BOOK REVIEW: “Reach: 40 Black Men Speak on Living, Leading, and Succeeding”

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Where do you go from here?

You’ve been looking at your life and everything around you, and that’s the question you’ve been asking: what next? What will you do with the rest of your days?

In the new book “Reach,” edited by Ben Jealous and Trabian Shorters, foreword by Russell Simmons, you may find some guidance.

What you see is what you do.

That’s natural. Says Ben Jealous, “…imitation has always been the first step for those who achieve great things.” It’s easy to emulate positive behavior and success, once you see it done – which is what you’ll find in this book.

Trabian Shorters
Trabian Shorters

When D’Wayne Edwards was 16, he lost his beloved older brother. That, says Edwards, “really encouraged me to pay attention to my gift” of drawing and design. Realize your “true potential,” he advises.

Says actor Louis Gossett Jr.: learn that you can play Superman.

Shaka Senghor was still a teenager when he was sent to prison and “was on course to become the best predator I could be,” until journaling helped him look at his life and “the most absurd stuff you can imagine.” Write down your thoughts, he says. Read them and “understand that [they] have power.”

Read, says Dr. Eddie Connor. “We’ve got to promote books instead of prison bars…”

Ben Jealous
Ben Jealous

Ben Jealous advises taking risks. Learn math, says Emmanuel Cephas.

Broadcasting executive Ron Davenport says to “Be in the room where the decisions are made.” Learn to fail, says aviator Barrington Irving, but don’t let it be an option.

Name your future, says Van Jones. Become involved in politics, get an education, and cultivate empathy. Be financially literate, and promote entrepreneurship.

Be a role model, and ask for mentors. Work collaboratively, and lift up future generations who come after you.

And above all, stay hopeful. Loss of hope, says Reverend Tony Lee, can “sabotage [your] faith.” Says Yusef Shakur, “without… hope, poverty becomes overwhelming.”

Says Senghor, “… Hope, man – hope is the saving grace.”

Wow. Though it’s only a few ounces of paper and ink, “Reach” truly packs a punch.

There’s a lot of takeaway in this book, for starters. Editors Ben Jealous and Trabian Shorters invited 40 black men from all walks of life and achievement to tell their stories and share what helped them succeed.

While it’s natural that there’d be some repetition, you’ll find dozens and dozens of short chapters to uplift and inspire.

I loved that in this book – but there was one thing that bears mentioning: pay attention, and you’ll start to notice that many authors here were raised in fatherless households. It truly struck me as further proof that there are no excuses not to succeed.

While I think anyone will be glad they read this book, I can definitely see it being a great gift for any young man on his way to high school, college, or post-college life. It will give him something to think about on his path to success.

For him, “Reach” is a great book to have, wherever he goes.

“Reach: 40 Black Men Speak on Living, Leading, and Succeeding,” edited by Ben Jealous and Trabian Shorters, foreword by Russell Simmons, c. 2015, Atria, $15, 275 pages.

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