The murder of Michael Brown sparked an awakening in Ferguson, Missouri that spread throughout the country. Many different initiatives were implemented within communities of color, and one of the programs that gained momentum quickly is Books and Breakfast. Hands Up United (HUU), a collective of community based people, are actively seeking the liberation of Black and Brown communities within this oppressed system. HUU started the Books and Breakfast program in Ferguson in October of 2014. It is now in over 15 cities across the country, including Newark, NJ.
Books and Breakfast is a program inspired by the Black Panther Party survival programs. Created in the 1960s, BPP’s survival programs responded to the needs of community. They were referred to as survival programs “pending revolution” because these were not solutions, but rather responses to the direct needs of the community that would then lead to organizing the people toward liberation. In one of his essays, Huey P. Newton, co-founder of the Black Panthers, once stated “…We recognized that in order to bring the people to the level of consciousness where they would seize the time, it would be necessary to serve their interests in survival by developing programs which would help them to meet their daily needs.”
HUU has held Books and Breakfast the last Saturday of every month since October 2014, offering breakfast and free books, while also engaging in politically educational discussions with the community. “We believe knowledge is power and it is imperative for our community to know their history, understand the roots of America’s racism and economic inequalities, as well as our victories so we can continue to connect the dots in this struggle,” stated Hands Up United Organization. HUU created a toolkit that has been integral in the implementation of the program in many other communities such as Philadelphia, South Bronx, Queens, and Atlanta.
Nyle Fort, an ordained minister and community organizer based in Newark NJ, was inspired to bring the program to Newark after visiting Ferguson, MO during “Ferguson October” (http://www.fergusonoctober.com/). On November 29, 2014, a group of community co-laborers, including myself, launched Newark Books and Breakfast. Since November, the program has provided hot meals and many new books to children and parents in Newark. The committee for Books and Breakfast originally consisted of 4 people and has now grown into a community- based organization of 15 people called “The Maroon Project.” We are currently developing political education, food justice, and wellness initiatives for the communities within Newark, and hopefully beyond. Most recently, we hosted a remix of Books & Breakfast on August 22nd. Our Books & BBQ back-to-school event provided nearly 200 backpacks with supplies to Newark students, hosted live performances, face painting, caricatures, massages for parents, and community games and fun.
Books and Breakfast programs don’t stop at offering free food and free books; they create space for engagement that allows for real connection and networking within our communities. These connections allow us to build towards liberation for our people. Monthly themes are chosen for Books and Breakfast, which determine the book selection for the readings we do for the children that attend the event. In Newark, we have discussed topics such as slavery, labor, the importance of community, public education, and Black feminism.
This program is a catalyst for discourse and engagement with community members, parents and students, which has led to workshops, direct action and most importantly, a base of support that continues to grow and evolve in the journey toward liberation.
To stay connected with this beautiful initiative in Newark, NJ, visit:
To connect with the amazing community work in Ferguson, check out: