One man’s battle against illiteracy

A. J. Briscoe shares his life-changing lesson on the value of reading


By Dwight Hobbes

Contributing Writer


The MSR has, of late, had the opportunity to report on education as empowerment with profiles on Carolyn Smallwood and educator-motivational-speaker Daphne Brown. Continuing this coverage, consider A. J. Briscoe, author, entrepreneur, orator, and prison literacy advocate.

Briscoe applies energized commitment to an age-old tenet that reliably has seen African America through, over the eons, prevailing against slavery, segregationist subjugation, and today’s covert discrimination. After all, no one can enslave a free mind.

A. J. Briscoe (l) with Farrah Gray, keynote speaker at A Night of Brotherhood, Brotherhood Inc.’s Third Annual Spring Gala, on April 18 at the University of St. Thomas Photo Courtesy of A. J. Briscoe
A. J. Briscoe (l) with Farrah Gray, keynote speaker at A Night of Brotherhood, Brotherhood Inc.’s Third Annual Spring Gala, on April 18 at the University of St. Thomas
Photo Courtesy of A. J. Briscoe

It’s an elemental concept well proven. Putting forth the principle, he states that, in order to succeed, one must read, starting at but by no means limited to youth. Accordingly he established an initiative accessible at his website — — at which viewers can peruse a veritable panorama of options for those who are literacy challenged.

That list includes the workshops Briscoe leads: “Inspiring Change: Pulling the best out of what’s inside of others,” “Reconditioning the Mind State of a Culture,” “How to Read a Text Book Effectively: The importance of studying,” “Time Management: Eliminating Procrastination,” and “To Succeed You Must Read: The Importance of Reading.”

Proactive in reaching the public, A. J. Briscoe’s second website,, is a promotional offering rich in incentive to, as it states, “improve the literacy level in underserved communities in the Greater Twin Cities area.”  The site merchandises books by participating authors (not limited to this locale), including A. J. Briscoe’s Lynching Willie, the premise of which is to “clutch the rope to drag self-destructive thought and behavior out of our character.”

It funds the Urban Literacy Awareness Scholarship, the goal being to award at least one scholarship for the 2013-2014 school season. A singularly innovative criterion is that participants submit a 500-word essay on “How to curb violence in inner city communities across America.”  Applicants must reside within the Greater Twin Cities area.

Briscoe, it has to be noted, is no think-tank idler, portending to solve society’s problem from some ivory tower. He has, as the saying goes, been there and comes back with the money.  Not dollars and cents currency, but practically applied common sense.

From his publicity material, he is “a 7th grade dropout, and five-time repeat felon that has experienced over ten years of incarceration, [who] chose to reevaluate the importance of education and pursue a crime free lifestyle. Following this, he accepted the challenge of becoming accomplished and began to make a transition.”

Indeed, this promotes the power of example. “Instead of entertaining the pacifying distractions of prison life,” his materials go on to state, “I accepted the time I was given and chose to treat the experience like college.”

What motivated A. J. Briscoe to embark on this endeavor? “I observed a large number of individuals in my community suffering from illiteracy. Reading has played a huge role in achieving the goals I set to get me to where I am today. And I am confident that reading can affect others in relation to achieving their idea of success.

“I am grateful, although my strive towards turning my vision into a reality continues. It is said that your attitude determines your altitude in life so I intend to stay humble and learn to decipher the lessons that lie in blessings bestowed upon me.” It is, in truth, hard to argue against the idea of reading, bromide though it may be, being fundamental.

Next on his agenda: “The Book Mobile. The ‘To Succeed You Must Read’ campaign has gone viral. Now, [I am] going to take [the] campaign to the streets of the Greater Twin Cities area. I have also secured a number of speaking engagements. Crowds have been engaged and testimonies shared on how my example has impacted the thinking of others. So, speaking life into others is on my agenda as well.”

Briscoe adds, “I am also excited about awarding the scholarship that I founded called the Urban Literacy Awareness (U.L.A.) scholarship fund that was developed to grant inner-city youth in underserved communities the opportunity to encounter a better educational experience by providing state-of-the-art academic tools. You can look out for my upcoming book title being released under Stomp Entertainment, Finding Your Purpose, which is set to come off of the press June 1.”

With advocates on the order of Smallwood, Brown and Briscoe, a crucial difference in turning the educational tide stands to be in the offing.


Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403. 


To see more stories by Dwight Hobbes stories click HERE


2 Comments on “One man’s battle against illiteracy”

  1. If” you don’t read, you don’t know and will never find out..” When the illiteracy rate for young Black adults in inner cities and else where, is approaching 50% and over 50% of Black inner-city students in the 11th and 12th grades are reading and writing at or below a proficiency level of 4.9, we have one hell of a problem!! In 1913 more than 70% of the Black population in America was literate, a net gain of 65% in the fifty years since 1863 and the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, which supposedly freed the slaves.. Are we reverting back to the days of slavery and Reconstruction? Please read the new controversial book” The Unfinished Business of The Civil Rights Movement: Failure of America’s Public Schools to Properly Educate its African American Student Populations..” Its currently available on, or

  2. My students would greatly benefit from listening and seeing Mr.Briscoe via
    or other means….listening to their “teacher” speak and read of his perseverance and determination is no longer effective….kidding myself if I didn’t already know this….real talk is needed today with kids…

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