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Book Review: “Men We Reaped” by Jesmyn Ward

Let me be clear. I am a HUGE Jesmyn Ward fan. Her writing is amazing. I love the eloquent way she speaks. She represents a region of this country that needs to have their stories told. I admire the courage she displays in the specific, and sometimes ultra personal, matters she details in her books. This is my book review for “Men We Reaped” by one of my favorite authors, Jesmyn Ward.

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Fundraiser: Ratcliffe Elementary School

We don’t want to take away from your summer fun, but BLACK MEN READ is partnering with Ratcliffe Elementary School for our annual school supply drive and we’d love for you to be a part of giving back to our community! Anyone can participate by donating 1 of 3 ways:

1. Purchase items via Ratcliffe’s Amazon Wish List – https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/30V4Y66W9P9ZC/

2. Drop off purchased items at Fairfield Library (1401 N Laburnum Ave, Henrico, VA 23223) starting Monday, July 20th. Please read the supply list attached in the comments.

3. Donate to our Back to School Fundraiser through Paypal: paypal.me/blackmenread. We thank you in advance for your donations and partnering with us to help Ratcliffe Elementary students and teachers! Please share this with as many people as possible.

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Author Fair Interest Meeting Wrap

Attention Authors: We are super excited to host our first Black Men Read Author Fair on August 4-5, 2020.  This virtual event will feature some of the most prolific Black writers and when successful, will connect their work with an interested reader. 

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Book Review: “Nickel Boys” by Colson Whitehead

“Nickel Boys” written by Colson Whitehead is an emotional, gut wrenching book based on the real life events which took place in a Florida reform school over the course of decades.  This book serves as an in your face reminder of the seeds of racism and violence against our society’s most vulnerable that unfortunately happened (and happens) with little impedance.

Official Synopsis

When Elwood Curtis, a black boy growing up in 1960s Tallahassee, is unfairly sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy, he finds himself trapped in a grotesque chamber of horrors. Elwood’s only salvation is his friendship with fellow “delinquent” Turner, which deepens despite Turner’s conviction that Elwood is hopelessly naive, that the world is crooked, and that the only way to survive is to scheme and avoid trouble. As life at the Academy becomes ever more perilous, the tension between Elwood’s ideals and Turner’s skepticism leads to a decision whose repercussions will echo down the decades

Review

Nickel Boys book cover
Nickel Boys book cover

To call this book a hard read for me would be an understatement.  As a reader, I tend to embed myself in the emotions and feelings of the characters of the book.  It helps me “feel” the sentiments the author is trying to convey and I enjoy books that do this well.  Authors like Bernice L. McFadden (Read my review of Sugar) and Colson Whitehead just happen to be masters at this. 

From beginning to end the storytelling was fantastic.  It moved fluidly from character to character mostly centering in on Elwood, an unfortunate casualty of the racist, Jim Crow culture that supported the subject school: Nickel Academy.  The way he described the academy itself gave life and spirit to lifeless buildings and landscapes.  And because of this readers will run the gamut of emotions like I did: anger, sympathy, joy, disgust, hope, among others.

The racist themes in the book are logical but nonetheless frustrating.  Readers will have to read through page after page of police discrimination, brutal beatings and downright infuriating racist behavior to juveniles.  The book details everything!…and it should.  The goal of the book wasn’t to slap a romance on a tragedy.  It was to descriptively illustrate the human crimes that were done to the students before, during and after their time at Nickel Academy.

There is one point worth mentioning about the book that was small but massively important.  The concept of willful ignorance on the part of all of the citizens who surrounded or were connected to the institution.  The state officials, local business people, police and many others turned a blind eye to or even worse profited off the activity at Nickel and this allowed their activity to go on for decades.  This theme unfortunately applies to the current United States as well especially as we look at the brutal murders of George Floyd, most recently, Sandra Bland and Eric Garner. The book summarized the thought like this:

“If everyone looked the other way, then everybody was in on it. If he looked the other way, he was as implicated as the rest. That’s how he saw it, how he’d always seen things.”

This book is amazing and I recommend this book for all.  I wish stories like this never existed but Colson in this case was not pulling from an imaginary story line.  This nightmare is real life.

Pick up your copy today wherever dope literature is sold..  Here are a few of our suggestions:

  1. Visit Mahogany Books
  2. Visit your local indie bookstore 
  3. Libro.fm.  You can support your local indie bookstore! Note: If you buy audiobooks or subscribe with Libro.fm, we get free audiobooks. Use this link (Libro.fm.)
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SATURDAY: Netflix Watch Party (CANDYMAN), Homemade Cinnamon Rolls and Honey Mint Whiskey Mojito

The third installment of our Netflix Watch Parties is almost here!  Candyman is an oldie but goodie horror movie that we know will be so much fun for all! As a reminder, our Netflix Watch Parties serve as fundraisers to benefit the Henrico Educational Foundation (henricogives.org). The Henrico Education Foundation (HEF) is a non-profit foundation that provides grants and resources to Henrico County Public School students and teachers to fill the gap between taxpayer funding and what is required to produce innovation and achievement in our schools and communities. This Foundation is specifically targeting aid to families affected by Covid-19 (Coronavirus).

