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I’ve had guns pulled on me by four people under Central Mississippi skies — once by a white undercover cop, once by a young brother trying to rob me for the leftovers of a weak work-study check, once by my mother and twice by myself. Not sure how or if I’ve helped many folks say yes to life but I’ve definitely aided in few folks dying slowly in America, all without the aid of a gun…

I have never met Kiese Laymon nor seen a picture of him, but none of that matters because I’ve read his words. I know that he’s a professor at Vassar College and that he penned an essay entitled How To Kill Yourself and Others in America: A Remembrance, which was recently picked up and published by Gawker.  (Sidenote: I now have a new respect for Gawker too.)

His essay is quite simply one of the best, most beautifully written pieces of journalism I have come across in years. It opens with the quote above and goes on to describe what it’s like growing up black and male in America; growing up black in America period. Laymon calls it being “born a black boy on parole in Central Mississippi,” but it could easily be said for just about any place in America really.

Laymon, quite frankly, may be one of the most profound writers of our time.

If you have about 20 minutes, this is a must read. If you don’t have the time, make the time. Then try to find anything and everything else Kiese Laymon has written.

– Tracie Powell

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