ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


Home  ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)


  As the Earth moves beneath this giant heat engine and the ocean’s currents  steer

it like Columbus’  ‘doom-burdened’ caravels, the rotating storm  makes its way

across the Atlantic, becoming bigger and more destructive by the hour



 Book by John Maxwell

How to Make Our Own News: A Primer for Environmentalist and Journalists

*   *   *   *   *

Under the Gun

By John Maxwell


For me, nothing better epitomises the inter-connectedness of everything than a hurricane. A small weather system which began life as a localised area of low pressure somewhere in West Africa ends up devastating Florida and flooding subways in New York.  Most of our hurricanes start as  low pressure areas somewhere in the Sahara or the Sahel;  cooler air rushes in to fill the low pressure zone and those winds   will be deflected to the right (in the northern hemisphere  by forces driven by the rotation of the earth. The spin  imparted to the drifting column of air and water vapour helps it move over the sea As it  drifts out into the Bight of Benin it gathers heat  and  more water vapour from the ocean and begins a leisurely drift across the Atlantic.

 Soon,  the  rotating column of hot air  picks up more  heat  and water vapour from the sea, becoming a towering column – a whirligig  or gig’ as we as schoolboys  called spinning tops – thousands of metres high.  Nourished by the warm currents of the Atlantic drift it soon becomes much bigger and more energetic, wheeling thousands of tons of water vapour round its developing centre . It releases the heat picked up from the ocean as the water vapour condenses into rain and it vents its now  cold exhaust into the troposphere – 12 km 8 miles above the surface of the ocean. You could think of a hurricane as a sort of air conditioner for the Atlantic, cooling  the water, extracting heat as it passes  and transferring the heat energy to the winds which begin to accelerate as more heat (fuel) is ingested.

As the Earth moves beneath this giant heat engine and the ocean’s currents  steer it like Columbus’  ‘doom-burdened’ caravels, the rotating storm  makes its way across the Atlantic, becoming bigger and more destructive by the hour. By the time it becomes worthy to be called  a tropical depression it disposes of more power than small nuclear bombs, albeit not as concentrated. But it does become more concentrated as it picks up more heat and mass from the water below and it moves, an enormous, blind  and voracious monster, searching for its  food – the warmer waters trapped in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. The monster’s  first hurdle is usually the Windward Islands, so called for the very reason that they are the cyclones’ main gateway into the hurricane feeding grounds of the  Caribbean.

Steered by currents of water below and currents of air above –jet streams  and high pressure zones, the little breath of hot air from the Sahara  has becomes a ravening omnivore, unstoppable by any human force, tossing enormous passenger liners and cargo carriers about like toys, throwing  rocks the size of houses  out of the sea, swamping boats and low-lying coasts and their puny man-made constructions, moving whole beaches from one place to another, altering the geography of the sea bottom as well as the land.

 And as it chews its way through the Antilles it kills and lays waste,  drowning some in  floods  and in the swelling of the sea – the storm surge  created by its lower atmospheric  pressure. It  strips hillsides of soil, vegetation and human habitation indiscriminately, sweeping away,  crushing and maiming  with landslides and roads scoured and destroyed by wind and water which carve and cut more greedily than any pride of bulldozers and draglines,

Hurricane  Frances,  which threatened us two weeks ago is, as I write, making life miserable for subway travellers in New York. Sometimes hurricanes re-cross the Atlantic; hitching a ride on the warm Gulf Stream:  it was probably an errant Caribbean hurricane that altered history by scattering the Spanish Armada five centuries ago, shipwrecking Spaniards and black sailors  and soldiers onto coasts as foreign as Ireland and Northeastern England. .

All hurricanes are erratic and unpredictable but some are more willful than others. The so-called ‘paperclip’ or ‘hairpin’ hurricane of the twenties, pirouetted north of Cuba – from Caribbean to Atlantic and back again, or  like Flora, which in its leisurely circumambulation of  eastern Cuba in 1963, provoked some of us to speculate that the United States was responsible, because we had heard that the Americans were experimenting in the use of   weather as a weapon.

That is possible, according to Popular Mechanics magazine, which a few years ago reported on US military projects which would put the Pentagon in the position of “owning the weather” using sophisticated cloud seeding techniques, powerful lasers and microwave transmitters to steer hurricanes and create instant floods – among other divertissements..

I was reminded of this outlandish story by an advisory from the Tropical Hurricane Centre  on Wednesday. The staff proudly announced that  they had  been graced by a visit from  President George Bush. My slightly queasy response to this news  was, of course, the paranoid reaction of one who, living in the Caribbean, feels  menaced both by hurricanes and by the armies of the mighty and the ungodly. This is so especially when the scientists  of the US Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFLD) predict that global warming will precipitate bigger, more destructive and more frequent hurricanes by warming the seas and so  increasing the store of hurricane fuel. Mr Bush, on the other hand, dismisses the idea that there is any such thing as Global Warming.

