Saturday, January 28, 2012

Black Boys, Imagination & Dungeons and Dragons

Aside from rap music, which no doubt had an important influence on large numbers of young brothers, what other cultural productions influenced the imaginations and wordplay of black boys? What productions and activities stimulated their minds and their understanding about the power of words and ideas?

Ta-Nehisi Coates provides one possibility in a comment he made about the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons. The game had several small books, and in an interview with Big Think, Coates cites the game's reading materials as capturing his imagination:
One of the books is the Monsters Manual and it's a list of all these mythological monsters that inhabit the world of Greyhawk of Dungeons and Dragons. And I can remember just sitting back and flipping through and looking at the words and the descriptions and it will come alive for me. And that was a beautiful thing. That was the first lesson for me about how words can take you somewhere else.
A couple of things stand out to me here.

For one, that early lesson that "words can take you somewhere else" is fascinating, and it's worth considering the processes by which large numbers of black men wordsmiths--rappers, preachers, public intellectuals, novelists, story-tellers--learned their lessons about the transport possibilities of words.

Second, Coates's engagements with Dungeons and Dragons occurred outside of formal academic settings, which raises the possibility of how leisure activities might influence or assist in shaping skills like reading and writing as well as critical and creative thinking.

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Black Boys, Imagination, and Star Wars

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