The other day I learned about something so inspiring it caused me share it on social media as well as send texts of the link. I couldn’t believe it when I read it. It was something I never thought about so I never knew I needed it until I read about it.
What am I going on about?
It’s a book club for Black men.
You’re probably shaking your head and thinking, “Is that all?” Yes, that is all, but if you think this is a small thing, you don’t understand the magic of reading.
When I think of the typical book club member, the image I envision is a woman. I certainly don’t think of men, let alone Black men.
I’m a past member of a book club. Not one man — Black, white or otherwise — joined. I didn’t even think men had an interest in a book club as it was always viewed as a woman’s thing. For Black people — in my experience — reading for enjoyment tends to be the purview of women. I know there are Black men who read strictly for the pleasure of reading, but I’ve never seen it on the same scale as the women I know.
At some point reading became uncool and nerdy, so young Black boys stopped reading and Black men never regained the habit.
Then I read about The Marathon Book Club. Several things make this book club special. I’ve already mentioned it’s a book club for Black men. In addition, rapper Nipsey Hussle, who was murdered in front of his retail store, The Marathon Clothing, was the inspiration for the book club. With chapters in cities across the country, members read books Hussle mentioned in his music or interviews. Hussle read a lot, so there’s plenty of material for book clubs to discuss.
I love that Hussle’s life is having such a positive impact on people, specifically Black men.
This book club isn’t just about men reading, although it is. Magic happens when you read. You learn new words, sentence structure, grammar, etc., but you also use your imagination. In your mind, you see the characters and the places described in the book. You learn how to be still and quiet. You learn how to think critically.
When you read collectively and discuss what you’ve read more magic happens. You learn not just about how you think and view the world but how others do. My favorite classes in college were women’s literature and African American literature. At the start of each class, we formed a circle with our chairs and then we discussed the week’s reading. We all read the same thing, yet we had different perspectives or the words touched us differently. For example, in one of my favorite books, “Song of Solomon,” not everyone saw the ending the same. I interpreted the end as the character Milkman finally learning how to fly. It was crystal clear to me. A classmate, however, read it as Milkman decided to die by suicide since people can’t fly. Neither was wrong.
I’m also excited for this book club because when Black men get together to discuss the books they’re reading, they’re talking. Yes, Black men are opening up, being vulnerable and talking about their feelings. They’re sharing knowledge and wisdom. They’re learning from each other. Often Black men are afraid to remove the tough façade for fear of being seen as less than masculine, or they think no one understands their struggles. When these men start talking, they realize they’re not alone and they can share without judgment.
It’s for all of these reasons that I’m so excited about this book club for Black men. I hope more chapters of The Marathon Book Club or other book clubs for Black men start. The power that comes from this seemingly small thing is immeasurable.