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Author Sighting: Nina Crews: Seeing Into Tomorrow

BOOK PARTY LAUNCH at City College Center for the Arts for Seeing into Tomorrow: Haiku by Richard Wright, by Nina Crews

Celebrated author, Richard Wright, wrote 4,000+ haiku? Yes. And, what's more: He wrote them in the final 18 months of his life! Turns out, the man who is among the world's most celebrated 20th-century writers, the man we know for BLACK BOY and NATIVE SON, was also a poet. And, it took a children's book illustrator and writer -- Nina Crews -- to introduce me to Wright, the poet, in her latest book SEEING INTO TOMORROW: HAIKU BY RICHARD WRIGHT

As you know, I've always believed that children's books are books for adults, as well. Last month, I witnessed the joy of many people, exploring SEEING INTO TOMORROW and Richard Wright's haiku at the book party launch, held at City College Center for the Arts, in Aaron Davis Hall. Gregory Shanck, who heads CCCA and hosted the book launch, agrees. He has stated that, “It's not just a children's book. It can be enjoyed by the entire family.”

Nina Crews Nina looks on as children create collages 600x450 IMG 9133 Photo Credit Luvon RobersonChildren enjoying making collages at the book launch event at City College for Seeing Into Tomorrow by Nina Crews. Photo Credit: Luvon Roberson

Indeed, at a fun-filled event, children, adults, and families created haiku and collages – working at tables stocked with tools to experiment with and to create. Young children, their parents, and other caregivers danced together, learning the rhythms and history of African drumming. And, Nina Crews read her book, whose memorable photo-collage illustrations were projected on a large screen. Each page seems to break out from the book, as if leaping into reality featuring the images of 12 young black and brown boys in nature and in-conversation, or so it seemed, with 12 haiku written by Richard Wright. My favorite:

“A spring sky so clear
That you feel you are seeing
Into tomorrow”

With SEEING INTO TOMORROW, her 14th book, Nina Crews has created a gorgeous, powerful, affirming book for all of us. My only regret? That my son is no longer a little boy who can see his image in a book that celebrates Richard Wright and haiku. Or, in reality, a book that celebrates creation, the act of creation in ordinary realities of life, which we can see every day in nature, in our world, all around us. Helping us, perhaps, to see little brown and black boys in our world, too.


 When my son was a child, he loved books about transportation. FREIGHT TRAIN, by Donald Crews, was a favorite. I was able to meet award-winning children's book author and illustrator Donald Crews at the book party launch. He is Nina Crews's father. Her mother, Ann Jonas, also was a children’s book illustrator and writer. For more on FREIGHT TRAIN, visit Amazon for more details.
 Check out Amazon for more details about SEEING INTO TOMORROW
 Of the 4,000+ haiku Wright wrote, 817 are published in HAIKU: THIS OTHER WORLD (1998).

Is Amazon Detrimental to Black Book Ecosystem?

Troy Johnson, president and webmaster of makes a case for creating a Black book ecosystem outside of Amazon

From the early days of the web, Amazon has grown to become a huge behemoth in the retail space. It started as online bookseller and has grown to become the largest Internet retailer in the world measured by revenue and market capitalization. With Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods, even Walmart, the world’s largest store in the world by revenue, is concerned about losing its market share. CVS, a large American retail pharmacy and health care company, it too is playing defense against Amazon by seeking to purchase Aetna as Amazon is increasingly threatening to enter the business of selling prescription drugs.

With all of these moves going on in the background, in this video, Ruth J. Morrison, CEO and Executive Producer, What's The 411TV; and Troy Johnson, President, and Webmaster,; are discussing Amazon's effect on the Black book ecosystem (Black writers, authors, book sellers, publicists, marketers, etc.) and how the algorithms of digital search has and is affecting Black web properties. Johnson believes for the salvation of the black book ecosystem that perhaps, Black people should abandon Amazon for books by and about Black people altogether.

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Barbershop Books Receives 2017 Innovations in Reading Prize

The National Book Foundation awards The 2017 Innovations in Reading Award to Barbershop Books

Congratulations to Harlem-based Barbershop Books!

The National Book Foundation awarded The 2017 Innovations in Reading Award to Barbershop Books, a community-based reading program that creates child-friendly reading spaces in barbershops.

Over the past 2 years, Barbershop Books has transformed 49 barbershops into community spaces that support positive early reading experiences for boys in 18 cities across 11 states.

Barbershop Books will receive a $10,000 prize and will be recognized at the second annual Why Reading Matters Conference on June 15.

Four organizations received honorable mention for the 2017 Innovations in Reading Prize are Books@Work (Shaker Heights, OH), the Great Reading Games (Princeton, NJ), Poetry in Motion (New York, NY), and Reach Out and Read (Boston, MA).

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The Why Reading Matters Conference 2017 Coming to NYC

The National Book Foundation’s Why Reading Matters Conference 2017 focuses on building a new audience for books

The National Book Foundation is hosting the Why Reading Matters Conference 2017 on Thursday, June 15, 2017, at the Frank Sinatra School of Arts in Long Island City, NY.

