Imagine going to school and teachers telling your mom they are afraid of you.

Imagine being 13 and having cops draw their guns on you for sitting in the passenger seat of your mom’s car. Imagine bringing a cell phone to school and the principal accusing you of being a drug dealer. Imagine being 17 and stopped in front of your parents’ home for looking suspicious.

Imagine women clutching their purses when you walk in the elevator. Imagine being followed in most stores. …


This was originally formed as a note on career growth thatI had been working on for the past few weeks, but for some reason was struggling with.

Then my aunt died last night.

My family is spread across multiple generations. My grandmother died nearly ten years ago at the age of 108. My aunt who just passed, my dad’s sister, was 94. My dad is turning 75 next month. He was in his 40s when I was born. This probably explains why I have never been in a rush to have children. …


Did you know Optimus Prime used to be a gorilla?

Leadership is monkey business

Transformers was the pinnacle franchise of the 1980s. A popular cartoon, a comic by Marvel, and a toyline that flew off the shelves; the series about space robots in disguise was all about change. In 1986, the first feature film killed off all the main characters, including Optimus Prime, the heroic leader of the Autobots who transformed into a semi truck, for a new generation of characters (read: toys). In 1989, they introduced Pretenders, robots in disguise as humans. …


Stone on the Water

The first time I tried killing myself, I was 14 years old.

I don’t remember the second time I wanted to die.

Or the third.

Or the tenth.

Or the thirtieth.

If I could count the number of times I thought about ending things, I’d probably make a flow chart and try to identify trends in mood, location, and events that caused suicidal ideations. I occasionally will have glimpses of where I was, or what I was planning on doing, or who I was going to speak to last. …


WHEN I WAS A KID, MY NICKNAME WAS BUCKWHEAT. Buckwheat was the lone black kid in the Our Gang series of shorts, better known as The Lil Rascals. He was dressed as a Topsy-esque image of the African-American pickaninny stereotype, with bowed pigtails, a large hand-me-down sweater and oversized boots. He spoke ineloquently and was often the butt of jokes, little more than comedy relief for the other Rascals.

Needless to say, being called Buckwheat as a kid was not a term of endearment.

Being one of the only black kids in school growing up, I had darker skin than…


Dear Madiba,

Today is your birthday.

I couldn’t get you a gift, because you’re not here to receive it. I couldn’t give you a hug, because you could not feel it. I couldn’t give you a prayer, because you want me to find the answers. I don’t even know the questions to ask.

You told me so much before you left us. You taught me how to stand. You taught me how to speak. You taught me how to live. But I’m still lost. You said there is no passion to be found in playing small, in settling for a…


I’ve never compared myself to Steve Jobs or other great innovators. I have trouble at times getting out of bed, let alone giving myself praise for any good work I’ve accomplished. But in times of confidence, when I’m not apologizing for my existence, when I take the time to say “yes, I did this, I earned this, and I’m happy,” I’m labeled as arrogant.

This is the trial of black male humility.

I learned of conversations old colleagues had behind my back. People who will undoubtedly read this and laugh. “He’s so arrogant.” “He thinks he’s smarter than everyone else.”…


Flint still doesn’t have clean water.

Migrant babies are still not with their parents. DREAMers are still in legal limbo. Civil rights, reproductive rights, and same sex marriage are at a tipping point. We have a POTUS under multiple criminal and civil investigations, who will determine the fate of the Supreme Court, and this country, for decades to come.

On this eve of the anniversary of our nation’s independence, one might ask, what is there to celebrate? …


The fallacy of a 21st century trade war is the reality of the 21st century American consumer.

For a lot of rural and small city America, the manufacturing economy was 1 to 1 correlated with US prosperity. The fact that that prosperity was incidental to this fact will forever be lost to them.

Many factory folks are drawn to Trump because he speaks to them like no other politician in recent memory. People in manufacturing in the early 200s felt that politicians shrugged off the migration of factory jobs to other countries, preferring to build a “knowledge economy” based on…


The distance of fault. The distain of truth. The audacity of self. The past few days have revealed much about the state of our nation.

On Thursday, a female college graduate took pictures of herself with a high powered assault rifle on the campus of Kent State, the same school where, in 1970, four kids were killed and nine wounded during a mass protest against the bombing of Cambodia by United States military forces. She claimed any criticism of her was racist against her as a white woman.

On Friday, another young man who fetishizes guns and violence took his…

James Hooks

Leadership Philosopher and Senior Manager, Learning Labs at Airbnb. Alum Facebook, Twitter. Technology leadership is my jam.

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