by Demetria R. Giles
The self-described “part manifesto, part history, part memoir” titled Black in America is surprisingly different. For many people, it is difficult to read a nonfiction book from front cover to back cover. There is a constant temptation to skip parts and use the table of contents to get to the parts that confirm one’s original biases. However, this timely narrative, offered up by the thought-provocateur, Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., pushed the boundaries of scholarly writing and entertainment to keep the reader engaged. The introduction immediately draws the reader in with the visualization of three strong women—the co-founders of the Millennial Activists United—breaking bread with Glaude in a Ferguson diner while awaiting the grand jury’s decision regarding indictment of the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown. Glaude’s retelling made the conversation feel intimate and special—as though the reader were eating at the table right beside them and was prevy to the pain behind their call to action. Glaude goes on to critically analyze the Obama administration and Black liberals role in the re-emerging and heightening racial tension in America. Within the context of true democracy, which the United States is not, Glaude makes clear his position that a real progressive vision will need to rise up outside of the bounds of the two-party system in America. This book is a great close-up for those who live on the perimeter of the racial divide; it is keen to an insiders scoop. Perfect, say, for those who know inequality exists but have never been forced to look at it much less learn about it. At the same time, it is a painful yet necessary memento for those of whom institutional racism, police brutality and the prison industrial complex have directly impacted their lives. It is like a Facebook feed for Black thought and life during the #BlackLivesMatter movement. For those readers who make it all the way to the end of Black in America, you will not be disappointed. In the afterword, Glaude demonstrates integrity and care by going back to address the three female activists of whom he opened the book with. Thankfully, he acknowledges a misstep–the misattribution of one woman activist’s story for another. It is a good thing he did because women of color must to be able to own their own stories. This part of the book may have actually been the most insightful. It gives a glimpse into the collective healing that needs to take place among the black and brown bodies being placed on the frontline of social justice movements. It is a peephole through the doors of tension and walls of complexity that are sometimes built when engaging in disruptive politics and community activism.
Demetria R. Giles, mother, educator, writer, NYC marathoner, triathlete and native Virginian, is a first-time poet living and learning in Brooklyn, New York. @drosewritings #drosewritings