Before I came to Street Sense, I never liked to read or write. I made attempts to read books but few interested me. In school I disliked reading literature and novels: I believe that was because I couldn’t identify with writers that didn’t look like me.

I didn’t start reading until I became homeless. Because I was marginalized and isolated, I spent most of my time at the library. The first book I read thoroughly was the Bible. I was functionally illiterate and was reading at a seventh grade level, so I had a hard time comprehending what I read. Because I was cynical about God, I got a dictionary and slowly read each verse and chapter. I then began to understand and grasp words from the Bible and started reading other books.

Writing didn’t come naturally for me. I wasn’t a born writer. I never wrote anything down and didn’t take things seriously. I cringe at some of my earlier works; I basically ranted and my opinions were not backed by evidence. However, any skill can be improved through dedication and practice. As with any writer, I don’t like my work being edited so I bought books on how to write and edit my work. I’m always trying to improve, so I belong to many writing groups and reading classes.

I used to never have a diary, but today I write in my journal every morning and try to read a book a month. Reading has provided me the intellectual curiosity I need so I’m always looking for ways to challenge myself and think critically. Although I like to write, I love researching even more.

Writing has taught me how to be self-reliant and do things for myself. I learned if you want to prove your point, learn to write the story in your own words or someone else will write a narrative you may dislike.

When you learn to read well you will become liberated. Before I elaborate on a subject, I research the topic first. I believe my best work comes when I can explain the causes of problems and find solutions that are pragmatic. Everyone knows the world’s screwed up, but it’s hard to find writers that propose any reasonable solutions.

I used to be a political writer. Today I consider myself a non-partisan writer.

I used to read Marx, Alinsky and Sartre; I used to want to burn things to the ground. Today I read black conservative writers such as Thomas Sowell, Walter E. Williams and Shelby Steele.

I no longer read books about liberation, socialism and Marxism, which I believe do nothing but make you angry, bitter and plant the seeds of resentment and discontent.

My favorite books are books of strong black men and women who came from poverty and became something productive. They overcome the lure of being welfare-dependent and became successful.

Ben Carson’s Gifted Hands is a classic. He tells the story of being born to a single mother who resisted charity and handouts and got a job working for rich people. She studied their ways and made her son read books and write reports on them. Because of his mother drive to escape poverty, Carson became one of the world’s top neurosurgeons.

Currently I am reading books about illegal immigration and am fascinated with the subject. So if any of my customers have any recommendations or suggestions on what to read or study, it would be greatly appreciated.