New firm wants to enhance early childhood education plus help mothers re-enter the workforce Wonderschool’s program addresses shortage of top-quality programming and training for stay-at-home education market

There is one education-based tech company that has found a way for mothers to become teachers at home, which offers them the opportunity to become hands-on with the early learning process of their children and, for some, even increase their household income.

San Francisco-based tech company Wonderschool is offering some relief. This digital marketplace of early child care programs recently announced it received a $2 million round of financing, led by First Round Capital and including Cross Culture Ventures, SoftTech VC, Lerer Ventures, FundersClub and Edelweiss. The funds will be used to build the initial product and team network of boutique early childhood programs that combine the quality standards of the best child care facilities in the world with the personal touch of an in-home program.

The money raised will also help the company attain its goal of democratizing high-quality preschools and teachers and helping them double their salaries by becoming small-business owners, which in turn can benefit mothers who opt to become teacher moms.

According to Wonderschool, the child care marketplace is in a crisis. There aren’t enough preschools to meet demand, and high-quality preschools are scarce: One study found that only 8 percent of preschools it surveyed across eight states are of high quality.

According to the press release, Wonderschool partners with experienced educators and child care providers, assisting them with licensing, program setup, marketing and more. Its software allows program directors to manage their students, parents and their program from one dashboard. All programs set up nurturing, developmentally appropriate in-home environments and must define program philosophy and curriculum for parents. Mentors provide Wonderschool directors with coaching, support, professional development and training.

Wonderschool’s program quality and oversight is guided by Mia Pritts, a childhood education expert who was in the team of preschool pioneers who started the groundbreaking campus preschool system at Google, Stanford and Pixar. The organization has more than 50 early childhood programs in its network in California and plans to expand to 15 cities.

“There is a true crisis around ‘child care deserts,’ where for every one slot at a child care center there are three or more kids vying for the spot,” Pritts said. “Wonderschool provides one solution to this issue by giving parents more options while combining the quality of a commercial program with the soul of a neighborhood one.”

Approximately 60 percent of Wonderschool’s current partners are women of color, and 20 percent of the directors are black women. In a study conducted this year, Wonderschool found that some teachers have gone from unemployed or taking jobs paying about $38,000 to earning $60,000 annually. The study revealed that the bulk of their partners are in the San Francisco Bay area and Los Angeles, two areas with high costs of living.

More than a third of the program directors were stay-at-home parents when they decided to work with Wonderschool to start their own in-home program.

How does Wonderschool work?

  • A digital child dashboard: Parents browse Wonderschool programs nearby, schedule visits, enroll their children, review program philosophy and curriculum, and make payments.
  • Preschool mentors: Team mentors are education professionals and provide teachers with coaching, support, professional development and training.
  • Helps teachers become business owners: Educators are helped with licensing, program setup, marketing and more so that they can focus on what they are good at: creating a high-quality sanctuary for kids.

Wonderschool was developed by veteran entrepreneurs Chris Bennett and Arrel Gray because of the problem Gray faced finding good child care for his family.

The program will help with child care affordability and scarcity.

“The first five years of a child’s life are a critical period of learning and development, when a child needs opportunities to explore and socialize,” said Bennett, co-founder and CEO of Wonderschool. “By providing online tools and a community of support for educators, we simplify the process of starting and growing an in-home child care or preschool program so our partners can focus on what they do best: the quality of their curriculum and teaching. Parents benefit from having their child at a program with the quality standards of some of the best centers in the world.”

WNBA star Chiney Ogwumike does it all The Connecticut Sun forward is getting a head start on her potential post-basketball career

There is one rule of thumb Connecticut Sun forward Chiney Ogwumike continually abides by these days as a WNBA player: Don’t wait to begin your next career until after your current basketball career has ended.

It’s a mantra the 25-year-old repeats to WNBA rookies, and a sentiment that carries her through her many off-court endeavors, including her most recent announcement of joining ESPN as an analyst for its newly launched ESPN channel on Kwesé TV. The channel provides coverage and a unique sports experience to fans in Africa. For nearly three weeks, Ogwumike has faithfully rehearsed lines, shadowed on-air talent and attempted to correct her posture to ready herself for the new role.

“It’s an adrenaline rush, almost like playing in a game,” Ogwumike said. “You’re excited, but you don’t know what’s going to happen. You don’t know if you’re going to win, you don’t know if you’re going to lose. I second-guess myself because athletes tend to be different in broadcast. It’s a cool challenge for me because I love sports, it’s an African audience and, to me, the most important thing is, I knew this was out of the realm of what I imagined myself doing, but I knew representation matters.”

As a Nigerian-American, Ogwumike understands the passion African fans have for sports. Physical activities have always served as a bonding experience in her family, and the love for sports is partially responsible for Ogwumike and her older sister, Nneka, turning to basketball after being told they were too tall for gymnastics.

Staying connected and recognizing the need for in-depth sports coverage not only in her home country but throughout all of Africa is something that has been a priority for Ogwumike since her days as an international relations major at Stanford University.

Growing up, Ogwumike would travel back to Nigeria with her family once or twice a year. While attending Stanford and becoming a mentee of former U.S. Secretary of State and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Ogwumike was encouraged to align her passion for giving back with her academic pursuits. For the first time, Ogwumike made solo trips to Nigeria before studying abroad during her junior year. In her free time, Ogwumike traveled the continent, working with nonprofits on basketball clinics and to help raise money to build basketball courts.

“I saw the country with new, educated eyes,” Ogwumike said. “It was a huge educational experience for me, and I left very optimistic because when you think about Nigeria, you tend to think of a place left behind. But the potential is there.”

After being drafted as the WNBA’s No. 1 overall pick in 2014, Ogwumike immediately went to work. She completed her rookie season averaging 15.5 points and 8.5 rebounds before being named the 2014 Rookie of the Year. Shortly afterward while playing in Italy, Ogwumike suffered a right knee injury that required microfracture surgery. She missed all of the 2015-16 season.

“I think athletes tend to make the injury their narrative,” Ogwumike said. “Injuries happen in sports, but I never wanted to be defined by it, and I think that’s my motive. My mindset has always been I love basketball, it’s my passion, it’s opened doors, but it’s not the be-all and end-all for me. When I got injured, it sucked because I was worried about what would be my basketball future, but the injury also gave me time to step back and think and plan on my future. I know I can’t play forever.”

Thinking ahead, Ogwumike focused less on the pain and slow rehabilitation process and more on how she can continue to strengthen and develop relationships on a different side of the sports realm. During her downtime, Ogwumike took advantage of television time, including co-hosting opportunities on ESPN’s First Take and His & Hers, as well as serving as an analyst for NBATV during the 2015 WNBA playoffs. Ogwumike also partnered with NBA Africa to help launch Power Forward, a youth engagement initiative that uses basketball as a tool to develop health, leadership and life skills in Nigeria.

The next season, Ogwumike returned to the court to finish second on the team with 12.6 points per game and 6.7 rebounds per game, earning her Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year honors. In a situation similar to the first, unfortunate circumstances befell Ogwumike again — this time, in the form of an Achilles tendon injury in her left leg while playing overseas in China.

“The second injury in China was a heartbreaker because I knew something was off,” Ogwumike said. “But I always try thinking of the positive. I got home within three days from China and had surgery quick, because I had doctors on speed dial for my other injury. The situation could be worse for me. If I’m going to be challenged in my career, I’d rather it happen now than later. I also know that my worth is not just my stats. As women basketball players, our worth is not just how we play but how we represent ourselves. Yeah, I’m missing my WNBA season and it stinks, but I’m really excited about this opportunity with ESPN.”

Juggling her WNBA career while co-hosting SportsCenter across subSaharan Africa will present challenges, Ogwumike said, only because it’s uncharted territory for her. Yet, Ogwumike is keeping a positive outlook. As she looks forward to returning to the WNBA in the 2018-19 season, her focus also lies in finding a deeper meaning off the court and giving back to the countries that have given so much to her.

