ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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How can the liars bear to see the light / Dispel the darkness

they gloat in? To see their distortions and fabrications

unmasked?  Oh how nude and nervous you rendered them!



Books by Walter Rodney

How Europe Underdeveloped Africa / The Groundings with My Brother / Walter Rodney Speaks /

A History of the Upper Guinea Coast A History of the Guyanese Working People

 *   *   *   *   *

On Learning of Walter Rodney's Death & Other Poems

By Akoli Penoukou


Isn't It Strange?                                                                                 

                                          By Akoli Penoukou


You may pretend that my existence doesn’t count

And ignore or denigrate me in your powerful media;

You may mow me down like grass  

But with my perennial roots, I’ll always sprout.


During our first meeting you bartered junk for fortune   

Still that did not suffice to quench your avariciousness:

You deported me to work the New Land’s treasures

In harrowing conditions; yet like rock I survived.


Four long centuries of affliction left you still rapacious:

My land you snatched and its manna you pounced upon

Yet to the front you bundled me to wrench yours.

You think the Maker moulded for you me and my milk?


Now I’m striving to sculpture my own tomorrow

But your covetous spirit renders the task Sisyphean. 

I wonder why you have a taste so insatiable            

And a heart so pharaonically stony.


Today, just like yesterday and the days before

You’re busy scheming to make me trip and fall

But this time around sure I’ll stand steadfast                                        

‘Cause no more would I make a bed out of where I fall.


Tell me, does my rising tide threaten your shores?

Why should you lose your sleep because of me?

‘Cause despite the depth you’d thrust me into

My resilient nature is helping me bounce back?


You even screech and recoil when I step in your land

Forgetting I am in yours because you were in mine;

I am here because you draw all the oxygen from there                             

Where do you want me to go better to breathe?


Six centuries of history should have left me revengeful        

But isn’t it strange, even incomprehensible

That it’s you who hate and bear grudges 

While it’s I who rather forgive and love?

 *   *   *   *   *

Hymn of the Lazy

                   By Akoli Penoukou

Bad, worse, worst

may I always rest

until my bad is worse

and my worse worst.

*   *   *   *   *

I Walk Alone

                        By Akoli Penoukou 


I walk alone

With no mate by my side

Through the wilderness of life


I walk alone

With no parents through life

To guide me.


I walk alone

With not the saviour’s saving grace

To inherit the mansion he prepared.


I walk alone

With not a lover to whisper

Sweet things in my ear.


I walk alone

With not the comfort of a home

To return weary to.


I walk alone

With not even the guide of music

To lift my flagging spirit high.


I walk alone

With not even a liquid companion

To cool my covering of dust.


I walk alone

With not even an enemy

To still my restless soul!


I walk alone

With not even the sheer pleasure of books

To drown my sorrows in


I walk alone

With not a living soul in sight

To give me a sense of belonging.


I walk alone

With no forward or backward path

To guide me to some place, any place.


I walk alone

With not even the leveller of all


To prevent me from walking alone.

*   *   *   *   *

So We Will Never Meet

                                       By Akoli Penoukou 


So we will never meet, me to quench

My thirst in your lexical oasis?

Oh harsh world, that makes a man so warm

And snuffs him out with cold cruelty!


Walter Rodney boldly for the Truth stood

Which shall set me-and-us free.

Alas, they dried up that spring

Before I could drink of its refreshing waters.


Oh, my poor soul wearies so

To be denied its bread of life.

Ah! To know that we were made to love

And yet part forever in such a distress!


My weak heart mourns so;

An ocean of sorrow washes over me;

Yet can I smirk a crack, only a crack,

For the potent legacy you bequeathed us.

*   *   *   *   *

Who Can Throw the First Stone?

                                                  By Akoli Penoukou 

Offspring of Africans traded into slavery

vent spleen on Africans left behind

for cashing the price of their departure,

accusation which creates unhealthy animosity.

But who can throw the first stone?

Slavery lasted well over 400 years.

If Africans auctioned each other

it couldn’t be everybody who sold everybody

hence innocent hands could be left behind.

If Africans auctioned each other

which slave-descendant can swear

except those carted off in the earlier shipments

that his ancestor too did not merchandise anybody

before being himself sold off?

