Each year, our common read selection introduces new V-Hawks to intellectual life at Viterbo University. As part of your first-year seminar, you will engage with one common book in which an author shares their personal story of struggle, turmoil, and success as they grapple with broader social issues of their time. You also attend one common read event, which allows you to participate in a whole-campus conversation.
As a 6'2" dreadlocked black man, Tyler Merritt knows what it feels like to be stereotyped as threatening, which can have dangerous consequences. But he also knows that proximity to people who are different from ourselves can be a cure for racism.
Tyler Merritt's video "Before You Call the Cops" has been viewed millions of times. He's appeared on Jimmy Kimmel and Sports Illustrated and has been profiled in the New York Times. The viral video's main point—the more you know someone, the more empathy, understanding, and compassion you have for that person—is the springboard for this book. By sharing his highs and exposing his lows, Tyler welcomes us into his world in order to help bridge the divides that seem to grow wider every day.
In I Take My Coffee Black: Reflections On Tupac, Musical Theater, Faith, And Being Black In America, Tyler tells hilarious stories from his own life as a black man in America. He talks about growing up in a multi-cultural community and realizing that he wasn't always welcome, how he quit sports for musical theater (that's where the girls were) to how Jesus barged in uninvited and changed his life forever (it all started with a Triple F.A.T. Goose jacket) to how he ended up at a small Bible college in Santa Cruz because he thought they had a great theater program (they didn't). Throughout his stories, he also seamlessly weaves in lessons about privilege, the legacy of lynching and sharecropping and why you don't cross black mamas. He teaches readers about the history of encoded racism that still undergirds our society today.
By turns witty, insightful, touching, and laugh-out-loud funny, I Take My Coffee Black paints a portrait of black manhood in America and enlightens, illuminates, and entertains—ultimately building the kind of empathy that might just be the antidote against the racial injustice in our society.
This fall, you will find yourself in a classroom exploring questions about identity, values, and the purpose of a college education. One of the primary texts all first-year students will use to consider these questions is I Take My Coffee Black: Reflections on Tupac, Musical Theater, Faith, and Being Black in America by Tyler Merritt. This reading guide reflects the types of questions you will be asked to ponder, discuss, and write on in your first weeks as a Viterbo student. During this summer of transition, we hope this book and guide will help you understand the way the stories of our past can help us heal the wounds of our present. Pax et Bonum!
Download the I Take My Coffee Black Reading Guide Below
The practice of assigning incoming students “common reading”—asking them to read the same book before they arrive on campus—has gained popularity in recent years as colleges and universities have sought new ways to improve the first-year experience. Like similar public reading initiatives sponsored by cities, libraries, and television and radio shows, campus common reading programs rest on a simple idea: that reading the same book brings people closer together as a community by creating common ground for discussion.