The theme this year is Why Reading Matters: Building a New Audience, and the conference will feature a full day of presentations focused on building a new audience for books.

Check, for more information


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IMAGES Harlem Book Fair 2015

Phillis Wheatley Book Awards & Invitational Author Brunch

Too often, I fail to see the fuller reality of books and their co-creators. I invite you to join me as I look back at images of this year's Phillis Wheatley Awards and Invitational Authors Brunch, held during the Harlem Book Fair.

Books need us co-creators: From the people behind-the-scenes who hand out tickets and brochures... to those nearly hidden by books piled high on tables... to the many fashion-conscious book lovers who talk passionately about a favorite author or a must-read book – all the while animated by and through books!

Harlem Book Fair Images Phillis Wheatley Awards Ladies at Registration Table 2015Book lovers at the Phillis Wheatley Awards registration table. Photo Credit: Luvon Roberson

Harlem Book Fair Images Book Lovers in rapt attentionBook lovers rapt in attention. Photo Credit: Luvon Roberson

Harlem Book Fair Images Invitational Authors Brunch 2015Book lovers and authors at the Invitational Authors Brunch. Photo Credit: Luvon Roberson

Images show us how books come alive in and through us, their many co-creators.

Perhaps we can be guided by Max Rodriquez, founder of QBR Harlem Book Fair, who introduced the Invitational Author Brunch by saying: "We're more than writers. We're more than readers. We have intention, human intention."

Or, maybe we can heed acclaimed children's book illustrator Jerry Pinkney's remarks, made as he accepted this year's Phillis Wheatley Legacy Award: "Even after hundreds of books, I still find magic in the turning of the page."

Harlem Book Fair Images Phillis Wheatley Awards 2015 Award RecipientPoet Afaa Michael, accepting the Phillis Wheatley Award for Poetry. Photo Credit: Luvon Roberson

How is it that books not only offer us a private, individual experience; but also create in us a powerful community, even communal experience?

Books are magical. What does that make us, their co-creators?


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Author Sighting: Dave Chappelle Is Comedy Under Attack, Says Author Carl Unegbu

Comedy at First Sight

First, let me give you a word about how I came to comedy. A friend who's also a talented publicist introduced me to comedy and comedians by way of New York City clubs. My introduction to live, in-your-face comedy (aka standup) through Gordon Balkcom, opened up a whole new world – and way of seeing. So, when Gordon told me that an attorney who's also a comedy blogger had a new book, I was in! The book is Comedy Under Attack (ComedyBeat Books, 2013), by Carl Unegbu, whom I met at his book signing, held at Sisters Uptown Bookstore & Cultural Center.

Carl Unegbu: First Sighting @ Sisters Uptown Bookstore & Cultural Center

Whenever I travel uptown to Sisters Uptown Bookstore, I find myself entering the warm embrace of an African village (or what I imagine is such). Sun-drenched even in the winter months, Sisters Uptown Bookstore's book-lined space is filled with books about and by authors from the Africa Diaspora, along with African art, drums, crafts, jewelry, large plush armchairs, and even a shrine for quiet contemplation.

Collage Sisters-Book-Store Exterior Interior

Exterior (left) and Inside Sister's Book Store & Cultural Center. Photo Credit: Sisters Uptown Bookstore & Culture Center

The children's literature area has kid-size table and chairs, easy-to-reach books and rotating shelves with palm-size books and strands of colorful lanyards. Its café offers smoothies, muffins, tea, coffee, and cold drinks. I can settle into a comfy armchair with a book -- or, as I did on June 28th -- I can laugh my head off when comedians performed at Carl Unegbu's book signing!

Truth be told, Comedy Under Attack is no laughing matter. According to Unegbu, comedy is hurting, and he points to two major culprits: Political correctness (how corporate big business gets to decide what is and isn't "acceptable comedy") and joke-stealing, which he believes has dealt a mighty blow to standup comedy. To showcase the first culprit, he points to comic genius Dave Chappelle, who walked away from $50 million rather than serve corporate interests (more on Chappelle, below). Despite those headwinds, Unegbu believes this is the Golden Age of Comedy, and cites comedian Louis CK as leading the way for future generations of comedians in how to deal with corporate America.

Carl Unegbu: Second Sighting @Book Culture, Upper Westside

The next time I see Carl Unegbu is five months later, on November 20th. He's introducing ComedyBeat's, Comedy Dialogue series, at Book Culture. The series tackles the latest issues confronting the comedy industry. We're treated to a spirited conversation with comedian/filmmaker Tom McCaffrey (producer of the upcoming movie, This is Comedy) and comedian/storyteller Rob Cantrell, maker of the new comedy music album, Dreams Never Die (you probably know him from Last Comic Standing and Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn), among others.

