When members of MahoganyBooks’ Very Smart Brothas Book Club met virtually on Jan. 26 to discuss former President Barack Obama’s A Promised Land, they had reason to be excited—it was their first meeting since the Covid-19 pandemic began, and they were told they’d be joined by a member of Obama’s administration.
Their excitement turned to joyful surprise when they learned that the administration member was Obama himself.
Obama shared a video of his appearance at the meeting on Twitter.
Black-owned independent bookstores play a critical role in communities all across our country. I wanted to show my support, so I dropped in to surprise the folks from @MahoganyBooks the Very Smart Brothas Book Club. Take a look. pic.twitter.com/sQdc8xY6xY— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) February 2, 2021
Ramunda Young, co-owner of MahoganyBooks, an indie bookstore in Washington, D.C., introduced the former president.
“Hey, everybody,” Obama said, as the members reacted with shock and delight. “So, they had scheduled somebody else, but they couldn’t make it, so I had to fill in.”
Obama told the club he wanted to “find a way to support our outstanding African American independent bookstores.”
“I also just wanted to see who the brothers were who named themselves ‘The Very Smart Brothas Book Club,’” he said.
Asked by Panama Jackson, the book club’s co-founder, how he manages to maintain an optimistic attitude, Obama responded, “The trick is to be able to have that kind of long-term perspective, but still feel the urgency of now, as Dr. King wrote about. Still feel as if, yes, we made some progress, but man, what’s going on now is crazy, and we have to do something about it.”
This wasn’t the first time Obama virtually dropped in somewhere to discuss his book. Last November, he surprised Chicago public high school students on a Zoom meeting to tell them they’d all get free access to his memoir.
Michael Schaub is a Texas-based journalist and regular contributor to NPR.