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Good Reads: A Wealth of Wisdom

Barbara Perlman-WhymanSpecial to the Sierra Sun

Longevity has its virtues. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his I Have a Dream SpeechLive in the present, but while [youre] living in the present, a very good, useful, loving and great thing to do is to check out all of history, all of the past you can get a hold of, actor, director, and writer Roscoe Lee Browne advises young people in A Wealth of Wisdom: Legendary African American Elders Speak.This priceless and necessary book edited by Camille Cosby, producer and educator, and Renee Poussaint, a television journalist, is the product of their work with the National Visionary Leadership Project (NVLP), an organization they founded in 2001 to ensure that the lessons learned from our countrys African American elders are preserved and passed on to the young people who will be the leaders of tomorrow. Growing out of the realization that not so long ago, elders were revered, not reviled and gray hair and wrinkles were honored, not disrespected, Cosby and Poussaint wanted to find a way to reach the young people, glued to their television sets, struggling, sometimes self-destructively, into adulthood so they could benefit from these wise voices, from their stories and their insight.The NVLP linked elder African American leaders, from both the public and the community with young, future African American leaders. These young people, selected by NVLP and its partnering institutions of higher education, became the NVLP Visionary Heritage Fellows. Each Fellow selected and interviewed a local visionary who has been remarkably effective in a particular community. This book is the result of those interviews and allows us a very down-to-earth, honest interface with 48 elders, some with whom we are familiar and others who are new to us. All have warmth, sincerity, and personal stories we are glad they shared. To not chronicle them would have been a significant loss. But the motivation, energy, and effort that has driven this project demands all of us to stop and take notice. The changes in society which have been strongly felt by the African American community over the past several decades is today also prevalent in all of American society. The intimacy, the personal touch and caring, the generational respect and cross-generational interaction is becoming harder to maintain, and in some cases, all but lost. The mobility, the loss of extended family, and the fragmentation of the nuclear family are breaking down our support systems and positive re-enforcements for our youth. Everyone loses, but our young people lose the most.I found this to be a book I couldnt put down and yet at the same time I wished I could so that I could savor the essence of each of the individuals selected, and what they chose to discuss with the interviewer. I found that I really liked these very diverse elders I wanted to know more from them, I wanted to share my own experiences and ask more questions of them. But in the end, the amount given to what they said was actually just right and achieved what Cosby and Poussaint set out to do. It gave the listener/ reader food for thought without being didactic, but by being respectful and encouraging for all to make the world and their world a better place. As Cosby concludes, the visionaries are giving you and me the gift of themselves. And I say Thank You. It s a gift to be cherished by all peoples everywhere!In closing, with Martin Luther King weekend before us, I would be doing a disservice not to recommend going to see The Great Debaters, a new movie by Denzel Washington playing both around the Basin and in Reno. It is a true story (with poetic license for effect) of Melvin B. Tolson, professor and debating coach at small all-black Wiley College in Marshall Texas and the 1935 Debating Team of James Farmer, Jr., Samantha Booke, Henry Lowe, and Hamilton Burgess. It adds meaning to the importance of this weekend. Barbara Perlman-Whyman’s Good Reads column appears in the Sun on Fridays. E-mail bpwhyman@sbcglobal.net.

On Saturday, Jan. 19, 4 to 5 p.m. A Taste of Nepal comes to the Library. Join us for a fascinating hour with the Nepalese Student Association of the University of Nevada, Reno. Enjoy a live presentation on Nepals people and geography, followed by some fun family crafts and games, and even a chance to sample some favorite foods from Nepal. All ages are welcome.Then, on Wednesday, Jan. 23, from 4 to 5 p.m., join others to learn about Radon Awareness. Let the Air Quality Division of the Washoe County District Health Department explain about radon, its health effects and how to eliminate radon if it is detected in your home. All participants will receive a free radon testing kit! For adults.Literary Birthdays This Week:January 18: A. A. Milne (1882)January 19: Edgar Allen Poe (1809)January 21: Charlotte Bronte (1816)January 22: Lord Byron (1788) Joseph Wambaugh (1937) Stendahl (1783)January 24: Edith Wharton (1862) Good Reads List:Adults (fiction): King of the World: The Autobiography of Muhammad Ali by David RemnickYoung Adult (ages 13-17): Race: A History Beyond Black and White by Marc Aronson Juvenile (4th-6th grade): From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg Children (2nd-3rd grade): So You Want to be an Explorer? by Judith St. George


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