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Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  417 ratings  ·  52 reviews
Black Cool explores the ineffable state and aesthetic of Black Cool. From the effortless reserve of Miles Davis in khakis on an early album cover, to the shock of resistance in black women’s fashion from Angela Davis to Rihanna, to the cadence of poets as diverse as Staceyann Chin and Audre Lorde, Black Cool looks at the roots of Black Cool and attempts to name elements of ...more
Paperback, 194 pages
Published February 7th 2012 by Soft Skull Press (first published August 1st 2011)
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Jul 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
I eat a huge, elaborate breakfast of oats, yogurt, luxurious dried fruits like dates, figs and apricots, nuts, fresh fruit, honey, cinnamon and herbal tea every morning, followed up with chocolate. While I'm lounging around wishing I'd been more moderate, my flatmate will make herself freshly ground coffee and toast spread with an indescribably aromatic combination of almond butter and fig preserve. The smell from the kitchen is intoxicating. I could react with envy and snipe at her meaninglessl ...more
chantel nouseforaname
The richness that can exist when Black folks come together!!! This is it. Honestly, each essay was luminous. Big names (bell hooks, Rebecca Walker, dream hampton, Michaela angela Davis, Margo Jefferson, Miles Marshall Lewis and more) are present writing about their definition of and experience with Black Cool.

Black folks are not a monolith. The depth of experience discussed by each contributor in this collection shines a light on the prismatic quality of Black life, Black people and of course t
I really enjoyed this book, despite not wholly buying into the premise that there is an inherent "black cool" as opposed to a culture of black cool. But it is an interesting subject, and the essays I liked the best were those that described how perceptions of black cool manifest themselves in black communities and influence our interactions.

I didn't have to take the concept literally (though Walker doesn't think it's outrageous to do so) to appreciate the stories told here ... Stories of surviv
Diana McClure
Jan 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Reading this book was like taking a deeply satisfying expansive breath that left me basking in a sea of gentle inspiration! It affirms life, black life, diversity and offers a grounded fulfilling counterpoint to mainstream media simplicity. Accessible contemporary wisdom and intelligence. Highly recommended! (Note: I did not read Henry Louis Gate's intro!) ...more
... thoughts to come later
Apr 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
To quote the reviewer Zanna, "This book is not about me or for me; it doesn't need me and it doesn't care what I think, and as well as being about terrible things that haven't and cannot happen to me, it's kind of about wonderful things I can't have. This is a humbling thing."

I loved this book. I wish I could tell you my favorite essay or story, but I can't choose. Each one stood out on its own for its own merits and excellence. I wrote down so many quotes from the writers. I looked up so many
Louise Silk
Jul 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
It's interesting to read the other reviews of this book. It seems that blacks were much more critical and less likely to engage in the writing as "cool". But for a white Jew like me, the writing was fascinating, insightful and really way cooler that I would ever have predicted. I'm not a fan of essays but these offer something that is rarely verbalized and worth taking the time to read and think about. ...more
Mar 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite
Just finished reading the book, Very inspiring and caused me to have a self evaluation. A must read.
Mar 04, 2012 rated it did not like it
The first thing black people need to understand is that a miscegenated blend of "indian", "dutch", and "whatever," is not who we are; it's what happened. I have in me Blackfoot and Cherokee, Welsh, and whatever else by incident, doesn't mean "this land is your land, this land is my land." It just means that's what happened.

So, again, first thing to understand, we are not a miscegenated blend of "everything," we stand on our own identity. If we are a "nation," it is our own; civilized by no other
Izetta Autumn
Many of the concise and well-written essays in this collection have been beautifully rendered. I am particularly touched by dream hampton's "Audacity," Rachel M. Harper's "Crazy," "Resistance" by Michaela angela Davis, "Eccentricity" by Margo Chambers and "Hunger" by Veronica Chambers. hampton addresses an attempted rape in her childhood - balancing rage, voice, and insight - in a brave and thoughtful essay. Chambers delivers an essay which connects appetite with coolness and suggests a new unde ...more
Jun 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I read this book as part of an ongoing meditation on the tech industry and appropriation of hip-hop and black male swagger (despite the exclusion/erasure of black bodies). The gorgeous pieces in this book make so many of the points I wish to make. Now I need only draw the lines from there to here. bell hooks, Mat Johnson, Staceyann Chinn, and so many others paint the many hues of black cool, big and bold, yet subtle and precise.

