How To Be Black

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. He writes the monthly back page column for Fast Company and contributes to the MIT Media Lab as a director’s fellow.He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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Join the How To Be Black hangout with Baratunde

This Tuesday I’m doing an online hangout and Q&A around “How To Be Black.” 

The first 9 RSVPs get free mugs, and the first eight or 9 will get to directly interact via video. Others can still type things that I’ll address without seeing your faces.

Most excitingly, the writer of How To Be The Black Person Reading How To Be Black, Lauren White, will be interviewing me. 

Throughout his work, Thurston gives tips on how to be “the black friend,” “the black employee,” “the angry negro,” and “the next black president.” What he doesn’t do is give tips on how to be the black person reading How To Be Black on public transportation.

I have hoped someone would write something like this! Lauren A. White writes for Guernica in a story titled How To Be The Black Person Reading How To Be Black

Comedian Baratunde Thurston - 'Perception and Comedy' from Open Society Foundations and American Values Institute on FORA.tv

Today I performed at the Black Male Re-Imagined II event in NYC. Other speakers included Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton, Global Grind’s Michael Skolnick, former Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele, hip hop artist and activist Jasiri X and many more.

You can see lots of vides on the Fora.TV website

Monday 26 November, DopeReads is excited to partner with Teaching for Change and Busboys & Poets to bring comedian/DC native/social media swag-having author Baratunde Thurston to DC to discuss his book How to Be Black! The book was recently released in paperback, which you can cop here for the low. This memoir/satire (memoitire? satoir?) is the perfect stocking stuffer or Kwanzaa gift for the incense burner in your life. Look out for more info in the coming weeks. We bout to party for paperbacks, y’all. Let’s get it!
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Monday 26 November, DopeReads is excited to partner with Teaching for Change and Busboys & Poets to bring comedian/DC native/social media swag-having author Baratunde Thurston to DC to discuss his book How to Be Black! The book was recently released in paperback, which you can cop here for the low. This memoir/satire (memoitire? satoir?) is the perfect stocking stuffer or Kwanzaa gift for the incense burner in your life. Look out for more info in the coming weeks. We bout to party for paperbacks, y’all. Let’s get it!

Massive How To Be Black event in San Francisco on Saturday Nov 3rd.
The paperblack edition of the book comes out October 30, and when we did the round of national shows and parties for the hardcover, San Francisco drew the short stick. We are rectifying that with the biggest and best event yet featuring Bay Area comedian Kevin Camia, dancer and educator Denae Hannah, Black Grouse Whisky, and Baratunde headlining. 
Get your tickets now. They are limited!   High-res

Massive How To Be Black event in San Francisco on Saturday Nov 3rd.

The paperblack edition of the book comes out October 30, and when we did the round of national shows and parties for the hardcover, San Francisco drew the short stick. We are rectifying that with the biggest and best event yet featuring Bay Area comedian Kevin Camia, dancer and educator Denae Hannah, Black Grouse Whisky, and Baratunde headlining. 

Get your tickets now. They are limited!

I respond to Naija Annoyance over my annoyance about Nigerians and my name

Saw this on the Internet. You should click through for the entire thing. My response is below.

eclecticspectrum:

If you can’t understand why Nigerians feel overprotective of a name like Baratunde then…oh boy.

I am so tired of the people saying “I just want to connect to Africa” and not realize that by doing so they will ruffle feathers.

No one is required to feel flattered by your desires.

DAMN IT…

For the record, I don’t expect dances or flattery, nor did a ever say that’s what I deserved. The full explanation of my name is outlined in my book, and based on your post, it seems like you actually read the chapter. If not, I urge you to. If you have, I would ask that you read it again. Regardless, I made several large points

1. I did not name myself. I was given this name. I have worn it and love it, but it was not MY decision. 

2. When I was a young child, around 12 years old, I met a Nigerian man who went off on me about my name. He was the father of a friend of mine named Babatunde. He went into a tirade about how black Americans aren’t real Africans, never would be, and were lost etc etc. It’s crazy for a grown-ass man to go off on a little boy bashing African-Americans, and it’s an unforgettable experience for me.

3. SInce that time, and especially online, I regularly meet Nigerians who hear my name and initiate a milder form of the same lecture. I may be the first “Baratunde” they’ve met, but they are the umpteenth Nigerian I’ve met and it gets a bit exhausting, predictable, and a bit comical at the same time. 

4. You emphasized: No one is required to feel flattered by your desires

This is the part of your note I have the most issues with because that is not my expectation, and my name is not a function of “my desires.”