Before the African left these shores

he was the African-left-behind’s ancestor;

When the captured African landed over there

he became the slave-descendant’s ancestor.

My ancestor who became your ancestor is our ancestor

Shouldn’t we walk along this bridge to meet each other

instead of hurling a sterile accusation

which could backfire?

If the dead could feel

how would an African ancestor who never sold anybody feel

if accused of treason by a slave-descendant whose ancestor maybe sold?

Africans did not open European eyes to slave trading

that ignominious trade was imposed upon Africans

by European interests in America.

That Africans condoned it was highly treasonable 

But let’s not look for scapegoats.

All said and done, the African, gone or left-behind,

Who can swear his ancestors hands were clean

should throw the first stone.

*   *   *   *   *

A Brand New Millennium!

                                   By Akoli Penoukou

The year 2000,

A brand new millennium

Began life at midnight of December 31, 1999

Filing away a bitter-sweet century

A century brightened by

Unprecedented progress in



information technology,

and in affluence

But also darkened by

never-attained levels of




and of poverty.

What then spurred humanity on

The new millennium with such fanfare to embrace?

Hope of an era of change?

What makes anyone believe


in this new millennium

progress will overwhelm the regression ?

Despite the devastating effects of two “World” Wars

and numerous civil and inter-national wars

Man has not learnt the lesson

His swords into ploughshares to beat.

The fertile grounds of violence in our midst:






and economic hegemonies

show no signs of ebbing

but alas are being exacerbated.

The roots of war:


the thirst for supremacy,

the stockpiling of arms,

the enhanced training and the increasing numbers of armies

know no low tide.

Are we therefore not promised

war and more rumours of war

with its corollaries of deaths and destruction

in the brand new millennium ?

Strides in medicine have been astounding

The pharmaceuticals have not sat on the side walls

Knowledge in hygiene has leaped

Yet man has not tamed diseases:

Typhoid fever, malaria, tuberculosis,

cholera, hepatitis, meningitis,

hypertension, yellow fever, schistosomiasis,

dengue fever, diabetes and others

continue to kill in no mean numbers.

As if that was child’s play

AIDS has stepped in

Confounding scientists

And wiping off millions.

In the wake of

Targeted medical research,

Sky-rocketing prices of medicines,

health maintenance for all in the year 2000 being a hoax

the cost of medical care becoming a distant star

Populations outstripping the numbers of doctors

Are we therefore not to expect

More diseases and more disease-induced deaths

In the brand new millennium?

In spite of vast disruptions in the eco-system

And especially global warming caused by holes in the ozone layer

Man continues to behave as if suicide was an ideal

And goes on destroying his heritage.

The foundations of pollution and environmental hazards:

The nuclear industry,

fossil fuel burning in industry,


emission of noxious fumes by industry,

discharge of  noxious effluents by industry,

excessive use of  chemical fertilizers in agriculture,

over-intensive use of pesticides in agriculture,

intensive use of chlorofluorocarbons,

the disposal of toxic waste,

massive cutting of trees, especially in rain forests,

will be intensified

as developing and emerging economies strive to catch up

as developed economies sustain or accelerate their rhythm

and as competition builds up

between the two.

Are we therefore not to anticipate

More pollution and more environmental degradation

In the brand new millennium?

Despite increasing affluence of the North

And never-imagined economic gains in the South

Many more people than before

Cannot satisfy their most elementary needs.

The key indicators of poverty:



underemployment, unemployment and never employment,


shanty towns,

are not disappearing

but rather multiplying at the speed of germs.

The vectors of poverty on the other hand:





lack of education and skills

and bribery and corruption

are not

frowned upon

but given

pats on the back.

Are we then not to see

Increasingly impoverished billions

In the brand new millennium ?

Considering the magnitude of these problems

And the indifference of the powerful

And the helplessness of the weak

What chances are there

That the brand new millennium

Will put smiles on the haggard faces?

Didn’t all of us court illusion and closed our eyes

to the painful realities of




and poverty ?

And sang

and danced

and clapped our hands

and shouted ourselves hoarse

instead of


and gnashing our teeth

and wringing our hands

and keeping the silence of the dead

for a brand new millennium doubtlessly full of woes?