“It’s unique for me because being Nigerian, I know what our passions are, and it’s sports,” Ogwumike said. “If you look at who I am, I’m a Nigerian-American female basketball player. And this show caters to all Africans, especially Nigerians because that’s some of the higher viewership, and I think female sports are on the rise. Even though it’s out of what I perceive to be the realm of possibilities for my career, it’s perfect for me.

“I always try to think of my little sisters and young girls that want to do what I’ve had the opportunity to do. That outweighs the fear. At age 25 it feels like an avalanche, but at the same time it’s like that adrenaline rush that I get from playing, and it’s cool. No matter what your lane is, attack it, do it to the best of your ability, and that can be the thing that opens doors.”

In ‘Orange is the New Black’ season five, the show takes its darkest turn yet ‘Orange’ joins the ranks of shows and films that will come to define the Trump era despite being conceived before it

This article discusses the plot and details of the fifth season of Orange is the New Black in its entirety. Spoilers abound.

Remember the good ol’ days, when Orange is the New Black could insert itself into consideration for the comedy category of the Emmys and, despite its hourlong episode run time, such a move was considered reasonable?

Because after all, it was funny, with its satirical look at a specific type of clueless white liberalism — the kind that subsists on a steady diet of Whole Foods, goop and This American Life. We could all laugh at Piper Chapman’s (Taylor Schilling) naïve assumptions about what life would be like in a minimum-security prison and whom she would be able to trust. Orange is the New Black began as a show that ushered in breakout stardom for Laverne Cox and a national conversation about trans people and the injustices they face. It had a hopeful bent, one that whispered the possibility of one day being able to say, this is how life once was.

Granted, that world ceased to exist the moment Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley) was suffocated to death in a chokehold by a correctional officer at Litchfield in season four. Like the titular character of Poussey’s favorite book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, we are down the rabbit hole now. Season five of Orange doesn’t soften the fall either. The inmates at Litchfield can’t see much beyond this time, time and more time behind their bars — any hope of this is how life once was has morphed into this is how life is and will continue to be, far, far further into the future than we ever imagined.

The world of Litchfield worsened considerably as the prison came under the management of MCA, the fictional private prison corporation modeled after the real-life Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Life at Litchfield was never ideal, but once it became a private prison, its crises metastasized thanks to poorly trained guards, many ex-military and all operating under the command of sadistic authoritarian Desi Piscatella (Brad William Henke). Piscatella makes Pornstache (Pablo Schreiber) look like a dancing, toothless bear by comparison: all fright and no bite. Piscatella’s zeal for punishing inmates was what led to the prison uprising in season four to begin with and the cafeteria standoff that resulted in Poussey’s death.

Season five is set during a prison riot that takes place over the course of three violent, chaotic, seemingly endless days. The ladies of Litchfield have taken over the place with the help of a gun, smuggled in by an inept guard known as Humps (Michael Torpey), who is concerned about prisoner retaliation and his personal safety in the wake of Poussey’s death.

The women take the guards hostage and issue demands, although it is the black women who want justice for Poussey who are the most heavily invested in using the riot to change conditions at Litchfield. For others, the first hours of prisoner freedom in Litchfield are a bacchanal. Some women institute a run on the commissary, the kitchen and the pharmacy, while others take the opportunity to simply walk around the campus in the nude, and still others revel in the ability to walk around drunk without fear of repercussions. Flaca (Jackie Cruz) and Maritza (Diane Guerrero) use the opportunity to become YouTube stars and grant makeovers.

After realizing the tampons, cheetos, and takis are a bribe from the governor, rather than an expression of good faith negotiation, the women set fire to them.

But Taystee (Danielle Brooks) and her deputies work to compile a list of the 10 most common requests from the 400 women in the prison:

  1. Fire the current guards and hire ones with proper training
  2. Reinstate the GED program
  3. Better health care (there’s a reference to an inmate who died after guards refused to hospitalize her even though her rotten tooth had gone septic)
  4. Conjugal visits
  5. Amnesty for rioters
  6. An end to solitary confinement and arbitrary cavity searches
  7. Equal treatment regardless of race or celebrity
  8. Internet access
  9. CO Bailey arrested and charged for Poussey’s murder
  10. Free tampons, hot Cheetos and Takis available in the commissary, and more nutritious food in the cafeteria

A couple of women, Red (Kate Mulgrew) and Blanca (Laura Gómez), realize the tactical advantage a prison riot affords them, and they start sifting through guard files in search of evidence that Piscatella is unfit to be working at Litchfield. It turns out they’re right — Piscatella left his last job at a men’s prison after he handcuffed an inmate in a shower and proceeded to scald him to death. Red and Blanca are aided in their mission with the help of pharmaceutical-grade speed, which one of the guards has been smuggling in and keeping in his locker in a bottle marked for energy-boosting vitamins — yet another symptom of Litchfield’s danger and dysfunction.

Despite the deplorable conditions that have led to the Litchfield riot, the writers of Orange is the New Black were not interested in creating pro-prisoner propaganda — far from it. One of the most disturbing aspects of this season is the depth to which it forces us to think about how easily power can corrupt individuals who see themselves as good or, at the very least, not as bad as their tormentors.

Alison (Amanda Stephen), Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore), and Taystee (Danielle Brooks) are committed to seeking justice for Poussey.

JoJo Whilden / Netflix

When inmate Dayanara “Daya” Diaz (Dascha Polanco) gains control of the prison after picking up Humps’ gun and shooting him in the leg with it, it doesn’t take long for the inmates to begin subjecting the guards to the same humiliating treatment they’re protesting. They force the guards to strip down to their underwear, then openly objectify and sexually harass them. When two meth heads get the gun after Daya loses it, they force the guards to amuse them with a talent show dubbed Litchfield Idol, in which one guard sucks up to his captors by going full Magic Mike to TLC’s “Red Light Special.” They force the guards to eat the same prison slop they’re fed day after day, and to relieve themselves in a communal bucket.

To replicate the cruel and unusual hellishness of solitary confinement, known as the SHU (Secured Housing Unit), Litchfield inmates throw the warden, Joe Caputo (Nick Sandow), into the “Poo”: essentially, solitary confinement in the prison’s outdoor porta-potties. The inmates’ actions echo revelations from the Stanford prison experiment and more recently in Mother Jones journalist Shane Bauer’s account of the four months he spent working in a CCA prison in Winnfield, Louisiana.

The worst part of Rogue Litchfield is the way it fails the most vulnerable inmates, namely Suzanne (Uzo Aduba) and Maureen (Emily Althaus), the two most severely mentally ill prisoners there. Suzanne suffers without her antipsychotics and without her regular troupe of protectors, who are busy negotiating the terms of a hostage release with the governor and his aides. Suzanne is left zip-tied to her bunk by the meth heads, who paint her face with baby powder and makeup. Maureen, who was in the infirmary after surviving a vicious lock-in-a-sock attack, will likely die. Her facial wounds are infected to the point of inducing delirium and fever.

Essentially, a private prison system motivated only by profit and shareholder greed created this dangerous environment for inmates and corrections officers alike. It’s what’s set off the chain of events that led to Poussey’s death, the riot, Humphries’ death, Maureen’s likely death and Piscatella’s vengeful spree of inmate kidnapping, scalping and torture.

There was always a moral imperative to Orange, even in its first season. It’s based on the memoir of the same name by Piper Kerman, the character on whom Chapman is based, and Kerman is a devoted and vocal advocate for prison reform. OITNB began as a show that had the radical audacity to make otherwise apathetic people question the prison-industrial complex. It added some drama and some sex and got us hooked. Along with Sunday mornings spent with Melissa Harris-Perry, Orange helped us arrive at a point where Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, could vault to intellectual superstardom, where notions of prison abolition began to work their way into the mainstream, and where @prisonculture became a must-follow account on Twitter. Orange began as a reflection of real-life horror stories that President Barack Obama’s administration and a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers were at least trying to end with measures aimed at reforming the criminal justice system, such as rolling back mandatory minimum sentences. Obama remains the only sitting president to ever visit a federal prison.