By the time you read this, in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica and Cuba , we will be digging ourselves out from under whatever Ivan has chosen to throw at us. If the hurricane proceeds as  was forecast on Thursday night, Portmore may be a disaster area. Nearly 30 years ago, some of us warned that the area was unsuitable for mass housing because, for a start, most of it was at or near sea level, with the highest point being just 3 meters (18 feet) above. If a hurricane  ‘Allen’  had struck Portmore – as it threatened to do,  – storm surge and over-topping waves might have killed a great number. And, with only two constricted avenues out of Portmore, a huge number would be trapped because they could not get out. (Which is the reason for the Doomsday Highway).

In Jamaica, we have a functioning Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management –  which some of us began to develop back in the much maligned seventies. One night in 1980, with the help of Prime Minister Michael Manley, we managed to move much of the population from Portmore in advance of  hurricane Allen. We couldn’t do it now; there are just too many people.

In neighbouring Haiti the slightest storm is likely to kill hundreds of people, because their landscape has been stripped  and there is little vegetation to restrain the waters. Additionally, since February, the Haitians are leaderless, their society decapitated by the ouster of their President, their social networks disrupted by gangs of criminals  who have been allowed  by the moribund conscience of the world to assume hegemony over  the poorest and proudest people of the hemisphere.

I won’t go into the causes of their poverty nor the justification for their pride, We’ve been there before. But when so-called statesmen, Caribbean statesmen, can imagine turning over any group of human beings to the mercies of  the thugs now ruling Haiti, one wonders  not how their minds work, but whether their minds work at all.  If there is an Ivan-precipitated disaster in Haiti the effects will be compounded by the fact that the leadership of the country is in the hands of people whose only skill is  in mayhem and whose consciences are as dead and buried  as the victims of their massacres going back three decades.

‘The Head bone connected to  …’

Thinking about Haiti is particularly poignant because, as I write, one of the main ‘statesmen’ agitating for the continuing gang rape of Haiti is the Prime Minister of Grenada, whose residence, I understand, has been destroyed by Hurricane Ivan on its way to the Greater Antilles.  All of us will be licking our wounds, all of us would wish to welcome assistance from abroad, but the Haitians alone will have no say in how their land and nation is resuscitated and repaired. In Grenada and in Jamaica, in the Dominican Republic, in Barbados and Jamaica and in Cuba, neighbourhood committees will see to the distribution of relief, will try to ensure fairness, will attempt to protect the weakest and to enlist the strong in their assistance.

That will not happen in Haiti.

Government is not simply a mechanism to pass laws and to run police forces. The main function of a government is to minister to the welfare and happiness of its constituents enlisting the constituents in the fulfilment of those purposes. In Haiti, the so-called government is an assemblage of bandits, murderers, greedy businessmen and  their camp-followers. 

All over Haiti, so-called ‘rebels’ – armed to the teeth, remnants of the murderous and corrupt Duvalierist army and its auxiliaries, the Tontons, are busy taking over police stations and painting them in the colours of the hated army abolished by President Aristide.  They are demanding ten years back-pay and recognition as official peace keepers. All over Haiti, the leaders of the communities, the people who worked for the welfare of their neighbours, however well or however ineptly, are in hiding or in prison or dead.

Questions of life and death, questions of whether children will get milk in preference to gangsters getting money  will be subject to the arbitrament of the cutlass and the M-16.

Here, and no doubt in Grenada, Barbados, the Dominican Republic  and certainly in Cuba, food, building supplies and welfare will be distributed with some modicum of fairness. In Haiti, the devil will take the hindmost – the youngest,  the weakest, the oldest, the most helpless and of course, the majority who support Lavalas and Jean Bertrand Aristide, the democratically elected leader of the Haitian nation.

©2004-John Maxwell  COMMON SENSE 431

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



#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

*   *   *   *   *

Super Rich: A Guide to Having it All

By Russell Simmons

Russell Simmons knows firsthand that wealth is rooted in much more than the stock  market. True wealth has more to do with what's in your heart than what's in your wallet. Using this knowledge, Simmons became one of America's shrewdest entrepreneurs, achieving a level of success that most investors only dream about. No matter how much material gain he accumulated, he never stopped lending a hand to those less fortunate. In Super Rich, Simmons uses his rare blend of spiritual savvy and street-smart wisdom to offer a new definition of wealth-and share timeless principles for developing an unshakable sense of self that can weather any financial storm. As Simmons says, "Happy can make you money, but money can't make you happy."

*   *   *   *   *

The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

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

*   *   *   *   *

The Last Holiday: A Memoir

By Gil Scott Heron

Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King's birthday ended up becoming a national holiday ("The Last Holiday because America can't afford to have another national holiday"), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel. Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered. Gil uses Lennon's violent end as a brilliant parallel to Dr King's assassination and as a biting commentary on the constraints that sometimes lead to newspapers getting things wrong. —Jamie Byng, Guardian / Gil_reads_"Deadline" (audio)  / Gil Scott-Heron & His Music  Gil Scott Heron Blue Collar  Remember Gil Scott- Heron

*   *   *   *   *

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)

*   *   *   *   *

Ancient African Nations

*   *   *   *   *

If you like this page consider making a donation

online through PayPal

*   *   *   *   *

Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

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


*   *   *   *   *

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

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

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

*   *   *   *   *

*   *   *   *   *

ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)






update 16 February 2012




Home  John Maxwell Table