 *   *   *   *   *

The Tether Will Suffer the Wear and the Tear

                                         By Akoli Penoukou


Tether  which inhibited us in barter

Tether  which revoked our God-image

Tether  which banished our patriotic rights

Tether  which hindered our exodus

                       Tether of delusion

                       Tether of genocide

             tightening noose of a tether

             suffocating noose of a tether

             neck-breaking noose of a tether

             life-quenching noose of a tether

                       like a hangman’s

tether-noose which took away our voice

             tether tightened by mammoth hands

             mammoth hands powered by hearts of stone

             hearts of stone activated by robot minds

but each time comes the wear and the tear

the wear


the tear

the tether-noose which limits and suffocates us

will again suffer the wear and the tear

the knots will slacken like a landslide

the noose will become a toothless tiger

the noose of the enemy will inevitably wear out

and we can continue our march towards light.

 *   *   *   *   *

Those Who Plundered Us

                                    By Akoli Penoukou


Those who plundered us

Live in big walled houses

Drive around in fat glistening cars

Wear neat custom-made clothes

Have rich arrogant nations:

At our homes we toil for them

On their lands we still labour.


Once upon a time

They came with a message so good

And a smile so sweet

But behind the message and the smile

Lurked our damnation.


They took our lands by force

Raped the resources

Plundered the people and their humanity

Carted away our relatives

Stained our culture

And brainwashed us:

We became servants in our homes

Living under colonialism;

Second-class citizens they made us

Under racist and apartheid regimes.


Those who reduced us to nothing

Are arrogant people.

They bluff:

You were primitive when we came

We’ve given you civilization, education

And taught you the value of resources

We’ve tilled the land which lay fallow

We brought you out of the darkness.


Yes, we were bushmen

In our backwardness we built

The baffling gigantic walls of Zimbabwe

The ancient university of Timbuktu

The mysterious pyramids of Egypt, et cetera

The ancient Empires

Of Songhai, Ghana, Egypt, Zimbabwe.


In our blindness

We carved the wooden sculptures,

Moulded the terracotta, worked the bronze and iron

And fashioned the golden artefacts

Which, today, decorate your museums and make you money.


Those who plundered us were,

And still are braggarts,



greedy men,



Those who plundered us

Are evil men

They use us as guinea pigs for dangerous drugs tests

They poison the minds of our people

They rape the land

They don’t want to see us prosper

They sow confusion in our midst

They don’t share good things with us

They wish we could be exterminated.

(Didn’t one say: Africa would be a beautiful continent without Africans?!)


those who plundered us

will reap what they have sown.

*   *   *   *   *

On Learning of Walter Rodney's Death

By Akoli Penoukou


Dead? He? Oh, but he is not immortal!

Why did the Moulder mortalize you, Rodney?

Oh, so weak at heart did I feel;

Tears clouded my vision, rolled down;

Silent incredulity engulfed my frame

The confounding, pathos news to learn.

Shame unto you truth-haters

You shall swallow your bitter pill someday!

            How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

Once did catch my lexical-hunger

A few pages gleaned for lack of time:

What an oasis for a parched throat!

What joy fluttered in my famished heart!

There, there, the camouflaged truth unbarred!

            What hands fashioned your brain?

What star led your knowledge to such a revelation?

Shattering race-biased history of black humiliation

Substituting filth with sanity; alas; truth is bitter!

How can the liars bear to see the light

Dispel the darkness they gloat in?

To see their distortions and fabrications unmasked?

Oh how nude and nervous you rendered them!

Your challenge to chauvinist our pride restored

Alas! Rodney, you had dug your grave.

            Haters of the up-coming Black restoration

Men ridiculed by your scientific analysis

Blockers of the road you constructed for us

Oh Black beacon!

Made you travel the road of your Brothers

(Garvey, Malcolm X, Luther King, Nkrumah, Cabral …)

Another prophetic voice anxious to still

Your hands and brains to freeze.

            Oh, how disappointed they are!

            Your departure is a blow to all civilized souls

But your legacy and courage immortalized you

And the unkind bomb martyred you.

            Your place among tomorrow’s mankind is high

When history, your weapon, is overhauled

And purged of distortion and fabrication, clutter.

