The Black Book: Reflections from the Baltimore Grassroots (Grandpre & Love)

I bought this book because one of its co-authors, Lawrence Grandpre, was a student of mine at Baltimore City College High School. I knew I’d read it at some point, but given the recent events in Baltimore, it seemed to beckon me from the bookshelf.

Together, Grandpre and Love have assembled a series of compelling and important essays about the structure and implications of white supremacy and anti-blackness, particularly how it pertains to political and economic infrastructure. They will attend to the symptoms, to be sure, but these two, part of the Leaders for a Beautiful Struggle, seek to get at root causes. They are asking questions that, they report, make those they are addressed to, uncomfortable. I admit that a few made me, a white teacher at a school with 100% students of color, uncomfortable.

But here, and in one other place, I had questions for the co-authors. My school is following in the tradition of experimenting on the poor. I know that historically and currently, the poor, particularly poor people of color, are easy marks for experimentation. My question is, though, isn’t it time for a new model of public education? The traditional model is definitely not serving the students of Cleveland.

As a child of a professional fund raiser, I probably know a bit more than the average bear about that industry. I found Love’s section on “The Non-Profit Industrial Complex in Baltimore” quite persuasive. The one element that I’d like to query is from page 135. Love explains that “[a]uditors and firms that do professional assessments (necessary for grant applications)  are expensive and benefit from providing their specialized services in the status quo.” That last part of the claim is left hanging. A quick glance at any recent relief effort would reveal the truth of Love’s statement later on the page that there exists “legalized corruption that allows people to profit off of our (that is black people’s) suffering.” But the throwaway line – “I would rather have to worry about rooting out corruption in a context where people who are of and from the communities being served have more access to resources” does not convince. Love and Grandpre frequently call for independent black institutions and their reasons for doing so make sense. They believe that blacks should not and do not NEED (the emphasis is theirs) whites. I would have liked to see an examination of how much the black community does to support this goal. No one is handing out money, or at least not much money, without strings. Public schools want federal money? They make their students take the tests. Museums want grants? They have to provide data. How much is the black community contributing to the efforts that Grandpre and Love support? What effort is being made to educate students to do the kind of grant-related work that they say grassroots organizations often cannot afford?

As you can see, I was quite engaged by this book. Together, Grandpre and Love make me hopeful for the future of Baltimore and of the country. If they ask me for money, I will give what I can with no strings attached. Between my slim knowledge of one of them and the book they just read, I will not only give them money, I will get out of their way (as I think they’d want and need me to).

One major suggestion, though. Before this book goes through (m)any more printings, please get it edited again. There are mistakes galore, particularly in the powerful section about the Towson debate coach.

Buy it here (, not because you know one of the authors. Buy it because you need to read it and read it soon. It will, like all great writing, change the way you see and act in the world.

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