Brad William Henke as Litchfield’s resident villain, Desi Piscatella.

Jojo Whilden/Netflix

But nothing is outrageous anymore. The most disturbing thing Orange could do in its fifth season, and what’s resulted in a show that’s not nearly as bingeable as its more lighthearted early fare, was explore the far-reaching implications of the private prison system’s greed-driven nihilism. Take, for example, the frightening real-life circumstance of one prisoner whom Bauer wrote about in Mother Jones: a man at Winnfield who lost his fingers and both legs to gangrene after officers refused to hospitalize him in an effort to save money because CCA is required to pick up hospital tabs. It’s entirely plausible that a prisoner could die of sepsis in Litchfield.

The most hyperbole OITNB inserted into the show was done by shooting an episode in which Piscatella has sneaked back into the prison in full riot gear as a horror movie, with Piscatella as the monster hunting down and snatching women one by one. After all, Piscatella’s murder-by-scalding shower was another instance of abuse ripped from the headlines — the real-life Florida prison guards who facilitated and oversaw Darren Rainey’s death weren’t even charged for it.

Orange is not the first drama to reveal the ugly underbelly of the carceral state. Don’t forget about Oz, which began airing in 1997 and practically required its viewers to watch from between their fingers, if they even managed to make it through all six seasons at all. But the tales Orange tells are all the more effective thanks to how easy it is to point to their corollaries in real life. Despite CCA’s best efforts to mask the goings-on inside its facilities, we know about them. It’s virtually impossible for the fictional circumstances of Litchfield to be more devastating than the truth of life at Winnfield Correctional and private prisons like it all over the country.

Like Get Out, Beatriz at Dinner, The Handmaid’s Tale and even the second season of Queen Sugar, the many horrors of the fifth season of Orange is the New Black will likely be remembered as emblematic of the Trump era, even though it was written and shot well before the nation swore in its 45th president, or even elected him. Now, the most nightmarish aspects of Orange reflect a reality that Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is working to maintain and expand, by rescinding an Obama order ending federal use of private prisons and by revitalizing the drug war. It’s one in which a sheriff who presided over the torturous death of one inmate by dehydration and the repeated rape of another has been elevated to the position of assistant secretary within the Department of Homeland Security. The vision the Sessions Justice Department has for making America great again is precisely the one Orange is the New Black has revealed to be barbaric, dehumanizing, expensive and grossly ineffective.

The latest season of Orange forces us to ask ourselves if we’re still the country of Oprah-as-mentored-by-Maya-Angelou. The place that believes when you know better, you do better? Because we are post-Attica, post-Stanford prison experiment, post-Sandra Bland, post-60 Minutes expose on Pelican Bay. The Blacksonian, in part funded by Oprah herself, was built around one of the guard towers from the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, so infamous is its role in American history. Angola is the Lucy in the evolutionary story linking slavery to modern-day mass incarceration, notorious for its long sentences, corruption and reliance on practices such as chain gangs and convict leasing.

Alison (Amanda Stephen), Taystee (Danielle Brooks), and Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore) strategize about what to do with Warden Caputo (Nick Sandow).

JoJo Whilden / Netflix

Part of the legacy of Orange is the New Black is helping us to know better. Because of it, we are able to imagine what life is like in the SHU, and why many consider it to be a violation of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. It’s shown us the many obstacles for released prisoners that lead to skyrocketing rates of recidivism. We know that companies like Victoria’s Secret use prison labor, at a cost of mere cents per prisoner per hour, to manufacture those sexy skivvies we treasure so much. And, thanks to its past two seasons, we know the moral and human costs of treating prison as a corporate moneymaking enterprise rather than a rehabilitative one.

But even when faced with the shameful inhumanity of recent history, even as states such as Louisiana are taking steps toward criminal justice reform, the present and the near future seem to point to a dismal return to a reality we’d agreed was worth ending.

Kenneth L. Shropshire to lead Arizona State’s new international sports program Wharton Sports Business Initiative director will join the Pac-12 school in July

Kenneth L. Shropshire will become the first Adidas Distinguished Professor of Global Sport at Arizona State University, a newly endowed faculty position sponsored by the sports apparel conglomerate.

Shropshire, director of the Wharton Sports Business Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania, is known internationally for his expertise in sports, business, law and society. He will join the Pac-12 school on July 1 to design and lead its new international sports facility.

The institute is expected to be launched in the second half of 2017, and Shropshire will design, build and lead a new global sport institute as the center’s CEO.

“This innovative approach will use the unifying power of sport to make a positive impact in the world,” he said in an Arizona State news release.

For more than 30 years, Shropshire has been a professor at the Wharton School of Business and the Department of Africana Studies, as well as an attorney, author and consultant.

Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson led the charge to bring Shropshire to the school.

“I have known Ken since becoming teammates on the Stanford football team in 1973,” said Anderson, a former NFL executive. “His intelligence and tenacity for the tasks at hand have always been extraordinarily impressive. I have no doubt he will bring dynamic energy to this exciting initiative.”

Besides leading the new sports center, Shropshire will have faculty appointments at the W.P. Carey School of Business and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

He will also be awarded affiliate faculty appointments at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and the School of Social Transformation’s African and African-American Studies program.

“From podcasts and documentaries to hosting events globally, this presented an extraordinary opportunity to make the work going on in the academy more impactful by broadly disseminating it in journalistic form,” Shropshire said. “At this point in my career, my focus is to make a difference with sport. I cannot wait to get underway.”

New Jersey teen has big decision to make after being accepted to all eight Ivy League schools Ifeoma White-Thorpe thought she’d be headed to Harvard — until seven other letters rolled in

When New Jersey teen Ifeoma White-Thorpe received her acceptance letter to Harvard University, she was elated. Although she had applied to all eight Ivy League institutions, White-Thorpe was grateful to even be considered by one. Her mind was made up, and her heart was set on the university.

At least until the seven other acceptance letters rolled in.

“I was shaking,” White-Thorpe told New York’s ABC 7. “I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, oh, my gosh.’ Like, this might be eight out of eight, and I clicked it and it said, ‘Congratulations,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness.’ And then I was like, ‘What did I say?’ ”

Earning golden tickets to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, Cornell, Penn, Columbia and Brown — and even Stanford — is something that rarely happens, given that most of these universities are known for their low acceptance rates. But White-Thorpe, who takes Advanced Placement classes and is president of the student government association at her high school, believes her writing is what made her stand out. She plans to major in global health and biology in college.

The most daunting task White-Thorpe now has is narrowing down her options and deciding which university she’ll choose before her graduation in June.

“At this point, none of the schools I’ve applied to said they give merit scholarships, so I’m praying that they give me some more financial aid or some money,” she said. “Shout-out to all of those schools: Please give me something.”

Big-time college athletes should be paid with big-time educations Before we discuss paying college athletes, let’s make sure they get a real college education

Education should be the college athlete’s greatest compensation.

Not a slice of the billions of dollars paid for TV rights for their games. Not a pay-for-play contract like their NBA and NFL brethren. The biggest crime in college sports isn’t that the system is rigged against paying college athletes, it’s that money-worshipping American culture is set up against educating them.

The clamor to pay players arose anew this week when North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams earned $925,000 in bonuses after his team won the national championship. “The players got awesome T-shirts and hats,” observed Associated Press sports writer Tim Reynolds in a viral tweet.

The NCAA collects $1.1 billion per year from CBS and Turner for broadcast rights to the basketball tournament. ESPN pays $470 million annually for the College Football Playoff. Conferences and individual colleges make additional millions during the regular season. Many have compellingly argued for years that, morally and legally, the players deserve to pocket some of that windfall.

