A powerful and topical examination of tragedy.




A collection of poetry that explores police brutality and racism toward members of black communities in America.

Leak (Faith of our Founders, Ed., 2015) offers her first compilation of original poems. In three sections, she emotionally addresses the history and current state of black people in the United States. The first deals directly with the “#SayHerName” movement, which seeks to increase awareness of the stories of black, female victims of police brutality. Each poem re-creates and comments on a moment when a black woman was gunned down by the police, as in “They Be Comin,’ ” an early poem about Kendra James, who was killed by police in 2003: “They be comin’ single siren / They be comin’ with lights of blue / .… / They be comin’ to put a gun to your head.” This effectively sets the tone of urgency that runs throughout the collection. The second section, titled “#TheBrothers,” addresses black, male victims. In “Chillin,’ ” about  16-year-old Traveres McGill, who was shot dead by police in 2005, she writes, “Just chillin’ with my boys / …. / Bullets flying, shot in the back, no one expected / the night to end like this / Just chillin’ with my boys.” One of the most powerful pieces, “Just Stand,” addresses the Trayvon Martin murder: “From Douglass, Dubois, Washington, and even / to the dream of King, / We have stood marching arm in arm, crying for / justice not realizing what it would mean.” The third and final section, “Just Us,” traces the history of black communities, reaching back to slavery: “Men haggling over prices of humans / ….No country, no home, no family.” Over the course of this collection, Leak expertly balances the facts of her subjects’ deaths with the poetic form, which she ably uses to express larger feelings of desperation and exasperation. Community and togetherness is a major motif, and she addresses how groups can provide hope in the midst of historical atrocities, as well as how they’ve been ripped apart by more recent events.

A powerful and topical examination of tragedy.

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-984518-57-6

Page Count: 186

Publisher: XlibrisUS

Review Posted Online: May 28, 2019

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This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.


A former NFL player casts his gimlet eye on American race relations.

In his first book, Acho, an analyst for Fox Sports who grew up in Dallas as the son of Nigerian immigrants, addresses White readers who have sent him questions about Black history and culture. “My childhood,” he writes, “was one big study abroad in white culture—followed by studying abroad in black culture during college and then during my years in the NFL, which I spent on teams with 80-90 percent black players, each of whom had his own experience of being a person of color in America. Now, I’m fluent in both cultures: black and white.” While the author avoids condescending to readers who already acknowledge their White privilege or understand why it’s unacceptable to use the N-word, he’s also attuned to the sensitive nature of the topic. As such, he has created “a place where questions you may have been afraid to ask get answered.” Acho has a deft touch and a historian’s knack for marshaling facts. He packs a lot into his concise narrative, from an incisive historical breakdown of American racial unrest and violence to the ways of cultural appropriation: Your friend respecting and appreciating Black arts and culture? OK. Kim Kardashian showing off her braids and attributing her sense of style to Bo Derek? Not so much. Within larger chapters, the text, which originated with the author’s online video series with the same title, is neatly organized under helpful headings: “Let’s rewind,” “Let’s get uncomfortable,” “Talk it, walk it.” Acho can be funny, but that’s not his goal—nor is he pedaling gotcha zingers or pleas for headlines. The author delivers exactly what he promises in the title, tackling difficult topics with the depth of an engaged cultural thinker and the style of an experienced wordsmith. Throughout, Acho is a friendly guide, seeking to sow understanding even if it means risking just a little discord.

This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020


Page Count: 256

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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