“The Black List” Audiobook Review

If you don’t like the way that some black people have attempted to nullify the N-word by thwarting its negative connotations and using it as a term of endearment, then maybe you’ll prefer The Black List’s approach instead. The project sees renowned photographer/director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders and NPR radio host Elvis Mitchell doing a redefinition of their own. Instead of a term that’s used to describe group of people that are denied privileges, services or access, The Black List is the complete opposite: a group of black people who have gotten success on their own terms, despite the setbacks that racial discrimination can implement. The HBO documentary made the Sundance Film Festival last year, and the book/audiobook was released in September. This blog, continued by clicking the link below, reviews the audiobook.

The most evident accomplishment by Greenfield-Sanders and Mitchell is the breadth of people, categories, and generations covered. The Black List rounds all of the bases: entertainment (Sean “Diddy” Combs, Slash, Lou Gossett Jr.), politics/activism (Colin Powell, Al Sharpton), literature (Toni Morrison, Zane), athletics (Serena Williams, Negro Leagues baseball player Mahlon Duckett), and seemingly everything in between. The stigma is that blacks being successful is the exception to the rule, but the existence of a list that’s so comprehensive of various professions might make some more optimistic; it often seems as if the only thing all of these people have in common is their race. But even more notable is how everything ties together. Everyone in The Black List is accomplished in their own right, so Greenfield-Sanders and Mitchell act as all-star game coaches and manage their pool of talent fairly: there’s no “I” in “team,” so each of the listee’s shrewdly-edited segments are under six minutes. Brevity may be understandably frustrating to listeners interested in particular stories (describing Toni Morrison’s career and life in five minutes and ten seconds is a task for anyone), but each audio does a commendable job of capturing its subject’s personality, a compelling anecdote or two, and how they view their success in different contexts, racial and otherwise.

The Black List isn’t without its flaws. Most disheartening, especially for a hip-hop journalist like myself, is the exclusion of music industry moguls Russell Simmons and Steve Stoute: both of them were covered in the book and the documentary, but their voices are nowhere to be found on the audiobook. While Diddy’s contribution to the list was great, opinions from Simmons and Stoute – who differ from Diddy since they’re not entertainers themselves, and have success in a couple other arenas – would have been better. And no matter how many incredible subjects this book has, a list of successful black people that doesn’t include Oprah, frankly, just feels weird. Lastly, the score for the project is disappointingly dull, considering the musical contributions blacks have made throughout history and the triumphant tone of the project. But the audiobook’s shortcomings, just like those within the black race, aren’t enough to hold back its power and its message.

  • my bad. my comment was meant for the topic here, interesting Howard, included