Donald Barnett III: Battling Illiteracy In Underserved Communities - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise magazine Fall 2019 issue

BE Modern Man: Donald F. Barnett III

Analyst, 49, Co-Founder of Forever Free Books

Twitter: @DonBarnettIII; Instagram: @DonBarnettIII

I am the co-founder and community liaison of Forever Free Books, a mobile literacy nonprofit focused on battling illiteracy. We deliver free books to low-income children to help promote reading and to eradicate illiteracy.

We have donated over 10,000 children’s books to support various events around the country and internationally. Our goal is to reduce the 3-million word gap between wealthy children and low-income children.

To do this, we also bring black men into under-served communities and barbershops to expose those kids to black men who read. We host Read Across America at local elementary schools with black male readers and to give free books for all kids in the schools.

WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN LIFE?

One of the things that I am most proud of is having a family. My wife and I have been married for 20 years; we have three children and a one-year-old grandson. My grandparents were divorced as well as my parents. Because of this, I never thought I would get married and have a family. My family means everything to me.

HOW HAVE YOU TURNED STRUGGLE INTO SUCCESS?

One example of how I turned struggle into success was in dealing with my own illiteracy. As a child, I struggled with reading and reading comprehension.

I was the kid who would make up any excuse not to read out loud in class. My grandmother taught me how to sound out words by covering up the other words in a sentence so I could just focus on one word at a time. She passed away when I was 12, so I continued to work even harder at battling illiteracy and becoming a proficient reader. I even worked my way up to volunteering to read aloud in class.

Because of my perseverance with battling illiteracy and my willingness to not give up, I am a college graduate, a published author (Manhood On The Line: A Real Man Owns His Sh*t) and the co-founder of Forever Free Books.

WHO WAS YOUR GREATEST MALE ROLE MODEL AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM HIM?

My greatest role model was my great grandfather, Clayton Alexander. He did not have any degrees or fancy titles. He was well respected in his community and loved by all. I learned several things from him just by watching how he lived his life.

I learned how to be consistent no matter what is going on in your life. I learned that even when you don’t think you have anything, you still have something to give in order to help someone else, including just your time.

WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?

The best advice I was given was to always trust and believe in God and not a man.

WHAT PRACTICES, TOOLS, BOOKS, ETC. DO YOU RELY ON FOR SUCCESS?

The tool I rely on for success is simple. I listen to audiobooks to help me shape my mindset and my way of thinking.

The Hollywood Commandments by Devon Franklin along with Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck are two of my favorites. I also like to meditate and dabble with yoga.

HOW DO YOU DEFINE MANHOOD?

I define manhood as a man taking responsibility for his actions, being trustworthy, and being truthful. I also define manhood as not only the willingness but the ability to help others better themselves. My thought is that if I can empower others to stand on their own two feet then they can pay it forward.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT BEING A BLACK MAN?

There are several reasons I like being a black man. As black men, we are always defying the odds, doing what people and society say that we cannot accomplish. Throughout history, from slavery to modern day police brutality, society has attempted to emasculate the black man, however, we have overcome these circumstances to become pillars in our communities and families.

BE Modern Man is an online and social media campaign designed to celebrate black men making valuable contributions in every profession, industry, community, and area of endeavor. Each year, we solicit nominations in order to select men of color for inclusion in the 100 Black Enterprise Modern Men of Distinction. Our goal is to recognize men who epitomize the BEMM credo “Extraordinary is our normal” in their day-to-day lives, presenting authentic examples of the typical black man rarely seen in mainstream media. The BE Modern Men of Distinction are celebrated annually at Black Men XCEL (www.blackenterprise.com/blackmenxcel/). Click this link to submit a nomination for BE Modern Man: https://www.blackenterprise.com/nominate/. Follow BE Modern Man on Twitter: @bemodernman and Instagram: @be_modernman.