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Baratunde Thurston

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Monday, September 24, 2018 - 10:24am

Folks, we are just a few months away from the release of my first-book-that-someone-else-has-paid-for: How To Be Black. The release date is January 31 (but you can pre-order now!) and to make the story as engaging, fun and effective as possible, I want you to be involved in the marketing.

The video above has more of the details, but here are the essentials: We're building a virtual street team (Black Team!) to help spread the message of How To Be Black and make the marketing as cutting edge and strange as the writing process (remember the live-writing?).



Complete the application by 12:01am Tuesday November 14, Brooklyn Time (aka ET). And keep the following in mind:

  • We're looking for people who want to help create a best-seller, who love the idea of the book or just think I'm kinda cool. You should be engaging, enthusiastic, creative and willing to hustle
  • You will receive regular assignments and questions, mostly focused on digital activities, but real-world actions will be included. The street team will also be responsible for actually selling books! I know, it's crazy.
  • Street team members will have regular private video chats with me, a weekly insider email and members-only Facebook group to learn from one another. You will also get early access to the book and, once it prints, a personally signed copy from me
  • You don't have to be black to be on the Black Team! Really. This book isn't just for black people and neither is the street team. We're equal opportunity so long as you're awesome. Don't be not awesome, and you won't have anything to not worry about, not.

Even if you don't apply, think about who you know that should and spread the word to those folks.

For a sample of just what the book is, see the trailer and PDF excerpt from the introduction below.


Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Stay Black.


Monday, September 24, 2018 - 10:24am

This is pretty amazing. The Telegraph has the story of the MoD warning servicemen and women (and their families) about the potential dangers of posting information to social networks. The videos are well done and do actually lead you to think before you post. However, they have conclusions which lead to far more important lessons.

Take the video above. Toward the end, as the tension builds, I'm expecting the sailors to get attacked, kidnapped, beheaded or something. Instead, the closing shot is of the servicewomen dancing with a fully-masked, fully-armed, presumed-terrorist. This begs much larger questions than "Did these ladies overshare on Foursquare?" Questions such as:

  1. What sort of security is the nightclub operating under? Maybe the MoD should do a public campaign about the dangers of shit bouncers?
  2. What sort of British sailor spots an armed terrorist and chooses to dance with him? Granted, a lot might have happened off-screen. Maybe the terrorist threated to murder every single club-goer if these sailors didn't dance with him. Maybe that's what he really wants in life, not money, not the release of a political prisoner. Maybe he just wants to feel sexy for once in his life.

There are a total of four full scenario videos in the series. Here's my absolute favorite.

I mean, that's just brilliant. If terrorists are providing free child care, we need to rethink this entire War on Terrorism thing from the ground up!

Monday, September 24, 2018 - 10:24am

I can't wait to see this. It's playing at the Hollywood Black Film Festival Sat Oct 29 at 630pm. Also, they have a Kickstarter!

Monday, September 24, 2018 - 10:24am

Sentient City Survival Kit - Quick Start Guide from mark shepard on Vimeo.

A users guide to the Sentient City Survival Kit. I'm at the Idea Festival in Louisville, KY, and this just blew my mind. It's a pro civili liberties, comedic, artistic response to our likely super surveilled and optimized future urban spaces. 

Monday, September 24, 2018 - 10:24am

Last weekend I biked down to Coney Island to partake of the delicious crustaceans at Clemente's Maryland Crab House in Sheepshead Bay. It's an 11-mile journey and completely worth it. One my way, racing down Ocean Ave, I spotted another pink bike. The woman who owned it, Noha, was sitting on a bench and screamed, "Hey, we have the same bike!" I slammed on the breaks and walked back to her. 

Sure enough, we both have pink Schwinn Cruisers named Roxie. We couldn't believe it. I've seen other pink bikes and even cruisers but never another Roxie. Mine was given to me by my Dutch friend and superstar Kirsten Van Den Hul. We're thinking of starting a Roxie biking club. Seems like the Brooklyn thing to do, right? 

Monday, September 24, 2018 - 10:24am

These are the thoughts I woke up with this morning following the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia last night. I'd love to post a transcript here but don't have the time to transcribe it. Here's my basic argument

  • "beyond a reasonable doubt" is not good enough in applying the death row. we should demand "beyond ANY doubt"
  • we have proof that innocent people have been killed on death row and it's a discriminatory institution
  • we know that there was massive doubt in troy davis's case
  • we have the power to prevent the death of an innocent and when done in our names (by the state) we have the obligation to prevent these murders. unlike other innocent deaths (accidents, single murders by single actors, disease) we really can prevent the collective ones
  • there is no justice in accounting for the life of an innocent (police officer machphail) with the life of another innocent
  • we have not come as far as we'd like to believe as a civilization when we act out the roman coliseum thousands of years later. when will our moral progress keep pace with our iphone progress?

and other associated thoughts

Monday, September 24, 2018 - 10:24am

h/t to the Maynard Institute for bringing this to light.