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SATURDAY: Netflix Watch Party (UNCORKED), Braised Short Ribs and Gentleman’s Agreement

We had so much fun with our last Netflix Watch Party (School Daze) we know this next one will be even more fun! Our Netflix Watch Parties serve as fundraisers to benefit the Henrico Educational Foundation (henricogives.org). The Henrico Education Foundation (HEF) is a non-profit foundation that provides grants and resources to Henrico County Public School students and teachers to fill the gap between taxpayer funding and what is required to produce innovation and achievement in our schools and communities. This Foundation is specifically targeting aid to families affected by Covid-19 (Coronavirus).

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TONIGHT: Netflix Watch Party (School Daze), Banana Pudding and Jungle Juice

Tonight is the first of our Netflix Watch Parties as fundraisers to benefit the Henrico Educational Foundation (henricogives.org). The Henrico Education Foundation (HEF) is a non-profit foundation that provides grants and resources to Henrico County Public School students and teachers to fill the gap between taxpayer funding and what is required to produce innovation and achievement in our schools and communities. This Foundation is specifically targeting aid to families affected by Covid-19 (Coronavirus).

THE MAIN COURSE

To raise funds and to have a little fun in the process we are hosting a Netflix Watch Party for the next three Saturdays. We are so excited to watch “School Daze”.

School Daze is a 1988 American musical comedy-drama film, written and directed by Spike Lee, and starring Larry Fishburne, Giancarlo Esposito, and Tisha Campbell-Martin. Based in part on Spike Lee’s experiences as a Morehouse student in the Atlanta University Center during the 1970s, it is a story about members of a fraternity and sorority clashing with some of their classmates at a historically black college during homecoming weekend.


DESSERT AND A COCKTAIL

Banana Pudding and Jungle Juice

We also have a wonderful suggestion for food and an adult beverage to accompany the movie. Why not make this delicious BANANA PUDDING (we won’t spoil the banana reference for those who haven’t seen the movie) and wash down your popcorn with a glass of JUNGLE JUICE! Both recipes are below.

We can’t wait to watch the movie tonight and hope you will join in. If you haven’t paid for your ticket, you can still donate by following these instructions:
1. Participants donate $5/per watch party they want to attend using CashApp ($blackmenread) or Paypal (paypal.me/blackmenread).
2. Please put your email and the movie you want to attend in the note.
3. Prior to the party we will send you the URL to join the party!!

Note: Participants must have access to a Netflix account. The Netflix Party app works through the Google Chrome browser on a desktop or laptop only.


BANANA PUDDING RECIPE

Ingredients:
5-6 bananas (slight green, not fully ripe), sliced not too thick/not too thin
Jello instant banana pudding – small box
Jello instant french vanilla pudding – small box
Creamy Cool whip (2) – thawed
Philadelphia cream cheese block – 8 oz (soften – best to leave it out on the counter for at least 4-6 hours)
1-14 oz can of condensed milk
1-3 Cups of milk*
1 box of Nilla Wafer cookies (if you are using a bigger dish or just like extra cookies you might need another box)

Directions:

  1. Line the bottom of your dish with Nilla Wafers
  2. On top of the Nilla Wafers place a slice of banana
  3. With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth and fluffy**. Add the condensed milk and beat until it incorporated. Add the pudding and at least 1 cup of milk. Continue to add additional milk until it gets to soft set consistency (not to liquidity and not to firm). (I used about 3 cups when I made it)
  4. Use a rubber spatula to fold in on container of cool whip into the pudding mixture.
  5. Pour some of pudding mixture over the banana layer.
  6. Continue to repeat the vanilla wafer, banana slice, and pudding layering until you run out. I like to end with pudding on top. (Depending on dish size, width, and length, you should get 2-3 layers)
  7. Garnish the top with a few crushed Nilla Wafers
  8. Refrigerate for about 2 hours before serving, so the pudding can set up.
  9. Before serving, top the pudding with the other container of cool whip.

*The pudding box directions said do not use soy milk b/c it will not set up. I used 2% milk.
**If the cream cheese is not soft enough, you will not get it to the creaminess that it needs to be. You will end up with little chunks of cream cheese throughout.


JUNGLE JUICE RECIPE

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz vodka
  • 6 oz rum
  • 12oz orange juice
  • 6 oz lemonade
  • 9 oz fruit punch

Shake. Serve over ice.

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Individual Donor Levels (2020)

We are proud to announce a new way for individual donors to financially support our mission. The Individual Pledge Program allows individuals to pledge to financially support Black Men Read at a level starting as low as $100. Donors commit to complete their pledge throughout the year either through manual payments or by automatic recurring payments to a credit or debit card.

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President’s Address (2019)

For the first annual President’s Dinner our president, Demetrius Frazier, presented highlights from 2019 and charged all in attendance to continue to work towards our mission.

To view the summary slides from this event please select the graphic below.

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New Volunteer Staff Position: Creative Director

Black Men Read is currently looking for a super talented and hard working individual to join our staff as a CREATIVE DIRECTOR.  This position will be integral to sharing our message and impact in an engaging and inspiring way.  Are you that person?  Consider joining our team today!

Below you will find a written job description detailing the responsibilities and requirements. If interested, please click the button below to apply.

If interested, please send your resume and samples of your work to contact@blackmenreadnow.com to apply.

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