Thus far the only thing I’ve read of Jason Reynolds has been the excellent and excellently fun Miles Morales: Spider-Man. That’s about to change really soon. I’ve been reading up on the man, which led to watching a whole bunch of videos of interviews and talks, through which I’ve become deeply captivated with the way the man speaks, the way you can feel the earnest and passionate energy surging through the language. I’ve gotten goosebumps listening to him talk. I’ve gotten teary eyes. And, most importantly of all, I’ve gotten deeply, deeply inspired.
Excellence is a habit. You can’t choose to turn it on and turn it off. Either you are going to be excellent, or you are not. And you have to think about it that way. Everything in your life — everything you decide to do — has to be YOUR personal excellence. It doesn’t mean that it has to be perfect — it means that it has to be your personal best, at all times. Because it needs to become a habit for you to do everything to the best of your ability. If you do that, success is inevitable. Happiness is inevitable. This idea that I know is to give all I have to the things that I choose to love. How can you lose?
When we were growing up, we didn’t want to meet Jay-Z. We wanted to meet Big G from the Backyard Band. Because he represented something for us. Because he had the control and the power to make the whole city know that we existed.
That’s all I think about when I’m writing these books. I’m the lead talker. That’s my job. My responsibility is to look out in the crowd and say, “Where y’all from? What’s your crew? What’s your name?” And to put those names, those neighborhoods, those feelings in a book.
We don’t value how important it is for young people just to see themselves.
It’s impossible for me to approach the page arrogantly because I know that the page itself — that white space — will humble me every single time. Every time.
The other thing I have to remember is that I write books about young people, specifically young people of color, and what that means is that I have a responsibility to make sure that I get to show them in humble situations. I get to show them exercise a level of humility because, whether you all know it or not, black boys in America — brown boys in America — have to walk around with all sorts of shields and force fields and layers of skin so that they can survive in the world. I don’t have an opportunity to humble myself! I got to walk around like everything is good! I got to walk around like you can’t touch me. Because I’m scared for you to touch me. That’s a real thing.
So I have an opportunity to put that on a page and show them crying. Show them softer. Show them uncertain. Show them in moments where they are folded up with grief. When they’re laughing, bent over with happiness and joy. Show them scared. Show them as they actually are. Show them as we actually are. Which means they get to share, in this moment, these secrets within the pages of a book. They get to exercise a humility that they don’t always get to exercise out there, within the private pages of a book. Every young man wants to see a young man crying. They just don’t want it be them, in public. But if you see it on a page, at least you can say, “Ah. I know that. I understand that fear.”
Also: the dude’s style is just effortless.