They do. But our Money Over Everything society is minimizing or ignoring what’s currently within its grasp, which should last far longer than a six-figure revenue-sharing check.

Right now, college players receive up to six figures’ worth of higher education, plus the life-changing opportunity to elevate intellect and character. Yes, athletes are too often pushed into fake classes to keep them eligible, as in the infamous North Carolina academic scandal that threatens the Tar Heels’ championship, or hindered from serious study by the 40-hour-per-week demands of their sport. But these athletes, and generations of their descendants, would benefit more from reforming their educational experiences than from extra cash.

Let’s look at what those North Carolina ballers receive from their athletic scholarships.

Start with four years of tuition, fees, room and board that total $80,208 for in-state students and $180,536 for those from outside North Carolina. Add the benefit of a diploma from a top institution with an influential and passionate alumni network. UNC is nationally ranked the No. 5 public university and the No. 30 college overall. The name “North Carolina” on LinkedIn or a resume opens doors and gets phone calls returned — and that’s without including “2017 NCAA champion.” And for the majority of UNC players who won’t make NBA millions, lifetime earnings for college graduates are 66 percent higher than those with just a high school diploma. That can be worth more than an additional $1 million.

Then there are the intangibles.

“People ask all the time why I’m one of the youngest college presidents in the country, and one of the only African-Americans leading a private national university,” said Chris Howard, 48, who leads Robert Morris University in suburban Pittsburgh and played football at the Air Force Academy. “I credit a big chunk of that to my experience playing college athletics. I know it sounds kind of cliché, but attention to detail, discipline, teamwork, resiliency, learning how to deal with others, deal with people that are of different backgrounds. It was just a melting pot. It was a leadership lab for me.”

After finishing college, Howard flew helicopters, served in Afghanistan and Liberia, became a Rhodes scholar and got a Harvard MBA. “All those intangibles kind of laid the path. The path was laid by playing D-I football first,” he said.

Rather than an unfair burden, Howard sees the demands placed on college athletes as a down payment on a successful future.

“You’ll be a better human being when you learn to handle that load,” he said. “You’ll be a better father, better husband, better brother, better sister. You’ll be a better professional as an engineer, a lawyer, a doctor, a business manager.”

The pay-for-play crowd loves to holler, “Intangibles don’t pay the bills.”

College athletes certainly should receive enough compensation to cover living expenses. Their families should travel free to games. Some sort of trust fund sounds fair. But the intangible value of higher education is worth more than pizza or gas money.

Martin Luther King Jr. described it while a student at Morehouse College:

“Most of the ‘brethren’ think that education should equip them with the proper instruments of exploitation so that they can forever trample over the masses,” King wrote in 1947 at age 21. “Still others think that education should furnish them with noble ends rather than means to an end.”

“Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education,” King wrote.

The real problem is, too many athletes are blocked from coming within a Hail Mary of that ideal.

“I would suggest that a lot of these kids aren’t getting an education. They’re just sitting in class,” said Leonard Moore, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin who is founder of the Black Student-Athlete Summit.

Moore has tutored, counseled and mentored athletes while teaching at Ohio State, Louisiana State and now Texas. He says most big-time athletes are limited to easy majors and prevented from taking advantage of many educational benefits because “revenue-generating sports are now year-round enterprises.”

“You can’t take a class after 1 o’clock. You can’t study abroad in the summer. You can’t get an internship on Wall Street or Silicon Valley,” he said. “The question then becomes how do these student-athletes take advantage of everything that a place like Texas or UCLA has to offer? I would argue that it monopolizes all their time. The only thing they can do is go to class, go to work out and then go lift, and then go to the meeting and then go to class.”

“I never understood why a football team has to practice in February when their first game of the season is in September,” Moore said.

Money is the biggest reason.

The University of Texas football team generated $121 million in revenue and a staggering $92 million profit in 2015. The business of college sports is so entrenched, Moore doesn’t believe it’s possible to make the players real students again.

“Just because you value education doesn’t mean [the athlete] values it,” he said. “If it’s basketball that got me on an airplane, that’s taken me to another state, that’s taken me out of the country, you know what I’m saying? Basketball has definitely helped me move forward in life. You say a four-year education, that doesn’t mean anything. That’s important in your value system, but it ain’t important in mine.

“Right now, it seems like they value the money and that we all value the money,” Moore continued. “That’s the athletes. That’s the university. Our society values the money, and so we say, ‘Look, they need to be paid. We need to pay them, pay them, pay them.’ Instead of saying, ‘We need to educate, educate, educate.’ ”

Efforts are being made. Over the past 15 years, graduation rates have risen from 46 to 77 percent for all black NCAA basketball players, and from 76 to 94 percent for white players. The NCAA gave Division I schools $45 million last year for academic programs and services.

But ballplayers can still get a sociology degree in three years while reading just one book. The clamor for cash still prevails. Demanding short-term gratification feels better than pursuing long-term goals.

A starting point for reform would be guaranteeing athletic scholarships for four years, instead of one, and providing free tuition, room and board for as long as it takes ex-players to graduate. Freed from the demand to produce revenue, these young athletes could finally obtain the incalculable benefits of a real college education.

Capitalism dictates that college players be paid fairly for the entertainment they provide. If money is life’s ultimate goal, the buck stops there.

Or here: “Capitalism is always in danger,” King said, “of inspiring men to be more concerned about making a living than making a life.”

Daily Dose: 4/5/17 Bill O’Reilly is feeling the heat

If you haven’t been listening to the Bronzeville podcast, I don’t know what to tell you. It’s the brainchild of Laurence Fishburne and Larenz Tate, about the numbers game in 1940s Chicago. Check it out, it’s really good.

Bill O’Reilly’s past is catching up with him. The Fox News talk show host has been a known hothead for years, and now his history with women is finally starting to affect his pockets. You might recall the original video of him freaking out on his crew when he was host of Inside Edition. “We’ll do it live!” became a national catchphrase. So since The New York Times exposed the fact that the network has paid a hefty sum to settle those incidents, companies have pulled ads from his show. It’s up to 22. Also, don’t come for Don Lemon again, Bill.

It’s college acceptance letter season for upstart high schoolers looking to make it. This week has given us two examples of exactly how different the world is when it comes to the different experiences of students in this country. One girl in Chicago was accepted by all eight Ivy League schools, which is a tremendous accomplishment. She hasn’t picked yet. Another kid wrote #BlackLivesMatter 100 times as his essay to get into Stanford and it worked. To be clear, that would never fly with an actual black child.

You have to have goals. Whether it is to finish that master’s degree, clean the gutters or get your taxes done on time, setting them is important. As important to said goals is finding the motivation to get them done. For some, it’s money. For others, it’s the ability to be around family. Whatever it may be, sometimes there are feats that remind you that no matter who you are or how, you can do something. Jamarion Styles draining 3-pointers with no arms is one. This badger burying a cow is another. My goodness.

The NBA’s unwritten rules are getting out of hand. The other night, the Washington Wizards decided they wanted to get huffy about the fact that JaVale McGee threw up a 3 at the end of a 20-point blowout. Sure, it was pointless, but so what? You got crushed. Then, in his triumphant return to Indiana on Tuesday night, Lance Stephenson stirred up some foolishness against the Toronto Raptors. This time, though, it nearly started an actual brawl. I can’t wait until someone gets hurt trying to defend his so-called honor.

Free Food

Coffee Break: If you use Bandcamp and/or SoundCloud, you know they are very different. One is way more ratchet than the other for reasons that are hard to really understand. But this meme with artists comparing the two is completely hilarious.

Snack Time: Surely you’ve seen the Pepsi ad with Kendall Jenner that everyone’s talking about. But here’s another one that’s pretty darn racist as well, without the two minutes of video required to waste your time.

