Which books have been important in your life? And how did you, the son of a peasant, get to write one in the Kenya of the ’60s?

While growing up, we had no books in Gĩkũyũ, my mother tongue. The Bible’s Old Testament became my book of stories. In high school, when I saw a library for the first time, I had the ambition to be able to read all the books in the world. But guess what? I couldn’t even finish reading all the books in that library! Later, in 1959, I went to Makrere University College in Kampala (Uganda) that was part of the University of London. In 1962, at the first conference of African writers coming together on the African continent, called the Makrere Conference of Writers of English Expression, Chinua Achebe looked at my manuscript of Weep Not… and made a few comments. Achebe’s book Things Fall Apart had been published a few years ago. He told his publishers about my book. It was an important moment in my life. George Lammings’s [an important figure in Caribbean literature] work has also been important for me.

Source: ‘My god is more of a god than your god is ungodly – the same applies to languages,’ says writer Ngugi Wa Thiong’o | art and culture | Hindustan Times

Beauty

February 17, 2018

Beauty is in the eye
of the beholder
and I be holding beauty
when I glance upon them
theoretically shaping
the future into an afro
centric sharpness
that shook
the white power structure
into confronting
black consciousness
organized and mandated
to dismiss
that old time religion
that said everything in its place
especially the black race.

A new paradigm of blackness
rooted in a communal soliloquy:
ghetto equals colony
and racism is the bastard child
of fascist economies.
Fanon, Malcolm and James
became antidotes
for antiquated theologies
and anti-social pathologies.

In the belly of the imperialistic beast,
in the macro-and-microcosms
of streets and prisons
a new paradigm, a paradise
of struggle
created by ex-soldiers
high school and college students,
whores, pimps, drug dealers
NASA employees,
doctors and number runners
heady, ready and willing.

From Watts to the Congo
white power has gotta go
burn baby burn
no ashes in the urn
time for the tide to turn
and put an end to the yearn.

Discern:

Panther power was here
turned the police into pigs
and nigs into blacks
figuratively burning effigies
with tactics and strategies
that earned them freedom’s mind.

George Washington Quote

November 30, 2016

I am currently finishing up the research phase for my 4th book and I came across this quote from George Washington:

“For my own part, I shall not undertake to say where the Line between Great Britain and the Colonies should be drawn, but I am clearly of opinion that one ought to be drawn; & our Rights clearly ascertaind. I could wish, I own, that the dispute had been left to Posterity to determine, but the Crisis is arrivd when we must assert our Rights, or Submit to every Imposition that can be heap’d upon us; till custom and use, will make us as tame, & abject Slaves, as the Blacks we Rule over with such arbitrary Sway.” Source

The part that “triggers” the creativity for this soon-t0-be book is not the derogatory way he describes the enslaved people who made him wealthy but the phrase “we rule over with such arbitrary sway”. Arbitrary means what it means and when coupled with enslavement, it says a whole lot about the white privilege of the colonial era and what that white privilege gave birth to…Manifest Destiny.

What does this quote mean to you?

¡Viva la Revolución!

November 26, 2016

fidels-legacy

Hercules

November 25, 2016

The crisis is arrived when we must assert our rights, or submit to every imposition, that can be heaped upon us, till custom and use shall make us as tame and abject slaves, as the blacks we rule over with such arbitrary sway. (George Washington)

 

Slave prettily pretending
on the promenade.
A plethora of coins
pushing the false narrative
But then

But then
I was sent from the city
of brotherly love
to break rocks
and dig in the mud
for material
to shore up his house.

Hands that used to craft meals
that had him crowing
are now stiff, swollen
and seditious.

They take me far from
wife, daughters and son
far from the illusion of immunity
to the immortality
of being one
of the not inconsiderable few
who successfully escaped
the first president.

 

 

For more information about Hercules, check out the following links:

http://www.npr.org/2008/02/19/18950467/hercules-and-hemings-presidents-slave-chefs

Recollections and Private Memoirs of George Washington

http://www.mountvernon.org/digital-encyclopedia/article/hercules/#note4

 

 

(Originally posted on my book review blog, Diary of a Mad Reader)

I am someone who reads books that break my heart, time and time again. The Book of Night Women broke my heart. Apparently, A Brief History of Seven Killings, which I’m 14 pages away from finishing, is going to do the same. And they’re both by Marlon James.

I so want to say that I hate him and his damn novels but that wouldn’t be true. They resonate too deep for hate. The Book of Night Women stayed with me so long I was extremely reluctant to buy A Brief History. I waited; saw it in my favorite bookstore, saw it win prestige and still said I ain’t buying fucking bullshit that breaks my fucking heart. I nah fi do it.

But…

Marley

whose music reached me before Prince.

Marley

whose reggae connected me to my family in a way no other music does.

And so I bought it…and started reading.

