated with any one people. It was easy to learn and had a basic grammatical structural.

            Wangui corrected me. Although it was widely used by various peoples, it nevertheless was the indigenous language of a specific group of people. She then commented that she liked my name: "pen of peace." 

            Wangui is one of those gentle, iron-willed spirits who possesses a fierce quietness. As silent as a distant mountain in the moonlight, and just as unmovable in her convictions. She speaks in a tone about two small steps above a whisper but she is also an independent thinker and a person of purposeful movement. From my brief observations during the few days we were together, I surmise there is very little wasted motion in anything she does. Because of her focused intensity, there is no danger that her quietness will be mistaken for shyness or timidness.             

            Wangui, her son, and Adotey had an earlier flight than we did, and so checked out early in the afternoon. At that time I saw a demonstration of her battle stancing, the kind of principle-based movement which I'm sure drove the Kenyan law and order fascists straight up their government walls. When the hotel bill was presented, Wangui refused to sign for the last day. Wangui's position, which she stated in calm nonnegotiable terms, was that they were not staying in the room that night and therefore should not be charged for it. The clerk said the policy was they should be charged for the night because they were checking out in the afternoon. 

             The clerk couldn't believe what was happening because all she wanted was for Wangui to sign for the bill. PANAFEST was going to pay for it. The money wasn't going to come out of Wangui's pocket. But for Wanguiit was about principle and not money. Finally, Wangui drew a line separating the charges and signed for the other two nights but did not sign for the last day.              

            The whole exchange took maybe five or six minutes. The clerk had struck a rock. Wangui was like a tree planted by the water in her intransigence. There was no doubt in my mind that a woman such as this would be killed in contemporary Kenya which is rent by divisive neocolonial tribal politics. 

            The majority of African states are not politically ready to confront the limitations of tribalism and nationalism, a potent mix which is always self destructive. Moreover, as the conflagrations in Bosnia make clear, the extreme negative that results from mixing tribalism and nationalism is not a racial characteristic, even though, thanks to the cultural hegemony of colonialism, whenever one says "tribalism" one immediately thinks about either Native Americans or Africans.

            But regardless of the location or source, we must confront and overcome the limitations of tribalism and nationalism. This process of overturning ourselves is the life work of Wangui wa Goro

            When confronted by a free thinking woman, there is no doubt that many of today's nominal African leaders (most of whom are not just malethey are also "macho") will exhibit a negative response. Her traditional opponents notwithstanding, Wangui wa Goro's no nonsense, principled and fearless attitude is precisely the quality of leadership that (Pan-)Africa needs.

*   *   *

            Pan African leadership, as its history demonstrates, will come from unexpected places and in its own time. The first day we were in Accra we went to the Du Bois Centre. Du Bois, an ardent and globally significant Pan Africanist, is buried in Ghana.

            W.E.B. Du Bois did not start off his professional life as a Pan Africanist. In fact, when he was a founding member of the NAACP, he was often the only person of color integrating these meetings. Eventually, he broke with the NAACP. As important as his NAACP work was, it was as a Pan Africanist that Du Bois made his mark internationally. He was one of the chief organizers of the important Pan African Conferences, international gatherings which fueled the then nascent African independence movements. Attendees included many of the initial heads of state of countries such as Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria.

            Du Bois' advocacy of Pan Africanism came as a surprise to some who identified Du Bois as one of Garvey's staunchest and unremitting critics. In his book, Dusk of Dawn, Du Bois sums up the conflict between himself and Garvey in a charitable fashion, displaying none of the bitterness and name-calling that was characteristic of their long running feud. 

My first effort was to explain away the Garvey movement and ignore it; but it was a mass movement that could not be ignored. I noted this movement from time to time in the Crisis and said in 1920 that Garvey was "an extraordinary leader of men" and declared that he had "with singular success capitalized and made vocal the great and long-suffering grievances and spirit of protest among the West Indian peasantry." Later when he began to collect money for his steamship line, I characterized him as a hard-working idealist, but called his methods bombastic, wasteful, illogical, and almost illegal. I begged his friends not to allow him foolishly to overwhelm with bankruptcy and disaster "one of the most interesting spiritual movements of the modern world." But he went ahead, wasted his money, got in trouble with the authorities and was deported from the United States. He made a few abortive efforts later, but finally died in London in 1940, poor and neglected.

            The unfortunate debacle of his over-advertised schemes naturally hurt and made difficult further effective development of the Pan-African Congress idea. Nevertheless, a third Pan-African Congress was attempted in 1923. It was less broadly representative than the second, but of some importance, and was held in London, Paris, and Lisbon. Thence I went to Africa and for the first time saw the homeland of the black race. 

            Eventually Du Bois repatriated to Ghana and, in so doing, gave his personal answer to the question of "double consciousness" which Du Bois eloquently articulated in the Souls of Black Folk

. . . It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness, -- an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.

            The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife, -- this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He would not Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face. 

            What is most interesting is that only after visiting Africa is Du Bois able to articulate the Negro "message for the world." In a word, it is humanism. Africa can teach humanism. Upon reading Du Bois' reflections on seeing Africa, I felt that in December of 1994 I had seen the same essence of Africa that Du Bois saw in December of 1923 and wrote about in Dusk of Dawn.

And there and elsewhere in two long months I began to learn: primitive men are not following us afar, frantically waving and seeking our goals; primitive men are not behind us in some swift foot-race. Primitive men have already arrived. They are abreast, and in places ahead of us; in others behind. But all their curving advance line is contemporary, not pre-historic. They have used other paths and these paths have led them by scenes sometimes fairer, sometimes uglier than ours, but always toward the Pools of Happiness. Or, to put it otherwise, these folk have the leisure of true aristocracyleisure for thought and courtesy, leisure for sleep and laughter. They have time for their childrensuch well-trained, beautiful children with perfect, unhidden bodies. Have you ever met a crowd of children in the east of London or New York, or even on the Avenue at Forty-second or One Hundred and Forty-second Street, and fled to avoid their impudence and utter ignorance of courtesy? Come to Africa, and see well-bred and courteous children, playing happily and never sniffling and shining.

 I have read everywhere that Africa means sexual license. Perhaps it does. Most who folk talk sex frantically have all too seldom revealed their source material. I was in West Africa only two months, but with both eyes wide, I saw children quite naked and women usually naked to the waistwith bare bosom and limbs. And in those sixty days I saw less of sex dalliance and appeal than I see daily on Fifth Avenue. This does not mean much, but it is an interesting fact.

The primitive black man is courteous and dignified. If the platforms of Western cities had swarmed with humanity as I have seen the platforms swarm in Senegal, the police would have a busy time. I did not see one respectable quarrel. Wherefore shall we all take to the Big Bush? No. I prefer New York. But my point is that New York and London and Paris must learn of West Africa and may learn.

