Five years ago in March 2017, Eric Brown read an article about Elijah Craft, a young man in the 12th grade at Detroit’s Central High School who read at a second-grade level. Then, three months later, he read another report stating that 75 percent of young Black boys in the state of California could not read at grade level.
“No words can describe how, as a Black man, I was to comprehend reading something like that,” Brown said. “Even worse, in both instances, the deafening silence and lack of outrage from my community infuriated me even more.”
“I found it to be so sad,” he said. “So, I asked myself, ‘What can I do to make a difference?’”
Much like ProLiteracy’s co-founder Ruth Colvin—who took action after reading in the newspaper that 11,000 adults in her community couldn’t read—Brown began researching this issue and decided he needed to get people’s attention. He wanted to find a way to help those failing in the school system reach their full potential by raising awareness.
What he came up with was the 5K Race/Walk for Literacy Awareness, which stepped off for the first time two years later in the summer of 2019 in Detroit’s Palmer Park. Then COVID canceled a return in 2020, but in 2021, the race came back stronger than before, even garnering sponsorships from a couple organizations.
Inspired by the run’s growing success, Brown set a goal. He wanted the event to take place on a national scale to raise awareness in cities across America. He did it. This year, with the help of his network across the country, the race will take place in Ypsilanti, Detroit, and Flint/Saginaw, Michigan, as well as Chicago, Illinois; Cincinnati, Ohio; East Orange, New Jersey; Washington, D.C.; Atlanta, Georgia; Los Angeles, California; and Dallas, Texas.
Now in 10 cities, the goal remains the same: to raise awareness about the literacy crisis in the United States and of the help that is available. The money raised from each event will be donated to local literacy programs in that host city.
“I am hoping that the issue that has become a talking point now will result in many [people] understanding just how important equity is in the educational space,” Brown said. “... What I need is for more people to care enough and have the passion that I do to ensure that our kids are being adequately educated.”
This year, Brown renamed the race in honor of Elijah Craft and Chase Byers. Craft, the young man Brown originally read about, is now a motivational speaker. Byers is a young boy who is progressing at grade level after learning to read virtually at the age of 5 through the MI-RAMP program.
If you are in one of the host cities and would like to participate in the Elijah Craft and Chase Byers Reading Matters 5K Race/Walk for Literacy Awareness, email firstname.lastname@example.org to request a registration form.
Learn more about Brown, his mission, and the Race for Literacy Awareness at https://elijahandchase5k4literacy.com/