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Carl Unegbu, author of Comedy Under Attack addressing an audience at Book Culture. Photo Credit: Luvon Roberson

Book Culture is a perfect fit for comedy – or anything that's a little off-kilter and quirky. It's a stone's throw from Columbia University and just steps from the world's largest gothic cathedral, St. John The Divine. I'm a longtime Book Culture fan, as much for its eclectic array of books, as for its one-of-a-kind writing desk. I think of that desk as magical. You'll have to visit and find out why!

My Favorite Author Quips & Snippets

Carl Unegbu-with-Janifer Luvon-Roberson Sisters-Uptown 650x656

Carl Unegbu, author of Comedy Under Attack; with Sisters Uptown Bookstore Owner Janifer Wilson (center) and What's The 411TV Book Editor, Luvon Roberson (right). Photo Credit: Gordon Balkcom

Quips from Carl Unegbu, Author of Comedy Under Attack

"In a 2008 interview...[comedian David] Brenner said that comedy today is becoming run less like an art form and more like a business."

"Take the case of Dave Chappelle of Comedy Central's The Chappelle Show... This may be the only case in modern American show business in which an entertainer who was not insane walked away from the $50 million on the table and returned to the regular grind of the comedy club circuit."

"Chappelle reportedly said that his work on The Chappelle Show made him feel like a prostitute who was not doing things for the right reason.... Comedy Central's interest in Chappelle and his show clearly was not about his peace of mind or the best quality comedy he could produce. The network's interest obviously ran more to the money side of the equation."

BIO: Carl Unegbu

Carl Unegbu, author of Comedy Under Attack, is a lawyer and managing editor at He studied journalism at Columbia after graduating law school at the University of Miami. His articles have appeared in The Real Deal, Africa Journal, World Policy Journal, the Journal of International Arbitration, The New York Review of Magazines, Reuters Forum Journal, Leverage Magazine, and New York County Lawyer. Prior to his admission to the New York Bar, Carl practiced law in Miami and served as a law clerk at the International Court of Arbitration in Paris.

AUTHOR SIGHTING with a COMEDY Theme: Brian Robinson

How to Meet Women on the Subway

by Brian Robinson


Man-reading HOW-TO-MEET-WOMEN-ON-THE-SUBWAY by-Brian-Robinson 639x490

Man on subway reading How to Meet Women on the Subway by Brian Robinson.

First Sighting: Toastmasters 2009 Annual Conference

As a former member of Toastmasters, I can recall being in the audience among hundreds of people who howled with laughter when then-single and footloose Brian Robinson took center stage at the Toastmasters Annual Conference in 2009, competing in the Humorous Contest. Robinson's tale of woe and disaster about how he tried to meet women on the New York City subway was, well, hilarious. And, I recall that when all the votes were tallied, he went on to win the Contest that year.

Brian-Robinson Author HOW-TO-MEET-WOMEN-ON-THE-SUBWAY 650x540

Brian Robinson (center), author of How to Meet Women on the Subway, at his book launch at Bowlmor Lanes in Manhattan

Next Sighting: @ Bowlmor Lanes, Mid-town Manhattan

3-women-smiling Brian-Robinson How-to-Meet-Women-on-the-Subway website

Now, five years later, Brian Robinson is partying at Bowlmor Lanes, the fun-loving way he chose to launch his book How to Meet Women on the Subway (2014). Yes, the book is about the author's woeful yet laugh-til-you-holler encounters with women on the subway. Robinson, now married, did not meet his lovely bride Angie on the subway. That doesn't mean, however, that he didn't learn the best strategies for meeting women. Indeed, he met hundreds of women that way, according to his book. To find out which of those excellent strategies for meeting women he used when it came time for him to marry that special someone, I guess you'll need to read his book (or ask Angie)!


 My Favorite Author Quips & Snippets

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What's The 411TV Book Editor, Luvon Roberson, with Brian Robinson, author of How to Meet Women on the Subway, at book launch at Bowlmor Lanes in Manhattan. Photo: Luvon Roberson

Quips from Brian Robinson, author of How to Meet Women on the Subway.

"The NYC subway has over 600 miles of track and 468 stations. It's open 24 hours every single day of the year; it's cheap at only $5 a day. And, unlike dating sites – you can meet women in-person!"

"With millions of women on the subway every day, where's a better place to meet them than underground – under the streets of New York City?"

"Hey, you can multi-task on the subway: Meet women and get work done on your laptop!"

For these & other quips visit:

BIO: Brian Robinson

There were three experiences that changed Brian's life: Selling encyclopedias door-to door in college; working for The Doe Fund, a non-profit dedicated to assisting formerly homeless men get back to work; and discovering at age 43 that he had attention deficit disorder (ADD).

These life-changing experiences taught Brian powerful lessons about persistence, hope, and humor -- themes that you will frequently hear in his workshops and keynotes.

Brian is an active member of The Temple of Restoration, Toastmasters International, and he lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Angie. The professional speaker and motivator is currently writing his second book, Get Back Up!

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