Let's Hear It for the Boys.
On the second Saturday of each month, Anthony Kirby convenes in Brooklyn homes or local restaurants with attorney Le'Roi Gill, architect Bob Henry, educator Sherman Jones and Reverend Frederick Ennette to discuss a monthly book selection. Welcome to Men of Books aka the M.O.B.
"M.O.B. is a forum where group members dialogue about published works which focus on the brothers," says Kirby, a men's furnishings designer. "The book club highlights the need for black men to exchange thoughts on social and political problems in our society. Our coming together has added a cord of strength to an unraveling community and created a fellowship among us through reading."
M.O.B.'s reading list features a roster of impressive titles, including Booker T. Washington's classic autobiography, Up From Slavery(Signet Classic, 2000), Hannibal B. Johnson's historical tome Black Wall Street: From Riot to Renaissance (Eakin Publications, 1998) and The Measure of A Man: A Spiritual Autobiography by Sidney Poitier (Harper San Francisco, 2000). In its three-year existence, no female author has ever graced this reading list.
"We only read books written by black male authors and books dealing with people's accomplishments, especially if the struggle seems insurmountable," says Kirby. Those struggles are akin to those facing the young male protagonist sentenced to death in Ernest Gaines' wrenching novel, A Lesson Before Dying (Knopf, 1997). "The book portrayed a real life situation in the plight of the black male. Gaines captured the feeling of helplessness we so often experience in a racist society."
"The reading is more than just for the pure pleasure of the book. Black men don't share their own emotions and struggles very well," says Kirby. "A book allows us to objectify our comments on issues that are real without compromising our privacy. We get a greater sense of what things are important to one another and in some cases, share hopes and triumphs. It also keeps our finger on the pulse of black male authors."
Black Men Advocating Reading
Brian Egeston, author of Whippins Switches & Peach Cobbler (Carter-Krall Publishers, 2001), established Black Men Advocating Reading in Atlanta, Georgia after hearing author Omar Tyree state that the publishing industry relies heavily on fiction sales to women.
"The reading group was my attempt to dispel the myth that black men don't read fiction," says Egeston. "Men associate fiction with something that isn't true or real. But there are many wonderful novels written which address the issues of our society and our race. It's great to see these issues addressed in fiction because we get our conscious fed subliminally."
While reading Tyree's A Do Right Man (Scribner, 1998), Egeston was "enthralled by a brother dealing with life's issue." But when he joined club members in a spirited group discussion, he walked away with a new perspective. "I learned that the transitions of our lives are merely mental growth spurts. Fiction is often very realistic and inspiring."
BMAR's members appreciate a mechanism that gets them into reading and enjoy the group's camaraderie. But, they enjoy the food selection even more. "I set it out for the brothers," says Egeston. "Down home cooking!"
An added bonus is the admiration and attention women bestow upon these reading brothers. "Many members find that women are impressed and very interested that they're reading a book in bed or reading a book when they call. Women think it's sexy when their men read fiction novels." Women's groups have even solicited the club for double book discussions, but Egeston declares, "we have yet to find the time to let them into our cigar-smoking boys club."
The Brothers Book Club
"People are surprised when they learn about us," says Cedric Stocks, founder of The Brother's Book Club of Detroit, Michigan. "Most people aren't used to black men getting together in this type of forum. People have the perception that we only read newspapers or magazines. The BBC is doing its best to dispel this notion by reading a variety of topics."
Like other male book clubs, the BBC only reads male authors. "We relate to their writings and have similar life experiences. We're not eliminating other authors. We're achieving a level of consistency. If we don't support our people," ponders Stokes, "who will?"
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|Publication:||Black Issues Book Review|
|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||May 1, 2001|
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