I swear when I featured Felicia “Snoop” Pearson’s “Grace After Midnight: A Memoir” yesterday, I hadn’t read my Los Angeles Times yet. So there was no way for me to know about the latest National Endowment for the Arts report “To Read or Not Read” that was released yesterday as a follow-up to a 2004 NEA survey, "Reading at Risk." In 2004, the NEA survey found an increasing number of adult Americans were not even reading one book a year—and no, your copy of this months Source Magazine doesn’t count as a book, but your copy of Superhead Karrine Steffans’ “The Vixen Diaries” does.
It’s not a big shock that Americans aren’t reading. It’s not like we’re actually— dare I say… encouraging folks to pick up a book and read. No we’re much too busy with the world wide web and the boob tube. And yes, while being able to read is a fundamental part of being able to access the Internet, it’s not the same as curling up with a good book.
Last month in Los Angeles, a local Black owned bookstore Eso Won was reported to be on the verge of closure. A fixture in Los Angeles and known for carrying books written about and by Blacks, the community quickly gathered to Save Eso Won Bookstore. And it seems that for the time being, Eso Won will be around for a while longer.
But quick fixes aren’t going to cut it. Eso Won like other mom and pop bookstores are victims of our new digital revolution. Like the death of the record to CDs and the death of CDS to iTunes, you can now download books to read on your computer or your PDA. Add to that the complete lack of enthusiasm for reading period. And quite frankly, I blame that on our need for instant gratification, including the need to keep our asses on the couch in front of the television, remote control in hand.
Back in July, BET was yet again at the center of controversy with its animated short ‘Read a Book‘ (above).
The video featured an animated character (Lil’ Jon if you ask me) who said that he used to write songs with "hooks and concepts and shit." But in an attempt to "go platinum," he now writes lines such as "read a book, read a book read a mutha fuckin book… not a sports page, not a magazine, but a book nigga, a fuckin book nigga."
Obviously, I don’t condone the use of the n-word, so save your emails and comments, I just used the video as an example of the crisis in Black America. Besides, I believe that we went through all of that back when the video came out. And at the end of the day, if you don’t want BET educating your kids, turn off the damn television and give them a book!
Interestingly enough, while getting my feet done at my nail shop, I was flipping through the latest copy of VIBE Magazine–you know the one with Keyshia Cole on the cover, and I happened upon an advertisement featuring singer/songwriter Alicia Keys who was "caught reading." I loved the ad so much I researched it online and found that many celebrities and public figures had be "caught reading." A great campaign by the Association of American Publishers.
So here’s a suggestion, for Kwanzaa—or Christmas if that’s your thing, why not buy books for gifts. Take it a step further if you can and buy those books from a Black bookstore. If there’s no Black bookstore near you, at least by a book written by a Black author. It’s simple but has what it takes to be a very effective strategy.
Forget the video games, clothes, tennis shoes, and electronics. Buy a book, buy a book, buy a mutha#$%^^ book.
African American Bookstores: