Archive | Books RSS feed for this section

We are all ‘Nobodies’

17 Nov

When I jumped into reading Marc Lamont Hill’s Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond I’d just finished reading Mychal Denzel Smith’s ‘Invisible Man’. Both books were released just five weeks apart and in realizing the similar theme between the two (a person of color being seen as insignificant) I thought it to be a striking commentary on how many men of color must be feeling in our country lately. Then two black men were brutalized and publically slain by police within 48 hours of each other. Then came the Dallas massacre. Then Keith Lamont Scott. Then Alfred Olango. It has been one hell of a year for black people and for those fighting against this violence, to say the least.  It was one thing to read this book from a retrospective viewpoint. It was another experience entirely to read Hill’s reflections on our societies’ historic (and often systematic) attack on people of color, and in particular black men, while also feeling like you had a live front row seat to it. Yet again. Yet again video taped. Yet again hearing the cries for help or one’s last fight for survival. Yet again it all is, heartbreaking, infuriating and hard to take in. And yet again I like many of us, am left staring into the face of blatant, violent, and brutal injustice with unanswered questions and a further enforced conviction that our system is deeply broken. ‘Nobody’ gave me the exact facts and background knowledge I needed to know (even further) that this is not a faulty assessment.

In presenting the history and facts about previously little-known places like Ferguson, Missouri and Waller County, Texas Hill succeeds in directly tying them to the violence we’ve seen in recent months. And in doing so, provides some clarity to the questions many of us have asked in the wake of such horrific and intolerable injustices: How could this have happened?  How was it allowed to happen? And why does it keep happening? Hill uses the most recent examples of fatal police brutality to explore on the long-standing policies (such as the Stand Your Ground Law) and cultures that created and now sustain a culture that allows these murders to occur, and injustice to continuously prevail. In examining the data, geography, political history, culture and public policies behind these instances, Nobody makes intriguing commentary on the various larger issues plaguing our society, that ultimately, have given birth to the fatalities we’re seeing now,  i.e.: Flint’s water crisis, the war on drugs, the prison industrial complex, the lack of resources for and the criminalization of mental illness and our woefully disparate economic infrastructure that continues to disproportionately devastate minority communities.

Furthermore, in Nobody’s presentation of pieces of the intimate lives of Mike Brown (Despite a troublesome academic environment, “Brown like, many teenagers of color, had a positive and eclectic set of aspirations. He wanted to learn sound engineering, play college football, become a rap artist, and be a heating and cooling technician; he also wanted to be famous.”) or Sandra Bland (“…Bland was a 2009 graduate of Prairie View A&M. She majored in agriculture, played in the school band, and was a member of the Sigma Gamma Rho sorority.”) or the more ordinary aspects of life for Jordan Davis and Freddie Gray– we are better able to see ourselves within them. 

Image result for marc lamont hill nobody                                                                                                                                           

(photo via amazon.com)

“Brown’s story is a testament to how race and class, as well as other factors like gender, sexuality, citizenship, and ability status, conspire to create a dual set of realities in twenty-first-century America. For the powerful, justice is a right; for the powerless, justice is an illusion.”

Not only does ‘Nobody’ help us to better connect the dots as to the “why’s” and “how’s” of these injustices, but (I dare say) it also allows us to see that those who are deemed a “nobody” in the corrupt parts and eyes of the American political system can really be all of us in one way or another. And brings forth the frightening realization that: many of us, especially people of color, are connected to the “nobody”: wealthy or poor or disabled or “respectable” or teenaged. With our hands up or asking questions pertaining to our rights or running away. We walk to the store, we stop for gas, we play music we love, we make eye contact with each other. We exist and try to live our lives both as freely as possible and at times, as mundanely and low key as we please. We are all nobodies and–we are somebodies. We are all  a beautiful and valuable piece existing in this mosaic of the ugly idea of a nobody. And in knowing that, we know the most frightening call to action ever: that a nobody, can be anybody.

“It would be easy, given the logic of the current moment, to individualize this crisis. We could say that our problems are the work of a few bad apples and that the great majority of police, prosecutors, politicians, corporations–indeed the great majority of the nation–frowns on the exploitation of the vulnerable….Regardless of our individual or collective intentions, we are nonetheless bound up in a state of emergency in this nation. In order to repair the damage that has been done, we must craft a new set of frameworks of our economy, for our schools, for our justice system, for public housing….We must reinvest in communities. We must imagine the world that is not yet.”

Advertisements

Ready for Right Now.

3 Dec
(photo courtesy of mscareergirl.com)

(photo courtesy of mscareergirl.com)

I recently finished this work which has both inspired me and left me with a handful of questions. It was a great read that highlights effectively the importance of why 20-something -year-olds need to capitalize on the NOW. Why this is not the decade  leading up to when young adults need to get serious about their lives but the decade when being serious and planning ahead count the most. This is the time when young adults need to do everything in our power to set up a solid foundation for ourselves, and where the moves we make will most certainly reflect in the next decade. This is the time where we can yes, afford to explore, but we cannot afford to slack. And with over a decade of work in this field psychologist Dr. Meg Jay illustrates these points beautifully- this work really got through to me being a 20-something myself.