            By your assassination is our zest fired up;

You bequeathed a weapon powerful

To spur on the dark and all downtrodden.

            They can only unlimber the tree and not uproot it

But surely the tree will germinate again

Spreading out its foliage

To shelter broken souls, above and below.

*   *   *   *   *

Walter Rodney Bio-Sketch

(March 23, 1942 June 13, 1980)

Walter Rodney (March 23, 1942 June 13, 1980)  was born in Georgetown, Guyana. His was a working class family-his father was a tailor and his mother a seamstress. After attending primary school, he won an open exhibition scholarship to attend Queens College as one of the early working-class beneficiaries of concessions made in the filed of education by the ruling class in Guyana to the new nationalism that gripped the country in the early 1950s. While at Queens College young Rodney excelled academically, as well as in the fields of athletics and debating. In 1960, he won an open scholarship to further his studies at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica.

He graduated with a first-class honors degree in history in 1963 and. he won an open scholarship to the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. In 1966, at the age of 24 he was awarded a Ph.D. with honors in African History. His doctoral research on slavery on the Upper Guinea Coast was the result of long meticulous work on the records of Portuguese merchants both in England and in Portugal. In the process he learned Portuguese and Spanish which along with the French he had learned at Queens College made him somewhat of a linguist.

In 1970, his Ph.D dissertation was published by Oxford University Press under the title, A History of the Upper Guinea Coast, 1545-1800. This work was to set a trend for Rodney in both challenging the assumptions of western historians about African history and setting new standards for looking at the history of oppressed peoples. According to Horace Campbell "This work was path-breaking in the way in which it analyzed the impact of slavery on the communities and the interrelationship between societies of the region and on the ecology of the region."

Walter took up his first teaching appointment in Tanzania before returning to his alma mater, the University of the West Indies, in 1968. This was a period of great political activity in the Caribbean as the countries begun their post colonial journey. But it was the Black Power Movement that caught Walter's imagination. . . . Walter was married to Dr Patricia Rodney and the union bore three children- Shaka, Kanini and Asha.

Source: GuyanaCaribbeanPolitics

*   *   *   *   *

Dr. Walter Rodney: A Historical Class Analysis of Guyanese Society (YouTube)

Video:  One, Two, Three, Four, Five

A 70th Birthday tribute to Walter Rodney (Tendai Mwari)

*   *   *   *   *

Pan African Conference in 1900

Pan-Africanism (Minkah Makalani; Rutgers University) / The Pan-African Congresses 1900-1945

*   *   *   *   *

John Coltrane, "Alabama"  /  Kalamu ya Salaam, "Alabama"  / A Love Supreme

A Blues for the Birmingham Four  /  Eulogy for the Young Victims   / Six Dead After Church Bombing 

 *   *   *   *   *

Audio: My Story, My Song (Featuring blues guitarist Walter Wolfman Washington)

Bob Dylan: Only a pawn in their game  / The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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*   *   *   *   *

The Groundings with My Brothers

By Walter Rodney

Dr. Walter Rodney is the Leon Trotsky of the Afro-Caribbean. Apart from sharing the same fate, assassination, his intellectual works are standing up to the test of time and like Trotsky's own works, is now proving to be prophetic. Rodney's The Groundings with my Brothers, first published almost 40+ years ago analyzed the historical development of the African Diaspora and that community's liberation struggles for independence under the "new conditions of oppression." Rodney pointed out that the beneficiaries of neoliberal independence, in the African Diaspora, were a narrow group of elites drawn from the middle-class, yet despite their racial composition would continue to act as mere representatives for the big trading and financial bourgeois of the North.

With a few exceptions, in the areas of health, education, access to economic opportunities, employment and justice, very little has changed for the Black Diaspora's masses since Walter Rodney's writing in 1969.