. . . African life with its isolation has deeper knowledge of human souls. The village life, the forest ways, the teeming markets, bring in intimate human knowledge that the West misses, sinking the individual in the social. Africans know fewer folk, but know them infinitely better. Their intertwined communal souls, therefore, brook no poverty nor prostitutionthese things are to them un-understandable. On the other hand, they are vastly ignorant of what the world is doing and thinking, and of what is known of its physical forces. They suffer terribly from preventable disease, from unnecessary hunger, from the freaks of the weather.

 Here, then, is something for Africa and Europe both to learn; and Africa is eager, breathless, to learnwhile Europe? Europe laughs with loud guffaws. Learn of Africa? Nonsense. Poverty cannot be abolished. Democracy and firm government are incompatible. Prostitution is world old and inevitable. And Europe proceeds to use Africa as a means and not as an end; as a hired tool and welter of raw materials and not as a land of human beings.

I think it was in Africa that I came more clearly to see the close connection between race and wealth. The fact that even in the minds of the most dogmatic supporters of race theories and believers in the inferiority of colored folk to white, there was a conscious or unconscious determination to increase their incomes by taking full advantage of this belief. And then gradually this thought was metamorphosed into a realization that the income-bearing value of race prejudice was the cause and not the result of theories of race inferiority; that particularly in the United States the income of the Cotton Kingdom based on black slavery caused the passionate belief in Negro inferiority and determination to enforce it even by arms.

            This is the Du Bois who lived out his last years working in Ghana. This is the Du Bois, his eyes opened by Africa, who committed class suicide by siding with the development of the African masses rather than remaining a lionized intellectual in America. This is the DuBois whom most of us seldom encounter. A Du Bois who tired of the high wire, double consciousness balancing act, and decided to cast his total lot with Pan Africanism.

            Du Bois was an intellectual: first, last and always. His was no romantic nor nostalgic cleaving to Africa. He was a rationalist unswayed by emotionalism and appeals to sentimentality. Here's how he described himself in Dusk of Dawn, his autobiography written when he was seventy years old as a summing up of his life:

My leadership was a leadership solely of ideas. I never was, nor ever will be, personally popular. This was not simply because of my idiosyncrasies but because I despise the essential demagoguery of personal leadership; of that hypnotic ascendancy over men which carries out objectives regardless of their value or validity, simply by personal loyalty and admiration. In my case I withdrew sometimes ostentatiously from the personal nexus, but I sought all the more determinedly to force home essential ideas.             

    One of the most forceful of those ideas is this seldom quoted insight in which Du Bois locates the fervor and future of Pan Africanism squarely in the masses of the Diaspora.       

 . . . From the eighteenth century down the Negro intelligentsia has regarded segregation as the visible badge of their servitude and as the object of their unceasing attack. The upper class Negro has almost never been nationalistic. He has never planned or thought of a Negro state or a Negro church or a Negro school. This solution has always been a thought upsurging from the mass, because of pressure which they could not withstand and which compelled a racial institution or chaos. Continually such institutions were founded and developed, but this took place against the advice and best thought of the intelligentsia.

            Pan Africanism will have its day. Will future rise. But not because of ideas, no matter how prescient or how logical. Rather Pan Africanism will rise because the masses of we African people in the Diaspora will find that their brightest future is located in the complex matrix/nexus of African unity and not simplistically in the countries wherever we may have been born as a result of colonialism and the slave trade. Our brightest future will be wherever we can band together and work with and for each other as a specific manifestation of Africa, whether that be at "home" in the Americas or abroad, in the Diaspora or on the continent of Africa.

            The secret of Pan Africanism is that it is about Africa the people and not simply about Africa the land. Make no mistake, the control of Africa the land mass is important. But the ultimate measure of civilization is the social welfare of the people and not the material level of industrial development or lack thereof.

            Africa: The children smiling. The women toiling. The men struggling mightily to make things work: old cars, crumbling buildings, underdeveloped townships. The people. Waking up. Walking. Working. Talking. Touching. Singing. Dancing. Collectively.

*   *   *

            Tomika. Jamilla. Shaqiel. Kunta. Kwame. Lashawna. Tariq. Kenya. Rhodesia. LaToya. Keasha. Aiesha. Damieka. Damella. Shawneeka. Tupac. Assata.

            And the list goes on and on and on. African-sounding names picked by the working class to illustrate their identification with Africa even when they don't know one word of an Africa language.

            To some people this is all laughable.

            Pan Africanism is laughable.

            Africa is laughable.

            These nonsensical, totally homemade, made-up, crazy sounding names: laughable.

            Laugh if you want to, but Africa is alive. It's alive and it's the working masses keeping Pan Africanism alive. All across the Diaspora.

            A child is conceived in Kenya and born in England. His mother teaches him that Africa is his home.

            In Ghana we met elderly African American women. Quiet. In their sixties. Some of them married to Ghanaians. They've been there twenty, thirty years. Not thinking about returning.

            In America there are thousands and thousands, thousands and thousands of African Americans who will never return to Africa but who turned out to support both Winnie and Nelson Mandela when they separately toured the United States.

            The will is alive in the hearts of the masses.

            The worsening conditions of our inner cities waters the tree of Pan Africanism. As massive lay-offs increase and government entitlements decrease. As personal security can no longer be guaranteed, and, indeed, insecurity and fear become the norm. As family ties unravel and people find themselves living not blocks or a few miles away from the nearest relative, but living in different states separated by thousands of miles. And, conversely, as the world shrinks because of technological advances in telecommunications and computers. All of this contributes to the development of Pan Africanism.

            What is now a leap of faith, tomorrow may be but one small and rationale step toward a better life.

            As the skilled and semi-skilled working masses of us: the teachers and mechanics, social workers and industrial equipment operators, postal workers and truck drivers, nurses and medical care providers (e.g., x-ray and laboratory technicians, therapists and nutritionists), administrators and office workers, accountants and retail merchants, as those of us who work everyday and help make the world go round, as we assess our relative positions and, increasingly, opt to investigate and exercise other options, particularly the option of living and working elsewhere, for us Africa will become more and more attractive.

            Pan Africanism's most pressing problem is not a lack of will but a lack of leadership. Committed and inspiring leadership which can articulate and implement solid plans which provide linkage and opportunity. Leadership. But it's coming.

            And the bulk of this leadership will not be the extraordinary individual geniuses but rather will be composed of the ordinary, hard working laborers who will choose a historic option, and, in so doing, make real the promise of Pan Africanism. The leadership will rise from among the most capable of the masses. From those whose strange and funny names are illustrative of an undying African dream. From those who right now may not even have a clue. No concern for Pan-anything. Just young and full of themselves, looking to make a way in the world and sure to find no way. None of their names inscribed anywhere. And they will be forced, by circumstance and by the intransience of our historic oppressors (both internal and external), these young people, if they are to become even marginally productive as adults, these young people will have to struggle for their rights. Indeed, even if all they want to do is party, they will have to struggle for their right to party. They will have to struggle just to live.

