Newark book store one of three finalists for $25K contest that honors community changers

Posted Aug 15, 2020

Among the skyscrapers of downtown Newark sits a small establishment that’s become a staple of the community.

For over 30 years, Source of Knowledge has served as the city’s local book store catering to its neighborhood, especially children, as a source of guidance and hope. It’s fed kids mentally and physically, helped establish writing careers, hosted open mic nights and seminars and even celebrated a wedding ceremony there. earlier this year profiled the business as part of its Black in N.J. series.

Now the store is in the running to receive $25,000 from Mayflower, which is honoring “inspiring and impactful organizations” that embody “compassion, courage and a drive to make a difference.”

Dexter George, who founded the store after immigrating to the United States from Tobago in 1982, is confident he’ll win the cash and already knows what he’ll do with the prize.

“I want to buy a bus and have Source of Knowledge on wheels,” George said. “I would go to every school and pull up with all of these books to give to the kids -- that would be the best thing fo this community.”

George isn’t a stranger with them. Before the coronavirus hit New Jersey, George and his business partners, Masani Barnwell, his wife, and Patrice McKinney hosted a Read and Feed program several times a year with help of local donations to give away free literature and meals for kids under 18 that visited the store.

“The real goal is to provide for our children, they’re our future,” George, a father of six, said. “I love my family, I work for my family but my family is also the community and I work for them too.”

George encourages the kids he speaks with to be compassionate and humble but to also stay loyal to their roots and culture, to never be ashamed to strive to be better for themselves and others.

“I ask them to always have two hands open -- one to give and one to receive -- because you can never receive if you can’t give,” George reflected.

The Tobago native pays tribute to his family’s survivor strategy, growing up on the island. His family scraped for food, received second-hand clothing and struggled to get by before George emigrated to New York. The tough conditions were never an excuse to justify the wrong path, he said, adding he wasn’t one to dwell on the negative aspects of life.

“I look at them as life lessons,” George said. “Divine order always happens, it’s the way of the universe and that’s how we should all live.”

As a kid, George barely recalls someone reading a book to him. He became curious and always asked questions and motivates kids to do the same. He pushes them to take charge and hopes that with the additional funds, he can drive today’s youth to become entrepreneurs.

“The word ‘can’t’ should never be in the dictionary,” George said. “That attitude can get stuck in your mind, take over your mindset.”

To vote for Dexter George, please do so on Mayflower’s website. To help his business continue operations, please do so at the store’s GoFundMe page.

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