W.E.B. Dubois is recognized as one the great African-American authors of all time. In 1903, he published a book entitled “The Souls of Black Folks.” The book contained essays on race written by Dubois, and drew from his personal experiences being African-American during that time period.

One hundred and seven years later, another author has used Dubois as the inspiration for his own book, which addresses the issues plaguing African-Americans in the 21st century. Some of the issues are similar to those that Dubois witnessed, but there are some differences.

Roger Porter is an Oakland author who graduated from Mills College. His book, “The Souls of Hood Folk,” was released last month. Billed as a “literary mix tape,” the book and title could be looked at as an ode to Dubois and his book.

In “The Souls of Hood Folk,” Porter tells stories, which introduce the readers to six characters who all have their individual issues. The character include, a black male in his early teens, an adult film star who wants to “give up” the business, a guy who kills a cop and finally a couple with marital issues.

The first character – whose name is unknown – deals with issues that African-American males growing up in Oakland are all too familiar with. He deals with peer-pressure, love, the police. Porter illustrates the world that is Oakland at night flawlessly. He even incorporates the slang that’s used as a language itself.

The second character, Ms. Hershey’s Kiss, deals her own unique issues. She’s an adult film star who receives a letter from a fan who is in prison. In the letter, she goes into detail about her career and a guy she’s dating who isn’t scared when she tells him about what she does.

I got the opportunity to interview Porter about his book and ask some really thought-provoking questions. I was really interested in the language of the book, which is really poetic at times – for example, “There comes a time in the life of the young man he realizes that nothing stands between himself and the fate of the many thousands of black men that have failed in order for him to be here,” he writes.

Porter described this quote from the book as “failure and oppression, you inherit that.”

We went on to have a lengthy discuss about how African-Americans males are conditioned to believe that they will be complete failures in life. This negativity directly adds to the overwhelming pressure that comes with being a black man in America.

Another interesting quote from the book was, “I am now truly ready to live. I'm not trying to be a celebrity and I'm not about to run anymore.” This came from the story of Ms. Hershey’s kiss, and was the last words of her letter.

“People associated being a celebrity with happiness,” was Porters explanation of the quote’s – not just the character, but people in general.

In all, I believe that Dubois would be proud of Porter and his book. “The Souls of Hood Folk” address in great detail the issues that many African-Americans are faced with today, not just in Oakland, but also all over.

“We're all so similar, but we focus on the differences,” Porter said.

I think this book will help readers understand that everyone – regardless of color – deals with the same issues. “The Souls of Hood Folk” is a must read for anyone that wants to learn more about these issues.

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