What to Read
As part of their training to work with social enterprises that serve the poor, the Acumen Fund fellows were issued a syllabus: two dozen books, articles, poems, and speeches to inspire and inform. Heidi Krauel and Joel Montgomery comment on six of their favorites.
Letter from Birmingham Jail in I Have a Dream/Letter from Birmingham Jail
Martin Luther King, Jr. Iowa: Perfection Learning, 1990.
HEIDI: For all their supporters, leaders often travel a lonely and isolated road, along which families and loved ones pay a heavy price for the change being pursued.
JOEL: King writes brilliantly, using logic and humility to disarm the clergy members whom he is rebutting. King does not end his letter with a shout of ‘Revolucion!’ in typical Che Guevara fashion, but rather finishes with remarkable humility, stating, ‘I’m sorry if I have offended you.’
Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1995.
JOEL: Besides the fact that thousands of miles separated them, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela were struggling against the same oppression. Ever since I first set foot in Africa in 2006, I have always felt drawn to the continent. I am now working for Endeavor to support entrepreneurs there.
O Yes in Tell Me a Riddle
Tillie Olsen. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1995.
HEIDI: Sometimes a wrong or injustice can impact us so deeply that something just breaks. Passivity, acceptance and silence cease to be options. The call to action sweeps through the young girl in the story like a fever: O Yes!
Genesis: Translation and Commentary
Robert Alter, editor. New York: Norton, W. W. & Company, 1997.
JOEL: While I found most of the readings on the list quite inspiring or challenging, none of them have more application in my own life than the Bible. In Genesis 1, we find God creating the Heavens and the Earth. What strikes me about this particular chapter is that God made human beings in ‘his image.’ I think too often we forget that; we dehumanize one another. I will never forget the day during our Acumen Fund training when we strolled the streets of New York and simply spent time with the homeless. How often do we walk quickly by, trying to ignore?
How to Write about Africa
Binyavanga Wainaina. Nairobi, Kenya: Kwani Trust, 2008.
JOEL: I love Wainaina’s indirect critique about the way that Africa is traditionally portrayed. I found a similar issue during my fellowship in Pakistan. I was shocked at how the media portrayed the country, as if every other Pakistani is a terrorist and bombs are exploding on every corner. Of course that is a part of the reality, but little is written to highlight the real Pakistan. I found the people to be lovely, incredibly hospitable, and deeply accepting.
Development as Freedom
Amartya Sen. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2000.
HEIDI: The underpinning of the entire movement.