Dessert: If you’re looking for Latinx podcasts to dive into, here’s a great list.

It’s a big Final Four weekend for loyal Gamecocks fan Darius Rucker The South Carolina alumnus hopes to witness history with victories by both the men’s and women’s teams

Country music star Darius Rucker loves his South Carolina Gamecocks. He was photographed with tears rolling down his face after South Carolina defeated Florida in the Elite Eight at Madison Square Garden. He played a concert with two TVs below the stage so he could watch the men’s team against Baylor in the Sweet 16.

Rucker became a multiplatinum, Grammy-award winning artist as the lead singer and rhythm guitarist of Hootie & the Blowfish, which he formed at the University of South Carolina in 1986 with Mark Bryan, Jim Sonefeld and Dean Felber.

In 2008, Rucker’s first single from the Learn to Live album, “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It,” made him the first African-American with a No. 1 country song since Charley Pride in 1983. A year later, he became the first African-American to win the Country Music Association’s New Artist Award and only the second African-American to win any award from the association.

From an impromptu road trip with his son to watch the Gamecocks play against Florida to hoping Dawn Staley can cement her coaching legacy by ending the UConn Huskies’ winning streak if the teams were to advance to the women’s championship game, Rucker went in-depth about his personal relationship with South Carolina.

He starts by explaining that picture of him crying with his 12-year-old son by his side.

At that moment I was remembering my freshman year of college, when we had the No. 2 football team in the country, and we go to Navy and we’re giving Navy 35 and they beat us by 35. I remember the mid-’90s, having the 2-seed and losing to Coppin State, a 15-seed, and then the next year, having a 3-seed and losing to Richmond. For Gamecocks fans, that was being a Gamecock.

To watch that team play the defense they play and make it to the Final Four, I was thinking about [head coach] Frank Martin, who is a great guy, who came here and said he was going to turn it around. There were silly naysayers who said you’re never going to turn South Carolina around, and here we are in the Final Four. Being there with my son, who’s a bigger Gamecocks fan than I am, it all just came to a head. I was just so overwhelmed with emotion and happiness because of the fact that we were going to the Final Four.

I was just always a fan, and [my son] started going to games with me when he was 1 or 2. He loved it. He loves watching football and … we go to basketball and baseball games, and he loved it, so as he got older and older his love grew. I love him, and he’s my best buddy, and so the more I loved them, the more he loved them. He loves them more than I do, like I hear from him every day, ‘Dad, I’m going to South Carolina,’ [and I say,] ‘I know, bud.’

Darius Rucker sings the national anthem before an NCAA college basketball game between Kentucky and South Carolina Feb. 13, 2016, in Columbia, South Carolina.

AP Photo/Sean Rayford

That’s easy, the other day in the Garden. He and I, we busted our butts to get there. I played a show somewhere in Texas, and he was with me and we drove a little while, we got in a plane, we flew all the way there, just me and him. We get there and we go to the game, and he’s got to go to school the next day, so right after the game we’re getting in the car and getting back in the plane. He and I, we just can’t stop talking about it. We talked about it the whole time. Sindarius Thornwell is his favorite player ever, and he actually wears [jersey No.] 0 in his basketball league.

You’re saying the right things, like, ‘I know we’re going to win,’ but deep down inside you’re like, ‘Come on, Gamecocks.’ We lost six of our last nine in the regular season, and we lost in the SEC tournament, so you’re thinking, ‘Are we even going to make the tournament?’ And then they get in, and they start playing tremendous basketball. You can really look at South Carolina and argue they’re playing the best defense in the tournament.

It’s not a spoil of riches [having two teams in the Final Four]. Now if people want to talk to me on Tuesday, ’cause we’ve won two national championships, that’s a spoil of riches. Our women’s program, that was one thing I’ve been trying to say to people: We sit here talking about the men, our women’s program is becoming a dynasty. If we can get by Connecticut and win one national championship, then people are going to start using that word for what [head coach] Dawn Staley is doing down there. She’s building this great program that every year is right there, every year at some point in the season is ranked No. 1, and then Connecticut beats them, but every year this is happening for us. Everyone is talking about the men, and it’s great they’re a Cinderella story, but our women are dominating. And right now, I said to somebody yesterday that you can say what you want, but we’re the best basketball school in the country. Both our teams are in the Final Four, both our teams are playing great ball. It’s amazing to be a part of that. I knew Coach Martin was going to turn it around. I didn’t know it was going to turn around this quick. I always felt when he got his players in there that he’ll do something. The sky is the limit now; this is going to definitely help recruiting.

When I was a kid, I probably would’ve said I liked Carolina. College sports for me was the NFL and the NBA, that’s what we talked about. The only thing happening back then was Clemson winning the championship in 1981. But when I went to school there in 1984, everything changed. I’d say my blood runs garnet, and even as I got older in high school I really loved the people there. I loved the community there and the alumni. When you see people you say, ‘Hey,’ and acknowledge them. Our sports programs are one of the things that keeps us together and keeps us abreast of news and what’s going in South Carolina. It makes you want to go back there and see all of your old college buddies. I think when I went there that’s when my fandom really took off.

I’ve got a bunch of guys I went to college with, and we still see each other all the time, we still hang out. Some of them work with me, and we’re just a close-knit group of people that never let anyone get out of line, never let anyone get a big head, never let anyone think they were too big or too cool to hang out. They kept me in check by just being who they are. They never have to remind me that they were there when it all started, because I know they were all there when it all started. I think I was raised to be the way I am, but I think a lot of it was I went to college and met a lot of down-to-earth, cool dudes who loved their school. We all still go to football games together. We all still hang out together, and I can’t say it was just one person because it was the whole group of guys I hung out with.

Loyalty [is the personality of South Carolina]. Our football team lost 21 games in a row, and we sold out every game. We’ve never won a football national championship or a basketball national championship, but our women this year by far led the country in attendance. It wasn’t even close. We’re a loyal fan base who loves our teams, and we give our teams our all.

Artist Darius Rucker performs the national anthem just before the start of the Outback Bowl between the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Michigan Wolverines at Raymond James Stadium on Jan. 1, 2013, in Tampa, Florida.

J. Meric/Getty Images

My favorite South Carolina player ever is a tie between Sterling Sharpe and Corey Miller. Those guys were great when they played, and Sterling and I went to college together, and it was a great time to be a Gamecock back then. We had some great teams, and it was fun. My favorite players now are P.J. Dozier and Sindarius Thornwell because they’re dominant. They can talk about all those other guys all they want to, but I’ve watched a lot of college basketball and I think [Thornwell] is the most NBA-ready player I’ve seen. He’s ready to play like now. You’ve got to love A’ja Wilson — she’s such a great, amazing player — and Kaela Davis, she’s going to be a superstar. I love watching her play. I love everything about her.

I want the [North Carolina Tar] Heels [if the men make the final]. … I want to win it against the best. Roy Williams is a friend, and I love him, and he’s one of the greatest coaches of all time and he’s got an amazing program. But if we win it, I want us to say we beat North Carolina. Don’t get me wrong, if Oregon is there, I want to beat them too, but North Carolina is always there. They have so many national championships. The legend of [former head coach] Dean Smith, Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins and all those great players that went there. I want to beat North Carolina, and it’s the North Carolina-South Carolina rivalry. We’ve got a rivalry for everything, we’ve got a barbecue rivalry, so why not beat North Carolina?

If [the women are] going to win it, then yes [I want to see UConn] in the national championship game. I’d love to beat UConn; I’d love to end their streak in the national championship game and see Dawn Staley go down as a legend. People still talk Digger Phelps [ending UCLA’s 88-game streak]. … I want to be the team to end the streak.

Rucker will be back in Columbia, South Carolina, to perform a concert at the school after promising to do so if the football team won six games.

