Books to change lives: Hakim Hopkins was in juvenile detention when his mother sent him a copy of the classic Native Son, by Richard Wright. Reading the book changed Hopkins’s life and gave him a vocation: he runs an independent bookstore in inner-city Philadelphia with the name Black & Nobel (playing off the names of both Barnes & Noble and the Nobel Prize). A banner outside his store advertises, “We ship to prisons.” One customer who purchases books for her father in prison reported that he reads the books she sends him real fast—though he wasn’t a reader when he was out on the street.
Racial profiling: When President Obama was in the Illinois Senate, he worked on a racial profiling bill that led to state traffic studies on who gets pulled over by police. The latest study reveals a consistent pattern: 24.7 percent of white drivers who consent to a search of their vehicle have contraband, while only 15.4 percent of minority drivers do. Yet minority drivers were twice as likely to be asked to consent to a search of their vehicle (Chicago Tribune, July 26).
Called to journalism: Barbara Ehrenreich, giving the commencement address at the journalism school of the University of California at Berkeley, warned graduates that they are embarking on a career in a dying industry. Still, she challenged the graduates: “As long as there is a story to be told, an injustice to be exposed, a mystery to be solved, we will find a way to do it. A recession won’t stop us. A dying industry won’t stop us. Even poverty won’t stop us” (SFGate.com, May 31).
Poor criteria: When writer Paul Wilkes helped start a ministry to the poor and homeless in Brooklyn, supporters discussed whether they should use some criteria to identify the truly needy. Wilkes's spontaneous response was: "Just that they come to us, literally begging, says enough. Let's not humiliate them further. I didn't see Christ applying a means test. We're not going to either" (In Due Season, Jossey-Bass).
Outside the gate: Three British doctors started a hunger strike last month in Egypt because they’ve been denied access to Gaza via the Rafah crossing. Their aim is to start a cardiac surgery unit in Gaza City to train medical students and junior doctors. They want the British embassy to pressure Egypt to grant their passage (Guardian, May 19).