Viewing entries tagged
how to be black

Video from my Chicago Ideas Week talk: colonizing the world with comedy

I do a lot of talking in my work, and it's a privilege to get to mouth off for a living. I don't always post the video from these events because it's sometimes repetitive and I think yall might get sick of me posting a bunch of look-at-me content. However, speaking at the 2012 Chicago Ideas Week event was a special occasion.

First, I got to share the stage during a time block devoted to Identity. My fellow speakers were Hanna Rosin, LZ Granderson, James Fallows, Brook Magnanti, and Eric Daigh. They were all amazing and smart and interesting. I'm not just saying that. 

Second, I got to perform in the Goodman Theatre. It's one of the most beautiful rooms I've ever worked, and from a strictly performance standpoint, I was thrilled to be there. 

Last, here are my words, recorded and replayable through this magic technological advancement known as embedded video.

CIW: Identity: Baratunde Thurston from Chicago Ideas Week on Vimeo.

BaratundeCast: Living an exemplary black life

Reporting on my conversation with a Ghanaian bodega manager in Brooklyn who suggests that one way we move forward on race relations in America is for black Americans to consciously set an exemplary example and not to assume the worst from others.

Subscribe to the BaratundeCast via iTunes or SoundCloud. I drop these a few times a week

How you can help #HowToBeBlack become a best-seller

"How To Be Black" in an actual bookstore!

Today my book, HOW TO BE BLACK is released, and I need your help.

This is my first book published by someone not-me (Harper Collins). It's like giving birth to a child except I don't have to start a college fund or move my home to find the best school district. In all other ways, however, the commitment is the same, and I'm writing to ask for your help in making this comedic memoir, satirical how-to and provocative conversation-starter a best-seller. 

Remember that scene in The Godfather where the godfather tells the funeral home dude, "someday I may ask you for a favor?" Well, this is that day. I'm the godfather. You're the funeral home operator. Rival gangs have ambushed my book at a toll booth, and I'm asking you for a favor. 

Here's how you can help.


Right now. Just do it. If you've already got a copy, buy one for someone else! It's available in all formats including hardcover at your local bookstore, all digital outlets like Kindle, Nook, iBooks plus audio! I did the voiceover myself. Visit Plus if you've ever enjoyed my free blogging, free standup, free TV appearances or free, awesome company, this is how you can repay me.


If you have access to a large group of people: company, school, criminal concern, buy 50 or 100 or more. Bulk orders are available at 800 CEO Read. Bulk discounts! Contact us about customization of large orders. 


Preferably with five stars. Do this as soon as possible. Do it now. People on Amazon do what other people on Amazon tell them. Be a leader. 


We’ve assembled a few useful messages in this blog post which includes a trailer, quotable lines from the book and endorsements from people like comedian Patton Oswalt and professor/TV host Melissa Harris-Perry. Please mention the book right now in your blogs, email newsletters and 3D social media content pipe-stream-nets. 

On twitter, reference the book with the hashtag #HowToBeblack and mention @baratunde. On Facebook, like the book at, and tag it and me ( in your status updates. On Tumblr, like our blog at We'll be re-blogging items tagged "how to be black," so post your thoughts on your own blogs with that tag for a shot at tumblr greatness


This book isn't some final statement on race and identity. It's the continuation of a conversation, and I want you to join it. The book is ultimately about "how to be," and we've built a platform to get people talking about blackness and identity in general. Starting with each day during Black History Month, we’ll focus on one question at, Go there, and submit your thoughts. 


You all know someone that NEEDS this book, maybe a teacher or college student group, maybe a company executive, maybe a political office-holder or artist. Even if the book isn’t for you, you probably know a few for whom it is perfect and necessary. Please consider not just forwarding this post (which I assume you've already done because you're a good person) but actively introducing us to this person. Basically, I need you to introduce me to Halle Berry. I should have just said that.


This project is a big deal. The book is incredibly personal. It represents years of work and passion and blood (some people don't know how to cooperate). If other ideas for how to help occur to you, let me know. But also know that I'd appreciate you just sending positive thoughts. 

Oh, and I'll be on permanent book tour for now on. Check the schedule at Stop by, say hi, and get a book signed!

Sincerely, thank you.

Baratunde Thurston


Order @Baratunde's book #HowToBeBlack. Now.


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.


Join @baratunde's #HowToBeBlack street team!

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.


Today at 430pm ET I'll be doing a web chat about things "black folk don't" do, allegedly

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.

Local Chicago news paints four year-old black boy as gun-lover

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.