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Black Classic Press

A Shout Out for Independent Bookstore Day

Posted by W. Paul Coates on

Each year the American Booksellers Association designates the last Saturday in April as Independent Bookstore Day.I have always been and continue to be an avid supporter of independent bookstores, particularly those owned and operated by Black booksellers.Before officially founding Black Classic Press in 1978, I operated a bookstore in Baltimore called the Black Book from 1972-1978. And my relationship and association with Black bookstores has only flourished through the years as they continue to be an integral component of the press’ customer base.

In his recent article in the Milwaukee Community Journal, University of Baltimore Assistant Professor Joshua Clark Davis referred to Black-owned bookstores as our “anchors.” And I share this sentiment.Like other institutions in our communities, Black bookstores have served as a foundation for building knowledge and for preserving our culture and traditions.

Yet, they are sometimes taken for granted. Many neighborhoods don’t have bookstores at all, independent or otherwise. In March, I received a note from Marva Allen at Hue-Man Online highlighting one sister’s efforts to bring a bookstore to the South Bronx. I immediately had to donate and support her cause. After the Barnes & Noble closed in her neighborhood, Noëlle Santos launched a campaign to open her own establishment, The Lit Bar, which will be a bookstore and wine bar.

We sometimes forget our origins, and that's why the request to support Santos’ effort hit me when I received it. I had just written my son Ta-Nehisi a note about how Black Classic Press got its start by holding a crab feast and collecting money and books at a time that I did not have two pennies to rub together. I wasn't sure that I had shared that with him or many folks at all. So to get Marva Allen's note on how this sister is working it to get a bookstore in the Bronx, I was touched up one side and down the other. I hope you will be too, enough to support her beyond her already successful campaign, which to date has raised enough funds to cover about a third of the start-up costs for the store. As of this writing, Santos was beginning her search to identify a location and to secure additional sources of funding.

Black booksellers, up-and-coming as well as established, are continuing to represent us well in our communities. I’ll close with a shout out to my good friends at Eso Won Books in Los Angeles, whose store was recently featured in the Los Angeles Sentinel and Ebony.com. Congratulations James Fugate and Tom Hamilton! You guys are fighting the good fight and winning, which encourages the rest of us to do the same.