Fucking Marlon James, man. I mean, damn.

I can’t fault him for his knowledge, or sense, of history. I can’t fault him for me reading past the sick ass murder that occurred in the first few pages. I can’t fault him anymore than I could fault Dylan for Masters of War or NWA for Fuck the Police or War for The World is a Ghetto because neither him or Dylan or NWA or War are the originators of this violent ass world I’m raising my son in.

I can’t even fault him for my reaction to a book that I haven’t yet finished, although I only have 14 pages left out of a 686 page novel. I can’t fault him for me feeling sorrow for the fictional psychopath Josey Wales. I can’t fault him because he’s an honest writer. His research is solid. His writing is beyond great. I can’t do anything but finish the novel, post this review and this song…

Selassie I Jah Rastafari

Addendum: I just finished the book. Considering the deranged violence that occurred throughout the book was that I would end it smiling and happy but I did! I’d read the whole tome all over again just to read that ending but first, I need a year or two to recover, just like I did with The Book of Night Women. With this ending, I do believe Marlon James has joined my very small list of favorite writers.

Gospel

March 4, 2016

i.

discordant
never/
polyrhythmic
like life
we were/
in the beginning/
many feet make many sounds

we took the tree
and made it talk/
a jungle of sounds
we produced
everyone for miles around
heard it
gravitated towards it

then strangers came
chanting like gregor
tolling the bell
like igor

creating a cacophony
a frankenstein sound
that we ran from/
the reverberation of our feet
and the clamor of our pursuers
disturbed the serenity of the forest
forever

ii.

our feet were forced
to wade in the water
and the god the strangers proclaimed
didn’t trouble the waters
enough

we moaned
a sound as new to us
as the clang of metal when we shifted
as the strangely accented voices
ordering us to stop the dirges

but we couldn’t stop
even after the ship docked
even after survival dictated
that we scale down our humanity.

Out of our misery grew the gospel.

 

Excerpted from my first book, In the Whirlwind.

©2006 Tichaona Munhamo Chinyelu

In the Introduction to this series, I wrote about how I was fascinated by the Great Dismal Swamp. I didn’t include that I also desired to write a verse novel but I was intimidated for a variety of reasons: my limited poetic knowledge of the forms and techniques writers I admire (Derek Walcott) used for their verse novels/epics. Plus, my previous books length collections have been full of pieces that were created individually with no thought of the cohesion a novel type book requires.

But what I realized both on my own and after reading this article about Idea Debt. Simply put, Idea Debt is defined thus:

Idea Debt is when you spend too much time picturing what a project is going to be like, too much time thinking about how awesome it will be to have this thing done and in the world, too much time imagining how cool you will look, how in demand you’ll be, how much money you’ll make. And way too little time actually making the thing.

I’ve spent the past few years writing this in drips and drabs…and mentally engaging with it and its concept; to the point that I was allowing it to hold me back and stymie other writing projects in the works. After reading that article, I realized I was correct in publishing the pieces online so that they could move out of my creative space and thereby free it up.

I feel validated by the likes the series has gotten so far although some constructive comments would also be nice! So, thank you, reader for reading this and I hope you like where I take it (or it takes me!)

 

It was heady
the overheard talk
as one beast of burden
held another
for George
to ride to a Congress
where Henry was going
to wax poetic
about liberty and death

But I didn’t really need their talk
to know about freedom.
I just had to remember
what life was like before
on the Senegambia.
Life there was pagan
and imperfect
but it wasn’t chained,
branded or hobbled;
and my skin color wasn’t a disease
actively legislated against
by people who believed
in the Curse of Ham.

So when the British said
if we reach them, we would be free
I forswore being enslaved
to a future first president.

It wasn’t the first time I ran
but it was the first time
I was successful.

 

 

Last Page

 

Related Links:

Black Loyalists

Cassandra Pybus – Epic Journeys of Freedom

 

1.

William Byrd married
a 21-year-old widow
whose dead husband
was the son
of a former governor
of Virginia.
She agreed
that William’s first son
would be named
after him;
a heritage the son wore so proudly
he went on to become
the future founder of Richmond.

2.

William Byrd, the son, married Lucy,
one of two daughters
of Daniel Parke
who holds the honor
of being the only British
colonial governor to be lynched
out of existence.

Lucy’s sister married John Custis
and they had one son
Daniel Parke Custis
the first husband of Martha Washington.
3

Daniel died and left Martha
17,500 acres, 300 slaves
and control of the inheritance
of two of their children still alive
and two years after he died
Martha married George.

When George was eleven
his father died
and he inherited ten slaves.
In the Virginian scheme
of things
ten was middling, minor;
certainly not enough to recast(e) him
into the upper echelons
of plantation society

Martha brought George great wealth
and George bought land and more slaves
before sailing across the Delaware
to a future first presidency.

 

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