However, it still left me pondering on the “how?” What are the concrete steps we, as young adults looking forward to the rest of our lives, can make to secure ourselves? With everything going on in the job market, the school financial crises and our ever-changing economy- what are some of the things we can do to set ourselves up for success in the best way possible? How can we be more prepared? In in light of the financial crises going on with colleges, how can we do that in lieu of some of us having mountains of college debt?

Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Dr. Jay did indirectly address this issue. She gave plenty of examples of where young adults can make effective changes in our lives now that’ll have a positive pay off later. But I really wanted this book to go deeper. I wanted to hear about programs and skills we can capitalize on. Would it be okay for a 20-something year old with no other major financial commitment to take a year or so and travel the world? Can we still join bands and bar hop and casually date and still be in the running for  success later? How can we successfully balance these things out? Or are these experiences we need to forego altogether?

And what about those of us who do have children already? Or who can’t afford higher education? What about young adults who’ve just come over from a foreign country trying to gain a better professional and educational life? Does that leave a portion of America’s young adult population out of the success factor? I wonder about the people who fall through the cracks or who’s live don’t fit into the average college-age student’s criteria.

Maybe this is what Dr.Jay wanted. Maybe the purpose behind this book was not only to dispel a societal cliche (“30 is the new 20”) but also to get the conversations started on how young people in America NEED to use this time as a preparation for what we all hope will come:  a success story. A chance to say we made it.

Check out this TED talk below from the author Dr.Meg Jay: “Why 30 is not the new 20”

 

Fear-dom

12 Jan

postblackness

 

“We’ve got to do away with the notion that there’s something that all Black folk have to believe in order to be Black….That’s why post-Black is so suggestive a term: It clearly doesn’t signify the end of Blackness; it points, instead, to the end of the reign of a narrow, single notion of Blackness.” – author and professor Micheal Eric Dyson in his opening to Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness

Zora Neale Hurston

21 Jan

“At certain times I have no race, I am me. When I set my hat at a certain angle and saunter down Seventh Avenue, Harlem City, feeling as snooty as the lions in front of the Forty-Second Street Library, for instance. So far as my feelings are concerned, Peggy Hopkins Joyce on the Boule Mich with her gorgeous raiment, stately carriage, knees knocking together in a most aristocratic manner, has nothing on me. The cosmic Zora emerges. I belong to no race nor time. I am the eternal feminine with its string of beads.”  -from How It Feels to be Colored Me

“Sunday Morning”

13 Nov

(Via WeHeartIt)

#NowReading: A Belle In Brooklyn

14 Oct

I’ve been dying to read Essence Magazine writer, Demetria Lucas’ work since she published it last year and I finally got around to it between classes this semester. It’s wonderful. It’s one of those books you simple CAN’T put down.I  highly recommend it. Lucas’ narrative is full of comical reflections yet still encompassed with a depth of understanding on dating, relationships, and  love of self and others. Lucas, who is now Essence’ Magazine’s dating and relationships editor, offers prose which successfully straddles the border of entertaining and deeply wise.  Oh, and the book is pretty addictive too.

A Belle in Brooklyn Book Cover

This:

25 May

“Good writing should be a like a vivid dream.”

 

On stories:

21 Jan

“Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story…”

–  author Tim O’Brien from his work The Things They Carried

Bitch is the New Black: A Review

24 Dec

I may have tweeted out that “Helena Andrews is the most hilarious writer I’ve ever read” a plethora of times during the last month. I’ve been waiting to read this book all summer and it did not disappoint. A graduate of Colombia University and a contributing writer for The Washington Post and GLAMOUR Magazine, Andrews offers all kinds of comically tinged reflections in her sixteen essays on relationships, wishful relationships, growing up as she did and dating while working as one of the only black journalist at the NY Times during the Obama run for Presidency. In her introduction Andrews says: “Dear Toto, Kansas sucks. I get why you chose Oz. Advanced balloon technology is on the rise, so maybe we’ll see each other again. Love Cinderella.” And onto the next page it was. Andrews manages to keep her tone comical, yet heartfelt while reminiscing on even her most embarrassing and even sorrowful moments.

This was one of those books I ran back to over and over, in every open opportunity and allowed Andrews words to keep me thinking through another class (or dreaded work shift) about the experiences we go through in the dating game. This book made my year book-wise. It was my first purchase on my Nook and trust me I practically ran into Barnes and Nobles just to download it before they closed. My life is pathetic sometimes, yet I digress: INVEST in this book! With chapter titles like: Dirty Astronaut Diapers, Riding in Cars with Lesbians and Your Sixteen Cents, your winning. This one inspires you to embrace that inner sass: go on and do it- I haven’t looked back since ;)

A pretty interesting observation

20 Apr

“Fake love is a very powerful thing…”

“Pundits are always blaming TV for making people stupid, movies for desensitizing the world to violence, and rock music for making kids take drugs and kill themselves. These things should be the least of our worries. The main problem with mass media is that it makes it impossible to fall in love with any acumen of normalcy. There is no “normal,” because everybody is being twisted by the same sources simultaneously. You can’t compare your relationship with the playful couple who lives next door, because they’re probably modeling themselves after Chandler Bing and Monica Geller. Real people are actively trying to live like fake people, so real people are no less fake. Every comparison becomes impractical. This is why the impractical has become totally acceptable; impracticality almost seems cool.”

From Chuck Klosterman’s Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs