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About The Book

From the row houses of Baltimore to the stoops of Brooklyn, the New York Times bestselling author of The Cook Up lays bare the voices of the most vulnerable and allows their stories to uncover the systematic injustice threaded within our society. Honest and eye-opening, the pages of We Speak for Ourselves “are abundant with wisdom and wit; integrity and love, not to mention enough laughs for a stand-up comedy routine” (Mitchell S. Jackson, author of Survival Math).

Watkins introduces you to Down Bottom, the storied community of East Baltimore that holds a mirror to America’s poor black neighborhoods—“hoods” that could just as easily be in Chicago, Detroit, Oakland, or Atlanta. As Watkins sees it, the perspective of people who live in economically disadvantaged black communities is largely absent from the commentary of many top intellectuals who speak and write about race.

Unapologetic and sharp-witted, D. Watkins is here to tell the truth as he has seen it. We Speak for Ourselves offers an in-depth analysis of inner-city hurdles and honors the stories therein. We sit in underfunded schools, walk the blocks burdened with police corruption, stand within an audience of Make America Great Again hats, journey from trap house to university lecture, and rally in neglected streets. And we listen.

“Watkins has come to remind us, everyone deserves the opportunity to speak for themselves” (Jason Reynolds, New York Times bestselling author) and serves hope to fellow Americans who are too often ignored and calling on others to examine what it means to be a model activist in today’s world. We Speak for Ourselves is a must-read for all who are committed to social change.

About The Author

Photograph by Kyle Pompey

Why We Love It

“Watkins does not shy away from open, honest critique of activist movements and presents a way forward that is truly inclusive. Read this to be enlightened, to better understand empathy, to create a movement that is reflective of all.” —Chelcee J., Editor, on We Speak for Ourselves

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria Books (April 23, 2019)
  • Length: 208 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781501187841

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Raves and Reviews

“Watkins anchors his new collection of essays in the voices, language, everyday realities, and dreams of black citizens… offer[ing] deep critiques of the elitism and respectability that directly and indirectly censor voices. A strong offering that brings nuance and multiplicity to readers attempting to decipher the black male urban experience while uplifting the stories, visions, and love that incubated a rising star.” - Kirkus Reviews

“Reading We Speak for Ourselves, I can’t help but admire D Watkins. He is not another elite voice for the voiceless. He is, this book is, an amplifier of low income Black voices who have their own voices and have no problem using them. He dares us to listen.” —Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award-winning author of Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

"In a time of blunt-bladed posturing and hyperbolized impact, We Speak For Ourselves, is a sharp gash into the psyche of America. Written as a relentless slice of his own life, Watkins avoids pretense as he puts language to his jagged experiences, not to encourage voyeurism, but to instead push people to grapple and wrestle with the real lives so many talking heads attempt to muzzle, then fictionalize. Watkins has come to remind us, everyone deserves the opportunity to speak for themselves. Everyone." - Jason Reynolds, New York Times bestselling author & National Book Award finalist, Long Way Down

We Speak for Ourselves is full of insight into the America that serves as grist for the American dream. Its pages are abundant with wisdom and wit; integrity and love, not to mention enough laughs for a stand-up comedy routine. Over and over again, I found myself saying ‘yes, yes, he’s right’ and ultimately finished feeling inspired to do better, to be more. D Watkins proves, once again, why he isn’t just a writer of the people but a people’s literary champ for the here, now, and tomorrow.” –Mitchell S. Jackson, author of Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family

We Speak For Ourselves is an ode to those Black people who understand that the first place so many of us honed our understandings of knotty U.S. racial politics was in an American city, or rural town, fashioned as a ‘hood’ in the public imagination. Watkins writes with a type of profound love for the Black forgotten that will compel all who read his timely words to never forget the Black people and places so many cultural critics and thought leaders disremember with ease.” - Darnell L Moore, author of No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black & Free in America

“Watkins’ latest work shows the black community is not a monolith. Even as we may wear the iconic t-shirts of the struggle yet have different thoughts about the issues faced. We are a diverse and proud community, trying to come to grips with who we are; sometimes wearing a mask within our own brother and sisterhood.” – April Ryan, Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House

Praise for D. Watkins:

“D. Watkins is uniquely equipped to communicate our political and social challenges of urban America, not only through the lens of academia but through empirical knowledge as well. He is the voice of the future seamlessly blending the wisdom of the streets and intellectual prowess in a way I have never experienced before.” Jada Pinkett Smith

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