ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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We ain’t no secret for Mr. Know It All / We gangsters in his cracked lying camera

 We on the run—field to alley to street, to backyard / They keep chasing us—running us out of dreams






Will the people ever wake up?

By Rudolph Lewis


We are the objects of their surveillance—

blue lights flashing 24-7, on corner poles.


Can we pull them down, do we dare?


Camera men & cops search the people—

$2 whores & baggy pants at Penn-North.


“I got Newport, three for a dollar.”—

hear the insidious drama of that tune


Like the days of slavery—we work hard

uptown & downtown—all across town.


But blue lights keep flashing, down on us

Can we pull them down, do we dare?


24-7, on corner poles, flashing, capturing

Can we pull them down, do we dare?


The living, on the street, walking, talking,

buying—in the System—corralling us in


reckless real estate, playing the numbers.

Women with tiny rocks in plastic, a dime


a pill, three. The lens lies—we’re all nodding.

up against the wall, spreading them; pulling


them down to the ground. What if a head

cracks, or blind men die in Central Booking


for two pills


cause 24-7, blue lights flashing, keep flashing,

can we pull them down, do we dare?


our bodies fixed by Mr. Smack McCaine,

Mr. Eight Ball, he’s called, or just “The Man”


We ain’t no secret for Mr. Know It All

We gangsters in his cracked lying camera


We on the run—field to alley to street, to backyard

They keep chasing us—running us out of dreams


Five thousand churched for every rich man made

Will the people ever wake up, so we can shake it?


Can we pull them down, do we dare

posted 27 November 2005

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Oh, this is a terrible, powerful poem that truly captures the plight of the powerless poor, harassed by the police and hunted down like animals.  What are the blue lights?  The lights on top of the police cars?  The repetition of that image and the 24 / 7 captured the relentless pursuit of the helpless, the hopeless, caught like deer in the blinding lights of the hunters.  What are you planning to do with these poems?  Put them into a collection?  Have you ever thought of doing readings?  Can you dramatize them?  Perform them?  They need to be heard.Miriam

There is land speculation. But the cops have quotas. These black cops (usually) arrest the poor to show they are working. . .  . In such neighborhoods one sees where the rubber meets the road. A cop stops a woman already at the very periphery of society. She is old enough to be his mother. He went through all she had including her sandwich just bought in the store. 

There were five or six black men watching and they knew that the situation was funky and they know if they say anything about the injustice of police hassling they too would be up against the wall. Here's the situation that black men find themselves often. It is classic. It is what creates the repressed rage. It is one situation which makes black men be different from black women--this sense of not being able to be fully oneself, helplessness.Rudy

That's horrible!  Such an invasion of privacy--of a whole neighborhood.  Big Brother has definitely arrived.  I hadn't heard of the blue lights and wonder if they exist in other inner cities.  How do the folk in the neighborhood feel about them?  Do the lights make them saver, more secure or do they feel spied upon.? Yes, that's a classic situation--Black men unable to protect their women, their children, their elders for fear of retaliation..  

I used to tell my son when he was a teenager not to go over to 14th St. or hang out on corners cause the cops would back him up against the patrol car just for being Black and male.  Did you see that movie that came out last May (can't remember the name of it) with Terence Howard, Thandie Newton, and a bunch of other people?  A cop pulled over this Black man (a t.v. exec), spread-eagled him over his SUV, and felt all up under his wife's dress..  Ida killed that Red Neck.Miriam

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The Persistence of the Color Line

Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency

By Randall Kennedy

Among the best things about The Persistence of the Color Line is watching Mr. Kennedy hash through the positions about Mr. Obama staked out by black commentators on the left and right, from Stanley Crouch and Cornel West to Juan Williams and Tavis Smiley. He can be pointed. Noting the way Mr. Smiley consistently “voiced skepticism regarding whether blacks should back Obama” . . .

The finest chapter in The Persistence of the Color Line is so resonant, and so personal, it could nearly be the basis for a book of its own. That chapter is titled “Reverend Wright and My Father: Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism.”  Recalling some of the criticisms of America’s past made by Mr. Obama’s former pastor, Mr. Kennedy writes with feeling about his own father, who put each of his three of his children through Princeton but who “never forgave American society for its racist mistreatment of him and those whom he most loved.”  His father distrusted the police, who had frequently called him “boy,” and rejected patriotism. Mr. Kennedy’s father “relished Muhammad Ali’s quip that the Vietcong had never called him ‘nigger.’ ” The author places his father, and Mr. Wright, in sympathetic historical light.

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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

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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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