The Books for Boys initiative was a small endeavor but after less than a month it has already garnered the type of support that can help it reach well beyond its current city limits of Prichard and Mobile, Ala.
Stokes’ dreams of launching two or three small libraries inside local barbershops has not only been made possible with the help of public support and donations, but that goal has been multiplied, and Stokes believes he can now open at least six small libraries in local barbershops.
Each of the libraries will contain roughly 75 books, according to The Root, and the first one will officially start operating before the end of June. It will be the first of many barbershop library openings if Stokes has his way.
“We don’t want to stop until all the barbershops in this community have libraries,” Stokes told The Root about the endeavor that was inspired by a previous story the website published over a year ago.
Stokes explained that Books for Boys not only aims to get Black boys more interested in reading but it also works to boost their self-esteem and provide them with positive images of Black men, which can often be difficult to find in mainstream media today.
“When our boys say they don’t like to read, a lot of that is coming from not being interested in reading about characters that don’t look like them,” Stokes maintains.
That’s why his collection of books for the libraries contains works like 12 Rounds to Glory: The Story of Muhammad Ali and Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up To Become Malcolm X.
Boosting Black boys’ self-esteem and providing them with such positive imagery at a place of them go on a routine basis, Stokes believes, could help turn their future around and prevent them from falling into the trap of poverty and the criminal justice system.
“When I went from the classroom to the courtroom, I was able to connect the violence to a lack of reading and self-esteem,” Stokes explained.
Stokes has experience both as a criminal defense attorney as well as a teacher who spent much of his time in under resourced schools as a part of Teach For America.
His vision has touched the hearts and spirits of many advocates in the short amount of time it has been in existence. A fundraiser on GoFundMe has soared past the $1,700 mark as of Monday morning, although it is still falling short of its $3,000 goal.
The money raised from the fundraiser will go towards reading materials for the libraries and Stokes also encourages people to donate books as well as money.