            The nineties will be both the best of times and the worse of times to be young, not to mention gifted and black. But out of the ever encroaching social malaise which threatens to engulf all of us, a new wave of leadership will emerge. A leadership which will turn to Africa, the Africa within all of us as well as Africa the continent. Some of them will "choose" to turn that way. Others will turn toward Africa because they have no other viable choice. In the long term, in terms of the social development of the masses of our people, linking and uniting Africa, that is the only way ahead available to the leadership that is coming.

            From: Tomaniqua. Nefertteti. Ashanti. Cinque. The leadership is coming. From: Oduno. Latifa. Tiaji. Bomani. It's coming. Leadership, the last missing puzzle piece, is coming. 

T: Polling on a River of Rhythm

            In Cape Coast we go to a Durbar. All the chiefs in the central region are carried in procession to a program in an open field near the sea. They are all dressed like something Ebony Fashion Fair has yet to attain. Gold for days. Kente and brocade, weaves and prints in colors so vibrant every movement is a dance. Drummers everywhere.

            But what is most impressive to me is that these are elders lining up, patiently waiting until it is their turn to march in. There are young, strong men carrying the chiefs. There are young strong men beating the drums. But the elders are also there. Linguists with staffs. An occasional master drummer. Queen mothers sheltered under beautiful umbrellas, stunning as gigantic butterflies.

            Nobody pushes. Shoves. Or complains.

            The procession starts and for fifteen minutes shy of two hours they parade around the field. Each king has an assigned area. Nothing is running on time but everything is in order.

            A duo of athletic young men parades with twirling flags. Huge flags embroidered with signs and symbols. They strut. They jump. They squat, drop, duck walk, kick spin, lay on their backs in the dust, always keeping the flags flying through the air so violently fast they seem to stiffly stand straight out as if they were made of wood instead of fabric. As they pass you hear the rough flutter of the flags bull roaring through the air. Later in the program they dance before the kings and the president. The announcer explains that they represent resistance. The people would dance. The colonial police would try to stop them. The colonial powers would try to jail them. But they danced. They danced. All of this was acted out. Here was the cakewalk turned inside out. They danced.

            A real brass band comes strutting in. Young men, swaying, dipping, dancing as  they play trumpets, bugles, a flugelhorn, trombones, euphoniums, even a French horn, and of course snare drum, a bass drum and cymbals. They remind me of their counterparts in New Orleans, the same vitality. They even do a number with a one drop incorporating reggae into their sound the same way young bands are doing in the Crescent City.

            Then there is the procession of this group of sisters playing instruments, singing and dancing. Instruments that are traditionally played by mena cylindrical shaped horn patterned on an elephant's tusk, held horizontal and blown at the small end. The Mmenson Group are one of the musical highlights. I remember them from the castle procession. To hear them. To see them. They move with a graceful, syncopated gait, blowing their horns, beating their drums, and dancing as they parade. They are young, vital, a clear female compass for Ghana's future.

            At the rear of the procession comes what we would call a secondline. A band of poor folk beating on boxes, makeshift drums, and an old drum or two which has definitely seen better days. They parade around the whole field and then off the field. The police did not stop them. They laughed, and drummed, and sang, and danced. They had no king, but they were swinging.

            At one point there must have been four or five different drum things happening within twenty feet of each other. Each kept its own beat flowing. The sonorous cacophony of rhythm was astounding. A chaos of order.

            In this swirl of humanity, swirl of colors, swirl of sounds, within the sandaled procession of chiefs and elders, the vibrant ebullience of strutting youth, the amazement of visitors, amid all of this there was room for everyone. Everything was in order.

Source: WordUp

*   *   *   *   *

U: Oh, What a Feeling

            Riding in a car or bus on the recently asphalted road up the coast from Accra to the Cape Coast Castle is rough enough. It is super hard to imagine being driven to the castle on foot, chains around your neck and your ankles, trodding barefoot through the bush. This is not "jungle" area, but heavy bush, rocky ground in some places.

            As we drive for better than two hours my eyes get tired and I doze. My ancestors herded like cattle, were force marched for hours beneath sun with whiplash licking their bare backs. They too were tired, but they were never allowed to doze.

            Standing in the magazine where they kept the powder and looking through the portal down into the dungeon where people are now standing with torch light in the very spaces where their ancestors were crowded, peering into those ancient spaces, I do not feel anger, I do not feel spirits calling me, I do not feel anything. I simply understand that we did not stand a chance. And that is a cold and helpless feeling.

*   *   *

            After one of the symposium I was talking to Kofi Anyidoho, complimenting his presentation, "Slave Castle, African Historical Mindscape & Literary Imagination."

            He touched my hand.

            I held his unforced touch.

            There are no words for all of this.

*   *   *

            My oldest child, my daughter Asante preceded me to Ghana. Back in August 1994 she went for six weeks. An opportunity to travel presented itself and she jumped on it. She and Jelsy, a Haitian born artist friend. The trip was important for Asante.

            Many, many years ago, in 1969, Tayari, Asante's mother and my ex-wife, spent a summer in Ghana with Operations Crossroads. And now I am crossing the sea to this place. What is it? Ghana calling? What?

            Asante laughs one day as we are talking about something and comments on how fragile men are. "Men are so fragile. They have this tough ego shell, but inside they're so fragile. They're just like all the shell creatures of nature. Without their shell, they can't make it."

            I am standing here holding a grown man's hand.

            It takes some getting used to.

            Reentry into Africa is an emotional strip search for self.

            Crawling out of my red, white, and blue shell. Crawling out of my negro shell. Crawling out of my dominant male ego shell. Crawling out of my shell and wondering will I ever learn to fly—where are my wings?


            And that's all I can say right now. Maybe.

V: The Whole of Ourselves

            Our African identity, like all of life, is contradictory in nature. We have both great negatives and great positives that we must face. At certain periods of negritudinal reaction to racism and colonialism, we romanticize our positives. At other periods after fighting and sacrificing for so long, we wallow in the self indulgence of shams. Sham development. Sham socialism. Sham democracy. Sham capitalism. Sham nationalism.

            What we must face and embrace is the whole of ourselves and not simply those parts which are acceptable to Tarzan or those parts which make us feel big like Tarzan.

            Emulating Tarzan is easy, but what does that lead to but one or two junior European cities per country, with mayors and presidents who, on an international level, exhibit the same impotence as did traditional tribal chiefs who, when confronted by European military might, were forced to "negotiate" with, and eventually capitulate to, the kings and presidents, generals and mercenaries, merchants and bankers of Europe. 

            What we must do is extract the lessons of history from our historic encounters with Tarzan, and we must do so realistically rather than romantically.

            Tarzan is a difficult character for us to deal with because we both hate and admire Tarzan. We want to expel him from our lives on the one hand and yet, on the other hand, the cumulative effect of our desires and fantasies is to recreate ourselves into an idealized Tarzan. Our national bourgeoisie, they are Tarzan. Most of our elected officials and nearly all of our heads of state, especially the dictators, they are Tarzan. Tarzan in Black face. 

            The rub is that Tarzan taught us that we were all Black but he also taught us that being Black was a bad thing. There are too many examples of our contradictions to even begin enumerating. Every African's mirror contains at least one major contradiction, if not more. But at least one. 

            Unfortunately for us, we African Americans have internalized the psychology of the oppressed. After fifteen generations or more of subservience, Black inferiority is all we know. A major corollary of our inferiority complex, is a high tolerance for suffering. Indeed, our tolerance of downpression verges on an addiction to suffering.

            I am no longer a Christian. I do not believe in the redemptiveness of suffering. Oh how they oppressed us with that one.  Under Tarzan's religious tutelage, suffering became such a great part of our worldview that we were not happy unless we were unhappy.

            "Woe is me" became our daily bread.

            "Deliver us from evil" we asked of Tarzan's god while we looked forward to an almost certain lifetime of hell and fervently believed in a hoped for eternity in heaven. 

            "Deliver us from Tarzan" is what we should have said. But we were so good at suffering. And Christianity taught us that we were born to suffer. That "man is born of sin" and that Jesus will redeem us in heaven.

            Meanwhile, down here on the ground, Tarzan rules. And when Tarzan is absent, Tarzan's flunkies and trainees stand in for the master and rule. And when neither Tarzan nor his flunkies are present, Tarzan's ideas rule and we create our own Tarzans as we await deliverance to arrive from outside ourselves.

            Our deliverance as a people, however, cannot be given to us by others, nor passively accepted. Deliverance must be fought for and seized. Deliverance is a birthing process requiring hard labor, rupturing of the womb, and the flowing of blood if new life is to be created. Some of us have worked for deliverance for a long time, most of us have been awaiting deliverance for an equally long time. But, to date, howsoever long it has been, deliverance has not come.

            How long has it been, 500 years? In all this time, for all his omnipotence, Tarzan has been unable to deliver us. Tarzan's failure has taught us well. If we want to be delivered, we will have to deliver each other. Give birth to ourselves. The kingdom that we create in the here and now is the only kingdom we will ever enjoy in this life on earth.

            And to kill Tarzan we must desire to be ourselves. A truly revolutionary behavior.

*   *   *

            On the second morning in Accra, we were bussed to Drago's Restaurant for a breakfast. We assumed that it would be a program of some sort. That assumption was a mistake. Not only was there no program, everyone didn't even get to eat. But it did afford us the opportunity to meet and talk with some of the people attending PANAFEST whom we did not already know nor know of.

            One of the people at our table recognized me and helped me remember him: Balozi Harvey. One of the early members of Maulana Karenga's US Organization. Present at the founding of Kwanzaa. Present at the Black Power Conferences of the sixties. The Congress of Afrikan People. We began exchanging stories and reminiscences about people, places and events. Behind all we talked about was an assessment of our failure to make revolution in the United States and our hopes for Africa in the future.


            Today, in the nineties, revolution is such a lonely word. Discredited. Rejected. Some even declare that following the collapse of the Soviet Union, that we have reached a period which wishful thinking calls "the end of history." Third World failures are sighted as evidence of the failure of revolution.

            They talk. The spread of democracy. The coming of the superhighway. The world becoming a free market.

            They whistle past their own graveyards. It's well past midnight.


            Make fun of Castro. Bring out monster portraits of Mao.


            At the breakfast table someone asked for papaya. The waiter nodded. Returned a little later and said, "papaya finished."

            That's what the Republicans want us to believe. Revolution finished.

            That's why "we're" in Haiti. In Somalia. Thinking about Rawanda. If-ing at Bosnia. Finished?

            A man is confronted by his wife. This man, it seems, was a philanderer. He would runaround. Cheat on his wife. And lie to her. Constantly. Her friends told her. People she didn't know, told her. At some point it became unbearable. She confronted him. He confessed his errors. Begged for another chance. She started to put him out but relented. Then one day she visited his office and caught him in a compromising position with his secretary. Before she could say a word he told her: "It's not what you think." She replied, "what do you mean, not what I think? I'm looking at you." He loudly protested that she was wrong and concluded with this challenge, "who are you going to believe? Me! Or your lying eyes!"

            Who are we going to believe? Our downpressors or our lying eyes?

            Revolution, finished?

            One of the colloquium participants, in a bold self critique, noted that apparently Nkrumah was wrong when he said "seek ye first the political kingdom and all things will be added thereto." Political kingdoms absent economic revolution have proven to be bankrupt. Those of us forty and over, still alive, halfway sane, and with even a modicum of strength and stomach left for struggle, we know. The real deal is to figure out how to economically sustain and develop ourselves.

            The real revolution is self development. What we used to call "Kujitegemea"— economic self reliance. Balozi runs the Harlem, New York based Third World Trade Institute. We talk about effecting trade and economic development in Africa.

            Finished? We've hardly just begun. There are questions of the environment. Questions of affordable and appropriate technology. Questions of mass transit and urban development.

            In the West there's a mess. Every major urban center of the United States has problems. The really big ones have really big problems. In Brazil there are horrendous problems: in the Amazon, the lungs of the world are being burnt up and children are systematically slaughtered in Rio. Jamaica is Hollywood: the "wild, wild west" but with real bullets, real death and real destruction. Eastern Europe is a cauldron that no detente can hold together. The end of history? Who are we going to believe: the West or our lying eyes?

            The end of history? No. The end of his story? Yes. At last. Yeahhhh booooyyyyyeeeeee! It is really now our time to decide how to live our lives.


            To try to figure out how to get it together and move forward. And part of moving forward must be leaving a bunch of our badness behind. Jettison the European model. Fanon told us oh so long ago. But we did not really understand. Now with Paris looking the way it does. With London, with New York, with Moscow, Berlin. With all of that being what it is, which is not us. No map for our space. What we are faced with finally is a fight within ourselves to determine which way forward. And that's revolution.

            Why should anyone want to recreate the United States, England or France? How could we? Whom could we enslave by the millions? Which continents would we kill the indigenous inhabitants, remove most of the accessible mineral wealth, colonize, industrialize, pollute and declare to have reached the end of history? We have only ourselves and the spaces we occupy. The Caribbean isles are too small to sustain us. The West too covetous of what they have built up to share. We have only that which is yet to be developed.

            We have the dirt roads of Ghana. We have the hinterlands of Africa's West Coast. We have war weary Central Africa. And the industrial jewel of South Africa. We have ourselves. We have a future. But it will take a revolution to actualize our dreams.

            A future for us requires a revolution in our lifetime. The real battle will be to overturn ourselves and become Black again, moving at our own pace, in our own space, in directions of our own choosing.

