This appeared in the November 2015 issue of the Diablo Gazette.
Edited by Ben Jealous and Trabian Shorters, Reach: 40 Black Men Speak on Living, Leading, and Succeeding is a collection of autobiographical essays revealing the myth of the disengaged and absentee black man to be the complete and utter lie it is.
No matter who the contributor may be - community organizer, businessman, religious leader, philanthropist, educator, or entertainer - each and every one serves as a sterling example of working hard to overcome adversities of all kinds and succeeding in their field of endeavor, chosen or discovered.
Not satisfied with success, these forty men also work hard to give back to their communities; so future generations will not face the same racial and economic adversities they fought to overcome.
Although the contributors vary greatly in age and profession, there is a disconcerting sameness to many of their narratives: broken homes, drug addiction and/or alcoholism, drug dealing, the inevitable incarceration that follows, and/or the power of being a member of a religious community, a church.
Although the short essays in Reach are not “heavy” reading; the longest is, perhaps, five pages. I do recommend reading only a sampling each night, or every other day, instead of gulping it all down. Readers should give these men’s powerful stories a chance to sink in.
While the above stories are sinking in, one might want to lighten the mood. I suggest you give Larry Wilmore’s I’d Rather We Got Casinos and Other Black Thoughts a try.
This amusing humor book, first published in 2009, to tie-in with Wilmore’s then semi-regular gig as the Senior Black Correspondent on The Daily Show, was reissued by Hachette this October; to tie-in with Wilmore’s success hosting Comedy Central’s replacement for The Colbert Report, The Nightly Show.
In a new forward, Wilmore explains how his Senior Black Correspondent was a fictional persona and that his book was an equally fictional “look back” at the odd history and odder political activism of this persona.
As with any humor book, milage will vary greatly from piece to piece and reader to reader. I found Talk-Back Trauma, wherein fictional screen characters discuss how horrible it is to be constantly yelled at by black audiences, and In Search of Black Jesus to be the funniest of the lot. How Come Brothas Don’t See UFOs? Part II placed a very respectable third.
Fans of The Nightly Show should “Keep it 100” and check it out.