I got the same mixed feelings I always get when after reading Nicki Minaj’s Tweet imploring her followers to “start reading”, I noticed with dismay but not surprise that Ms. Minaj neglected to suggest what to read.
We decided to not put the #RakeItUpVideo out anymore so that ppl can stop twerking and start reading. Let's change our world 1 book @ a time
— NICKI MINAJ (@NICKIMINAJ) August 18, 2017
This is a tragically typical pontification, most especially among rappers and if you need proof, look no further that Bun B’s classic exertion from the song “Big Pimpin‘”, “go read a book you illiterate son of bitch.”
Which book, Bun???
Meanwhile Dick Gregory, who just passed, left in his wake an absolute treasure trove of stand-up routines, articles, interviews and books, two of which I’ve read, No More Lies and the seminal Nigger; which if I had to give an impromptu review for, I’d describe as an as poignant tho often hilarious Fire Next Time.
Mr. Gregory rose to fame as a comic and was among a elite group of Hugh Hefner’s own select Playboy Club comics that included Bill Cosby, Lenny Bruce and Woody Allen.
And while Mr. Bruce OD’d, Bill Cosby went on to greater television fame, Woody Allen dominated the movie genre, both with side orders of perversion.
Mr. Gregory leaned more toward activism, however.
And if it’s true that applicable life lessons are in all great literature, then the segment in Nigger where the White Supremacist has drawn a gun on Mr. Gregory and Mr. Gregory demands that the man shoot him but the man doesn’t, forcing Mr. Gregory to wax in amazement about a philosophy that would allow it’s subscribers to hate to the point of murder, yet refrain from murder only to avoid taking orders from a nigger, was certainly in play the other night when my Godbrother was in town and we got pulled over by the cops.
My Godbrother had a small knife in the car and absolutely infuriated over their inability to otherwise find as much as a marijuana roach, the cops started barking about arresting him over the knife.
“It’s my knife”, I said. “Arrest me.”
I was gambling, of course, that Mr. Gregory’s logic still held and wouldn’t you know…
This is the power of books.
They give you ideas.
If you ever saw me walking the street, you’d certainly see me with a book in my hand.
I daily walk silently through Washington Heights and Bed Stuy passing tons of people that are not holding books yet still have plenty to say.
I often wonder how that’s possible.
I think everyone that can, should read and I think the problem for most non-readers is that they haven’t found what I’ve always called they’re “magic” book.
The book that makes them a reader.
I’ve told this story a bunch but for me, it was always being 16, bored shitless, thumbing through some pages of the books on Mom’s bookshelf like I sometimes took occasion to do when I started do the same with Toni Morrison’s Tar Baby and never looked back.
For my Godbrother and another of my best friends – and, perhaps, 1/2 the Black American male population – it was Iceberg Slim‘s Pimp: The Story of My Life.
And in an age when Wikipedia makes everybody feel like an instant expert, grabbing a book becomes akin to not only an old-school approach toward educating oneself, but a radical freeing of the mind.
If you’re not one who’s mind is already free and you’re ready to take that step –
Not now, you!
– I’d suggest you start with Dick Gregory’s Nigger.
It may not be your “magic” book, but it sure is magical.