Joy James uses poet Lucille Clifton’s image of “new bones” to reflect on a series of revolutionary anniversaries in 2021 and the nature of political leadership.
For the fearful bravely laughing as we fall into liberation formations.
We recognize the devastations of lack of clean water, adequate food and shelter but the cause of those deficits cannot be remedied through policy. If so, then there is no need for confrontation only accommodation with colonialists and petitions for greater benefit packages.
—Amilcar Cabral, Return to the Source
we will wear
new bones again.
we will leave
these rainy days,
break out through
into sun and honey time.
worlds buzz over us like bees,
we be splendid in new bones.
other people think they know
how long life is.
how strong life is.
— Lucille Clifton, “new bones”
Introduction: New Bones and New Intellectualism
Black poet, educator, and parent, Lucille Clifton’s “new bones” shapes skeletal reflections on revolutionary anniversaries: the 2020 summer of uprisings in response to the extrajudicial murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the 1871 Paris Commune; the 1951 We Charge Genocide: The Historic Petition to the United Nations for Relief From a Crime of The United States Government Against the Negro People in which the Communist Party USA Black-led Civil Rights Congress (as would Malcolm X a decade later) submitted the petition seeking justice and decolonization after WWII. The document utilizes the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide to draw attention to white supremacist terror, police and prison violence, rape, poverty, denial of civil and human rights, and labor exploitation. 2021 is also the anniversary of the 1971 Attica rebellion following George Jackson’s assassination by San Quentin prison guards and administrators— another rebel trauma milestone in this excavation of new bones emanating from the grassroots communities and Black liberation struggles.
“New bones” grow out of the political cultures of material struggles. Core tenets of 20th century Black revolutionary struggles are embodied by the US Black Panther Party’s militancy, and shaped by rural Black radicals in the Jim Crow south and Black urban youths. Antiblack enslavement and genocide fueled the rise of international capitalism. New bones as political formations in resistance are international. Liberation movements seek to align in solidarity. For example, the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) and its central leader Amilcar Cabral urged ethical people to “return to the source” in order to end (neo)colonial exploitation, extraction, and terror. Transformative culture—a peoples’ political culture— arises from the mass demanding survival and dignity for their daily needs. The source, as discussed below, does not emanate from an employment sector or the prestige of any institution aligned with states and regimes. US “democratic” culture routinely denies access to political power through voter suppression, gerrymandering, the electoral college, lobbyists, as well as legislation and courts that repress the civil or human rights of the indigenous/Black, laboring/working classes, the undocumented and the imprisoned.
Read more here: https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/5095-new-bones-abolitionism-communism-and-captive-maternals