I don’t expect love or praise or hugs. I never asked for nor implied that. But, neither do I expect vitriolic rage, condescending lectures and disownership over a decision that wasn’t even mine to begin with. As for “desires,” you seem guilty of the same dismissive attitude you accuse me of when you wrote ”if you can’t understand why Nigerians feel overprotective of a name like Baratunde…oh boy”

By couching my not-quite-Nigerian name as simply “desires” you completely ignore the context of that desire among my parents and a generation of black Americans. They weren’t simply cultural misappropriators fiending for an African name at any cost for no good reason. It wasn’t discretionary like a “desire” for designer jeans. If you can’t understand how black American people, stripped of their history and miseducated to the point of self-hatred, would opt for a name closer to that of their ancestors, EVEN IF MISTAKEN, then… oh boy.

Here’s a proposal.

Let’s both put down the self-righteousness and the idea that our annoyance is unique and privileged and above criticism or varied interpretation. Let’s not put words into each other’s mouths, especially when those words are spelled out in detail in a book chapter. (sorry, that’s a swipe, but that’s part of my annoyance in this case). 

Let’s instead focus on the reasons behind the expectations and the protectiveness and the “desires.” I’m not going to change my name. It’s a part of me now. However, I really would love to know, since you put it out there, your thoughts on why “Nigerians feel overprotective of a name like Babatunde.” You never actually explained.

COUNTERCULTURE is a topical interview show hosted by Kweli Washington that values cosmopolitanism, thoughtful dialogue and soul. Guests on the show are thought leaders and newsmakers with a rich perspective on the culture in which we live. This week we interviewed comedian, tech evangelist, and political commentator, Baratunde Thurston about Twitter, the economy, the Presidential race, his hair and why he gave up on the NFL football for premiership soccer.

This Monday, I’m part of a stellar lineup of political comics (Lee Camp, Negin Farsad, Myq Kaplan) on an NYC show called Laughing Liberally. Tickets are $20 and completely worth it. However, I’m giving away two comp tickets for my How To Be Black fam.
How can you earn these free tickets?
Submit a photo of my book, How To Be Black, in the most American setting you can create.
This might mean you wrap the book in an American flag or photoshop the book cover dropping bombs on brown people or take the hardcover and deep fry it. Use your imagination!
You submit your photo to this blog (add text “nyc giveaway” to the caption), post your image to the book’s Facebook page, or if you’re stuck in the 20th century, email baratunde+nycgiveaway@gmail.com (yes, that is a plus sign).
Deadline for submissions: NOON eastern time Monday 2 July 2012
I will select two winners, and those winners can bring one additional person, aka a date, if they so choose. See, I also support love (or kidnapping camouflaged as love).
Cool, right?   High-res

This Monday, I’m part of a stellar lineup of political comics (Lee Camp, Negin Farsad, Myq Kaplan) on an NYC show called Laughing Liberally. Tickets are $20 and completely worth it. However, I’m giving away two comp tickets for my How To Be Black fam.

How can you earn these free tickets?

Submit a photo of my book, How To Be Black, in the most American setting you can create.

This might mean you wrap the book in an American flag or photoshop the book cover dropping bombs on brown people or take the hardcover and deep fry it. Use your imagination!

You submit your photo to this blog (add text “nyc giveaway” to the caption), post your image to the book’s Facebook page, or if you’re stuck in the 20th century, email baratunde+nycgiveaway@gmail.com (yes, that is a plus sign).

Deadline for submissions: NOON eastern time Monday 2 July 2012

I will select two winners, and those winners can bring one additional person, aka a date, if they so choose. See, I also support love (or kidnapping camouflaged as love).

Cool, right?

realcharacters:

SAVE THE DATE - JUNE 13

Oh boy, this month’s REAL CHARACTERS show at McNally Jackson is crazy packed with talented writers and performers. Come out to see readings and stories by:

Steve Guttenberg (actor, author of The Guttenberg Bible)
Dave Hill (This American Life, author of Tasteful Nudes)
Baratunde Thurston (The Onion, author of How to Be Black)
David Crabb (The RISK podcast, Bad Kid)
and
Joanne Solomon (The Moth, De La Guarda)

Hosted by Andy Ross. Produced by Ann Marie Lonsdale.

REAL CHARACTERS
June 13th at 7pm
McNally Jackson Books
52 Prince Street in SoHo
Free

Baratunde Leaves Healthcare, Job At Onion. Initiates Phase 4

Four and a half years ago, I proudly joined the ranks of America’s Finest News Source, a/k/a The Onion. For a comedian, tech geek and politics and news junkie, it was and remains an epic high in my life. Today, with a deep sense of nostalgia, I’m excited to move to the next chapter of that insane life having stepped down as Director of Digital to pursue more entrepreneurial ventures.

It’s been an amazing ride.

Acting as politics editor, I played a part in The Onion’s 2008 “War For The White House” election coverage which surpassed that of all other media organizations in providing a true, if not accurate, perspective on that historic period in the history of the United States. I was not a full-time Onion writer, but I got to join that vaunted writers room and got a few headlines and stories published which I shall wear like an Olympic gold medal.

