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We do not need to recount here the details of the increasing intolerant,

repressive and violent policies of your government over the past 3 years,

nor the devastating consequences of those policies.



Statement Released by TransAfrica

Salih Booker (202) 546-7961 at Africa Action
Bill Fletcher, Jr. (202) 223-1960 at TransAfrica Forum


African-American Leaders Send Letter to Mugabe

Condemning Political Repression in Zimbabwe


Black trade union officials, Africa advocacy groups and Church organizations call for African diplomatic intervention and an unconditional dialogue among Zimbabweans to create a transition to democratic rights for all.

Tuesday, June 3, 2003 (Washington, DC) - Progressive leaders among leading African American organizations, trade unions, church and advocacy groups today released an open letter to Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, to oppose the political repression underway in that country.

Highlighting long historical ties to the independence movements of Zimbabwe, the signators described the current crackdown on political opposition as," in complete contradiction of the values and principles that were both the foundation of your liberation struggle and of our solidarity with that struggle."

The letter to Mugabe follows a process over the past several months where progressive African Americans have held a series of meetings with representatives of the Zimabwean government and of Zimbabwean civil society both here in the U.S. and in Zimbabwe. The group concluded that it is time that African American progressives make a public statement on the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe that so negatively affects the people of that proud country with whom the signatories have stood in solidarity for many decades.

Africa Action executive director, Salih Booker, said today that "We have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe to state clearly where we stand. And we stand for human rights and against the repression of the Mugabe regime directed against Zimbabwe's African majority."

TransAfrica Forum President Bill Fletcher urged immediate action by the African Union. "The situation in Zimbabwe is crumbling quickly. The African Union needs to intervene as a credible authority before other external forces exploit what is a crisis, not only for Zimbabwe, but the continent."

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Open Letter to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe


3 June, 2003

Dear President Mugabe,

We are writing today to implore you to seek a peaceful and just solution to your country's escalating national crisis. Those signed below are Americans of Africa descent - many of them representing major organizations of civil society in the United States - who have worked for decades to support the liberation movements of Africa and the governments that followed independence which promoted and protected the interests of all of their nation's people. We form part of an honorable tradition of progressive solidarity with the struggles for decolonization, and against apartheid and imperialism in Africa.

We have strong historical ties to the liberation movements in Zimbabwe, which included material and political support, as well as opposition to U.S. government policies that supported white minority rule. In independent Zimbabwe we have sought to maintain progressive ties with the political party and government that arose from the freedom struggle. At the same time our progressive ties have grown with institutions of civil society, especially the labor movement, women's organizations, faith communities, human rights organizations, students, the independent media and progressive intellectuals. In Zimbabwe today, all of our relations and our deep empathy and understanding of events there require that we stand in solidarity with those feeling the pain and suffering caused by the abuse of their rights, violence and intolerance, economic deprivation and hunger, and landlessness and discrimination.

We do not need to recount here the details of the increasing intolerant, repressive and violent policies of your government over the past 3 years, nor the devastating consequences of those policies. The use of repressive legislation does not, in our respectful view, render such actions justifiable or moral, because of their presumed "legality". We represent a long tradition of opposition to unjust laws. We have previously expressed to your representative in Washington, DC, our humanitarian concerns about the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Zimbabwe as well as that of the famine triggered by the recent southern African drought and exacerbated by the economic policies and food distribution practices of your government. We have shared our concerns that land redistribution in Zimbabwe be used to fight the poverty of the majority and not to promote the narrow interests of another minority. But most of all, we have communicated clearly that we view the political repression underway in Zimbabwe as intolerable and in complete contradiction of the values and principles that were both the foundation of your liberation struggle and of our solidarity with that struggle.

Today, Mr. President we call upon yourself and those among the ruling party who truly value democracy, and wish to protect the future of all of Zimbabwe's citizens to take extraordinary steps to end your country's political crisis and place it upon a path toward peace. We ask that you initiate an unconditional dialogue with the political opposition in Zimbabwe and representatives of civil society aimed at ending this impasse. We call upon you to seek the diplomatic intervention of appropriately concerned African states and institutions, particularly South Africa and Nigeria, and SADC and the African Union, to assist in the mediation of Zimbabwe's civil conflict.

