Book Review

Greetings Good People,

I just finished reading a book entitled Tough Notes: A Healing Call For Creating Exceptional Black Men, and I wanted to share my thoughts.

Good writing fuels the mind, challenges falsehoods and questions authority; anything less is an insult to the human spirit and its capacity for intellectual empowerment and social change that benefits the great majority, rather than line the pockets of the corrupt and greedy few.


Written by Haki R. Madhubuti, Tough Notes is a collection of essays and poems directed towards young black men (and even women) who are in need of guidance, encouragement, and a kind word to keep them pressing forward. Madhubuti is a poet, educator, essayist, editor, founder and publisher of Third World Press, co-founder of the Institute of Positive Education, New Concept School, and the Betty Shabazz International Charter School. His social and political activism, particularly for the youth, is also heavily respected around the country; advising that his love for young people has guided his writing, his work, and life for over thirty-nine years.

I enjoyed this book to an extent. The positive messages and sheer optimism, which seemed to have been the focal point of his essays, were nice to read, but at times they just came across as disingenuous and highly romanticized. For example, he spoke openly about turning America into a true democracy where all Black, brown, and poor people can come together and have a fair opportunity to compete and experience the beauty of this land. That sounds nice in theory but not in reality.

Madhubut’s excessive need to include other minorities into the Black sphere was also a little annoying but not surprising. Many within my community have kept the door wide open for every person of color and/or deemed minority to attached themselves to us for years, and I don’t expect that stop anytime soon.

But even with a few flaws, there were still some major points that I found beneficial. I’ll leave you with what he calls the “Laws of Empowerment.”

  1. Always know more about your own culture than others. Critical thinking about one’s self, people, culture and the world is imperative.
  2. Efficient actions are much more effective than loud words.
  3. Honesty is always the best policy.
  4. Be prepared in all situations.
  5. There is nothing virtuous about poverty.
  6. Nothing worthwhile is free.
  7. Avoid predictability.
  8. Work hard for a spiritual, physical and psychological balance and calmness in your life.
  9. Control your anger.
  10. Understand leadership—its positives and its negatives.

Until Next Time…


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