A Chicago television station story about the shooting of two teenagers that used video of a 4-year old boy saying he did not fear violence and wanted his own gun, has raised concerns with journalism educators and others. “We have long been worried about the ways in which the media helps perpetuate negative stereotypes of boys and men of color, but this appears to be overtly criminalizing a preschooler,” said Dori J. Maynard, President of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.

The kid responded to the question of what he was going to do in light of this gun violence by saying he wanted a gun. The station cut the clip there, but moments later the boy explained it was because he wanted to be a cop. I guess that didn't fit the gangbanger-in-training stereotype they were going for. Oops. The station has since apologized.

I wonder how many lives will be endangered because of that clip as aired, with the image of a little black boy planning to add to the cycle of violence with his own gun. And while the idea that he wants to fight gun violence with the badge of law enforcement on his side makes it better, the little kid has still learned the broader lesson from society that you fight guns with guns.

I kind of wish the little dude had a crazier imagination. Instead of wanting a badge and a gun, why couldn't he have wished for the power to turn all guns into donuts? That would have been a disarmingly delicious and creative desire.


Monday, September 24, 2018 - 10:24am
Seriously. I didn't read it. But it looked weird enough I thought, maybe someone with more time and patience than I have will indulge. So enjoy or I'm sorry. Not sure which is more appropriate. ARE  THERE REALLY ANY  BLACK PEOPLE? WHAT DOES GOD SAY?   GOD SPEAKS IN GENESIS ON WHO MAN IS; SPIRIT OR BLACK COLOR BEING: And God said, Let us make man  1. in our image 2. after our likeness and let man have dominion - over the fish of the sea,  -and over the fowl of the air,  -and over the cattle, and over all the earth,  -and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.    27 So God created man  -in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.  28 And God blessed them,and God said unto them,  -Be fruitful,  -and multiply,  -and replenish the earth,  -and subdue it:  -and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.   "God is a spirit. Those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."  Jn 4; 24
Monday, September 24, 2018 - 10:24am


I've created Yep.


Gene Marks' response:


I blame Jacquetta Szathmari. I was minding my business, not being offended by truly idiotic ideas, when I saw her facebook post and then blog post about this Forbes article by Gene Marks. I decided not to respond. Today, I broke my silence and posted a few tweets like this

Shorter: If I Were A Poor Black Kid, I wouldn't be a poor black kid #dumbestshitihavereadallyear

— Baratunde (@baratunde) December 14, 2011

and this

If I were a shitty writer, I would write "If I Were A Black Kid" #HowToBeDumb

— Baratunde (@baratunde) December 14, 2011

and this

#IfIWereAPoorBlackKid I would invent cold fusion.

— Baratunde (@baratunde) December 14, 2011

But I thought that would be the end of it. Then I got a request from to write something about this nonsense, and so I thought about how I might take on this dumbshitteryTM (h/t, Elon James White). I opted to fight something that originally sounded like satire with satire. The full piece is over at CNN. Here's the setup

The following letter is a response from a hypothetical child to Gene Marks' article in Forbes, titled "If I Were A Poor Black Kid." While completely fabricated, the letter below has a stronger basis in reality than does Marks'. In his article, Marks, a business and technology contributor to Forbes, argues poorly that poor black children should use technology to improve their station in life. The article is terrible.

Monday, September 24, 2018 - 10:24am

via Mother Jones

With the top 10% of income earners controlling 2/3rds of the nation's wealth, with payroll taxes covering an increasing share of government revenue, with CEO pay off the charts as a multiple of the average worker pay and with half the members of congress being millionaires, it's abundantly clear that if we're experiencing "class warfare," the rich have vanquished everyone else.

"Warfare" requires both sides to be fighting. This is a slaughter.

Monday, September 24, 2018 - 10:24am

Video by the NYC-based sketch group Political Subversities

Monday, September 24, 2018 - 10:24am

Yeah, this happened! It's part of an annual Christmas tradition known as Zwarte Piet (aka Black Pete), who is lind of like Santa's helper. More on Wikipedia. and Boom Chicago made this video

I'm going to be hosting a video chat on Vokle with some folks here in Amsterdam to talk about the tradition, Dutch reaction and just what the hell is going on!