As a general member of the staff, I loved getting to hear the behind-the-scenes arguments, helping spread the joy that is #whiskeyfriday and being the pinch-hitting black employee who played the parts of a guy Dick Cheney dunked on, all three Supremes and, most significantly, Barack Obama’s hillbilly half-cousin, Cooter. Hell yes y’all can.

And as director of digital (a badass title I created for myself), I got to experiment and help The Onion define its voice on the platforms and interfaces of the future. What I learned there changed the way I’ll think about media and technology forever. When The Onion live tweeted the Oscars, made a playable version of the Close Range video game or subversively promoted its TV show by posting the image of an adorable piglet launched by Al Qaeda to cripple these United States, I got a tangible sense of where storytelling could go.

I am grateful to so many people for my time at The Onion that it would be rude to attempt to name them. So here they are. 

Former managing editor Peter Koechley has earned permanent honored status for paving the way for my job there. Editor Joe Randazzo has been a smart, daring and creative leader as well as a good friend. My digital team including former boss, Mike Greer as well as web producer (and great writer) Matt Kirsch. I will miss hacking the future with you two. Of course there’s Kate Palmer and Brian Janosch and Joe Garden and all those faceless interns (because I removed their faces). And writer Todd Hanson whose philosophical walks around the neighborhood continue to inspire me. Last, Dummy, the unofficial office dog who, like most dogs, makes life better.
But really it’s everyone. I have never worked with a more hard-working, intelligent and hilarious team in my life. It’s a rare thing for any of us to experience a full day of such wonderful chemistry. I got four-and-a-half years. 

So, here’s what’s next. I will continue to roll out the world attached to my book, How To Be Black. I will continue to pursue opportunities in the world of moving pictures. And I will continue doing performance and public speaking events, especially those focused on race and identity, the future of digital storytelling and the power of comedy to help us understand the world.

It’s this last topic that has most captured my attention. At this year’s SXSW Interactive Festival, I was honored to deliver the opening keynote. I now realize that in it, I outlined the premise for the next phase of my life. You can view the talk here: http://blackte.am/KLXgP1

Essentially, I argued that in an increasingly noisy world of information and digital interactions, comedy can still deliver the truth in a way that captures people’s attention and does so in an essentially human way. As the definition of media grows from “news” and “video” to anything that acts as an interface to our world (duh, medium!), comedy must follow. Given the world we live in, that means the bombardment of marketing messages we experience, all of our online and digital experiences and the physical world. For a sample of what I actually mean, you can see my talks on being the swine flu or using Foursquare to run a real-world campaign

So, I’m slowly building a company. It’s name is Cultivated Wit, and we will use humor to engage. We’ll do this via events. We’ll do this via consulting and advising to those who want to connect with their communities in humorous and human ways. And we’ll do this by creating our own worlds in the form of smart, hilarious stories that span platforms in meaningful ways. The name “Cultivated Wit” is pulled from a quote by Roman soldier and poet, Horace who said:

"A cultivated wit, one that badgers less, can persuade all the more. Artful ridicule can address contentious issues more competently and vigorously than can severity alone."

If this mission sounds interesting to you, check out the website and sign up for upcoming news and announcements, and you should all be on my email list. If you want to do more than that; if you want to join forces with me to spread blackness or advance the comedic digital arts or just blindly head with me toward the fiery pits of Mount Doom, please join my street team. http://blackte.am/baratundest. I’m looking for people who want to preview my next steps, test out new products, help spread messages in new ways and join me in telling the story of the future.

Onward!, with utmost sincerity, gratitude and ridiculousness.

Baratunde Thurston
author, How To Be Black.
founder, Cultivated Wit.

Review of Baratunde Thurston’s “How To Be Black”

webmsmith:

Half review, half perspective. In a world where people are divided between MSNBC, Fox News, and info wars, this book was a reminder that divisions are not that simple. Though I don’t know Baratunde Thurston, personally, I feel like I do - even before reading his best seller. Baratunde is an acclaimed speaker, the Director of Digital for The Onion, and the founder of Jack & Jill politics. Our mutual friends speak so highly of his intellect and business savvy that I feel guilty for not knowing him. In How To Be Black, he says what many want to say. It’s led me to more public “hmmmmm’s” or episodes of “haaaaaaaa!” than I’ve ever had reading a book.

The first half of How To Be Black was read on a plane from California to Ohio. I was wearing boat shoes and a J. Crew shirt, I was sitting between two 50+ year old blonde women who were reading along on my iPad, laughing along at my arduous laughter. I also had Dre Beats on. I was listening to Drake. If the scene was a Warhol painting, it would simply be called “diversity”.

The second half of How to Be Black was listened to on audio book in a Camry on the way through West Virginia to a lake house in North Carolina. I was with my wife and my young daughter, a.k.a half & half. Lindsey was laughing just as hysterically as I was - as if to say, “I understand now.” This scene would warrant another Warhol painting, it would also be called “diversity”.

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