The show is on Wednesday, and I’m hoping it’s a double national championship celebration. Oh, yeah, absolutely [the teams will be brought on the stage]. Everybody that’s in town will be on that stage. Every team member will be on that stage at some point. I didn’t think we had the [football] players to go win six games. [I thought] there was no chance. They had just gone 3-9. That’s a testament to [head coach Will] Muschamp.

Simone Manuel, Stanford swim team win first championship title in 19 years The 20-year-old continues to make waves and break records

Since making a splash at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games seven months ago by becoming the first African-American woman to win Olympic gold in an individual event, Stanford University sophomore Simone Manuel has been lying low and off the radar after deciding to return to college, forgoing endorsement deals that she could have received as a professional swimmer.

For fans who only follow the sport during the Olympics, things have been relatively quiet for Manuel. That was until this weekend, when the 20-year-old helped her team win its first NCAA Swimming and Diving Championship since 1998.

Manuel, along with teammates Ella Eastin, Ally Howe, Janet Hu, Katie Ledecky, Lia Neal and Kim Williams, set a NCAA, U.S. Open and American record of 3:07.61 in the 400-yard freestyle relay, and finished with a combined 526.5 points, besting California (366) and Texas A&M (292.5) to take home the championship title during the four-day event at Indiana University Natatorium in Indianapolis.

Simone Manuel of the Stanford Cardinal warms up between events of an NCAA PAC-12 Women’s swim meet against the USC Trojans on January 28, 2017 at the Avery Aquatic Center of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

David Madison/Getty Images

After winning the 50-yard freestyle during the second day of the event, Manuel joined teammate and fellow Olympian Ledecky for the 200-yard freestyle, a race Manuel seemed to have until losing the lead after a slow push-off during the final turn. The following day, Manuel competed in the 100-yard freestyle, where seven of the eight swimmers are Olympians. Early on, Manuel found her pace during a tight race against University of Georgia senior Olivia Smoliga, who kept up with Manuel until the final turn of the event. After pulling ahead, it was Manuel racing against the clock in an attempt to beat the current NCAA, American, U.S. record of 46.09 that Manuel herself set in 2015.

Manuel won the 100-yard freestyle with a final time of 45.56 seconds, setting an NCAA, American and championship record and becoming the first swimmer to complete the event under 46 seconds.

As gratifying as the moment was for Manuel, Olympic medal-winning swimmer is no stranger to breaking records.

Last August, Manuel became the first African-American woman to win an individual Olympics gold medal in swimming during the women’s 100-meter freestyle. Manuel would go on to rack up three more medals, another gold and two silver, before leaving Rio de Janeiro.

“The gold medal wasn’t just for me, it was for people who came before me and inspired me to stay in the sport,” Manuel said shortly after her Olympic win last August. “And for people who believe that they can’t do it, I hope that I’m an inspiration to others to get out there and try swimming.”

It’s crazy out here! 25 books to save your life, right now The Undefeated staff on books to comfort, inspire — and light a fire in your soul

The call was for “favorite” books, yes, but more specifically for books that resonate right now, In These Times. In these times when certainty and trust seems so rare, and books — highlightable and pixelated on a screen, or dusty and heavy from under the bed — can comfort and inspire and light a fire in one’s soul. The call was for treasured books, tomes that got you through something — and The Undefeated staff (and contributors) responded with faves that include fiction, short fiction, flash fiction, science fiction, nonfiction, satire, and young-adult literature. The list includes books published as far back as 1946 and as recently as last year. There’s a bunch of memoirs: Malcolm X is eternal, Nathan McCall is still making folks want to holler, and activist Anne Moody’s life story is still changing lives. There’s a handful of brilliant, restorative histories — hello, Paula Giddings and David Remnick and Howard Zinn. The newer storytellers are women: Desiree Cooper, and Yaa Gyasi. Toni Morrison is here for Paradise, and Jhumpa Lahiri’s shorts about the Bengali immigrant experience — both published awhile ago — seem particularly of the moment. And as is appropriate in a time when facts are dueling with “alternative facts,” there are two books here — one fiction, one nonfiction — with complex dual narratives. This list is meant to inspire more thinking, more learning, inclusivity, healing, some escape and joy, perhaps some organizing, and understanding. A tall order. And this is but a drop in the bucket. — Danyel Smith

The Street by Ann Petry (1946)

This novel illuminates the structural and social manifestations of racism, sexism, and classism as vividly and viscerally as any work of fiction written since its publication 71 years ago. In the book, the protagonist, Lutie, hopes to save her young son from the trappings of poverty in World War II-era Harlem. Her love and respect for Benjamin Franklin and his bootstrapping philosophy of prosperity motivates her to work hard and save so she can move out of a tenement building haunted by the presence of a superintendent hoping to prey on her dire circumstances. Like other works of naturalism, it’s not the intention or good nature of the protagonist that dictates whether she will leave her hard life behind, it’s the political forces of the time that determine her fate. Ann Petry is not here for happy endings or conflict resolution. — Monis Khan

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (1958)

Chinua Achebe’s masterpiece tells the story of Okonkwo, a leader in his Nigerian village whose incessant pursuit of honor is halted by abrupt change. When he sees colonial influence diluting his culture and threatening the values he’s anchored by, his life bursts into the “This Is Fine” meme. And if we flash-forward to the present, the outcome of the 2016 presidential election has left many (the historically marginalized, especially) feeling as though the world around them has been similarly set ablaze. Aggressive change steeped in ethnocentrism poses an imminent threat to the rights people died for so we could have, but also serves as a reminder that both good and bad come in waves. Okonkwo’s raison d’être — his pride — is also his Achilles’ heel. This chest-out hubris makes it even harder for him to process the changes he’s experiencing. In the time since I first read Things Fall Apart as an eighth-grader, the book has served as a cautionary tale: a reminder of how not to react when everything you know begins to collapse. And today, with the powers that be hell-bent on ruining the very country they claim to want to improve, it’s imperative to remember that sometimes things get worse before they get better. Whenever I revisit Things Fall Apart, similar to whenever I read depressing national news headlines, I’m reminded that life is a seesaw of highs and lows. We’ve risen from scorched earth before, we’ll do it again. — Julian Kimble

The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X with Alex Haley (1965)

This is the story of not just a man who came to power, notoriety and controversy during one of America’s most disputative period, but also of why America would never truly come to accept a voice like Malcolm X’s. The only way this book would cease to lose its importance is if this country magically woke up one morning and instantly reversed its ills. And since that’s not going to happen, Malcolm X’s autobiography will eternally rank as the blueprint of how to survive in America — and to hold America accountable for its shortcomings. Reread this memoir multiple times. I have, and it’s helped teach me the value of work ethic. It helped teach me about my status as a black man in America — and how humbling myself to its systemic racism should never be considered an option. This autobiography is responsible for strength when the coldest times of my life begged me to give up. Simply put, this the most important book ever written. Bar none. Yes, bar none. There’s so much game here that spans beyond the political. It’s a book about life — and about how it rarely goes our way. But the most important lesson is to simply keep living. Malcolm X did that until the day he died. He believed he could change the world — and you know what? He never lived to see it. But he did. Malcolm X’s fingerprints are all over 2017 and beyond. — Justin Tinsley

Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody (1968)

This memoir chronicles the horrors faced by the generation before mine. It’s about growing up in rural Mississippi under Jim Crow laws — and, sadly, much of the story still holds true in 2017. This is the book — written by a woman who in 1963 sat praying at a segregated Woolworth’s counter as condiments were poured over her before she was dragged 30 feet by her hair — made me want to be a writer. My mother gifted me this gem when I was a preteen and even then, I related to a young woman learning about her womanness and her blackness at a time when it was terrifying to be both. Much like Elie Wiesel’s horrifying Night, the account of his experience under Hitler’s regime, Coming of Age tells the gripping story of the American holocaust of black folks. And while Anne Moody never got her due (she died in 2015 after suffering from dementia), her book was wholly life-changing. And considering the headlines of 2017, her story — almost 50 years later — remains relevant and relatable. — Kelley L. Carter