Chat is over but you can see it above here or over at Vokle:

Guests will include

  • Kirsten Van Den Hul, UN Women's Representative for The Netherlands. Also badass poet and writer
  • Gregory Shapiro of Boom Chicago
  • Michael OT of Boom Chicago
  • me! of america! and black dudeness!


If you couldn't make it or just need to hear Tarik say the n-word a few more times, here's a link to the recording:


Monday, September 24, 2018 - 10:24am

This morning I joined John Fugelsang as he substitute hosted the Stephanie Miller Show. With both of us being liberal political comics, it was natural to discuss the GOP presidential field, Obama's upcoming jobs speech and other headlines ripped from Drudge and MSNBC. What the audience probably did not expect is that we would get into a serious and detailed conversation about Jersey Shore, the MTV show.

As John put it, MTV has finally become as destructive as our parents feared, but it has nothing to do with the music. 

I started watching Jersey Shore as an experiment. I'd just gotten the iPad, and I wanted to test buying and watching TV content on it. When I fired up the store, Jersey Shore was looking me in the face with its over-gelled, fake tanned head. I clicked buy, and found myself watching out of more than a sense of irony. The show was kind of entertaining, and I just loved watching dumb people get paid to do even dumber things. 

I was genuinely amused by "t-shirt time!" and "GTL" (gym, tan, laundry) and part of me enjoyed the minstrelsy of it all at the expense of another ethnic group. Black folks had to deal with black-face. Maybe for Italians, this is pizza-face. 

The main thing that's kept me watching into season four (other than inertia), is the great analysis by Bill Cammack. I've known Bill for a few years. He's blogged about dating and video and sound editing for years, and it's with those eyes that he watches the show. Bill writes things such as "according to the edit,.... [thing x happened.]" His Facebook page explodes with hilarious commentary after each post, so I watch to read and play, much like the child who goes to church not for the sermons but the youth group.

So that's my excuse. Do you consider yourself too good for Jersey Shore but watch anyway? Why?


Monday, September 24, 2018 - 10:24am

I love Foursquare. I'm the reigning Mayor Of The Year, after all, so I've got a lot invested in the system. I've been really impressed with how useful the service has gotten since this summer, so I recorded a few thoughts on the matter which you will now enjoy. 

Here's the deals/tip promotion I refer to in the video. Love the integration. Confused by the language. "50% off for free??" Just cut the last two words. You're saying "You don't have to spend money to get 50% off?" Guess what: if I don't spend money, that's actually 100% off for free!

Monday, September 24, 2018 - 10:24am

The things black folk don't do is the alleged part. There is no allegedness to my appearance. That is happening. Check out the site hosting Angela Tucker's cool video project which certainly shares the spirit of my forthcoming book, How To Be Black. (pre-order on amazon!)

The live chat is on Facebook. 1630 hrs ET


no seriously, it's not alleged. it's happening. 

unless black folk don't do live web chats.

now i've confused myself.

Monday, September 24, 2018 - 10:24am

This image was made by folks at the Mozilla Festival on Media, Freedom and the Web. The party is in London November 4-6, 2011. Looks like a fun event. 

In the meantime, if someone wants to build me my own TARDIS, that would be pretty tremendous.

Monday, September 24, 2018 - 10:24am


Order from Amazon (Hardcover)Amazon (Kindle)Barnes & Noble, Powell's, IndieBoundApple iBooks, or Audible (read by Baratunde!).

"Part autobiography, part stand-up routine, part contemporary political analysis, and astute all over, 'How to Be Black' might do more to expose and explore the shifting dynamics of race in America than all the Pew data of the past decade. Reading this book made me both laugh and weep with poignant recognition. Baratunde Thurston has given us a hysterical, irreverent exploration of one of America’s most painful and enduring issues. He captures the alchemy of familial narratives, community socialization, and individual volition that makes blackness a complex performance of the self. 'How to be Black' is the must read text of the so-called post-racial moment."
- Melissa Harris-Perry, contributing analyst for MSNBC and columnist for THE NATION

"As a black woman, this book helped me realize I'm actually a white man."
- Patton Oswalt, author of Zombie Spaceship Wasteland

