The key to Dr. Glenn Toby’s success could likely be summed up in one word—optimism. When at the age of eight the Queens native came home to find his clothes and furniture strewn in the streets and his family suddenly homeless, he didn’t let that stop him from traveling the world. Instead, he cracked open books and went on adventures with Tom Sawyer and his fairy tale friends to places that even a passport won’t allow you to go. When he started his organization the Book Bank Foundation, he didn’t let his economic limitations keep him from his purpose of educating his people. Instead, he tapped into his personal resources and received financial support from celebrity friends such as 50 Cent, Swizz Beatz, and various NFL and NBA players from his management and sports agent days to help back his dream.
When he decided to tackle the issue of illiteracy in American communities, he didn’t let the statistic of 32 million Americans being unable to read damper his spirit of hope, instead he and his team rolled into urban communities with books and educational tools to help give an oppressed and disadvantaged demographic the opportunity to shine intellectually despite living in a society that attempts to dull their light.
This Tuesday, November 4th Toby continues to spread his message of hope and positivity by hosting the annual Day of Service in Colombia, South Carolina. The Book Bank Foundation partnered with St. Lawrence Place, a transitional housing program for homeless families, and the SC Youth Challenge to promote education and technology to disadvantaged families.
We had a chance to talk with the founder about the importance of literacy and technology in the urban communities.
Kontrol: Tell us about the Day of Service that will take place in Columbia, SC?
Toby: What’s happening is we’re teaming with an at-risk kids group and homeless shelter for displaced families for a series that challenges people and challenges kids what we’re doing is we have this amazing group called The Youth Challenges, and we’re doing a presentation on technology, we’re actually going to host a competition in 3D printing, so these at risk and challenges youth who are living in a transitional housing program are competing in science, technology, math, arithmetic, and these are kids who are typically would be so displaced they wouldn’t have time to read a book or only stay focused for 10 seconds and now they’re in the emerging technology state and we’re doing this all around the nation.
Kontrol: What initial challenges did you have with starting the Book Bank Foundation?
Toby: The biggest challenges at that time, I was running a sports agency and I was representing a great deal of celebrities. I’ve managed everybody from LL Cool J to David Banner, and these superstar players doing million dollar deals, but I always had to go into my own personal resources, which gave me an economic limit. But because of guys like 50 Cent, Swizz Beatz, Saigon, and so many other NFL and NBA superstars, these guys would give me money, resources, and platforms, so I was able to do it on a national level. So the biggest challenge was economics because my money is not as long as the city and state government. My money is not as long as the universities or the high schools or the teaching systems and metrics that are in place to educate our people.
Kontrol: How do you think technology impacts our communities when it comes to educational learning?
Toby: I think kinetic education and the evidence of things, if you take a look at how children read and how they translate, are tech driven because the results come back in nanoseconds. Culturally our people need evidence before something occurs. So the speed of technology delivers the source faster and with less distraction, less barriers, and less limits. But the challenge now in our day is to make sure the source material is as pure and defined as before technology. That’s the new challenge for education.
Kontrol: Do you feel like since technology can also being very distracting it dilutes the educational experience?
Toby: That was a dope alley-oop! I think we have a responsibility as educators, as citizens, as parents, and as authors of life, whether you’re writing a book, a blog, spitting a dope rhyme or recreating a thesis for our PhD’s, to be responsible connoisseurs because technology can fail us. When we start putting it out to the disrupters they can disseminate and edit the message, so we have a responsibility as adults and for those who are educated and who have a great deal of wisdom or experience, for the source material. We have to research it; we have to look back where it comes from. We have to delineate it, so I think there’s a core responsibility to the reader and the writer to make sure there’s nothing lost in translation.
Kontrol: What lessons have you learned from the people that you are helping?
Toby: The answer to that is that to every child that I affect, that child that I helped is the child that I couldn’t’ help in myself when I was a child. In their revealing comes my healing. I reveal and I watch the revelation in them that there’s possibility. There’s hope, there’s faith, that’s why they call it hope, faith and charity. Not just charity. Charity without hope and faith is nothing. That’s why our people aren’t appreciate of what they’re handed because there’s no real hope from the government, it’s not that they don’t do as well but they can’t really manifest. So after every child I help I’m healing myself. And what I see is, if you give people enough patience, enough space (don’t do too much talking), let them take it on their own and be patient.
Kontrol: What’s a book that you’ve read that would catch someone who knows you by surprise?
Toby: The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, was my manual to manhood for a black man. The Autobiography of Malcolm X was my warning. I also looked at the Bible, and I love that The Constitution of the United States, although it’s not a book, told me that America could book me or I could book it by writing it. Re-writing my history and re-writing my book without it being printed or without it being downloaded.