Customer Reviews: Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness
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on February 19, 2012
Black Cool was a teaser-trailer to me of why education and sacred dialogue about topics concerning the evolution of African American people is invaluable. Each voice left me wanting to seek their work, the work of artists, authors, healers and educators I felt something deeply in common with. This collection of essays touched on topics such as bravado, defiance and healing that, at one time, have provoked distance in intimacy rather than bridged trust and tolerance. They were examined, confronted and left agape to be admired, mourned and sympathized with.

This easy read invokes memories of black values and the varying impressions collectively understood which influenced expression, fashion, education and self forgiveness over several decades. The power in this book is it's authors have in common current interests in the development of the self AND the community as well as being active contributors to what is perpetuating positive social change by sharing their stories; this is a movement. Storytelling is my all time favorite way to destroy cliche's that cripple the African American community. Dialogue about personal experiences, shared for the sake of the message, blow the whistle on urban myths that target style, choices and flavor of men, women and children in the midst of growth and claims our journey and history as our own. I hope for the continued honesty about people that have been an enemy to their own, this was refreshing and gave me a chance to just hear the story, be with the authors while relieving my own social angst about people over-protecting those who contribute to our destruction, no matter their creed or culture.

I like that Black Cool was not afraid of honoring 'angry', but it didn't stop at Michaela Angela Davis' 'Resistance' to meander and gloat that this style of truth-telling is a natural African American gift or claim it as the only way to share our voice or our hurts. This was just as much about learning as it was identifying finding the acceptance of natural gifts in the face of a judging and changing society each voice spoke of surviving, escaping or enjoying. Cool to me is intolerance to that which limits the resilience of the human spirit. What made me buy this book was seeing author Rebecca Walker live at the Schomburg theater in Harlem, speaking about what inspired Black Cool. With her buttery, cool, mamma-bear voice Walker shared her thoughts with a seeming understanding that there was no rush, no defiance, no separation between her and her eager audience of culture seekers and wisdom keepers. She operates from her true center and has a natural compassion, undefined by struggle but motivated by a sense of sharing and purpose. I bought this book because she was sweet and whole and I needed that.

I have always dreamed learning and education were sweet and intimate - done from a true sense of sharing, it sells itself and doesn't need repackaging or forced over-focus on what increases school test scores. Now, I gloat, years after dry-heaving a flat, dusty, misinformed attempt at filling me with 'American history' THESE are the stories that will free our children and our children's children, and stories like them. Without a need to over identify the name of everything or over-analyze pathology as an excuse to skip years of cruelty and injustice there will always be interest in our collective psychology, history - as we and the element of time write it, science and physics as it relates to the world around us, teaching, mentor-ship, loving, birthing, forgiving, cultural milestones, death, injustice and our relationship to hope, art and healing. Named or not, I will have to agree with Esther Armah, this type of understanding exposes us to a completely new chapter of whole, which, is the new cool.
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on June 13, 2014
Here, those whose creative talent is pegged at way beyond substantial, attempt to decode Black Cool in all its forms; What is it?, Who has it?, Who owns it? etc.... What you will get in return is an eclectic blend of responses that spans the gamut and, in of itself, is testament to the diversity that can be found in something otherwise known, monochromatically, as Black.
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on January 20, 2013
There is a wide variety of topics and writing styles here. I enjoyed all the different short pieces on the different topics. The title is not quite accurate though. Only about half of the essays touch on "black cool." It is good reading and unveils a lot about what is going on today in Black America.
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on April 11, 2012
I read this book because Kola Boof kept talking about it on her Twitter. I knew by the title it would be some type of affirmation essays by people I've mostly never heard of. I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be more than that! These essays are gritty, heart pounding and honest. This isn't the standard feel good schlock. *Black Cool* is really intriguing, surprising and life-affecting! I have to thank Kola Boof for constantly talking about it and I have to mention my favorites essays in here, first and foremost Michaela Angela Davis. Wow! She wrote what I think in *Resistance.* Then there's powerful stuff from Mat Johnson, Dream Hampton, Helena Andrews and of course Rebecca Walker, who I already knew was awesome because of another book *forgot the title* but she's Alice's daughter and is known for mind triggering works. This book is no exception.