Mr. President, the non-violent civil disobedience that is growing in your country - such as that which took place on Mother's day in Bulawayo - is increasingly met with police brutality and excessive force. Such trends in the abuse of human rights are not only unacceptable, they are threats to your country's stability and they are undermining the economic and political development your people desire and deserve. We believe that a peaceful solution is possible for Zimbabwe if you find a way to work with others in and outside of your government to create an effective process for a transition to a more broadly supported government upholding the democratic rights of all.

Sincerely yours in struggle,

William Lucy, President, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
Willie Baker, Executive Vice President, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
Salih Booker, Executive Director, Africa Action
Bill Fletcher, Jr., President, TransAfrica Forum
Horace G. Dawson Jr., Director Ralph J. Bunche International Affairs Center, Howard University
Patricia Ann Ford, Executive Vice President, Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
Julianne Malveaux, TransAfrica Forum Board Member
Rev. Justus Y. Reeves, Executive Director Missions Ministry, Progressive National Baptist Convention, The Coordinating Committee, Black Radical Congress (BRC)

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TransAfrica leaders (below) -- Danny Glover (left) and Bill Fletcher, Jr. (right)


Why We Spoke Out on Zimbabwe

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.

President of TransAfrica Forum


The decision to issue a statement strongly condemning the current regime of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe was far from easy. President Mugabe had been a hero of mine and I had been a strong supporter of the Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) during the national liberation war. Nevertheless, as with my other colleagues and co-signatories, it became clear that silence and inaction on the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe was no longer acceptable. Indeed, it is not clear that failing to comment on developments there had ever been a proper course of action.

Many of us in the US who see ourselves as progressive have interpreted developments in Zimbabwe in very different ways. Honest people can disagree. At the same time, it is important for us to identify the source of the disagreement, particularly if we ever hope to overcome such disputes.

In the case of Zimbabwe, the rhetoric of the Mugabe regime is disconnected from the actual evolution of the country post-independence. The irony of the current rhetoric of President Mugabe is that its militancy stands in opposition to many of the practices that he himself followed in the years subsequent to the Lancaster House Agreements of December 1979 that brought about Zimbabwe's freedom in 1980. President Mugabe, the truth be told, supported the structural adjustment policies insisted upon by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. In fact, it was largely the backward and anti-people economic policies of his government that resulted in the development of a major opposition movement in the late 1990s.

President Mugabe has convinced many people of good will, here in the USA, that his stand on land redistribution demonstrates his commitment to true Black majority rule in Zimbabwe. What is strikingly odd about this is that land redistribution could have been conducted over the last 10 years (for the first ten, due to the terms of the Lancaster House Agreements, there was little that could be done). In fact, it needed to happen. The demand for land by agricultural workers and farmers was a real initiative. While it is absolutely the case that the US and Britain were to assist in subsidizing the land redistribution (and in fact reneged on this promise) the issue of land redistribution was largely ignored by President Mugabe's government until a mass opposition movement arose that challenged his, until then, undisputed leadership role. It was only at that juncture that President Mugabe championed immediate land redistribution, but in a manner that benefited not the mass of agricultural workers and farmers, but instead first and foremost the party faithful of the ZANU-PF-the ruling party.

Deciding to speak out on Zimbabwe does not mean that I or the other signatories either support or oppose the principal opposition movement: the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Rather, speaking out represents a concern that the current political repression conducted by the government is fueling fires that might ignite into civil war. The MDC, contrary to President Mugabe's propaganda, is neither a small clique of opponents nor agents of Western imperialism. They are a mass-based opposition that has often contradictory politics. That said, driving the country to the brink of civil war not only threatens the future of Zimbabwe, but as well threatens to destabilize Southern Africa as a whole.

A final point. Speaking out on Zimbabwe is also a “preemptive strike” against the “regime change rhetoric” – and possible actions-of the Bush administration and the Blair administration (in Britain). Both the USA and Britain have opportunistically seized upon the crisis in Zimbabwe over the last two years in order to focus attention on the plight of the white farmers. Despite many other human rights situations that have been far worse, both within Africa as well as globally, Bush and Blair have called attention to the alleged plight of the white farmers and their loss of land. We, who have signed this letter, share nothing in common with the politics or sentiments of Bush or Blair. We are, in fact, quite worried that in the triumphalism that has followed the US/British invasion of Iraq, that Bush and Blair may choose to opt for a military intervention (covert or overt) in Zimbabwe in order to install a regime more favorable to their imperial ambitions. Such a step would have a catastrophic impact region wide.