            And this is what we wrestle with at a breakfast without a purpose. We had the breakfast because that is what one does at conferences. Maybe we needed something else. Maybe what we need is to stop.

            Stop doing what has already been done. Create what does not now exist.

            Stop emulating the end of history. Honor the lives of our ancestors. Make and build a space where their spirits can be blessed by the smiles of future generations, walking in rhythm, living in harmony, enjoying the fruits (and vegetables) of a revolution that we accepted responsibility to wage.

            A revolution is more than simply a change of mind. Revolution is conscious engagement with the forces of history, the discarding or overthrowing of a dominating social order and the institution of a new social order. Every revolution fights two phases. First, the struggle (generally violent) to gain control of the productive forces and defend oneself from outside control and/or domination. Second, the struggle for social reconstruction and instituting the new social system.

            So far we have had no successful revolution of the second phase. From Haiti onward to independent Africa and the Caribbean, all of the revolutions which have succeeded in phase one have failed in phase two. In cases such as Mozambique or Grenada, phase two was aborted because they were not able to defend phase one against external aggression (Mozambique) or internal conflicts (Grenada). But the deal is to learn from, rather than be discouraged by, the mistakes and failures of our predecessors. Moreover, regardless of the outcome in the past, revolution is still what we need to built a secure future.

            One reason we need revolution is Euro-supremacist imperialism has no intention of leaving us alone. We can not simply withdraw into ourselves because they won't let us.

            Our oppressors and exploiters, our ex-masters and economic creditors, Western social engineers and scientists, dominate us even without their physical presence by actively seeking to incorporate us into the web of their influence either directly or through proxies and stand-ins. Without a revolution of our own making, we fight phase one and then simply end up with new masters trading places with old masters. The dominant and dominating systems staying in place, modified only in so much as necessary to accommodate the newly ascendant, and generally less competent, "native/petit bourgeois" ruling class.

            Western dominance is not simply a matter of ideology but also of institutions and individual behavior. Dominance is structural and behavioral. This is why Black faces in high places do not necessarily raise the level of life for the majority. Whether as heads of state and government functionaries for newly independent countries or as mayors and legislators in Western countries, more often than not, this new ruling elite ends up being caretakers of crumbling and disintegrating societies which are dependent on aid from the West. A flag and military don't make a country. Indeed, the maintenance of government bureaucracies and militaries often impoverish developing countries.

            To be real, a revolution must be able to improve the quality of life for its people by bringing about positive change at all three levels: ideology, institutions and individual behavior. This then is why and what a revolution is. A revolution of two phases leading to real power to define, defend, develop and respect our lives.

            Then, and only then, will we truly be able to know, taste, love, hold and procreate the whole of ourselves.

Source: WordUp

W: Flight Lt. Jerry John Rawlings, President of Ghana


            He looks like Larry Fishburne. The jutting jaw. The cinnamon brown. The beard. The muscular frame.

            "What do we do with armed robbers?"

            Our second day in Accra, a crowd caught a thief and killed him.

 "We execute thieves."

            "These people driving these cars irresponsibly. Accidents? No. It's manslaughter. It's murder they're getting away with. Let the courts convict one of them. I will sign the execution."

            He had a script and he had some deeper stuff he wanted to get off his chest—and brother man did go off. In addition to the prepared script he talks about family planning, sanitation, and some things in a language I don't understand but which delights the crowd.

            When he speaks, I look at the people.

            The shine of their eyes. The smiles set to break into laughter as the punch line is delivered.

Flight Lt. Jerry John Rawlings, President of Ghana

            When he talks about executing irresponsible drivers, these people who spend a large part of every day walking—walking with water on their heads, with food on their heads, with trays of vegetables, boxes of canned goods, chewing gum, walking, a load of firewood, maybe a baby on the back, oranges, pineapples, walking, bolts of fabric, walking, a sack of rice, walking, roasted corn, walking, walking, walking, through dust, down miles and miles of dirt road, walking, to the market, walking, pausing and backing up for speeding cars, the drivers leaning on their horns, walking, bus broke down, walking, car broke down, pushing and walking, waiting to sell to tourists coming out of the castle, standing, hoping to get closer to the president, standing, walking, sandals, walking, bare feet, walking, hopping cross open sewers, walking, legs bruised, open sores, walking, pants the wrong size, walking, lacy dress soiled, worn and torn, walking and then waiting, waiting and then walking, standing, silent, glancing at us up and down, whispering something to each other, teeth missing from big beautiful smiles, laughing, standing, shyly touching your hand, hello, akwaaba, welcome, siss-taa, braaaa-thaaaa, eyes looking up from the smoke fish fire, bread on the side of the road, walking straight up like some mothers used to make girls do with books on their head for posture practice, walking, pausing while suckling child, hawking wares, standing, looking, waving, bending, walking, lifting, working, sleeping, walking, eating, walking, eating and walking, walking to eat, walking, braiding hair, those dark skinned people, little girls with close cropped hair and their hands hiding the hope light of their smiling lips, walking, children and elders everywhere, walking, these people, these people, my people, walking, me, when he talks these people listen, and cheer, and clap.

            Execute irresponsible drivers.

            "Commitment." He says we have knowledge. We have skills. We need commitment. He says in the States a Ghanaian away from home wanted to know what the government was going to do to help all of the people who are moving from the rural areas into the cities.

            Rawlings encourages the brother to come home. Encourages all Africans to come home. Whether continental or diasporan, come home.

            In terms of development, it can be said that Africa is the rural area and the West are the cities. We need you in the rural areas to help us develop. Together we can develop our rural areas. Leave the cities. Come home.


             What do we do with thieves?

            This is Ghana. The streets are safe at night. And the people whom dark finds three hours walk from home, can set down their load and sleep where they are, wherever they are in Ghana.

            It's murder these people driving these cars irresponsibly.

            The people who walk love the President. The people. Who walk. Love. The President.

            When the President arrives he walks onto the field. He walks around the field and greets each king who has been carried in the Durbar procession of the kings, carried in these boats held aloft on the waves of muscular shoulders. Boats shaded by umbrellas. Preceded by the court. Followed by drums. The chiefs rode in waving and dancing. The President of the country walked around the soccer sized field and greeted each king individually. The President walked.

            The people who walk love the President who walks.

            Walking is the Ghanaian way.


            Surely there are those who hate this man. The wheelers have different values from the walkers.


            The people who walk.

X: In the Hinterlands of Our Souls

             I have been to Africa before so I am prepared. I know that I am not going to visit an unspoiled land, and unsullied people. I know that I will encounter more than Africans in Africa. I know that I will also meet Tarzan there.

            He will be there to greet me. I know this. I know this because even though I am African, a descendant of those Africans who were enslaved, I know that I, like every African, especially we Africans in the Diaspora, we carry Tarzan within us. Indeed, a major part of our value to the motherland is that we have African souls and Tarzan personalities, with all the positives of skills and technology that implies, and all the negatives of individualistic material and moral decadence it also implies.