Every person of any race in my opinion should read it! You'll get a lot more than you're expecting and you'll find yourself revisiting it over and over again.
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on November 14, 2013
The group of essays that Rebecca Walker has compiled in Black Cool creates a tremendously useful resource for the study of what Blackness is for diasporic American natives and disaporic immigrants to America. Another aspect of this book that makes it valuable as a cultural studies tool is that it provides a wonderful space for contemporarily diverse gendered voices.
I drank this book in finding sustenance in it for several reasons. Each piece stands strongly by itself, uniquely demonstrating each author’s view of Blackness. Taken in concert, this group of writings demonstrates as Henry Louis Gates, Jr. states in the forward “a compelling and sustained conversation about the multiple meanings of blackness in the United States today” (X). One Thousand Streams of Blackness gains strength on this theme by “sustaining the conversation” in a varied and meaningful way. Certainly, I wonder if part of the pull of this book for me is the desire to be near that which is Black Cool, as so many other white folks have done before me in envy and in misunderstanding. But, the masterful way in which each author articulates the theme of Black Cool by celebrating both its humanity and resiliency is what truly bowled me over.
In her piece entitled “The Break” Valorie Thomas takes several components of Blackness in an American context and laces them together with a musical metaphor that incorporates everything from funk and feminism to DuBoisian theory to define Black Cool. By defining the “cultural and personal vertigo” that comes with the experience of being a Black American, Thomas teaches us to study and appreciate the awe-inspiring display of skill that exists in the break.
Michaela angela Davis defines Black Cool as black style. While black style is an envied and coveted cultural product, according to Davis it not available to those “who have not worn the heavy cloak of the battered and beautiful Black burden” (63). Esther Armah addresses how Blackness and American-ness are described in locations outside of the US in her essay “The Posse” by deconstructing the idea of “the cool of the collective” (142)..
Rebecca Walker has done a terrific job of compiling unique articulations of Blackness through the themes of shared identity, shared membership and shared strength the sum of which is Black Cool. While the voices are very different in age, gender, orientation, place of birth and occupation, this book does as Henry Louis Gates, Jr. suggests, sustain the conversation of the multiple meanings of blackness is a very poignant way.
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on November 26, 2012
It's hard for me to write a review of Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness. It's easy to be critical of texts, but when you love something, it's hard to describe or theorize. You just love it. I loved Dayo Olopade's criticism of white, purchasable hipsterdom. I loved bell hooks' attempt to reclaim coolness for women. And I loved Staceyann Chin's description of in-your-face lesbianism. And when I list some of the things I enjoyed about Black Cool, it's pretty evident that those were my best and easiest points of entry as a white, queer woman. That's also something to keep in mind when examining my interpretation of Walker's collection of essays on Black Cool.

Although it may seem obvious to say, even the format of Walker's book is a reflection of what it says about Black Cool. It consists of sixteen vastly different essays that examine blackness, coolness, and where the two converge. But despite these differences that reflect the multiplicity of black experiences (blacknesses), the essays share many of the same themes. Through the range of descriptions of blackness in America, Jamaica, Ghana, and throughout the Diaspora conversations of trauma, coping mechanisms, boundaries of blackness, and individuality (both positive and negative) are repeated. The essays and stories reflect the constant battle of being black in America, and the ways in which America is not even close to being a post-race society.

Central to the book is a theme of trauma. Whether the essay is focused on the history of blackness in America and the legacy of that history, or an individual rape story, or black male incarceration, trauma remains constant. I think Black Cool is about resituating that trauma in the center of conversations of blackness, while also placing an emphasis on the need for healing (coping mechanisms). In Esther Armah's essay "The Posse," she states, "But those wounds and scars passed from generation to generation, emotionally. Affecting how we move through the world, deal with and relate to one another, how we construct our institutions - not brick-and-mortar ones, but selves, each other, families, and community. It's time we heal that part of ourselves." (141). This theme of black trauma is essential for making claims about what it means to be black in America (and much of the world), and how in this context, blackness is very much in opposition to the concept of America

In Mat Johnson's essay "The Geek," he introduces notions of boundaries to blackness, and the bending of these boundaries as a source of cool. He states, "Blackness is one of the few identities that comes with its own self-enforced expectation of expression." (14). This narrative fits in with Staceyann Chin's commentary on authenticity. Both show the limitations that exist for blackness, or rather the standards that create oppressive authenticity. While it is interesting to see that Mat Johnson, Staceyann Chin, and also Hank Willis Thomas see the blurring of these limits as a source coolness, it is essential to note that these boundaries exist. For the purpose of our class and the discussion of blackness in America, these essays all focus on the codes of blackness that exist and serve a function to rigidly enforce ideas of how to be black. While trauma may indicate that blackness and America are warring ideals, talking about limitations to blackness in mainstream culture shows how blackness has been tailored and shaped to try to be forced into the proverbial "box" that is America.

Finally, I think it is important to look at how Black Cool discusses individuality. In the essays where black limitations are discussed (Johnson, Chin, Thomas), individuality is seen as critically important. In Black Cool, these ideas of individualism are often linked to the hip-hop generation or movement. In other essays, this individualism is seen as a limitation to black community and collective strength, or as Esther Armah says, "the cool of the collective." These two simultaneously diverging and converging ideas emphasize the need for black community, but also individuality, as long as that individuality is not characterized by consumerism and detachment. This theme of individuality reveals a lot about the struggle to be an individual black person in America, and also the struggle of blackness and black communities in America.

Although this briefly scratched the surface of all the theoretical contributions and descriptions of blackness found in Black Cool, these themes reflect the complexities of blackness in America. They reveal the contradictions that exist between expectations and lived experience. They show how something like individuality can be so beneficial and central to being black, while also being a limitation to collective healing. The book, as a whole, proves the ever-remaining importance of race in American culture and politics; and it does it with humor, sadness, intelligence, and a little bit of cool.
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on April 2, 2013
Black Cool is a collection of short stories that all encapsulate a facet of the enigmatic Black cool. This book is an excellent read and should be every library.Very entertaining! Get. This. Book.Now
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on October 29, 2015
While some of the ways in which cool is defined by the contributors seems hard to wholly adopt, the feelings described do make important statements on the self definition of cool
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on May 13, 2013
Really enjoyed reading this book.
Read it three times.
Keep it in my bag and read it when Im sitting in the doctor's office.
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on December 31, 2013
Talks to the reality of being Black in America. Grabbed it for a paper I was writing but makes a great coffee table book!
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