#BlackLivesMatter: A Letter to Our Global Outbrain Family (Recommended Reading List Included)

What was already a stressful time for us all, together experiencing a global pandemic, has developed into an unimaginably difficult period — especially here in the U.S. where cities we love are in immense conflict. Our country feels broken, not only by systemic racism but also by bewildering responses from some of our leaders.

It’s not easy to put into words how many of us feel, and I certainly know I don’t have all the answers. Though I do believe that this important #BlackLivesMatter movement starts with education — learning from our peers, from history, and from a better tomorrow.

My personal U.S. educational journey really began after I moved to New York about 15 years ago — specifically, when I met Jake, who was coaching my son’s soccer team. Coach Jake has lived here his entire life and turned out to be one of the wisest and well-read people I’ve ever met.

Upon getting to know Coach Jake, I asked him if he had any reading recommendations for someone who recently moved to New York. I thought he might recommend the book “Here is New York” by E.B. White, or maybe Zagat for some local restaurant recommendations.

He surprised me by saying: “Yaron — if you ever want to try and understand the fabric of this country, the most important thing for you to read about is the history of slavery, and the resulting long and deep racism and discrimination against blacks. There’s no single matter that is more important for understanding the past, and for the future, of this country.”

He went on to give me one of the most remarkable lists of recommendations I’ve ever received. These recommendations have influenced me deeply since, and so I wanted to share them with you.

I can’t claim to come close to understanding how George Floyd felt with the murderous knee on his neck, or how Trayvon Martin felt leaving the grocery store, or how Eric Garner, or Breonna Taylor, or way too many others, felt in their last moments, or really — throughout their too-short lives. But as Coach Jake taught me — the least each of us can do is educate ourselves, and others around us, about these issues we’re all grappling with.

We’re trying to figure out what we can do as a company to help make our country a better place. In the meantime, I’ve pledged thousands of dollars to promote Coach Jake’s recommendations, and others on our executive team have strongly and financially backed the effort as well.

In our individual capacity — it is our civic duty to protest wrongdoings in our community, and this is our small start amidst a big time of change. To our Outbrain family, if you decide to join protests, you do not have to mark it as a day off or a sick day. Please, just stay safe, both big and microscopic.

Ending this note with one important reminder from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; Only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; Only love can do that.”

Hoping that light and love (and health!) come to our land in the very near future.

Yaron Galai, Founder & CEO @ Outbrain

BLM Reading & Viewing Recommendations, From Coach Jake

1. [Read] The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Emancipation by David Brion Davis

“Davis is the History Professor Emeritus and Founder of the Center for the Study of Slavery at Yale. This is a tremendous summary of what slavery was really like — basically a complete dehumanization of the slave. Colonization is also an important part of his research throughout the book.”

2. [Read] Reconstruction by Eric Foner

“It can take a while to get if you order it, but it is considered the standard in writings and research on reconstruction.”

3. [Read] Fiery Trial by Eric Foner

“A second book by Foner really worth reading. This book is as much about Lincoln as it is about slavery — it really captures the times.”

4. [Read] The Library of America’s W.E.B DuBois Collection of Writings by W.E.B. DuBois

“If you read only one piece out of the collection, I would read The Souls of Black Folk, which you can probably get separately, if you don’t want to buy the whole volume.  By the way, DuBois gave up on this country as a reformer and moved to Ghana, where he then died — on the day MLK gave the I Have a Dream Speech.”

5. [Read] Collected Essays of James Baldwin by James Baldwin

“Again, if you don’t want the whole volume, I would read The Fire Next Time — very direct, well-written, and disheartening. And a second great essay is Nobody Knows My Name.”

6. [Watch] James Baldwin’s Debate With William F. Buckley

“1965 at Cambridge. Must see.”

7. [Read] I Am Not Your Negro by James Baldwin

“An important addition to the bibliography!”

8. [Watch] Chris Rock Reads Baldwin’s “A Letter to My Nephew

“This is a chapter of The Fire Next Time — worth a view.”

9. [Watch] Maya Angelou Interviewed by Bill Moyers

“Great interview — full series of interviews is on PBS.”

10. [Read] I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

“Beautifully written and deeply insightful.”

11. [Read] Slavery By Another Name by Douglas Blackmon

“Won the Pulitzer Prize! If you want to watch instead of read, PBS made a documentary out of it. It is important because it covers the period from the failure of Reconstruction to WW2. During this time, there was a re-enslavement of many Blacks through a peonage system in the south.”

12. [Read] Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

13. [Read] Why Reparations Are Necessary by Ta-Nehisi Coates

14. [Read] Stride Towards Freedom by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“MLK Jr. recommendations? Read everything. Though this is a good start and must-read.”

15. [Read] Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

“Incredible read.”

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