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REACH: 40 Black Men Speak on Living, Leading and Succeeding: A Different Narrative for Black Men In America

02/18/2015 06:16 pm ET | Updated Apr 20, 2015

I believe in the power of storytelling. Stories ignite our imagination, inspire us to dream big and give us the courage to make our dreams come true. It is time to hear and celebrate the untold stories about successful Black men in America -- this book does just that. REACH: 40 Black Men Speak on Living, Leading and Succeeding, is edited by Ben Jealous, former president and CEO of the NAACP and partner at Kapor Capital, and Trabian Shorters, founder and CEO of BMe; the foreword was written by Russell Simmons. This book is inspirational as well as instructional.

At a time when the mass media overwhelmingly depicts Black men in negative racial stereotypes -- this book shines a light on impactful, positive stories of successful Black men who dared to dream big, and made their dreams come true against tremendous obstacles. These men are also deeply committed to uplifting their communities and to changing the one-dimensional image that pervades most narratives about Black Men in America.

In their own words, these courageous, generous men share the defining moments in their lives that set them on their path to success. They give us insights into how they navigated through the storms and overcame obstacles. They also show us that we can be successful by being a powerful force for good. As Russell Simons put it in the foreword of the book;

"As I reflect back, I certainly could have let those who judged me by the color of my skin decide how my life would turn out. But instead I decided to challenge every norm that society had to offer. First I put rock 'n' roll on rap albums. Then I put the logos of black fashion designers on shirts worn by kids of all races all across the world. I made late-night HBO a place where great black comedians had a chance to make you laugh no matter the color of your skin. I created a financial services industry that provided access to the American Dream for millions of "unbanked" people in the United States. And finally, in my latest Hollywood adventure, I am uplifting talented folks in our communities so that they get a fair shot at having their stories heard."

The men in this book are very diverse: they have very different dreams, different stories, come from different circumstances and are different ages. They are CEO's, union leaders, community organizers, politicians, actors, musicians, scientists, youth leaders, social entrepreneurs, physicist, athletes, pastors ... People like Rashaun Williams, John Hope Bryant, George Gresham, Talib Kweli Green, John Legend, Ben Jealous, Van Jones, Dr. Eddie Conner, Louis Gossett Jr., Isiah Thomas, Commander Paul Tanks and Bill T. Jones, to name a few.

As I read each story I began to see a common thread amongst these men. Although each of their stories is unique in their own right, they all seemed to share some common characteristics:

• Their dreams are large, unconventional and unaffected by cynicism.

• They are out of step with the norm; they succeed not because they lead us to reconcile ourselves with reality, but because they help us see we can change it.

• They have a deep faith that any obstacle can be overcome; when they are faced with tremendous challenges, they use their compelling visions to lift them over their fears and their values to root them in their purpose.

• They are courageous and resilient.

• They all share a sense of responsibility beyond their own lives; they take responsibility for the world they live in and are committed to making it better.

These men are not only successful, they are transforming lives and uplifting their communities; they are a powerful force for good.

Isn't it time for a new narrative about Black men in America? It is time to "flip the script;" time to set the record straight. As Trabien Shorter, coeditor of REACH reminds us: Of Black men in America 15years and older: 11 out of 12 finish high school; 7 out of 8 are not teenage fathers; 3 out of 4 don't do drugs and one third of Black men go to college.

Setting the record straight and sharing the positive stories about Black men is not just the mass media's job; this is the job of every Black parent, grandparent, leader, teacher - this is all of our responsibility. Ben Jealous, coeditor of this book eloquently writes:

"I was blessed to grow up in a home where stories of great Black men and women were served up as frequently as spoon bread and fried apples. My grandmother told and retold stories of ancestors who were born slaves and went on to found universities and banks and become statesmen during Reconstruction..." "Together these stories inspired me to dream big dreams of helping to increase opportunity for all people. Perhaps even more importantly, they instilled in me the habit of seeking out the stories of others. Their stories and the dreams they inspired started me on my path toward leadership."

Thank you Ben Jealous, Trabian Shorters and the generous men in this book for sharing your compelling stories. I can imagine a young Black boy who knows deep in his heart that he has God-given gifts and yet everything he sees or reads tells him that he is hopeless. Then one day he picks up your book and reads your stories; stories that give him permission to dream big, the courage to face the obstacles in his life and the inspiration to follow his dreams! Everyone should read this book. www.reachwithus.com