Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Open Letter to the African-American Media

To: All African-American Media Outlets

“If you want to hide something from a Black person put it in a book”.

It seems that statement has been around as long as time itself.  Unfortunately, as old as that statement is, it is still sadly very relevant today.  Reading is the fundamental backbone of everything we do in society.  While our (African-American) authors are working harder than ever, writing more than ever, and self-promoting more than ever, they are fighting an uphill battle.  The battle is making our authors more visible in the eyes of our people.

While our African-American entertainment shows are popular now more than ever, you have reached that pinnacle by blatantly ignoring one of the most important contributors to our societyAuthors.  We celebrate our actors, our musicians, and our athletes, but not composers of the written word.  Our authors, on a consistent basis, populate the New York Times Bestseller Lists but do not populate your guest lists.  This is an omission that must not continue.  Our authors are some of the most intelligent, insightful, and humorous scholars the literary fraternity has to offer.  They need to be treated with the respect they have more than earned. 

Please don’t misunderstand me.  These authors don’t want a handout, nor are they sitting around waiting for one.  They are grinding hard and being extremely creative in promoting their craft.  And with book industry struggling to find a new identity in the world of e-books and closing bookstores and libraries, the need for exposing our literature is great.  We do not have the luxury to wait for someone else to do it.

YOU must take responsibility now for your lack of action.  When was the last time you had an author on your program?  When was the last time you even asked?  The fastest demographic for new readers is our young adults.  You know the young people that we are grooming to run this world?  What message are you sending them when you fawn over everything but books?  I’m not asking for anything huge.  I don’t even think I’m asking for anything unreasonable.  You have no problem inviting actors when they are starring in a film.  Why not make the first step and inviting the person that wrote the book that film is based on?

Our authors are superstars.  Our authors are literary wizards.  Our authors influence beyond the pen.  Our authors produce masterpieces.  Remember how you felt when you read ‘The Color Purple’, or ‘Roots’, or ‘Makes Me Wanna Holler’, or ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’, or ‘Kindred’?  What about ‘Devil In A Blue Dress’?  That same inspiring literary art is still going on today carried on by authors that are as much fans of the craft as they are creators.  To continue to ignore them is to continue to insult them. 

Who am I?  I’m a book lover.  I manage one of the few remaining Independent bookstores in California and it hurts to see my book industry in such turmoil.  It hurts to see the authors I love and support, struggle to get people to read.  It hurts when I know that this could have been fixed, yesterday.  All I’m asking is that you save a couple jokes and trivial news about the current hot celebrity and put on someone who is already creating an influence.  

To be clear, our media is not to blame for our apathetic view on books and reading, but you have not done anything to help either.  In this situation, complacency is just as bad as illiteracy.  Thank you for your time and ear.

Jason Frost – RubiconReader


  1. Great post.

    It is very true. I've noticed certain Af-Am magazines books section dwindle into celeb book advertorials. Popular radio shows don't bring authors on anymore to discuss their books. Community libraries have closed or have such tighter budgets that the books they ordered still haven't been delivered by the distribution channels they use. It is a mess...

    Even more so, the less we know, the less we will be. If don't read, we will be in even worse shape within the next decade.

  2. this is so true, I wish not only african american media would do something but media period. for instance. there have been quite a few movies written about an unknown african american and the leading role goes to an Caucasian actress. 'The Help' went from being a best seller after being stocked in an african american section, (about african american women but written by an caucasian woman) not that its about to become a movie its book cover changed from three birds to 2 black women and 2 caucasian women. hmmnn. I do wish african american media would step it up. The amount of books being sold by african americans had increased by triples a few years back due to the recent economy it has declined. E book does help that. Yes, to sum it up i shout out to all media: STEP Up and do more and Do it Fairly!!!

    nice post!!!

  3. I loved this post Jason! I am going to share it on my blog!

  4. I loved this post, Jason. There are Caribbean newspapers here in Montreal and in Toronto who like to write about the achievements of the Black community when it comes to music, education, acting, dancing, and other professions. However they always tend to neglect the achievement of authors unless its non-fiction and they are over a certain age.