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"What I'm Reading" with Councilman LaMont Cole

“Treat me bad, I’m going to treat you good. Treat me good, I’m going to treat you better.”

Many people choose books to read for leisure, but Councilman LaMont Cole chooses his selections to further his professional development and for cultural empowerment.  Cole is a Metro Councilman for District 7 and the Chief Academic Officer at CSAL Incorporated, a charter management group operating three schools in Baton Rouge. Cole is the former leader of the local NAACP Chapter. He also previously held high-profile education roles including the Principal of CSAL, Park Forest Middle and Capitol Middle School, Assistant Principal of Westdale Middle School and Chief Academic Officer for ADVANCE Baton Rouge.
Two favorites on his reading list are  “How to Succeed” by Bryant Adams, a book that speaks to individuals about how to be successful in life, and it breaks down certain characteristics, principles that individuals should live by to be successful and “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander which is about mass incarceration and color blindness.


Why did you choose these 2 books?

” How to Succeed”  helped me so much as a young man, because it taught me everyday principles that are important. It covered how to dress, how to interact with people, how to be charming, how to leave a lasting impression with individuals, how to treat people well, how to interact with individuals and make them feel better about themselves.  I still try to read a little bit of it everyday, just to remind myself to remain positive when so much negativity is coming towards you just to remain positive.
I read “The New Jim Crow” about 2 years ago and it hit me so hard. It directly speaks to the systems that have been set up in America to keep people of color locked up in prison, both realistically and mentally. Essentially, it simply exemplifies how every turn in life has a system designed to keep a person of color down or locked up or mentally enslaved. Most of all, it offers suggestions on how we can overcome. If you think successfully, you can be successful. If you make certain decisions along the way you can  you can manipulate or overcome some of the systems that have been designed to keep you from being successful.

What significance do they have to you?

Well, one, “How to Succeed” has completely shaped who I am as a man in terms of my faith in God, how I treat my family, how I treat people I come in contact with, and how I choose to live my life everyday.
“The New Jim Crow” opened my eyes to things may not have been identified as being part of how we live our day-to-day lives. Actually part of what is designed to keep us from being successful so it reminds me, “I’m here in this world in this country as a black man living under the system that wasn’t designed for me to be successful.” This book particularly talks about the caste system that has been designed to incarcerate black males. It made me aware that it exists.
Just based on the neighborhood I grew up in, the school system I learned in, and even now the work I do everyday as an educator that system is designed more to hurt children than help children, but there are ways within you can be successful with helping children, if you learn what those systems are and how to work behind them so that’s how those help me.

How do you apply them?

These books teach me to be positive, think positive, have fun and live a life filled with laughter versus sadness. I see the good in everything.
Everyday I live by three principles: pray, have fun, and treat people well. Those three principles summarize that I learned from “How to Succeed”.
“How To Succeed” taught me no one in the world make wakes up every day trying to destroy me. So although my feelings may be possibly hurt by the decisions of other people, I don’t think a person’s intent is to hurt me. A person’s intent may be to advance a certain group of people further than another, but specifically speaking, people don’t know me well enough to try and hurt me. Those who know me really well wouldn’t try to hurt me, because I’ve done nothing but dedicate my life to helping people. And who could be mad at that, right?
The “New Jim Crow” reminds me everyday of who I am, where I come from, and where I’m going. So I try to teach the children that I work with, remember who you are, where you come from, and where you’re going. The sky’s the limit, and there is no ceiling. At the end of the day, I try to live my life everyday positively, seeing the glass full versus half-empty. Every person I come in contact with, I try to treat people as well as I can. Treat me bad, I’m going to treat you good. Treat me good, I’m going to treat you better.  I compete with myself everyday to treat people better than I did yesterday. But both books continue to teach me that I don’t have to be be like everyone else. It’s a choice, so I choose to be a different way.

“I choose to be positive. I choose to treat people well. I choose not to focus on others, and I choose not to discredit. I choose not to take things personally.”

If you were to suggest this book to a friend, how would you sell it?

For “How to Succeed”,  if you want to live your life being excited ,happy about people, about where you’re going… read “How To Succeed”. It will help you understand why you’re here as a human being and how you need to proceed every single day in order to happy. 
“The New Jim Crow” teaches you how to use your privilege to help those who are less fortunate. And if you’re black and don’t have as much privilege as other people, it shows you how to work through that system to become successful. Success is not linked to any particular job or degree, or any formal education. Success is the obtainment of someone’s goal and as long as you have obtained that goal and you follow that vision, you’re successful.

“What I’m Reading” is a bi-monthly Q&A series for Baton Rougeans to share their 2 favorite books and how it’s influenced and shaped their lives. It’s a great way to get to know your fellow community members and find new books for your reading list. For more information on how to participate, email
Councilman Cole’s bio courtesy of

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