Ta-Nehisi Coates 'Between the World And Me' is essential reading

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Famed author Ta-Nehisi Coates has become one of the more respected voices on race in America. Coates' writings for the Atlantic, his participation in several panels on race and culture have placed him at the forefront of a national conversation on race that has intensified over the last two years with the high-profile deaths of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Mike Brown drawing police brutality against black people back into the spotlight. Coates released his book, Between the World and Me, back in July and serves as an unofficial sequel to The Beautiful Struggle, his 2008 memoir about his formative years in Baltimore.

With Between the World..., Coates addresses the perils of being black in America as framed through a conversation with his teenage son. Coates writes of the exhausting defensiveness that young black people embrace to protect them from an environment full of antagonism and hostility, both from authorities like the police and from peers. He criticizes the dream of suburbia, a culture that was largely created out of racism and divisiveness, as well as funded by the exploitation of undesirables--particularly black people.

"[They] have forgotten the scale of theft that enriched them in slavery; the terror that allowed them, for a century, to pilfer the vote; the segregationist policy that gave them their suburbs. They have forgotten, because to remember would tumble them out of the beautiful Dream and force them to live down here with us, down here in the world," Coates writes.

Between the World and Me has drawn comparisons to James Baldwin's essential The Fire Next Time and has also drawn criticism from those who think that Coates isn't directly acknowledging "progress" or who feel that he's further centering young, black cis manhood in the dialogue surrounding American racism--to the exclusion of black women and LGBTQ members of the community. Coates recently discussed his book during an interview at the Schomburg Center For Black Research in Harlem and said that he only seeks to be honest in the hopes of furthering this conversation.

“You would talk to folks and they would be aware of certain truths and you could feel them pulling their punches. I think that’s disrespectful to white people. I don’t see how you are respecting folks by not speaking truthfully and from the heart. I don’t personalize stuff, but the history is what the history is. But it’s disrespectful to white people to soften the history or talk to them like they’re three years old. If I go hear a lecture on feminism or LGBT rights, I don’t want you to soften it for me,” he said.


Famous gay blacks: Celebrating their achievements

As a nation, we're learning to become more tolerant and understanding: not only with race and socioeconomic differences, but also differences in sexual orientation. To that end, many black achievers, who have done great things in a variety of fields, are now being celebrated for their work, and not for how they lived their private lives.

Here's a list of black performers, sports personalities, authors and artists recognized for their talent, while often openly announcing to the world who and what they were:

Josephine Baker was he first African American to take a major movie role, Zouzou, and the inspiration for untold throngs of other artists.

André Leon Talley  is the man who knows fashion better than anyone; he's made a name for himself as "The Fashion Editor" over the decades.

James Baldwin was a noted author and playwright; his first novel was Go Tell it on the Mountain. He became a civil rights icon in his own right.

Wanda Sykes is noted as one of the funniest comediennes in the world. Wanda is enjoying tremendous success due to her sharp wit and sense of humor.

Sheryl Swoopes is a former WNBA player who was so good at the game to be called the Michael Jordan of women’s basketball.

Minister Carolyn Mobley is an ordained minister in the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches and has also been a church pastor, and called a gifted church leader.

Everett Lynn Harris was a bestselling author with ten novels in a row to hit the NY Times Best Seller list.

Alvin Ailey: We are all familiar with the dance company that this trailblazer established. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater lives on today and tours the world.

Lorraine Hansberry is another prestigious playwright on our list. Hansberry penned A Raisin in the Sun.

Langston Hughes is commonly thought to have been a closeted gay man. He stands as the greatest black poet ever.