By Genoa Barrow | Senior Staff Writer

With book giveaway, Daniels seeks to spark a love for literacy, learning

She has worked tirelessly to ensure that Black veterans in California have their stories heard and now one local woman is working to get more stories in people’s hands in general.

Lisa Daniels, founder of both the nonprofit Unsung Heroes Living History Project and Books Breaking Barriers, hosted her inaugural Summer Book Giveaway last weekend. The event was held outside the Brickhouse Gallery & Art Complex and offered free books for adults and children written “by us and for us.”

Visitors could take away as many as three books each, selecting from a wide range of topics. Piles included LeBron James’ “I Promise” and Dayo Olopade’s “The Bright Continent: Breaking Rules & Making Change in Modern Africa.”

Visitors to the giveaway braved triple-digit temperatures to grab the free books.

Ms. Daniels says she’s turning the heat on literacy in the Black community.

“Everyone needs to know how to read,” she said. “It’s time for us to learn how to read, to get a book and share the knowledge we have with others.”

Education experts often warn of summer learning loss. Locally, Black former mayor and charter school founder Kevin Johnson made improving reading among elementary school students a priority.

“It’s summer. Kids need to keep their skills tight,” Ms. Daniels said.

“Why not have a book to have something to do over the summer? To learn something about Black history. To learn something about cooking. To learn something about anything.”

Approximately 500 books found homes thanks to the giveaway.

The Unsung Heroes Living History Project is a nonprofit, intergenerational oral history project founded in 2005 that pays tribute to and preserves the legacy of African Americans in the military. Books Breaking Barriers is a literacy intervention program that targets K-12 students who need additional reading assistance after school and during the summer months. The program uses culturally responsive literature according to reading levels so that students “see themselves” in the literature.

One boy and his mother stumbled upon the event after discovering that Johnson’s nearby Underground Books store was closed. 

“Her partner is a rapper, poet and producer, so she was very happy about the Kool Herc story and the “Hip Hop Alphabet” books,” Ms. Daniels said.

Literacy isn’t a hard sell for African Americans, she adds. It’s just a matter of getting books in front of those who want them.

“I’m humbled by the turnout we had,” she said.

A second giveaway is planned for August or September.