            Tarzan will arrive at the same time I do, if and when I am frustrated in my search for hot water to bathe or angry about the unavailability of iced, chilled drinks to consume. Or when I am turned off by dust and dirt everywhere, repulsed by hot sun and daily heat. Tarzan will be gleaming in my eye as I am aroused by all the opportunities I spy to run the con games and hustles which are the daily fare of life in the industrial world, especially when my schemes and dreams are clothed in the brotherly cloak of helping my people to develop the motherland. We could put up a hotel there. Open a specialty restaurant here. Put an import record store over there. Import this. Start up that.

            I can not help it, I was reared in America to be like Tarzan. My brothers and sisters on the continent were reared to believe they need a Tarzan.

            Tarzan, as the big White man can not revisit Africa, but I am coming weighted by the terrible knowledge that we all have a Tarzan to expel from the interior of our African souls.

*   *   *

            After the Revolutionary War when the American colonialists beat the British, some of us vanished from these shores. Thus, Sierre Leone, a British colony in West Africa which was partially colonized by American born Africans reintroduced into Africa. Some of us had fought against the colonialists, had sided with the British. Had been promised freedom. When the British lost, we won a return trip to Africa.

            As has ever been our history, we African Americans always seem to be on both sides of the battle line. Crispus Attucks the first to fall, martyr defending American freedom. On the other side, unnamed others boarded English ships fleeing America's freedom.

            Sierre Leone was our first major return. British subjects reinserted into Africa.

            The second coming was Liberia—and a bigger mess could not possibly have been made. Tarzan was in full effect.

            The bible and the gun. Liberia. The so-called first Black republic. Liberia declared itself sovereign on 26 July 1847. From jump street it was a colonial missionary state.

            We went there (or more accurately, were sent there) for the expressed purpose of establishing a Christian colony. We were literally pilgrims in Black face. And true to our Christian creed, true to our God, true to our "native land" (i.e., the U.S.A. who sponsored us), we came, we saw, and we conquered. Committed all sorts of unspeakable cruelties.  Wallowed in all sorts of corruptions.

            Meanwhile, the American Colonization Society, peopled and funded mostly by Whites, acted on their conviction that the way to respond to the slave question was to take Lady MacBeth's advice: "out, out damn spot." In Historical Lights Of Liberia's Yesterday And Today, author Ernest Jerome Yancy, writing in 1934, breaks the history down. 

            ...Liberia is a by-product of the complex conditions of American society resulting from the American Negro slavery.

            A careful study of the American economic, political, and social conditions beginning in 1619 at Jamestown, VA—a nursery of slavery—to the organization of the American Colonization Society in December 1816 at Washington, D.C., avails one the opportunity of knowing the conditions under which the colonization society was organized and that the founding of Liberia was an attempt to adjust those conditions. In this respect, Sir Harry Johnston wrote: "Its inception" (the American Colonization Society) "grew out of the institution of slavery and represents an endeavor on the part of early statesmen and philanthropists to solve a vexing situation in America which was confronting them."

            Historical data show that at this time there were free men of color in America and it is claimed that they had an evil effect on the slaves and menaced the institution of slavery. Many criminal acts were charged to these freemen of color and Negroes, and in some instances, we are informed, they were guilty of these charges. Under these two-fold conditions it became necessary for something to be done in order to save American society and the institution of slavery.  Therefore, with these dual motives, statesmen, philanthropists, and former slaveholders joined in devising means by which they could solve the problem. As a result of these efforts, the American Colonization Society was organized for the purpose of assisting free men of color to return to the continent of Africa.

            The first president of the American colonization Society was Judge Bushrod Washington, nephew of George Washington, and among the founding organizers was Francis Scott Key, author of the "Star Spangled Banner." Their exclusive aim was to remove free folk of color from America.

            Back on the block, Negro leaders, principally Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington, were intransient in their opposition to colonization. Wasn't going nowheres. Saw no future in it. No win. Wanted their piece of the rock. Insisted on making a home of where they were born.

Source: WordUp

Y: One on One

            Tarzan is dying.

            In the long run, it's about what we do with each of our own little individual steps. The singular soul facing the void, the chaos, the problem, the opportunity.

            The skull speaks: "You know I went into those jungles alone? I faced..."

            He pauses. His voice a weak whisper. I can barely hear him. I am forced to draw closer.

            No. Nobody is forcing me. I'm curious. I want to hear what he has to say.

            "I faced..."

            He draws a difficult breath. Perhaps he faced the animals. The loneliness.

            "No, none of that. I faced..."

            At first I am surprised that he has read my thoughts and then I remember that Tarzan is in my head.

            "I faced myself and learned to live with the people, live with the land. I did it. I jolly well did it. I lived. They loved me. I think. Maybe not as much as you love me. But, me, by myself. In the bush, I did it."

            "And now?" I ask him.

            "And now? Don't leave me." He says.

            And then. Silence.

*   *   *

            When the plane arrived in Ghana we needed a visa—US$50 each for Nia and me. Very official stamps are inked into our USA passports: Visitor's Permit Form F. Valid for 30 days.

            Three centuries ago when I left, the trip required neither visa nor passport. Just survival. If I endured, I went butt naked, headfirst into the new world.

            Our heads were literally our bags. Everything and the only things we could take on this journey, we carried in our heads. In our hair. Social ideals and okra seeds. An indelibly black sense of soul and sound. But I did not need to come to Ghana to know this.

            To return to Ghana on this trip required a yellow fever shot and a weekly regimen of malaria medicine. When we got here we had to avoid the water and our stomachs were too weak to eat all of the food. Again, I did not need to come to Ghana to know that. So why did I need to come to Ghana?

            I didn't really need to. I could have lived, struggled and died without ever having made this trip. But I wanted to kill Tarzan.

            I really, really wanted to kill Tarzan. So, I signed up. I volunteered for the job.

            Once here I have found that the only way to kill this alien is to get in touch with myself. To feel. To taste. To smell. To hear. To see. Myself. To choose to be cleaved, grafted, bandaged, stuck, pressed back into the earth of my origin, into the very mud and dust of my history. To kill Tarzan I must choose to grow Africa within me and create me within Africa.

            The Tarzan in me only dies when the Africa in me arrives—otherwise I never grapple with all the psychosis of my African American upbringing. I never confront a major part of me: what I think, what I feel, my limitations, my potentials. Tarzan will never die unless and until I confront and secure the history of my existence—including the trauma of birth.

            No one can be born for me.

            No one else may feel the need for birth completion that I do.

            No one else may volunteer to put the knife in Tarzan.

            But what others do or don't do in no way dictates the road I will travel.

            I will fear no evil, for Africa is within me.

*   *   *

             I know that London Bridge is falling down, falling down, that Babylon time a come, that the eagle can't fly forever, that indeed there is an end to his story. The wheels of the West are rusting.

            The reality is that we can not continue to live in America with the social deterioration, mean spiritedness, and crass materialism which are polluting our individual and collective lives. We are literally a nation of drug addicts (alcohol and tobacco chief among our drugs of choice, with over-the-counter pain killers and headache remedies running a close third). We are suffering horrendous rates of violence and disease. There is a widening economic gap at a time when many of our major urban centers teeter on the brink of implosion: aging physical infrastructures such as bridges, sewer systems, housing; corrupt political administration; and increasing ethnic conflict. Something has got to give.

            Shine, Shine, Shine, my sweet brotherman. The last time the ship went down you swam back to America. This time as the Titanic goes down on the last go round, some of us will swim back home again, only this time we'll be recrossing the Atlantic, each of us cutting our own stroke, forward into an ancient place our spirits know as Africa.

*   *   *

            Should Black people go back to Africa?

            Yes! And NO.

            Yes. We in the Diaspora should make the pilgrimage at least once in our lifetime. Christians go to Bethlehem. Muslims go to Mecca. Jews go to Israel. The Diaspora should go to Africa. To know and learn, sense and experience from whence we came. To touch the essence of our future. Future because to the degree that Africa is strong, the whole of the Diaspora will also benefit, and to the degree that Africa fails to develop, the conditions of those of us in the Diaspora will continue our spiraling descent into social, material, and spiritual despair.

            NO. We in the Diaspora don't need to give up any of our hard won benefits, meager as they may be in comparative terms. Besides, most of us are addicted to the West. It is senseless to advocate a mass movement prior to preparations being made both by the host to receive the Diaspora, and by the Diaspora to embrace Africa.

            To return unannounced and unexpected is to court disaster. Numerous are the tales and stories of those who romantically returned to Africa only to end up "returning back home" to the industrialized West discouraged and disillusioned.

            Yes, we need a mental return and a spiritual return. In fact, rather than a return it might make more sense to think of what we need in terms of linkages.

            We need to actualize linkages with the continent—linkages that would facilitate not just the movement of people, but also the movement of ideas, of resources and responsibilities, and, most of all, facilitate the uniting of history, identity, purpose, and future. The real transition will not be a return back to Africa but a stepping forward with Africa, moving into the 21st century with Africa the continent and Africa the Diaspora united.

            I don't think the majority, or even a significant minority, of us can or will make this transition at this time. But as the 90s expire, more of us will seek other venues within which to live, work, struggle and die.

            On the other hand, as Marcus Garvey demonstrated, millions of our people are ready to move. Millions of us recognize the bankruptcy of the West.

            What it took in Garvey's time and what it will take now is simply one person striking when the conditions are right. Individuals standing, and in standing, inspiring others to rise.

            Given the ripe historic moment, it only takes two: me and the other person I encounter. That is how history is made, how babies are born.

            It only takes two you know. It only takes two.

            I am one and Africa is another. I the Diaspora. Africa the motherland.

            I am Africa. And every African I encounter is the Diaspora. Conversely and dialectically, every African is Africa and I am the Diaspora seeking union.

            Africa and I. Africa is I.

            I and I.

            Is all it takes.


            I am one. And Africa is the other.

Z: Can I Articulate a New Language

            There is so much more to tell, but I've run out of words.

            The colonial alphabet is ended and I need another language to communicate the balance of my experiences, the connections which elude this vocabulary, the distances and disruptions so somber.

            I need a new language. Not more words in proper English. But a whole other way to communicate.

            Am I up to the task of relearning my ancestral tongue, of transforming my colonial tongue, of, perhaps, even creating a new tongue, creating a new language?

*   *   *

            I consciously resist romanticizing Ghana.

            My feelings, my thoughts, yes, even my dreams: I rein them in.

            We have had a guided tour. Given the limits of their resources, the planning committee has rolled out the akwaaba mat. We stayed in hotels and guest houses. We rode in private buses, vans, and cars. We had major meals provided for us. And we had money in our pockets, and spent freely. This one was like riding with the training wheels on and an elder holding you steady.

            At the same time, I remember poet Jayne Cortez telling me I had a Ghanaian "vibe" and would probably like Ghana.

            We all came from somewhere(s) specific and those specific essentials remain embedded in the core of our personalities both collectively and individually. Stronger in some than others. Barely felt in a few, but the African seed resides inside. Whether wilted or blooming, seedling sprouting or torn out of the soil of us leaving a gapping wound, Africa is, nonetheless, in one way or another, Africa is in all of us. And that is our blessing no oppressor can permanently curse.

*   *   *

            Thinking back to the dungeon, I've been to the castle a number of times since that first night.

            In the day light it is different. When there is not a large group of emotionally charged people with inchoate expectations fueling your imagination, the recently painted castle looks different. When you are there for a music program in the courtyard. It's different. This is why we need formal pilgrimages: planned tours that put us in touch with the people, places and experiences of Ghana at a level that is impossible to reach on a chance, individual encounter.

            Another trip, even another conference in Ghana would be different.

            I know that if I come here alone and spend days and nights bumping into unplanned experiences, my trip will be different.

            I also know that time and distance will bring about a change.

            I remember Brasil and Barbados—thinking how I could live there. Or literally sitting under a coconut tree at Oyster Bay in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania dreaming and scheming. Even the fierce lushness of Surinam. There are a lot of places I could live.

            The above notwithstanding, I am nevertheless thinking seriously about working in Ghana and living here at least part time. Time will tell and real world conditions will supply the motivation or discouragement.

*   *   *

            I can't just up and go back to Africa. Someone else, maybe. But me. Every move I make needs to count in the computer I carry in my heart, and if I don't really feel it, I won't do it. Besides, there is so much work to be done in the States, so much is needed. But then, the truth is, neither the work nor the need has anything to do with the United  States. Everywhere our people are there is so much work to do, so much is needed.

            Each of us who wants to work for our people has the option, indeed, has the responsibility of choosing where we can most efficiently and effectively contribute. Not a mandate to be here, there, or any specific where, but a choice to be continuously evaluated and exercised as local and global conditions change, as doors of opportunity in various spheres are pried open and/or sealed shut.

            Finally what will make the ultimate difference is the luck of the draw. Do I decide to hold or to fold. To move or to hang, even if only for the time being. I will sleep on it. Who knows what will inspire me, or anyone, to go one way or another. Each African minute is explosive.

            It's been over a week since I received, or sought, any information about what is going on in the States. Perhaps when I recross the Atlantic back into the new world of the same old same old, perhaps the conditions will inform me.

            We'll see.

*   *   *

            Meanwhile, I know this much: Nia loves it here.

