Category Archives: partnership

There is a Lack of Unity Among Black Websites

Over the last year, I’ve invested a lot of effort informing the public about the adverse impact of the corporate take over of the web and how this is hurting independent websites, particularly Black owned ones.


Buy This Button from The House of Nubian

I have, however, not been very critical of the Black owned websites themselves.  Part of the reason for my lack of critique is that I’m very sensitive to the environment and in many ways understand when websites choose not to cooperate or work in unnecessarily competitive ways.

For example, Google, the most popular search engine, is now in a position to dictate to webmasters how to design their websites—what content can be published and how to link to other sites.   A webmaster does not have to comply with Google’s rules, but if they want their website to rank high enough to be found in Google’s search results, they have no choice.

Complying with Google’s mandates is not always easy.  The rules by which their search engine ranks websites changes constantly and no one outside of Google (few inside I suspect) completely understands how Google’s search algorithm works.  As a result, there is an entire industry of search engine optimization (SEO) experts ready to help webmasters with a wide range of tools and techniques to help sites rank high on a Google search result.  The most unscrupulous of these “professionals” will guarantee a number one ranking for a website, or even worse utilize “black hat” techniques (sophisticated ways of cheating) to obtain a higher search result ranking.  These techniques can leave a website worse off, by being penalized by Google for attempting to game their search algorithm and reducing the quality of the site as more emphasis is placed on the SEO than content.

As a consequence of SEO, webmasters now have an incentive not to link to other websites, or when they do link they are encouraged to use rel=”nofollow” which essentially tells Google’s search engine to ignore the link.  Google does not want webmasters to swap links with other websites or to be financially compensated for a link to another site without using rel=”nofollow.” Some webmasters, being overly cautious in avoiding Google’s warth, have gone a step further and have stopped linking to other sites altogether.

Before Google was invented swapping links was one way sites were discovered.  Today, when independent websites are harder to find via search, linking to other sites is even more important, but sadly it is done less frequently.  Many, Black owned, independent websites are not linking to each other in meaningful ways, and we are all harder to find as a result.

ebony-magFrustrated by having to spend more time and effort jumping through Google’s hoops, I’ve decided to more aggressively, and directly, support independent websites.  I visit these websites—not their social media platforms—and share their content, engage others on their discussion forums and comment on their articles.  I encourage everyone to take similar action, but I try to lead by example.

One of the entities I’ve been promoting is Ebony Magazine.  I subscribe to the magazine and have been enjoying Michael A. Gonzales’ Vintage Vision, column on Ebony’s website.  I’ve been promoting Ebony Magazine, as well as all of the Black owned magazines I’m aware of on Huria Search (an advertisement-free website dedicated to supporting Black owned websites).  I also promote Ebony’s website on my listing of the Top Black Websites.  I even have a collection of Ebony Magazine issues going back over 60 years.  I’m a fan and a supporter.

The last issue contained an informative article about Black Americans exiled in Cuba.  It was an interesting article and I learned quite a bit.  I shared my enthusiasm on Twitter:

Recently, I posted the following comment on an article Ebony shared from the, NJ Star-Ledger, about Amiri Baraka’s recent passing.  The comments expressed’s shared grief and a link to a short documentary we produced highlighting Baraka’s work.

Ebony marked the comment as spam!!


Now I understand if Ebony does not want to link to a another site (as explained in great detail above), but they did not have to hurt by marking the post as spam.  They could have simply not allowed the comment to be seen.   Not only was the comment the exact opposite of spam, one could argue that Ebony, or at least their visitors, would have benefited from the link.

nothing-foundI do not support Ebony Magazine because I expect anything in return.  I learned long ago that the biggest websites are the ones least likely to reciprocate.  I do not support Ebony because I like I everything they do.

I support Ebony because what they do is increasingly rare and more important than ever to the Black community.  Their coverage of books in the last issue was good too—not the usual diet of celebrity books many magazines and websites feel obliged to focus on.  In fact, I tweeted about their book coverage as well.

My motivation is not to call out one magazine on a trivial slight, no one would have know about unless I mentioned it.  My goal is to highlight a symptom of a much bigger problem that manifests in numerable ways across the Internet landscape.  The fact of the matter is we are simply not working together, as well as we must, to survive.

