Thursday, December 10, 2015


I have suggested to everyone I encounter to research and read Ta-Nehisi Coates book, “Between the World and Me,” as well as his essays in The Atlantic magazine. In particular, “The Case for Reparations” essay. The majority of these encounters have left me speechless. People do not read or desire to know. I was hoping NPRs’ revealing report from the National Endowment for the Arts, which Americans are reading less frequently and less proficiently: “Reading Study Shows Remarkable Decline in U.S.” was an outlier and not the trend line. Reported over eight years ago in 2007, and we continued the spiral downward.

Are we void as a country of people who read books, news articles, magazines, essays, and literature in general, with the operative word being “read?” I read a piece by our First Lady, Mrs. Michelle Obama, her Princeton thesis, “Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community” that I highly recommend everyone read. I will not go through the complete essay, but I will highlight one of the tools she used as a rough measure of being literateness ( a tendency for an individual to include reading and writing as major part of his/her life). Mrs. Obama uses various social and economic variables, such as examining the number of books in one’s home, growing up, and presently. Instead of book ownership, people can use public libraries to enhanced their knowledge. In every U.S. city, libraries make books are available for loan. A great resource for the written word, and best of all, the books are “free.”

Television and videos are becoming our only source of intellectual thought; the “how” in how we experience life. I believe Toni Morrison is an intellectual giant, and I love all of her writings. I ask every woman I meet if they have read “The Bluest Eye” by Ms. Morrison and if they have not, I strongly suggest they do. When Ms. Morrison implied that Ta-Nehisi Coates is our new James Baldwin stating: “I have been wondering who might fill the intellectual void that has plagued me after James Baldwin died---“Clearly it is Ta-Nehisi Coates.”

Renown public intellectual Cornel West, his friend and former colleague  Michael Eric Dyson has debated this comment and at times got personal, which is not alarming. Discussing an issue or having an honest disagreement is a normal occurrence, it brings out the best in us. Hearing these two voices of consciousness debate offers a tremendous opportunity for us to look closer at their thought process and gain insight why reading is so important. Mr. West’s and Mr. Dyson’s ability to justify and argue their points or position is steep in what Cornel West would often say: “life of the mind.” Toni Morrison, Cornel West, Michael Eric Dyson, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and James Baldwin are all writers I have read, researched and followed with a deep admiration for their humanity and writings. They make a great effort and succeed in giving us “food-for-thought.”  Their works are clearly “food that increases our brain muscles.” Like the food we eat to nourish our bodies, we need food to feed our minds. Please turn off the T.V. and read a book and encourage your children to do the same.

By James H. Williams

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Diop, Thank you for your efforts to engage us in why reading is very important to all who care about humanity!!!