Personality: Demetrius W. Frazier

Spotlight on co-founder and president of Black Men Read

7/2/2020, 6 p.m.
In the wake of the murder of Philando Castile by a St. Anthony, Minn., police officer in 2016, Demetrius W. ...

In the wake of the murder of Philando Castile by a St. Anthony, Minn., police officer in 2016, Demetrius W. Frazier was among many searching for answers to this tragedy. Mr. Frazier, along with Lance Adams, turned to literature as a tool to forge connections with other African-American men centering on discussions around books addressing the issues that led to Mr. Castile’s death.

Mr. Frazier and Mr. Adams would make their idea a reality in 2018 with the founding of Black Men Read, an organization dedicated to igniting and empowering communities of color by inspiring literacy.

The nonprofit organization works chiefly through Henrico County schools and libraries to help foster “a lifelong love of reading” among African-American youths and men.

“I knew then and know now that the only way the Black community can move higher through these painful issues is to roll up our sleeves, get organized and be vigilant in the fight for justice and prosperity,” Mr. Frazier says. “Reading is just one of the many issues that need to be tackled.”

The Chesterfield County resident serves as the president of Black Men Read. It’s a role that has him developing strategy for fundraising and supporting high school curriculums, coordinating the organization’s adult book club and managing its social media presence. This suite of responsibilities contributes toward Black Men Read’s chief goal – “to eradicate illiteracy in the Black community.”

“Black males play a specific role in the Black community,” Mr. Frazier says. “A focus on this group will not only reduce the literacy gap but will yield positive results in the Black family, community economics and will help solidify generational progress.”

To that end, Black Men Read has a number of programs, including combining hip-hop and lyrical expression with young adult literature; build- ing bookshelves and providing reading material to help create home libraries for students and their families; and encourag- ing students to connect their reading to inner talents, like poetry.

So far, the organization’s efforts have resulted in literary support for more than 2,500 students at Henrico, Hermitage and Highland Springs high schools; creation of reading roundtables; donations of more than 500 books to several schools and libraries; and organizing and/or supporting Black History Month celebrations and other programs at schools and public libraries across Henrico, Chesterfield and Richmond.

Black Men Read also has struck partnerships with several organizations and school administrations.

In the wake of the latest outcry locally, nationally and globally surrounding George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis and the protests against police violence and racial justice, Mr. Frazier sees Black Men Read turning toward more heavier subjects than previously covered. Highland Springs High School has asked the organization to facilitate a discussion based on the book “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America.”

The book by Ibram X. Kendi, published in 2016, won the National Book Award for Nonfiction. The book will become a platform to broach topics that are likely on the minds of African-American students at the school, Mr. Frazier says.