This book is absolute perfection from beginning to end. I am gratefu
Mar 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: race-related
White people will benefit greatly from this book. However my fellow Caucasians, remember this. This book is written by black people (mostly American Black people) who are creators of black culture (many different forms of black culture). My white brethren, read this book as a person willing to appreciate and learn about a culture that maybe you've never seen. It is all around, but white privilege means we can ignore black culture or pay attention to it as we please. We ignore it to our own impov ...more
May 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
I loved everything about this book except for Henry Louis Gate Jr.'s parenthetical foreword and Margo Davis's essay. The rest of the essays, by outstanding black authors, were well-written and edited. The best thing is that each essay brings a truly unique perspective to the topic of "black cool." Some essays, though, are truly outstanding for their sheer power and good writing, like "Audacity" by dream hampton. Another reason why I really liked this book is because it introduced me to a slew of ...more
Bri Hudson
Dec 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
I'm about halfway through this book and I think it's a wonderful re-introduction to my former life (where I read books instead of streamed tv to my computer). The essays are good. Some of the authors are familiar, some aren't. They're all personal and all hit on topics near and dear to me. Rape, the "strong black woman" phenomenon, defining hipster, mental illness among artists. I find myself highlighting thoughts, phrases and Ideas I'd like to further explore in my own writing and even my own e ...more
Amber Nofetari
Sep 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. From Michaela Angela Davis' perspective on fashion and being a mixed-race girl in the industry to Dream Hampton's epiphany of her strength as a woman to Hank Willis Thomas' first pair of Jordans "Black Cool" truly explores what it means to be a person of color and discover the beauty of our innate style. I totally recommend this beautiful little anthology.
Rianna Jade
Aug 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Honestly, I expected a little bit more. Some essays were a hit and miss for me. BUT quite a few were bang on point and the writers were able to articulate some ideas and feelings about the authentic Black experience that I was struggling to express. And I'm grateful for that. ...more
May 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
So many writers who articulated things that are typically difficult to pinpoint about black cool. I saw so many reflections of relatives, neighbors, kids i grew up with... aspirations of who I want to be! Great read!
Apr 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Excellent 🖤
Mar 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
I loved the variety of contributors and topics. Each essay is only a few pages so it's super easy to get through. Some standouts for me were The Geek by Mat Jonson, Evolution by Miles Marshall Lewis and Forever by Michaela angela Davis. ...more
Feb 19, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2015
I think I would have appreciated these essays a lot more if they had been more substantial. That said, there were some that managed to pack a punch in a few pages, especially Audacity, The Geek, The Hipster, Soul, The Scream, and Evolution, which ranged from personal stories to more of a long view of black culture. The ones I tended not to like spoke more of blackness as an intransmutable thing, especially Resistance, which used the infuriating technique of talking about something by saying "I'm ...more
Lisa Barr
Sep 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I knew Rebecca when she lived in Brooklyn NY. She was a cool woman who was just Becca to us...oh, yea the daughter of Alice Walker (squeel!!) This book is a must read for those who are open to writers like: dream hampton, Helena Andrews, Veronica Chamers, bell hooks, Michaela angela Davis Mat Johnson, Dayo Olopade and 10 others who are considered this countries most innovative thinkers as they explore the ineffable aesthetic of what is "Black Cool". It is a book for the geek, the reserved, the h ...more
Feb 26, 2014 rated it liked it
Essays on what it means to be “cool” as a Black American in the 21st Century, the book’s biggest shortcoming is the narrow range of voices featured. Yes, the twelve included essays cross a range of ages and subjects and background, but they were all written by intellectuals, who let’s face it, are a minority in America. I enjoyed the essays, but they read more like a group of friends getting together and sharing their (mostly similar) opinions rather than a serious discussion. Black Cool is less ...more
Aug 27, 2017 rated it liked it
These short essays on black cool work best in conversation with each other, as the writers have differing opinions about the aesthetics of cool and black cool in relation to gender and masculinity, whiteness and blackness, and commerce (the one thing these authors all seem to agree on is that they themselves are real cool). It's an uneven bunch, with some essays getting a bit too grad school, self-adulating, or self-consciously performative, but there are some standouts (especially from Helena A ...more
Brandon Will
Feb 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Well balanced anthology that exposed me to great ideas and perspectives and great writers I'll want to follow from now on. Esther Armah lays down some profound words about this being the time for the emotional justice movement. Veronica Chambers traces the importance of sharing a meal and communal eating through the Harlem Renaissance to today. Dayo Olopade takes back the word 'hipster' through an image laced contextual global history. Rachel M Harper says things about her brilliant, scary, and ...more
Feb 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Black Cool Deconstructed

Here, those whose creative talent is pegged at way beyond substantial, attempt to decode Black Cool in all its forms; What is it?, Who has it?, Who owns it? etc…. What you will get in return is an eclectic blend of responses that spans the gamut and, in of itself, is testament to the diversity that can be found in something otherwise known, monochromatically, as Black.
Jul 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"That’s solitude, keeping company with the first institution—that of self. Hanging out with your own spirit. But hanging out with your spirit is not the same as an obsession with individualism. That obsession can be a cancer to Blackness—not because self ain’t fly, too, but because the beauty of together is a forgotten magic we can’t afford to lose." ...more
Sep 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I loved this eclectic collection of thought-provoking essays. Featuring selections by some of the nation's top "thinkers," this was like a coffee shop reading...well, a series of readings by very engaging writers. Most of the essays were also personal memoirs,some quite intimate. The book will cause you to define and redefine your understanding of "Black Cool." ...more
Marguerite Pierce
Nov 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this collection of essays. Some were better than others which is to be expected, but I was not overly disappointed by any. The collection definitely invokes a series of emotions; happiness, pride, sorrow, anger etc which is indicative of the ability for the authors to tell their own stories. My favorites were Reserve, The Break, Resistance, Hunger, Evolution and Swagger.
Apr 13, 2012 added it
Loved this book. So many of the pieces resonated with me. Promised it to 4 great women to read, can't wait to get it back and have my kid read it. My 12 year old self needed to read this book, so since I didn't have it I will share with my son. ...more
Apr 30, 2012 rated it it was ok
I was able to skim the whole thing in the bookstore. Expected way more, even though it's a collection of essays by writers I generally like. I honestly don't think Walker has the gift (writing or editing). Just the name. ...more
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