A Call for Rebuilding Ourselves

This post will serve mainly as a book review, with some thoughts and feelings I have that I think are universal.

Title: REACH- 40 Black Men Speaking on Living, Leading, and Succeeding

Edited by: Ben Jealous and Trabian Shorters

Let me start by saying there were moments while I was reading this book that in my head I was screaming and clapping in agreement. There were other times when I was like, “man I cannot believe that’s how our nation was then.” And there were times I was like, “I flat out don’t believe I’m reading this.” In short: This book was eye opening.

Collecting 40 successful black men isn’t a challenge. However, when you think about it, how many can you name without help? How many successful black men do you know– personally or famous– that you would say, “man I bet he has a great story.” This was the first thing that made me stop and think and read more slowly as I was going through this book. We all have a story. Every day I read more than one Humans of New York description, I often don’t even care what the picture is, I just take in what others are sharing. Again, we all have a story.

The second thing that made me slow down and read more slowly was how many people I consider family, close friends, a mentor in my life, what have you I could hear coming to life from the pages of that book. Now, let me tell  you, of the men in this book I was familiar with, the information they shared, overall, I probably knew 5% of it at most. Yet, I could still here all these people I know well speaking to me. That told me something. That told me that you don’t need to be successful enough for someone planning to write a book to approach you to share your message. You just need to be commanding enough to get people close to you to listen and you can make a difference.

That being said, I don’t feel like this book made any difference in my life per se. I believe reading this book brought me more in tune with my story, my roots, my upbringing, the goals I already had, to get me to realize “yes you can.” Which brings me to the title I chose for this post. We cannot simply wait for someone else to fix us or someone else to fix our communities. If we care, we must take action. So many people criticize without offering support. So many people make snap judgments and assumptions without trying to learn the circumstances. So many people think they know everything.

Nobody knows everything. If we all hold learning–in any capacity– in a high regard, we will all be positive influences. I truly believe that education can be a currency. As someone with a technical degree, people often ask me what I think about non-technical majors or they assume that I look down on non-technical majors. Often times I remind them that some of the hardest working people I was raised around don’t have any degree. Some of the hardest working people I know growing up are art majors. It’s not always about how much someone is willing to put in that correlates to their chosen path. It’s about someone willing to work at something they are passionate about. Nobody chooses an art degree for many; many choose technical degrees for money. What does that tell us?

That said, bettering ourselves through education helps our society. Understanding what the buzz words on the news really mean help us make informed decisions. As we approach the next election year, there are a lot of candidates saying what they think they want people to hear. I have seen some of the polls, what people think is true and what science tells us to be true are not the same. This is detrimental to our future. We don’t have to be a detriment to our future, in fact it should be important to us to build our own futures. Many of the men that spoke in the book serve the community as mentors in some capacity. What if we all did that? Even if it was just one person, even if it is someone in our workplace or our apartment building, what can we change by being a mentor?

For me, the bottom line with this book, is that we need to find our niche, and then use our niche to help make other successful people. We won’t be around forever, and we have no idea when our time will be up. We should live each day with the idea of the future in mind. We should use the tools our 21st century world has for us. We should work to spread our beliefs (even if they are unpopular; because nobody can truly judge you for right from wrong). And finally, we should reach to be whatever our ideal self is.

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