A few years back literary scholar Henry Louis Gates began putting together a black think tank at Harvard. Since that time Gates has collected a vicious group of scholars, including such mind-benders as Orlando Patterson and Cornel West. While the Kid may not always agree with what these dudes rap about, they still deserve their props. As does another Gates draft-pick, A. Leon Higginbotham. The former federal judge made a name for himself by sticking up for those whom the legal system routinely tramples. In his new book, Shades of Freedom: Racial Politics and Presumptions of the American Legal Process, Higginbotham offers a history of the interaction between black people and the American legal system. But Higginbotham earned the Kid’s respect a long time ago when he said that Clarence Thomas exhibited a level of self-hatred that is clinically observable. A dude with a tongue like that can’t be all bad. Higginbotham reads at 8 p.m. at the Ripley Center, 1100 Jefferson Dr. SW. $16. For reservations call (202) 357-3030. (Ta-Nehisi Coates)