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My life: the playlist

By Baratunde Thurston, Special to CNN
  • Baratunde Thurston says he had lots more to say after filling out census form
  • His mother turned him on to Hugh Masekela; he keeps her records from '60s, '70s
  • He says he has a sister, travels a lot, has several jobs, including web editor for The Onion
  • Thurston: His wallet contents reveal much about his identity, more than the census form

Editor's note: Baratunde Thurston is a comedian, author and pundit. He was nominated for the Bill Hicks Award for Thought Provoking Comedy, declared a Champion of the First Amendment by Iowa State and called "someone I need to know" by Barack Obama. He is the co-founder of the political blog Jack & Jill Politics and performs regularly in New York, where he works by day as web and politics editor for The Onion. He hosts "Popular Science's Future Of" on the Science Channel. He is the author of the forthcoming HarperStudio book, "How To Be Black."

New York (CNN) -- I was geared up to complete my census form. I sat. I put on my headphones. I grabbed a pen, something I rarely use in my digitally mediated life. I took a deep breath. By the time I had exhaled, I had completed the form. I turned the pages over and under, thinking, "That's all!?"

I've waited 10 years for the chance to tell the government that I'm a 32-year-old black man named Baratunde Thurston who lives alone in a rented apartment in Brooklyn? Facebook demands more from me for the right to manage a fake farm!

I wanted to say so much more, so I'm going to use this essay to finish my census entry, to say something about my identity. I'm geared up. I'm sitting. I've got on my headphones. I'm poised over my keyboard, and I'm taking deep breaths.

First, the current song on my playlist: "Adade" by Hugh Masekela.

My mother, who passed in 2005, was a huge Masekela fan and discovered his music during her rabble-rousing days in Washington during the '60s and '70s. I still have a lot of her original vinyl records from that era, and to commemorate Malcolm X this February, I live-streamed several of his speeches via UStream.

(My iPhone is ringing. It's my manager, and she says an IHOP in Austin, Texas, has my wallet. Thank God!)

The Basics
Name: Baratunde Thurston
Age: 32
Birthplace: Washington
Home: Brooklyn. N.Y.

Identity: The nexus of comedy, politics and technology, I am a man who was born black, lives life to the fullest and tweets hard.

I travel a lot and work several jobs: web editor for The Onion, blogger at Jack & Jill Politics, stand-up comedian, television host of "Popular Science's Future Of" on Science Channel. My mother used to call me "The Jamaican" of the family because I've never had just one job.

I was in Austin for the South by Southwest Interactive conference, where I presented, among other things, a talk called "How to Be Black (Online)." In it, I talked about the different ways African-Americans access and use the Internet and raised the question: Are we merely consumers of the new technologies that abound, or are we also creating them?

The current song on my playlist: "Jesus Loves Me" by CocoRosie.

I discovered this group during the summer of 2006 while living in Chicago, Illinois, and studying at the Improv Olympic. I had taken a road trip to visit my older sister in Lansing, Michigan, where she teaches yoga, runs digital strategy for the Lansing State Journal newspaper and doesn't own a car. I repeat: My sister lives in Michigan, and she has chosen not to own a motor vehicle.

Back to Austin. I was out ridiculously late one night at the conference. When I awoke, my wallet was missing. I used the location-based mobile application Foursquare to retrace my steps and saw that I was at IHOP just after 5 a.m. Despite returning there when I was in Austin, they couldn't find the wallet until today, as I write this essay from my office in SoHo.

By "wallet" I mean a binder clip that holds some cash and several cards: credit cards, New York City Metrocards, health insurance card and my Massachusetts driver's license (birthdate September 11, 1977). I lived in Boston for 12 years, and without the need to drive in New York, I've been slow to replace the license. Besides, Massachusetts and I are close. I went to school in Cambridge (at Harvard), held my first real job in Boston (business consulting for telecom and media) and got married in the town of Lenox (though I'm single now).

But if you'd just read my census entry, all you'd know is that I'm a 32-year-old black man named Baratunde Thurston who lives alone in a rented apartment in Brooklyn.

The current song on my playlist: "Dumb" by Nirvana.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Baratunde Thurston.