Individually, none of us have a chance to compete, over the long term, against the huge corporations taking over the World Wide Web.  Embracing social media is not the answer.  Collectively, we provide FAR more support and promotion of social media platforms than we do our own and we continue to lose.

Unless we bind  together, support and uplift each other, we have no chance of retaining ownership of our voice on the web.  When we lose our voice, we see articles focusing on our scandals rather than our triumphs, we see content that is the most marketable rather than the most important.  We also lose our ability to create business and generate revenue online. We have already lost so much, but we still continue to willingly relinquish what little we have left.

I’m fighting to reverse this trend.  Will you help?

Additional Resources


Join the Fight for Independence on the Web

Join the Fight for Independence on the Web

This article is intended for writers and other content providers, who are active on social media and have a goal of generating revenue from their content.  However, people who use social media to share photos and thoughts with friends and family can benefit from reading this article too.

The best way to experience’s content is not through the peep hole of a 140 character tweet or a stripped-down, plain text post on a Facebook wall, but by visiting the website and enjoying our curated, multimedia content.  This may sound obvious to anyone reading this blog post.  However, given the energy I’ve invested posting content on a variety of social media platforms, it might not be obvious by observing my behavior.

As a publisher of book reviews, interviews, videos and articles, I generate revenue by attracting visitors to this website.   For over 16 years I’ve been pretty good at it, particularly when you consider the content, books written by or about Black people, is not the most popular subject on the Web.

After years of experience using social media to market, I’ve noticed several adverse trends.  As a result, I’ve decided to not allocate my increasingly limited resources to social media.

“So Troy, why bore us with the details?  Why don’t you stop whining, take your marbles and leave social media already?”

Well this is issue is much bigger than me or  In fact, I’ve been doing relatively well, compared to my peers, using social media to drive traffic to my website.  Consider a snapshot of the insights of an Facebook post highlighting the work of Peniel E. Joseph (less than 24 hours old at the time of this writing):

Peniel Insight Image

There is nothing unusual about this post. Some of my posts perform better, and others perform worse, depending upon the metrics considered.  As you can see (click the image for a enlarged view), the Peniel post was viewed 1,827 times in less than 24 hours and the link was clicked six times.  While this may not sound like a lot of clicks, the ratio between the number people who saw the post, and the number who clicked the link it contained, is relatively good.  Besides, it only took about 10 seconds to share the information.

“Now I’m really confused Troy.  If Facebook is working for you, then what are you complaining about?

The popular belief is social media is a mandatory tool for anyone interested in promoting their business.  The vast majority of us have brought into the hype without question.  The reality is everything we do on Facebook, to drive traffic to our websites, enriches Facebook and depreciates our websites.  The minor, short-lived, benefit some of us might extract individually is simply not worth what we give up collectively.

everythEverything we do on Facebooking-we-doPrior to the popularity of social media, generating traffic was much easier.  It was very common for a writers to refer visitors to other writers’ websites.  We had related links pages, web-rings, blog rolls and other ways of promoting and supporting each other online.  Today there better tools that could allow independent websites, acting together, to be much more effective at promotion that Facebook can alone.

The more power we give to Facebook, social media in general, the less control we have over what is seen on the Web.  I suspect you have already noticed the effect of social media’s dominance of the Web; scandalous or celebrity driven content is recycled and dominates what we see; sponsored content (paid advertisements) masks itself as news and editorial; and advertisements are embedded everywhere you look.

Another profound and troubling problem is the ongoing weakening of platforms dedicated to promoting Black books and authors.  In a 2011 article, Black Book Websites Need Love Too, I noticed that we were losing Black book website’s at an alarming rate.   That trend has continued; the remaining sites are receiving fewer visitors and generating less revenue as a result.  With less revenue, the ability to create content and attract visitors is diminished, furthering increasing downward pressure on revenue.  Pretty soon the website is no longer a viable business—assuming it ever was.

It is an extremely hostile environment for independent websites today.  Despite social media new websites have virtually no chance to build an audience.  So not only are we losing what we had, new websites are discouraged from ever launching.

