WHAT WE DO

"The battles that count
aren't the ones
for gold medals.
The struggles within yourself–the invisible, inevitable battles
inside all of us–
that's where it's at."
                    –Jesse Owens
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Native Sons is committed to generously investing in the intellectual growth of at-risk youth who are trapped in the juvenile justice system. Our mission is to help those kids find their way toward literacy in order to give them options that might lead to healthier futures. We refuse to settle for a 70% recidivism rate by ignoring their needs.

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For the past several years, Native Sons has built mentorship relationships with juvenile detention facilities and at-risk high schools. Several of our members, some of whom are re-entered citizens, periodically visit young people inside facilities to deliver books, set up libraries, and to talk to them about life. At times, phone/video calls are facilitated between founder Keith LaMar (who remains incarcerated) and groups/classes of teenagers. These exchanges are powerful and authentic, funny and heart-breaking. Most of all, Native Sons mentorship relationships connect young people trapped in the system with those who have been/are there, too who can guide them away from the snares. These encounters serve as a reminder to young people that their lives matter and that it's not too late to do what they can to save their own lives.

As we expand our reach, Native Sons seeks to develop new relationships with juvenile detention facilities. Those who welcome establishing a connection with Native Sons mentors (some of whom have either re-entered society after a period of incarceration or are still serving long-term sentences) are encouraged to reach out to: info@nativesonsliteracy.org.

 

Book Donations

Finding inspiration through other people's stories is one way to build dreams and open doors that encourage young people to do important introspective work and, ultimately, forge a new path. The relationship between literacy development and the greatly reduced rates of return to prison (recidivism) presents an amazing opportunity for action. Native Sons has already begun flooding youth facilities with books and reading materials to inspire critical thinking among the young people doing time there. We're building libraries to give kids the tools they'll need to survive.

We are busy raising money to purchase culturally relevant literature, including Ta-Nehisi Coates' inspirational book, Between the World and Me and James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time. Dozens of copies of these books and hundreds of others, including Keith LaMar's own book, Condemned, have been shared with young people through our Native Sons Literacy Project. 

 

Note: Book donations may be made at our Amazon Wishlist by clicking here. 

Author Book Donations
 

Inspired by one of Keith LaMar's fundraisers to benefit youth in Cleveland's inner-city juvenile detention facilities, Shaka Senghor, writer and member of Oprah Winfrey's Super Soul 100, donated 100 copies of his New York Bestselling book, Writing my Wrongs, to Native Sons. 

Additional Projects in Development

  • Backpack Initiative (Community Project)
    Native Sons provides Back-to-School-Backpacks filled with necessary school materials to inner-city youth to kick off a successful academic year. Donations are being accepted! 

     

  • Literacy Curriculum (Facility Project)
    Some 80% of juvenile offenders are illiterate below the third grade. Native Sons is developing a multi-level literacy curriculum (from very low all the way up to very high) to help combat mass incarceration from the inside out. 
     

  • Self-Study Materials (Facility and Community Project)
    At Native Sons, we are working to develop self-study and small-group study materials to allow juveniles to better navigate specific books and/or start small-group book clubs.