I believe, in issuing the open letter to President Mugabe, that Africans must resolve the situation in Zimbabwe. There is no role for the regime change mania of Bush and Blair. Yes, it is time for a new, progressive leadership to emerge in Zimbabwe, a leadership that draws from the best elements of the ZANU-PF and the MDC. A leadership that charts a course for Zimbabwe toward self-determined development and democracy. But that course must be developed by Africans, with the help of Zimbabwe's neighbors, and absent the megalomania and interventionism of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and 10 Downing Street.

[Note: for excellent background reading I would suggest Patrick Bond & Masimba Manyanya, Zimbabwe Plunge: Exhausted Nationalism, Neo-liberalism and the Search for Social Justice. Published by Merlin Press, 2002].

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Launching the Pedagogical History of Africa Project in Harare yesterday [5 September 2011] , President Mugabe said . . . "The history that must be written by our African scholars and academics here is the history that focuses on African people in struggle as creators of their own destiny rather than mere consumers of stories written about them by passive on-lookers who oftentimes happen to be non-African outsiders . . . . Real history belongs to a people in struggle and not to the interpreters of history. The people themselves are the makers of history and therefore the real historians. The interpreters are mere raconteurs of history and not the actual history-makers as is often wrongly implied . . . Only this way can we avoid history written by colonialists as 'winners'. Our real winners are the people, whose real history or struggle the so-called winners would like to distort and suppress . . . You cannot be a historian of African people if you do not share their cry or their laughter. No. The African sensibility, reflected in African culture and worldview, is the only accurate compass to guide a historian who is genuine about writing African history. . . . Slavery and colonisation do not themselves constitute African history. They disrupt and falsify the trajectory of African history. They dehumanise Africans to fit into the scheme of European capital. The ideology of racism is created as a parallel process to rationalise the oppression of Africans. . . . I need not stress that it is imperative to edify educational systems, which embody the African and universal values so as to ensure the rooting of youth in African culture in the context of a sustainable and participatory development. This way we continue to foster the spirit of unity in Africa as embodied in the African Unity Charter”AllAfrica

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Debt: The First 5,000 Years

By David Graeber

Before there was money, there was debt. Every economics textbook says the same thing: Money was invented to replace onerous and complicated barter systems—to relieve ancient people from having to haul their goods to market. The problem with this version of history? There’s not a shred of evidence to support it. Here anthropologist David Graeber presents a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom. He shows that for more than 5,000 years, since the beginnings of the first agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods—that is, long before the invention of coins or cash. It is in this era, Graeber argues, that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors.  Graeber shows that arguments about debt and debt forgiveness have been at the center of political debates from Italy to China, as well as sparking innumerable insurrections. He also brilliantly demonstrates that the language of the ancient works of law and religion (words like “guilt,” “sin,” and “redemption”) derive in large part from ancient debates about debt, and shape even our most basic ideas of right and wrong. We are still fighting these battles today without knowing it. Debt: The First 5,000 Years is a fascinating chronicle of this little known history—as well as how it has defined human history, and what it means for the credit crisis of the present day and the future of our economy.   Economist Glenn Loury  /Criminalizing a Race

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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

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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Home   Transitional Writings on Africa   The African World   Black Labor

Related files: Empires and Lynching  The Real Trouble with Zimbabwe    The Lynching of Robert Mugabe (Ogbunwezeh)   Black Africa's duty to help Zimbabwe    No to invasion of Zimbabwe! (Molefe) 

Western Hypocrisy   Zimbabwe and the Question of Imperialism (Goodman)  Look What I Found (video)  Choosing Sides  Trans Africa & Progressives on Mugabe  Colin Powell on Mugabe  

Sanctions on Zimbabwe  Zimbabwe's Lonely Fight for Justice     Reporting Zimbabwe    President Robert Mugabe's UN Speech   A Shattered Dream  Zimbabwe and the Question of Imperialism