"The funniest black guy on the Internet has written the definitive manual on how to make it in post-racial America as a member of a despised minority group. 'How to be Black' is guaranteed to infuriate all those poor, deluded souls, both black and white, who shuffle through life without ever managing to 'see color' (February)."
Tony Norman, writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"Baratunde, The Onion’s director of digital and cofounder of Jack & Jill Politics, offers a hilarious look at the complexities of contemporary racial politics and personal identity…[W]ith poignancy and humor…[h]e takes on the challenges of how to speak for every black person in the nation, how to measure degrees of blackness, how to take a break from it all."
- Booklist

"In this hilarious blend of razor-sharp satire and memoir, Onion Director of Digital and cofounder of the Jack & Jill Politics blog Thurston muses on how, generally, to be black in today’s ever-changing world. He’s quick to point out that his book is not a magic potion that will make readers instantly black (it is not How to Become a Black Person If You Are Not Already Black). Instructive chapters include “How to Be The Black Friend” and its corollaries, “How to Speak for All Black People” and “How to Be The Black Employee.” Thurston’s life was shaped by his mother, a force of nature who instilled in him a love of camping and bicycling, along with a fiercely radical spirit. As a teen, he participated in the Ankobia program in D.C. taught by Pan-African black American activists. This same woman also enrolled him in the prestigious Sidwell Friends school (home to Chelsea Clinton and President Obama’s daughters) and cheered at his Harvard graduation. In order to get a fuller picture of blackness in America today, Thurston assembles “The Black Panel,” consisting of artists and stand-up comedians who address race in their work. Questions he poses to the panel include when the members first realized they were black (most were very young), if they ever wished not to black (very few did), and what they thought of the idea of “post-racial America.” Using his own story and humor, Thurston demonstrates that the best way to “be” anything is to simply be yourself.
- Publishers Weekly

“If you don’t buy this book, you’re a racist.”
- Baratunde Thurston, author of How To Be Black

Have you ever been called “too black” or “not black enough”? Have you ever befriended or worked with a black person? Have you ever heard of “black people”? If you answered yes to any of these questions, this book is for you.

Raised by a pro-black, pan-Afrikan single mother during the crack years of 1980s Washington, DC, and educated at Sidwell Friends School and Harvard University, Baratunde Thurston has over thirty years’ experience in being black. Now, through stories of his politically inspired Nigerian name, the heroics of his hippie mother, the murder of his drug-abusing father, and other revelatory black details, he shares with readers of all colors his wisdom and expertise of how to be black. (Harper; January 31, 2012, $23.99)

Combining personal memoir, interviews, irreverent how-to, and resource guides to meet every reader’s blackness needs, this book offers practical advice on everything from “How to Be The Black Friend” to “How to Be The (Next) Black President” to “How to Celebrate Black History Month.”

For additional perspective, Baratunde assembled an award-winning Black Panel—three black women, three black men, and one white man (gotta have a control group. This is science!)—and asked them such revealing questions as “When Did You First Realize You Were Black?” “How Black Are You?” “Can You Swim?”

The Black Panel includes wisdom from:  

The result is a humorous, intelligent, and audacious guide that challenges and satirizes the so-called experts, purists, and racists who purport to speak for all black people. With honest storytelling and biting wit, Baratunde plots a path not just to blackness, but one open to anyone interested in simply “how to be.”

Baratunde Thurston is the director of digital at The Onion, the cofounder of Jack & Jill Politics, a stand-up comedian, and a globe-trotting speaker. He was named one of the 100 most influential African Americans of 2011 by The Root, one of the 100 most creative people in business by Fast Company magazine, and will be giving the opening keynote address at SXSW Interactive 2012. Then-Senator Barack Obama called him “someone I need to know.” Baratunde resides in Brooklyn and lives on Twitter (@baratunde).


Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Stay Black.


Monday, September 24, 2018 - 10:24am


(by ATCQ)

It's all over the papers glowing rectangles. Google is acquiring Motorola. Here are some of the reasons many pundits are citing:

  • Get into the hardware business at last
  • Get closer to the living room and enterainment devices, the better to compete with Apple.
  • Block a mobile partnership path for Microsoft
  • Help defend Android against patent lawsuits by inheriting Motorola's patents.
  • Show it can spend over $12 billion and not break a sweat.

I shared some of this initial reasoning, but the true secret motivation only now occurred to me. Google gets the StarTAC phone and, more importantly, pagers!!!

Come on yall. Sir Mix-A-Lot ain't no fool

Baratunde Thurston is the CEO, co-founder, and hashtagger-in-chief of Cultivated Wit. He wrote the New York Times bestseller How To Be Black and served for five years as director of digital for the satirical news outlet, The Onion.