Noname and the Power of Radicalization Through Reading

Featured Image: Chantal Anderson

grey-line-png-6

Following recent events in the United States with the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Rayshard Brooks, people have been asking themselves about where society went wrong. People all around the country are advocating for a different system, one that doesn’t end with mass incarceration, over-policed neighborhoods of color, and a corrupt system of government that doesn’t uphold the evils of white supremacy.

After dealing with an oppressive, racist, and outdated system for what has seemed like an eternity, many Americans are looking for a way out, whether it be protesting, rioting, signing petitions to promote change, or introducing legislation.

One particular form of resistance people have been flocking to in recent years has been through literature, by reading revolutionary texts in order to get a better grasp on the powers that exist and how to dismantle them. Authors like Angela Davis, Karl Marx, James Baldwin, and Audre Lorde have been in high demand as people navigate the ways in which they can make the world a better place where everyone is equal and the system is just.

Books, as they have been for centuries, are the best way to educate oneself and learn useful information. When it comes to the journey of empowerment, seeking knowledge will always be the first step.

An individual who has been pushing the agenda for radical change and unity amongst marginalized groups is musical artist and community organizer, Noname. Fatimah Nyeema Warner, also known as Noname, is a 28-year-old independent Chicago-based rapper and poet known for her collaborations with artists like Chance the Rapper, Mick Jenkins, Saba, Smino, and Jamila Woods.

As a Black woman who believes in radical ideologies such as prison abolition, womanism, and socialism, Noname has made it her mission to tear down social systems that hurt people, such as racism, sexism, and classism. While most celebrities only spread awareness on important topics like police brutality and the war on drugs, Noname has chosen to take the extra step to put her money where her mouth is by putting her revolutionary ideals in action. 

She felt that it was her duty to create a space for people that could get them started on their journey towards independence and liberation. 

In July of 2019, Noname created the “Noname Book Club”, a reading group that recommended literature promoting radical thought and change. The slogan for the book club is, “Reading materials for the homies” because of how hard Noname has worked to make the recommended texts accessible to anyone who is interested. By doing this, she hoped to put resources in the hands of the people rather than rely on a middle man for means of education. 

Every month, members read two suggested books and later reflect on them in group meetups. These meetups are held in major cities across the United States in places like Atlanta, Baltimore, Oakland, and Philadelphia.

Understanding that capitalism is a form of white supremacy, Noname has made it a point for books to be found locally. Being the daughter of Desiree Sanders, the first Black woman to own a bookstore in Chicago, Noname understood the power of supporting Black-owned businesses in her area and wanted to continue that legacy. So, instead of using a popular site like Amazon, books can be found in libraries or neighborhood bookstores. Noname even went as far as to put directories on the book club’s website so people can support locally owned businesses instead of putting money into the pockets of large corporations. 

In an interview with Trevor Noah on The Daily Show, Noname explains that the idea for the book club came when she tweeted about a book she was reading titled Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-determination in Jackson, Mississippi by Kali Akuno and Ajamu Nangwaya.

At the time, it just so happened that one of her fans was reading the same book and suggested that they be pen pals in order to discuss the book. From there, she put a poll on her Twitter account and asked if any of her followers would want to be a part of a book club, to which the majority responded with a resounding “yes.” 

“I think generally people are just not reading. And I think specifically there’s been communities that have been targeted when it comes to the lack thereof. Either bookstores or schools that are actively allowing their kids to compete and to completely be literate. I think most people in the communities that I am in and that I come from, they don’t really have a choice because of the way that their surrounding community is set up when it comes to reading,” she said in the interview. 

The mission of her book club can be found on its website, and it reads:

“Noname’s Book Club is an online/irl community dedicated to uplifting POC voices. We do this by highlighting two books each month written by authors of color. In addition to our social media presence, we feel it is highly important to have free in-person meetups to discuss the monthly picks in a safe and supportive environment.”

The monthly picks for books are always progressive, with forward-thinking messages that can benefit readers in the long run by giving them fresh perspectives on life and society. Blood In My Eye by George Jackson, Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur, Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde, and The Wretched Earth by Frantz Fanon are just a few of the books that members have read. 

Through her book club, Noname has not only pointed people in the right direction to acquire knowledge for their liberation, but she has also created community and a sense of family among like-minded individuals who are dedicated to learning how to make the world a better place.

As Malcolm X once said, “My alma mater was books, a good library. I could spend my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.”