He’s not a schoolteacher, nor has he ever been. But some of life’s most important lessons are taught outside of the classroom, and for Doitall Du, one-third of the legendary Hip Hop trio Lords of The Underground, increasing literacy is one of the most important responsibilities a man carries. We caught up with him during Newark’s 4th Annual 24 Hours of Peace event where he explained why he does so.

DoItAll & 24 Hours of Peace organizer, Hakim Green, on site at reading pop up stand.

DoItAll & 24 Hours of Peace organizer, Hakim Green, on site at reading pop up stand.

I am a product of Newark, NJ, and literacy has always been important to me. Growing up here I was introduced to the same books most kids read by authors like Dr. Suess. My grandmother also used the Bible, specifically the story of the Temptation of Christ –where after being baptized, Jesus fasted for 40 days and was tested – to teach me the importance of patience. That revealed the importance of reading as a teacher of lessons. The most impactful book I read as a kid, however, was 1984 by George Orwell. I was intrigued by its prophecy and vision of what “Big Brother” had planned. Today we’d refer to “Big Brother” as the Illuminati.

Newark had an abundance of Five Percenters, who taught us to see God within ourselves, when I was a teen. One of the principles they taught was the importance of critical thinking instead of accepting things on their face, and with that I always challenged myself to look beyond the surface of any matter. The best way to do that is through reading and asking critical questions.

While I was in college at Shaw University, my passion for music led to my career as one-third of the group, Lords of The Underground.  Like most young artist my focus and immediate concern was, how much money am I going to get paid. Whether they’re in the record business or not there are a lot of people who never actually take the time to read in order to get a full understanding of their surroundings, including the contracts they sign. I discovered a book by Donald Passman called All You Need to Know About the Music Business very early in my career. Reading that book changed my entire outlook and understanding of what being an artist meant because it revealed how the business portion of entertainment worked. Knowing the inner workings of an industry allows you to determine your worth and growth potential beyond just rhyming. It allows you to truly capitalize on your talent. So whether it’s a recording contract, a home loan or a rental agreement, educating yourself is the key to succeeding in anything you get into.

Most people know The Lords, Redman, Naughty By Nature, The Fugees and Queen Latifah are just a few of the artists from Newark and surrounding areas. It’s always been important for each of us to use our success as an example to people from our home towns. In our case, we’ve done this through heavy community engagement ranging from visiting schools to present plays; sponsoring book and coat drives, and giving away turkeys during Thanksgiving. I take giving back very seriously.  A few years ago we connected with Dr. Lauren Wells and Eion Haynes. I’d say we had a nice haircut, and Dr. Wells helped us shape it up by explaining that what we were doing fell into the category of literacy. The result has been 211 Community Impact. One of the activities we’ve been promoting through 211 Community Impact are a number of pop up reading stations throughout the city. We’ve used each event to bring leaders -from former Councilman, now Mayor, Ras Baraka and different Hip Hop legends like KRS One and Ralph McDaniels to connect with citizens through reading.  Another initiative has been to provide adult residents with literature that makes them aware of some of the things happening that will impact their day-to-day lives.  We welcome anyone who takes literacy and our community’s success seriously to participate.

I’m often asked what adults can do to encourage younger people to read. One of the ways I recommend is finding topics young people like and just diving in; reading to them and allowing kids and teens to engage you through reading and discussion. It’s extremely important because just like adults, kids who don’t read well tend to check out and become distracted from learning. Reading and learning give our kids, and therefore our entire community, confidence and the power to succeed rather than a sense of deep insecurity which makes us passive and leaves us feeling completely deflated and defeated. That confidence and knowledge allows young people to see beyond the blocks and city in which they live. It prepares them to succeed. That’s why literacy is important.

Dupree Kelly/ Lord Gang/ 211 Community Impact