Bookdrive for incarcerated youth minorities


Mírame performs during the event. Maddie Pena/The Paisano

Alejandro Lopez and Maddie Pena

Read Between the Lines

The Black Law Student Association (BLSA) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) hosted their event “Read Between the Lines,” a book drive for incarcerated youth minorities, on Oct. 17 in the Student Union Ski Lounge. This event was part of the various events that occurred during UTSA’s annual Black Homecoming.

“There are vast racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system, and minority youth are disproportionately represented in every stage of the system,” said president of NAACP Jazmyne Brooks. “A major initiative that both NAACP and BLSA share is juvenile justice system reform. Our hope for this event is that people walk away knowing something they didn’t before and feel empowered and encouraged to become advocates for juvenile justice reform.”

The event was “hipster coffee shop” themed with refreshments provided and Mírame, a local UTSA student-run music group, performed as well. 

UTSA alumnus and guest speaker Dieter Cantu spoke about his personal background and the founding of Cantu’s Books for the Incarcerated Youth Project. The purpose of this program is to make a variety of books available for the youth housed at various Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) facilities.

Introducing Mírame before their performance.
Introducing Mírame before their performance.
Maddie Pena/The Paisano

“The goal is to use these books to improve their literacy and reading skills which will enable them to further their education,” Cantu said. “This approach to addressing youth with minor infractions levies severe disciplinary repercussions and forgoes a rehabilitative process, which would curtail negative stigmas associated with corrective actions.”

Cantu has partnered with multiple universities: The University of Houston, Sam Houston State University, The University of North Texas, Baylor University, The University of Texas at San Antonio and The University of the Incarnate Word to collect and distribute books, as well as create a mentorship and pen pal program consisting of members in close proximity to maximum security facilities.

Geoffrey Okolo, a junior political science major, shared his thoughts on the event. “The book seemed successful and the speaker Dieter Cantu was captivating in how he connected his issues with being incarcerated as a youth to systematic issues, and his work ethic in solving them,” Okolo said. “The band was lively and really gave off an inviting atmosphere.”