Ironically, these conditions tend to drive people to social media even more, because it is much easier to establish a web presence on a social media platform than launch and maintain an independent website.  But the result is more people competing for attention on that social platform and everyone ends up being heard by fewer people.  The writers and potential readers are the losers.  The social media platform is the only winner.  Indeed, the more we struggle to be heard, by being more “social” or paying to promote posts, the more the social media platform profits—whether we connect with our readers or not.

If what we are losing from independent websites was compensated by equivalent content on social media, it would not be so completely tragic.  Not surprisingly, social media has failed miserably in delivering the richness and variety offered by individual websites.  This is understandable as the goal of social media is to maximize revenue for their owners.  Independent websites, on the other hand, are primarily driven by their mission.

Social media is seemingly an impossibly tough opponent in the competition for visitors.  As writers and owners of websites we can not continue to exacerbate the problem by fueling our competition with content and sending traffic directly to social media with every “Follow me on Facebook” request.  The trick is to exploit social media, not to allow social media to exploit us. is not immune to these pressures.  I’ve been able to grow and monetize my eNewsletter, obtain concessions from vendors, use my time more effectively and leverage the support of partners in creative ways.

Actually, I’m not pulling up my social media stakes completely.  I plan to continue to share some of’s updates with on social media, but posts will executed remotely from, using AddThis.  For automated social media updates I’ll use Twitterfeed.  I suspect my remote and automated updates will eventually be shown less frequently by social media and therefore become less effective, but I will continue to adapt my strategies as I have done over the last two decades.

I will only engage with readers on independent platforms.  Engaging with readers on social media platforms about content is the activity that saps the most of my time and provides social media the most value.  In the past I often found myself engaging with readers on and multiple platforms over the same content—I can no longer afford to do this.

Today writers struggle over the effective management of their social media.  This is understandable as they are often judged more by the number of Facebook fans and Twitter followers than the quality of their writing.   Again, many say social media is a requirement—in fact I was one of these people.  When you consider the fact, the majority of top earning authors barely use Twitter and many don’t even have an account, you have the question the value.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers.  This is a tough problem, but not an intractable one.  If we do nothing, diversity on the World Wide Web will continue to decline.  In exchange, we will be left with a handful of social media platforms algorithmically determining what we see and how we see it, invading our privacy and profiting from the content we provide.

My goal is not to get rid of social media (though personally, I would not miss it for split  second).  My goal is to ensure that independent websites not only survive, but thrive.  The last thing I want to see is a world where the presentation of Black books (our culture really) is controlled, owned and operated by a corporation, solely driven by profit.  With the closure of the most of the Black owned bookstores over the past decade, we are essentially at a place today where Black books can only be purchased online from Amazon.

Remember, as writers it is our content that provides the most value to social media.  It is time we work together to reap the fruits of our labor and stop the digital sharecropping.

I’m working with others to develop strategies for us all to utilize our collective websites, to share and promote our content.  If you are interested in learning more, sharing your experience or joining our effort, email me at or share your ideas in the comments below.

Finally, if you are a writer with a website send readers to YOUR website and encourage them to engage you there.  If people are desperate to find you on a social media platform, they know already how to do it.  Social media does not need any additional promotion, but our websites certainly do.

Join the fight for independence on the Web.

Death of the Black Owned, Independent, Bookstore

Editor’s Note: We published an update of our bookstores in March of 2014.

One of the very first things I put on’s web site, back in 1999, was a list of independent, Black owned, bookstores.   This list was very difficult to maintain and over the years various individuals contributed to help keep it up to date.  My list, unfortunately, had not been updated since 2007.

