If you are reading this column then that means you understand the power of words and the importance of reading. As you know, we live in an era where just about all communication is produced visually and is packaged digitally.
As a journalist who was born in the mid-eighties, I must admit, when it comes to binging on news reports and op-ed’s, I am a faithful digital reader. I mean honestly, why pay for a high-tech phone with an unlimited Internet plan, only use it to make calls, watch Youtube channels, and text?
The one really cool thing about growing up in the nineties was living through the Jordan era, the evolution of BET, and of course participating in book clubs.
Back in late August, I stumbled across a social media post from Harrisburg businessman Stefan Hawkins, a co-owner of House of Vegans, that really caught my attention. It was a photo of a stack of books — all of them written by Black authors. The titles included Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together In the Cafeteria, Medical Apartheid, The Rose That Grew From Concrete, and The Four Agreements.
I wasn’t the only person to take notice. A few minutes later, other Facebook friends started liking and commenting on the post as well. Among them were Harrisburg natives Jaren Tucker and Lawrence Williams.
Tucker, Williams, and Hawkins all grew up together. And they’ve had many discussions about current events and the books they were currently reading.
It wasn’t long before Tucker floated the idea of starting a book club. Williams, who regularly reads to his daughter, agreed. So did Hawkins. And less than 48 hours after that first post, the Good Brothas Can’t Read Book Club was born, and other central Pennsylvania men started to join as well.
The book club’s name has more than one meaning. It pokes fun at the incorrect assertion that Black men aren’t big readers. But it’s also the name of the book cafe that Hawkins will open in Midtown Harrisburg in November, according to the ‘Burg, a magazine that captures life in the Capital City.
Hawkins told the ‘Burg that “Good Brotha,” is also a term of endearment.
“When you see a Black man doing good things in the community, you call him a good brotha,” he told the magazine.
The good brothers involved in the Good Brotha’s Can’t Read book club stressed why reading hardback books are so important. Everyone agreed, reading a tangible book allows a reader to embark on a certain type of experience, an experience that many remember while growing up. During this first installment, the group agreed to read the Ta-Nehisi Coates novel The Water Dancer.
The fellas expressed to me that although they have only met a total of three times thus far; each conversation has been nothing less than enlightening. This book club also allows for the structure to take place.
Tucker is the lead facilitator and creates a safe space for each man to be transparent about his thoughts and feelings.
Reading books such as The Water Dancer is great, especially during the country’s current climate. It reminds the reader exactly how far we have come as an ethnic group and it also energizes us to keep fighting for forward progress.
Another influential aspect about the Good Brothas Can’t Read book club are the side conversations that these men are able to conduct. We live in a world where many people think that in order to function in a group everyone has to get along.
On the contrary, having the ability to own your own thoughts and express them respectfully and freely are ways many men conduct themselves.
This book club is full of free-thinkers who have an understanding, challenge each other because accountability matters more than being a “Yes Man.”
Overall, I am grateful for this book club. Again, reading is an art form that society is really straying away. Yes, in the 21st century, having access to books rather tangible or intangible is definitely limitless so designate some time to read.
Anwar Curtis, of Harrisburg, tells the stories of the people of Pennsylvania’s capital city. His work appears frequently on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page. Readers may follow him on Twitter @ACTheMayor.
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