Watch Mitchell Jackson give away 125 copies of his memoir on 125th Street in Harlem.
It’s damn near inevitable—someone asking me “who do I write for?” Most times I say, I’m writing for a 20-year-old version of myself, a young man who wasn’t a reader, but who might’ve been had he been exposed to the right books; who wasn’t an intellectual, but was ever curious; who listened to rap music, but would grow to enjoy classical. And while all those things are true, I’m writing as well for people who’ve felt themselves under the boot of power, who are in myriad ways on the wrong side of justice. I want them to see themselves, ask how, ask why. Or said another way, I intend to write for people who come from communities like the one in which I grew up in North East Portland, Oregon. And truth be told, it’s hard to meet those readers through the conventional literary channels.
So with with a small crew of my peoples, I traveled to Harlem’s famed 125th Street (near the Apollo, near a statue of Adam Clayton Powell, a few blocks from Malcom X’s Mosque number 7; yessiree, I believe in symbols) with 125 copies of Survival Math to give away to folks who I believed might not come to the book another way. It was a cold January day, with patches of frozen snow still mounded here and there. But the reception was warm. And the feeling, well, it was almost ineffable.