As Rodney predicted, "The local lackeys of imperialism have long had to admit the existence of tremendous social injustice. The administration of the law has become more vicious and partisan." He went on, "since `independence' the black police force have demonstrated that they can be as savage in their approach to black brothers as the white police of New York, for ultimately they serve the same master." This brilliant work, The Groundings with my Brothers is Walter Rodney's Spectre haunting the African Diaspora's opportunist and elites.—Roy Wilson

*   *   *   *   *

How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

By Walter Rodney

The late Guyanese writer, Walter Rodney had left us his great insights regarding the reasons for the underdevelopment of the African continent. His work finds equal footing with those of Frantz Fanon and to an extent that of the late Brazilian author and social activist, Paulo Freire in attempting to provide a critical insight, and a gainful analysis to the situation and reasons for the poverty on the African continent. This analysis, whether one agrees with its conclusions or not provides a means towards looking at the stalk realities of African underdevelopment. Rodney thesis that the trans-atlantic slave trade diminished the African manpower to attain development cannot be easily pushed under the carpet. Development is how a people within the means available to them, within their eco-context utilize their knowledge for the good of the totality. When their people is afflicted with disease or mass uprooting there is bound to be both biological and social ripple effects that would affect both the pace and nature of development. It is here that we realize that Rodney's proposition underlines a crucial factor in explaining the reasons for the African state.

*   *   *   *   *

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'."

*   *   *   *   *

Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake.

She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—WashingtonPost

*   *   *   *   *

Malcolm X

A Life of Reinvention

By Manning Marable

Years in the making-the definitive biography of the legendary black activist.

Of the great figure in twentieth-century American history perhaps none is more complex and controversial than Malcolm X. Constantly rewriting his own story, he became a criminal, a minister, a leader, and an icon, all before being felled by assassins' bullets at age thirty-nine. Through his tireless work and countless speeches he empowered hundreds of thousands of black Americans to create better lives and stronger communities while establishing the template for the self-actualized, independent African American man. In death he became a broad symbol of both resistance and reconciliation for millions around the world. Manning Marable's new biography of Malcolm is a stunning achievement. Filled with new information and shocking revelations that go beyond the Autobiography, Malcolm X unfolds a sweeping story of race and class in America, from the rise of Marcus Garvey and the Ku Klux Klan to the struggles of the civil rights movement in the fifties and sixties

*   *   *   *   *

The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry

By Rita Dove

Selecting poets and poems to represent a century of poetry, especially the riotous twentieth century in America, is a massive undertaking fraught with peril and complication. Poet Rita Dove-a Pulitzer Prize- winning former U.S. poet laureate, professor, and presidential scholar- embarked on what became a consuming four-year odyssey. She reports on obstacles and discoveries in an exacting and forthright introduction, featuring striking quotes, vivid profiles, and a panoramic view of the evolution of poetic visions and styles that helped bring about social as well as artistic change [...] Dove's incisive perception of the role of poetry in cultural and social awakenings infuses this zestful and rigorous gathering of poems both necessary and unexpected by 180 American poets. This landmark anthology will instantly enhance and invigorate every poetry shelf or section.—Booklist

*   *   *   *   *

Sonata Mulattica: Poems

By Rita Dove

This 12th collection from the former U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize recipient is her third book-length narrative poem: it follows the real career of the violin prodigy George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower (1780–1860), a former pupil of Haydn, as well as the grandson/ of an African prince, or so his promoters and teachers in England said. Moving to Vienna during the Napoleonic Wars, the violinist met and befriended the famously moody Beethoven, who was prepared to dedicate his famously difficult Kreutzer Sonata to Bridgetower until a rivalry for the same woman drove them apart. Dove tells Bridgetower's story, and some of Beethoven's and Haydn's, in a heterogenous profusion of short poems, some almost prosy, some glittering in their technique. In quatrains, a double villanelle, what looks like found text, short lines splayed all over a page and attractive description, Dove renders Bridgetower's frustrated genius: Music played for the soul is sheer pleasure;/ to play merely for pleasure is nothing/ but work. Dove does not always achieve such subtleties—those who loved her early work may think this book too long: few, though, will doubt the seriousness of her effort, her interest at once in the history of classical music and the changing meanings of race.—Publishers Weekly

*   *   *   *   *

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

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Negro Digest / Black World

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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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update 23 August 2012



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Related files: The Ancestors Are Not Really Dead  /  Into His Arms  / Out of the Clouds  //  How can we trust them? / On Learning of Walter Rodney's Death  (poems) 

Points to Paradise    Love One Another