            Nia blends in so well. The children love her, and she they. They ask her to write and give her their addresses on small scraps of paper, fervently hoping that she will not forget them. People spontaneously talk to Nia on the street. Once, in the township just outside Elmina, Nia stopped to dance in the street and later as we walked around, a woman sitting by a streetside stand pumped her arms in rhythmic motion and softly called to Nia, "you dance. You dance."

            There is something in her that clicks in this environment. My habit of aloofness, observing from a distance in loud silence is harder to integrate into this reality. I'm comfortable but very little of me immediately blends with anything. I am the outsider by temperament and by choice. Many writers tend to be that way. But Nia connects on another plane. Perhaps it is Nia's calmness and quietness, her unhurried walk and her patient softness, so much like a Ghanaian.

*   *   *

             My son Tutashinda is a master at working jigsaw puzzles, at figuring out which piece goes where. What fits together. How to work on different clusters simultaneously, a little here, a little over there.

            I've seen him pick up a piece and somehow correctly sense what pile to put it in. He can see that way. And he is quick.

            Can the puzzle that I am ever be put together—indeed, was my puzzle ever whole?

            How can the various pieces of Africa be fitted into one—do the Pan African pieces fit without being forced? Or must the pieces be reshaped? Is Pan Africanism possible? What prosthesis—artificial limbs, manufactured parts; what organ donations and heart transplants will be necessary; what long term therapy to make the body whole and healthy? Can it be done—especially given we were never together in the first place? Africa has a need for, but no history of, unity.

            This father needs his son. All parents need their children. We Africans seeking wholeness, need our children far, far more than our children need us.

            I need him to guide me. Indeed, he is my guide, my compass, one of my certain ways of knowing if what I'm doing will mean anything beyond my own personal desires.

            Whatever we find in Africa will be futile if it does not enrich the lives of our children, our grandchildren, the whole of our future, at the same time and to the same extent that the search honors the lives of our ancestors—to investigate the possibilities of this aspiration is why I went to Ghana.

                                                            Accra & Cape Coast, Ghana

                                                            New Orleans, LA, USA

                                                            December 1994/January 1995

Source: WordUp

*   *   *   *   *

Ghana—Samia Nkrumah

Ghana became African's first country to gain freedom in 1957 and has since grown tremendously both politically and economically. Kwame Nkrumah is known as the country's founding father and we meet his daughter Samia Nkrumah in our next story -- who is determined to follow in her fathers footsteps.

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Dr. Wangui wa Goro is a pioneer and distinguished translator and translation scholar being the first in a new generation to work in literary translation in her mother tongue Gikuyu as well as in French, Italian and Swahili languages.  Amongst her translations rank the world renown and award winning authors Veronique Tadjo (A Vol d’oiseau), Ngugi wa Thiong’o (Matigari) and Fatou Keita (Rebelle) and she is completing a translation of Boccacio’s Decamerone into Gikuyu. 

Her work is taught in schools and universities in many parts of the world. She is also a poet, writer and critic and has spoken, performed and recited her work in Africa, Europe and the USA.    She has also published short stories including Deep Sea Fishing in an Anthology of African Stories edited by Ama Ata Aidoo and Heaven and Earth (McMillan) addressing issues of gender from feminist perspectives.  Her collection of stories and poetry will be published in 2008/9.  Wangui is also currently completing her first novel.

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Ghana Music Video  / The Curse of Gold—Ghana  / Rice Farming in Afife, Ghana

Busy Internet Ghana  /  Africa Open for Business—Ghana / African Slave Castle  / Coming Home—Ghana

John Henrik Clarke—A Great and Mighty Walk / The Slave Ship (Marcus Rediker)

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music website >
writing website >
daily blog >
twitter >
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Men We Love, Men We Hate
SAC writings from Douglass, McDonogh 35, and McMain high schools in New Orleans.

An anthology on the topic of men and relationships with men

Ways of Laughing
An Anthology of Young Black Voices
Photographed & Edited by
Kalamu ya Salaam

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#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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Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power

By Zbigniew Brzezinski

By 1991, following the disintegration first of the Soviet bloc and then of the Soviet Union itself, the United States was left standing tall as the only global super-power. Not only the 20th but even the 21st century seemed destined to be the American centuries. But that super-optimism did not last long. During the last decade of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century, the stock market bubble and the costly foreign unilateralism of the younger Bush presidency, as well as the financial catastrophe of 2008 jolted America—and much of the West—into a sudden recognition of its systemic vulnerability to unregulated greed. Moreover, the East was demonstrating a surprising capacity for economic growth and technological innovation. That prompted new anxiety about the future, including even about America’s status as the leading world power. This book is a response to a challenge. It argues that without an America that is economically vital, socially appealing, responsibly powerful, and capable of sustaining an intelligent foreign engagement, the geopolitical prospects for the West could become increasingly grave. The ongoing changes in the distribution of global power and mounting global strife make it all the more essential that America does not retreat into an ignorant garrison-state mentality or wallow in cultural hedonism but rather becomes more strategically deliberate and historically enlightened in its global engagement with the new East.

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Scorched Earth: Legacies of Chemical Warfare in Vietnam

By Fred A. Wilcox  and  Introduction by Noam Chomsky

Scorched Earth is the first book to chronicle the effects of chemical warfare on the Vietnamese people and their environment, where, even today, more than 3 million people—including 500,000 children—are sick and dying from birth defects, cancer, and other illnesses that can be directly traced to Agent Orange/dioxin exposure. Weaving first-person accounts with original research, Vietnam War scholar Fred A. Wilcox examines long-term consequences for future generations, laying bare the ongoing monumental tragedy in Vietnam, and calls for the United States government to finally admit its role in chemical warfare in Vietnam. Wilcox also warns readers that unless we stop poisoning our air, food, and water supplies, the cancer epidemic in the United States and other countries will only worsen, and he urgently demands the chemical manufacturers of Agent Orange to compensate the victims of their greed and to stop using the Earth’s rivers, lakes, and oceans as toxic waste dumps. Vietnam has chosen August 10—the day that the US began spraying Agent Orange on Vietnam—as Agent Orange Day, to commemorate all its citizens who were affected by the deadly chemical. Scorched Earth will be released upon the third anniversary of this day, in honor of all those whose families have suffered, and continue to suffer, from this tragedy. Noam Chomsky & Fred Wilcox Book-TV

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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

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


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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 9 August 2010




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Related files: Dark Tourism in Ghana: The Joseph Project   Tarzan Can Not Return to Africa (A-B-C-D)   Tarzan Can Not Return to Africa   (E-F-G-H)  Tarzan Can Not Return to Africa  (I-J-K-L)  

Tarzan Can Not Return to Africa   (M-N-O-P-Q-R)    Tarzan Can Not Return to Africa (S-T-U-V-W-X-Y-Z)  Wright's Ghana in the 1950s    Miriam in Ghana  Pilgrimage  to Ghana    Randolph Visits Ghana 

Right to Abode  Where Ghana Went Right