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson (1972)

History is hard to know. This book is important at this moment because of the parallels between 1960s counterculture and the movements we’re currently experiencing in America’s polarized atmosphere. In it, Thompson (who committed suicide in 2005) addresses police brutality, hypocrisy, and destructive recreational drug use (“There is nothing worse than a man in the throes of an ether bender.”). Thompson’s gonzo style of immersing himself into his work and subjects inspired me to find a career where I could live out experiences, no matter how wild, and to open the minds of people across the world. — Morgan Moody

Discipline and Punish by Michel Foucault (1975)

Visibility is a trap. This book introduced me to the idea of the Panopticon (which allows a watchman to observe occupants without the occupants knowing whether they are being watched). In the age of digital surveillance this is relevant. Panopticon is a kind of space where separation and registration are implemented. Those who deviate are cast aside. When I first read Discipline, the obvious parallel was society at large. Then, jail and prison. Now it’s the state’s security apparatus — something that we make sacrifices for every day. The Panopticon is alive and well, and we all opt into it. Folks should read this book so they can better understand the goals behind the state’s continued efforts to divide us. — Osman Noor

A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn (1980)

“Alternate facts” are currently being touted as gospel truth. Howard Zinn’s powerful, paradigm-changing thesis — that alternative facts (sometimes referred to as “lies”) can become alternative American history — gave this classic best-seller its bite. If you were in middle or high school before 1980, your textbooks may have been a minefield of ill-adapted or half-truthful information. Sing along with us, kids! Christopher Columbus sailed the seven seas … and he quickly became besties with the native peoples because he was an OG who liked turkey. George Washington had a thing for cherry trees and wooden dentures. Thomas Jefferson didn’t have a thing for Sally Hemings. The Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras got about a week each, and Watergate was in no way, shape or form the gateway drug to the fall of American exceptionalism. OK, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But pre-internet historiography (which is the history of how history is interpreted) is a narrow corridor built by and for white male elites. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But A People’s History of the United States asks that we do a collective dig into uncomfortable places. With blunt, prehistoric tools. Then we get to the really fun stuff like Russians and Soviets, the historic election of Barack Obama and, because history always manages to swing back around, Donald J. Trump. Fun times! — Jill Hudson

Life & Times of Michael K by J.M. Coetzee (1983)

Set in apartheid era South Africa during a fictional civil war (fought “so that the minorities can have a say in their own destinies”), Michael K is a book of silent resistance. K is a wanderer and a gardener caught in the crosshairs of a war he has no say in. His cleft lip brands him as voiceless and unworthy of society’s consideration. He must assert his humanity and so seeks to carve out a space of the South African landscape for his own use, a space that cannot be infringed upon by the larger powers at play. As someone who isn’t necessarily a front-line activist but still holds near and dear my convictions, I love the book’s thesis: that the revolution can begin within, remain within, and still change the world around you. — Tierra R. Wilkins

When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America by Paula J. Giddings (1984)

I don’t remember every single story in Giddings’ novelistic masterwork of gender and black American history, but it’s enough to recall on any given and stressful weekday that the book exists on this earth as a brilliant testament to the work and activism and vibrant creativity of black womanhood in the United States. It’s like someone saw, and took the notes, and wrote it all down, and I say, Thank you. Whether it’s Phillis Wheatley, Mary McLeod Bethune, Ella Baker — everyone is blood-flesh-and-soul human, and black women’s lives and accomplishments are detailed toward the fine point of precisely how they impacted and influenced the heart and machine of this country. Who are we as ourselves? This is what Giddings asks toward the tail of her preface. What would we say to Anita Hill outside the earshot of whites or men or our mothers and fathers? What do we feel about a Million Man March …Who are we when no one yearns for us, or when we are in full possession of our sexuality? Who are we when we are not someone’s mother, or daughter, or sister, or aunt, or church elder, or first black woman to be this or that? The genius Paula Giddings answers with aplomb. — Danyel Smith

Lilith’s Brood by Octavia Butler (1987 – 1989)

If racism’s got you down, take a minute to contemplate the end of the human race as we know it. The brilliant, prolific and criminally underappreciated Octavia Butler constructs a chilling and all-too-possible future in which an alien species rescues humanity from self-destruction, but at an unimaginable price. As usual, Butler, a giant of science fiction who died in 2006, places a black woman at the center of her universe. The first book of the trilogy begins with protagonist Lilith fighting for life amid the wondrous, benevolent but inflexible invaders. Lilith’s offspring carry the story forward to a conclusion that renders childish our color-based classifications and proves there is only one race — the human one. — Jesse Washington

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (1988)

The Alchemistwhich has sold more than 65 million copies — takes readers on the journey of a shepherd boy named Santiago who has recurring dreams about traveling to find hidden treasures. Santiago meets many people along the way who both help and distract him, and (spoiler alert) in the end, Santiago learns that he’s the only person who can complete his journey. He also realizes the most important treasures of life were right in front of him the entire time. The Alchemist is so important at this moment because these days so many feel alone in their struggle. The Alchemist remains a go-to when I’m feeling lost, or dejected. The beauty of the book is no matter how many times you read it, it’s guaranteed you’ll find something you may have overlooked. — Maya Jones

Although this book is introduced to most in their youth, the moral of The Alchemist is only truly revealed to those who read (or reread) it as an adult. This perspective–changing and deeply human story is even more well received in today’s pretty trying times. Young Santiago’s odyssey leads him to surmise: “When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream.” What seems like trivial notions are actually fondly illuminated in The Alchemist. People should feel as though they can follow their dreams, no matter their age, or lot in life. We could all use a Santiago walkabout to reveal what truly means the most to us — whether that’s overcoming fear or embracing the present. Go ahead, give it another read. — Ashley Melfi

Makes Me Wanna Holler: A Young Black Man in America by Nathan McCall (1994)

Love was understood rather than expressed, and values were transmitted by example, not word of mouth. This autobiography is superimportant at this moment in history because the struggle continues. At the time of its publication, the book was called “gripping and candid,” and it is. Nathan McCall went from from thug-hustler in working-class Portsmouth, Virginia, to doing three years for armed robbery to becoming a journalist and working at The Washington Post. This book continues to save my life, because black men in this country have so many similar experiences even now — it explains so much about the frustration bruhs experience daily. McCall is underrated because he speaks the real truth. — Jason Reid

Paradise by Toni Morrison (1997)

They shoot the white girl first. This novel, to some reminiscent of Toni Morrison’s 1974 Sula, is superimportant at this moment in history because it makes you uneasy. It’s a difficult read, in all of the best ways. It speaks to so many things — race, culture, patriarchy, class, death, black girl magic, history — and the narrative makes you earn it all. Love is divine only and difficult always — and then it ends with an unanswered question which is fitting in today’s world: Isn’t every day uncertain and a little bit scary? — Breana Jones

King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero by David Remnick (1999)

This book came out three years after Muhammad Ali raised the torch at the 1996 Atlanta Games, when much of America worried about the legendary boxer’s health and wondered whether he still had the same influence worldwide. With the lighting of the torch (and this book), it became clear that Ali’s messages of sacrifice and conviction remain as contemporary today as they were in the late 1960s. It’s a reminder that a life lived only for material goods and fame is not a life well-lived. The beauty of Ali is his conviction to principle despite the world telling him to leave his religion — who he really was — behind. He became the Greatest not because of athletic prowess and showmanship in the ring; he became the Greatest because he used those gifts as a tool for greater good and not merely as a means to an end. David Remnick’s book brilliantly chronicles how Ali became Ali. — Mike Wise

The Land by Mildred D. Taylor (2001)

