What Does It Mean to Be Black Now?

What: Thirteenth event in the series, “Talking About Race,” with cultural critic, television host and author Touré, whose newest provocative book, Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness? What It Means to Be Black Now, has been acclaimed by the New York Times and others. Michael Eric Dyson, author, academic and nationally-syndicated radio host, will serve as a special guest commentator.

When: Monday,  December 5, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Enoch Pratt Free Library
Wheeler Auditorium
400 Cathedral Street, Baltimore 

BALTIMORE—Since the historic election of President Barack Obama in 2008, many in this country have declared the United States a post-racial society. Cultural critic and author Touré vehemently disagrees with that characterization, and offers a new and provocative alternative assessment.

In his thought-provoking book Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness: What It Means to Be Black Now, Touré says in this age of Obama,  the United States is in a “post-Black” era—where racial attitudes are more nuanced than ever before—and where African-Americans have the freedom to “be Black” in whatever ways that looks and feels to them.

“The idea that there's a legitimate way of being Black (and thus an illegitimate one) is anachronistic,” Touré says. In fact, Touré criticizes the kinds of pressure and prejudice that many Blacks feel from those who also call themselves Black, and says that such Black-on-Black discrimination is a barrier to success.

“White-to-Black racism is about making us feel lesser than: lesser humanity, lesser valued, lesser intelligence,” he says. “Black-on-Black prejudice isn't about those things but it can be about superiority: I'm a better or more authentic (or more religious) Black person. By religious I mean the religion of ‘Blackness’ itself.  But today we can be Black in any way we can imagine. I think we, as a people, need to know this in order to get ahead.”

Touré is a cultural critic for MSNBC, as well as the host of “Hip Hop Shop” and “On the Record,” which appear on Fuse TV. A contributing editor at Rolling Stone, his articles appear regularly in publications ranging from The New York Times to The Village Voice to The New Yorker.

Touré’s book has been acclaimed by the New York Times as “one of the most acutely observed accounts of what it is like to be young, black and middle-class in contemporary America.” Benjamin Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP, calls the book “a fascinating conversation among some of America’s most brilliant and insightful Black thinkers candidly exploring Black Identity in America today. Touré powerfully captures the pain and dissonance of Black Americans’ far too often unrequited love for our great nation.”

Touré will discuss his book, theories and related social commentary at the Enoch Pratt Library, in a standing-room-only event. Author, academic and nationally-syndicated radio host Michael Eric Dyson—who wrote the book’s Foreword—will be a special guest commentator.

This free and open-to-the-public event is the thirteenth event in OSI-Baltimore’s Talking About Race series, co-sponsored by the Enoch Pratt Free Library. The series has been addressing race from different perspectives, and exploring why it is important to discuss the topic openly and intelligently.

Between individuals, within communities and in offices at the highest levels, the subject of race has become a prominent topic in today’s public discourse. However in Baltimore, race remains mostly discussed behind closed doors.

Nearly three years ago, OSI-Baltimore boldly began that conversation, adding “race” to its agenda of important topics to tackle by sponsoring the series.

The series has been so well attended and widely lauded that OSI-Baltimore plans to continue bringing provocative speakers to Baltimore to explore sensitive racial issues.

The city is urged to get involved. Individuals are encouraged to submit their personal stories about enlightening, moving or thought-changing encounters with race to storiesaboutrace.org.

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As the Open Society Foundations’ U.S. Programs only field office, Open Society Institute-Baltimore focuses on the root causes of three intertwined problems in our city and state: drug addiction, an over-reliance on incarceration, and obstacles that impede youth in succeeding inside and out of the classroom. We also support a growing corps of social entrepreneurs committed to underserved populations in Baltimore. Before we make a single grant, we analyze the root causes of a problem and examine research and innovative practices. Because we aim for lasting, sustainable solutions, we engage public and private partners from the start. It is only then, with a clear picture of the problem, that we begin to focus our approach and diligently craft a roadmap for change.