Nkiru Books, a Brooklyn based institution founded in 1977, closed in 2002 - Photo Credit: Marcia Wilson

Nkiru Books, a Brooklyn based institution founded in 1977, closed in 2002 (not included on list below) – Photo Credit: Marcia Wilson

The Good News First:
In a joint effort, that included ABLE (The Alliance for Black Literature and Entertainment), and, the out of date list of independent, Black owned, bookstores was revived and updated into database driven directory with maps, social media, photos and more.  The new bookstore database was launched today today and is available at and here on (

Here is the Bad News:
When I looked over the results of our Bookstore research, my heart fell as I discovered more than 2 out of 3 stores that were in business just a few years ago are now closed.   I’ve shared the list of the closed bookstores below.  I have nothing more meaningful to add.  The list speaks for itself…

A & B Distributors – Brooklyn, NY
African & Islamic Books Plus – Cleveland, OH
African American Books and Publishing – Baltimore, MD
African American Gift Gallery – Knoxville, TN
African American Heritage Book – West Palm Beach, FL
African Artisans – Baldwin, NY
African Book Store – Fort Lauderdale, FL
African Heritage Books & Gifts – San Francisco, CA
African House Institute of Learning – Jersey City, NJ
African Marketplace – Los Angeles, CA
Afro Books – Atlanta, GA
Afrocentric Book Store – Chicago, IL
Afrocentric Books & Cafe – St. Louis, MO
Alkebulan Books – Berkeley, CA
Amen-Ra’s Bookstore and Gallery – Tallahassee, FL
Arawak Books – Hyattsville, MD
Ascension Books – Columbia, MD
Asiatic the Soul of Black Folks – Toronto, ON
Atlantic Bookpost – Reston, VA
B.T.S. Unlimited Books – Detroit, MI
Baruti-Ba Books – Dayton, OH
Bishari Urban Books, Phoenix Crossing Shopping Center – , NC
Black Book Discounters – Houston, TX
Black By Popular Demand – Hyattsville, MD
Black Classics – Books & Gifts – Mobile, AL
Black Images Book Bazaar – Dallas, TX
Black Spring Books – Vallejo, CA
Black Swan Books & Coffee – Kohler, WI
Blacknificent Books & More – Raleigh, NC
Blackprint Heritage Gallery – New Haven, CT
Book House Cafe & Gifts – Benton Harbor, MI
Books In Color – North Highlands, CA
Books in the Black – Columbia, SC
Bright Lights Children’s Bookstore – Inglewood, CA
Brother’s Books – Seattle, WA
Carol’s Essentials Ethnic Gifts and Books – Seattle, WA
Celebrate – Peachtree City, GA
Crescent Office Store – East Orange, NJ
Cultural Bookstore  – Chicago, IL
Cultural Expression – Newport News, VA
D & J Book Distributors – Laurelton, NY
Da Book Joint – Chicago, IL
DARE Books & Educational Supplies – Brooklyn, NY
DeesBookNook Distributors – So. Richmond Hills, NY
Dorothea’s African-American Books and Gifts – Columbia, SC
Drum and Spear Books – Washington, DC
Dygnyti Books – Hamden, CT
Dynasty Bookstore, Eastland Mall – Charlotte, NC
EDEN Books – Hartford, CT
Education 2000+ Bookstore – Long Beach, CA
Education Central, Sunny Isle Shopping Plaza – St. Croix,
Ethnic Elegance – Jacksonville, FL
Exhale African American Books & Gifts – Sugar Land, TX
Faith To Faith Books  – Minneapolis, MN
Forewords Books & Gifts, Located in Originations Gallery – Ann Arbor, MI
Freedom Now Bookstore – Decatur, GA
Gene’s Books – King of Prussia, PA
Haneef’s Bookstore and Mosi Art Gallery – Wilmington, DE
Heritage Bookstore and More – Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Heritage House – Charlotte, NC
Imagine This! Books Etc. – Memphis, TN
IronWood Corner – Pasadena, CA
Jamaicaway Books & Gifts – Boston, MA
Kana CDs & Books – Columbus, Ohio [Owner Cedric Reed closed the store in 2008 and cntinued Operation on-line until 2009]
Karibu Books – Hyattsville, MD, (6 Locations)
Know Thyself, Bookstore and Cultural Development Center – Philadelphia, PA