In this middle-school novel, a prequel to the classic, award-winning 1977 Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Paul-Edward is born to a slave mother and a white father and so learns to navigate being a part of both worlds. Taylor’s “depiction of the 19th-century South is anything but pretty, [but] her tone is more uplifting than bitter.” She covers colorism, sexism, racism and religion as she tells the story of Paul-Edward’s journey from being owned, to ownership. But “after arriving in Mississippi and setting his sights on the acreage he wants to buy, he soon discovers that becoming a landowner of color is more complicated and dangerous than he expected.” — Rhiannon Walker

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell (2008)

Malcolm Gladwell says that “what we do as a community, as a society, for each other, matters as much as what we do for ourselves.” That statement holds so true today — with where we are as a country. Togetherness matters more now than ever before. I identify with Gladwell — he opened up about his Jamaican roots: his mother, Joyce, a descendant of African slaves. And his ability to write very simply gets me every time. We’re all “outliers” – all exceptional in our own unique way. We first have to believe that and act on that — statistics be damned. — Mark Wright

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri (2008)

As the daughter of immigrants, this collection of short stories means so much to me. Especially as the dialogue around the immigrant experience in America can be aggravatingly simplistic. Today’s stereotypes are either malicious (those dangerous “illegal” Latinos here to steal your jobs, and those even more dangerous Muslims here to cause terror) or naive (the hardworking Asian with impeccable character who goes against the odds to achieve the American dream). The experience of the majority of Asian immigrants is not that elementary, and Jhumpa Lahiri’s characters are fully human. She reveals their pain, their desires, their flaws, and their dreams — even those that may never go fulfilled. And on a personal level, this collection taught me that it’s OK, normal even, to have a flawed family history, one that contains disappointments and shame. You don’t have to try to configure your family story to (the myth of) the American Dream. To step out and take a risk by bringing your fragile hopes to a new land, to unaccustomed earth, even if you meet disappointment, is beautiful nonetheless. — Lois Nam

The Known World by Edward P. Jones (2009)

This novel is vital at this moment because it forces black folks to confront preconceived notions about ourselves. Few of us want to grapple with the complexity and complicity of the black experience, even though true understanding of ourselves is the way forward. Jones’ masterpiece, in which “characters survive by negotiating mazes of moral contradiction, but … speak with a raw and lyrical bluntness,” will make you think differently — plus it’s simply a gripping tale. — Jessie Washington

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore (2011)

Destiny is determined by big and small moments in everyone’s life. This book demonstrates how two boys — both named Wes Moore, and born blocks apart — turn out to have seemingly polar opposite lives: one ends up in prison, and the other becomes a Rhodes scholar. Set in the Bronx, and in Baltimore, fathers are absent, and while Moore creates “touching portraits of both mothers” who want good things for their sons, “those dreams don’t necessarily matter in the face of the life of the streets.” This is a story of a generation of boys trying to find their way in a hostile world. — John X. Miller

Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness?: What It Means to be Black Now by Touré (2011)

Growing up in the shadow of Chris Rock’s infamous 1996 “Black people vs. Niggaz” stand-up routine, this book introduced to me to the idea, at the age of 22, that there are millions of ways to be black in this world. Who’s Afraid illustrates the many ways one can navigate society in one’s black skin. As Touré’s text states, to be “post-Black” — which is not to be confused with postracial — is to be “rooted in but not restricted by” one’s race. I can be me and be black at the same time. There are no limitations. In the current political climate, we can lose track of who we are and how far we’ve come. We can “fight” like our ancestors did for centuries but also build our own paths toward freedom in America. “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it,” for sure, but postblackness also gives blacks the latitude to take that historical context and apply it in an ever-changing world — however they see fit. The Black Lives Matter movement, for example, can take cues from the civil rights movement, but it’s on this generation of activists to chart their own way. — Martenzie Johnson

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo (2012)

In a complicated world that many of us make sense of by clinging to rigid narratives, this carefully reported and beautifully written book offers a vivid reminder that nuance is everything. Set in the unspeakable squalor of a marshy slum in the shadows of Mumbai’s gleaming Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers offers an intimate view of the lives of the people who live there. Children are bitten by rats and balded by worms. Others forage through garbage for scrap metal, or study desperately for a shot at university. None of this feels voyeuristic as this unforgettable book uses real lives, not government statistics or think tank generalizations, to raise big questions about the perils of extreme inequality, globalization and human nature itself. Boo is a celebrated journalist known for her on-the-ground reporting about the most unfortunate among us. She could never receive enough credit for that. — Michael A. Fletcher

Earl the Pearl: My Story by Earl Monroe with Quincy Troupe (2013)

Sometimes the best plan is no plan at all. It’s all about letting it all just flow. This is true whether you’re playing the game of basketball or looking forward to the next chapter of your life. Sometimes you have to take a play from the legend Earl Monroe — and improvise. And while what Monroe did on the court was dazzling, his perspective on life is even more so, and My Story features life advice from the timeless basketball legend. Monroe once said, “I don’t know what I’m going to do with the ball, and if I don’t know, I’m quite sure the guy guarding me doesn’t know either.” The same is true for life. During these times when it’s difficult to know your next move, the key is exactly that: to move. Monroe’s life, from growing up in a tough South Philadelphia neighborhood, to his career at Winston-Salem State, all the way through his days as a key player of the legendary 1972-73 New York Knicks championship team, Monroe’s life is nothing but inspiration. His advice and perspective transcends the game — a perfect book for right now. — Trudy Joseph

The Sellout by Paul Beatty (2016)

More people should read this satirical novel because it’s an unusual, adept, and comedic autopsy of an undead American fixture, Racism. Brimming with black colloquialisms, hip-hop allusions, and street-corner humor, this book was awarded the U.K.’s prestigious Man Booker Prize for Fiction — the first time ever for an American. The book begins with the protagonist, Bonbon, a black man, being admonished by a black Supreme Court Justice: “N—–, are you crazy?” On trial for reinstituting slavery and segregation, Bonbon pleas “human,” which to him means guilty and innocent — and neither. The book doesn’t attempt to make broad racial commentary, but instead presents elements of America’s racial history (and present) from a one-of-a-kind perspective. No matter where you reside on the spectrum of “wokeness” — from Stacey Dash to Solange, this book will make you see race from a new angle. — Domonique Foxworth

Know the Mother by Desiree Cooper (2016)

Desiree Cooper writes about the interior lives of mothers with knowingness, tenderness and power. The Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist, Detroit community activist, and former attorney, is a master of flash fiction. Each of the 33 short-short stories in her debut collection is a revelation across generations. She writes about black mothers in the fullness of who we are, how we live and grieve, our fears and our longings. We are widows with three young sons on a mule ride down a canyon wall. We are mothers caring for our mothers. We are raising children in the segregated South. This book is a welcome reprieve from the typical whitebread “momoir.” If those books are chardonnay, Know the Mother is bourbon. The collection fills voids by tallying the cost of motherhood, by counting the losses — of self, of adventure, of freedom — without tying on the obligatory ribbon of “ … but it’s all worth it!” For some mothers, that ribbon chokes. Instead, Cooper’s stories invite you to sit with these mothers and feel, as one character does, what it’s like “to be touched without desire or demand.” — Deesha Philyaw

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (2016)

In this debut novel, Yaa Gyasi masterfully interlaces parallel histories. Homegoing follows the descendants of two half-sisters born to different Ghanaian tribes during the transatlantic slave trade. The estranged young women live very different lives — one sister marries a British governor of the Cape Coast Castle, and the other — captured by raiders and sold to the British — is locked in the dungeons below, soon boarding a ship to America and slavery. Each chapter tells the story of the next generation — and each story has its own heartbreaks and triumphs. From Ghanaian wars over the slave trade to the prison labor system in America, this book moves seamlessly from generation to generation. Homegoing is empowering, uplifting and inspiring, moving me to wonder: Where do I came from? Regardless of where my roots are, this book makes me feel I’m getting closer to home. — Brittany Grant