This is me and my sister.
Her name is Belinda. She's a yogi. She's the best.
Reporting from My Universe
My company, Cultivated Wit, just released a satirical product video for Got This Thing, an app that fills your calendar with events so you can look busy but be lazy. And our next hackathon/show will be in Los Angeles August 21-23. Find out more, and maybe apply to participate.
From my podcast About Race this week: our b-side examines what it means to be a racial justice “ally” (aka, useful white person); in episode 8 Raquel explains the history of the Dominican Republic, and Tanner explains why he has a Confederate flag in his closet. (iTunes)
So Here’s A Story
Sometimes, I feel the need to pause my life and offer up a set of acknowledgements, like those in the back of a book, but for the people and institutions who have helped me get to my current place in the story of my life. This week I got a chance to do that.
I was invited to speak to the staff of an organization called BUILD. It’s a four year program for high schoolers, primarily poor, primarily non-white, primarily on the path to dropping out. But with 500,000 high schoolers bailing on the process every year in the U.S., over 95 percent of BUILD students finish high school and go on to college. They make it because BUILD supports student businesses, project-based learning, and intense mentorship.
I found BUILD through a speaking opportunity three years ago: they needed someone to emcee the annual gala, and one of my many hashtagable nicknames is #galatunde. I returned to emcee again two years ago. I joined the national board one year ago. And I’ve made these choices because in the students of BUILD, I’ve seen much of my own past: a father murdered, a neighborhood corrupted by violence, a mother determined to beat the odds and help her son achieve escape velocity from inhospitable circumstances.
This week, I spoke at the opening of BUILD's staff retreat because the people of BUILD remind me so much of the people and institutions that invested in me, believed in me, protected me, along my winding journey in a life that should not be an escape nor exception but the norm.
I told the story, of course, of my mother and older sister, but also of the Head Start program, DC Youth Orchestra Program, Boy Scouts, City At Peace, Ankobia, Higher Achievement, and that shovel I used to make my first money. I recalled my own high school entrepreneurial activities including a Spanish verb conjugation service (VerbTablz (tm)) that could have made a killing as an online service, I’m sure!
I thanked them for their work and for being part of a community that doesn’t see its work as “saving disadvantaged youth” but instead is “giving the rest of the world the gift of the brilliance of those youths.” And it felt great to honor people who understand that my own success story is a product neither of luck nor exceptional talent but of conscious investment by people like them who see that every child has such potential.
My book, How To Be Black, is positioned as a memoir but in many ways is really a celebration of my mother’s efforts to build a human being. This week, I’m grateful for the chance to thank others like her doing that work for many more people. No one gets where they are alone. Remember that, and thank the people who helped you along the way.
You don’t have to deliver a 90 minute talk at a Santa Cruz hotel, either. You can just hug them or send that happy poop emoji.
Media Objects That You Missed In Which I Am
In April of this year, my Facebook account was hacked. A few weeks later, I got a text message from my hacker, in India. Now we are friends. Here’s the story I wrote in California Sunday magazine. For those of you who still Facebook, I officially have one of those fan pages. That’s where I’ll be sharing all my public Facebook posts. Until Facebook changes its algorithm again.
The United States celebrated its independence last weekend, and as I do every year, I re-shared my performance of this Frederick Douglass speech in which he basically says, “What you talkin bout, Willis?” to a hypocritical nation. And more in the history department, I found a story I wrote in 1993 about the internet’s arrival at my high school.
They call me, “Mr. Satire.” Really, that’s the headline on this Black Enterprise piece. Losing early archives of his work, weathering a friend’s suicide, the death of his mother to cancer and the end of his marriage did not derail his purpose. “Through it all, I can be grateful and so very happy that I managed to avoid bedbugs,” says Thurston. You can recover from divorce. Bedbugs? I’m not so sure.”
Remember the first decade of this millennium? Google? Hanging chads? Mission accomplished? Hurricane Katrina? Well, NatGeo invited me back on their tubes to talk about this period of time. Tune in this Sunday and Monday July 12 and 13 to see me and others talk about the past.
The Not-Me Department
"When’s the last time you scheduled some nothing into your calendar? Literally click on a Wednesday and block out 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the description “NOTHING.” Add in some alert notifications to prepare yourself for the nothing and then show up on time for your scheduled nothingness." - My sister, Belinda
Stephen Colbert took over a small town cable access show and interviewed Eminem in the process. Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station director) and Michael B. Jordan have teamed up again for a film. The trailer for Creed got me hooked.
You really need to listen to President Obama on the WTF podcast with Marc Maron. It's one hour, and I think it's the best interview he's ever done. Highlights for me included the president's take on how change happens and his increasingly honest and direct take on race in the USA. Unrelated, this 99 Percent Invisible about flight automation: scary.
This is a blank space for you to verb anything. You could think about something? Or maybe take a big inhale through your nostrils and smell something. Perhaps your feet are restless, and you want to kick something (not a living thing, please). I believe in freedom, so verb whatever you want. You're welcome.
Ok. This is the end of the email. I hope you enjoyed it, and I sincerely wish you all long days and pleasant nights. I love some of you.