Kongo Square Gallery – Los Angeles, CA
LaCeter’s Book Service – Southfield, MI
Liberation Bookstore – New York, NY
Ligorius Bookstore Inc. – Philadelphia, PA
Living Room Book & Pastry – Greensboro, NC
Lodestar Books – Birmingham, AL
Love Christian Book Store – Orlando, FL
Mahogany Books – Detroit, MI
Mahogany Books & Gifts – Fairfield, AL
Matais Books Cards & Art – Long Beach, CA
Mind & Soul Bookstore, Inc. – Trenton, NJ
MochaReaders – Dayton, OH [Owner Rhonda Bogan thought long and hard about tough decision of closing store in 2011]
Montsho BookFairs, Etc., Inc. – Orlando, FL
Mt. Zion Kid’s Village, Little Angels Children’s Bookstore – Jonesboro, GA
Nefertiti’s Books and Gifts  – Jacksonville, FL
Nimde Books – Louisville, KY
Nu World of Books – Beaumont, TX
Off The Shelf African American Books – Columbia, SC
One Force Books – Richmond, VA
Our Black Heritage – New York, NY
Out of Africa, Windsor Park Mall – San Antonio, TX
Paperback Connection – Oklahoma City, OK
Paradise Book Store – Peoria, AZ
Peek-A-Boo Books II, Wheaton Mall – Wheaton, MD
People’s Books & Gifts – Springfield, OH
Phenix Information Center – San Bernardino, CA
PowerHouse Books – Hopkins, SC
Precious Memories Reading and Collectibles – Richmond, VA
Rainbow Books & Blooms – Yorktown Heights, NY
Reading Room Bookstore  – Chicago, IL
Roots & Wings: A Cultural Bookplace  – Montgomery, AL
Sacred Thoughts Bookstore – Jersey City, NJ
Sensational Minds – Savannah, GA
Serengeti Plains  – Montclair, NJ
Shades of Sienna – Oakland, CA
Sidewalk University – Memphis, TN
Soul Source Bookstore – Atlanta, GA
Special Occasions – Winston-Salem, NC
Stouffville Book Connection Inc – Stouffville, ON
TDIR Books – Columbia, SC
Tenaj Books & Gift Gallery – Fort Pierce, FL
The Black Bookworm – Fort Worth, TX
The Black Library – Boston, MA
The Book House Café, LGBT Books – Oakland, CA
The Book Lovers Lounge – Lauderdale Lakes, FL
The Cultural Connection Bookstore  – Milwaukee, WI
The Heritage Center – Vicksburg, MS
The Know Bookstore – Durham, NC
The Living Word Bookstore – Chicago, IL
The Presence of Africans In the Bible Book Center – Minneapolis, MN
The Reading Room Bookstore – Atlanta, GA
The Roots Book Store, Inside of Tapers Hair Care – Baton Rouge, LA
Too-No Books Etc. – Moss Point, MS
Treasures of the Mind Bookstore – St. Louis, MO
Tricia’s Books N’ Things – Houston, TX
Truth Boutique & Bookstore, Eastland Mall #823 – Harper Woods, MI
Tunde Dada House of Africa – Orange, NJ
Tunde Dada House of Africa, Green Acres Mall – Valley Stream, NY
Two Friends Bookstore – Atlanta, GA
Uhuru Books – Minneapolis, MN
Under One Roof Afrikan American Bookstore – Killeen, TX
W&W African American Art, Specializing in Books & Gift Items, Etc. – Fayetteville, NC
X-pression Bookstore & Gallery – Indianapolis, IN
Yawa Books – Washington, DC
Yehudah Inc. – Teaneck, NJ
Zawadi Gift Shop – Brooklyn, NY

…Actually I do have something to add.  If you happen to reside in a community fortunate enough to have an independent bookstore, please support it.  These establishments are true community and cultural, treasures.   Sure eBooks and websites are great, but not everything can be replaced with machines and technology.

While we attempted to make this list as accurate as possible, mistakes do occur.  If there is a store posted here that is indeed open please lets of know so that we may remove it from this list and add it to our database of bookstores.  You may post the correction in the comments below or email me at

Our database of bookstores can be made available to anyone interested in posting it on their website, with a single line of code.  Email me at if you are interested.

Here is a related article: Top Ten Reasons Why African American Bookstores Are Closing by Gwen Richardson

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