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This Barber Encourages Reading & Leadership Among Black Boys

By Victor Trammell

Photo credits: Plainfield Public Schools

A local school district in the U.S. state of New Jersey has partnered with the community’s barbershops to operate an initiative, which is centered around literacy, fatherhood, and leadership among black men and boys.

The public school district of Plainfield, New Jersey has launched a community outreach initiative called “Books, Barbers, and Dads.” The aim of this program is to increase father/son involvement, leadership, and literacy among the black male population, in particular. All the barbershops involved are linked to their own preschool facility in the district.

One of the participants in this initiative launched by Plainfield Public Schools is Rashaan Ali, the owner of the Shabazz Community Barbershop. Ali conducted an exclusive interview with the USA TODAY’s Central New Jersey newspaper where he talked about the need for this new initiative and about his own literacy experience growing up as a youth.

“I grew up with a saying — ‘If you want to hide something from black people, put it in a book.’ My mother encouraged me to read, but I only read when I had school work. I know this is a problem with our people in general — we don’t read. We might read the sports section of a newspaper and in reality, we read all the time on social media,'” he said.

“But actually taking a book and reading things that are substantial to our history and things like that — no. We don’t love reading and we don’t fall in love with reading. I wanted to encourage our people — blacks and Latinos in the community that I come from — to read more,” Ali also told the newspaper.

Ali’s barbershop is located at 1105 E. Second Street in Plainfield. There are also almost a dozen other barbershops in all participating in the Plainfield public school district’s “Books, Barbers, and Dads” new literacy initiative.

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