Tag Archives: Bookstores

The Top Cities for Readers of African American Literature

top cities for readers of african american literatureAALBC.com assessed the relative strengths of almost 300 American cities, to determine which ones are best able to provide environments that are supportive of, and conducive to, the enjoyment of African American Literature.

Our 2014 list improves on our original list, first published in 2013, by considering more factors for each city.   Some of the factors we considered and evaluated included the:

  • number of library visits per capita;
  • number of African American book clubs;
  • number of African American book stores;
  • city having a minimum population of 100,000;
  • percentage of African Americans relative to city’s overall population;
  • number of book events for African American readers;
  • number of African American owned newspapers;
  • number of websites dedicated African American books (city of the web site’s founder);
  • quality (length of visit, number of pages viewed, duration of stay) to the AALBC.com website, over the past 365 days; and
  • more.

We also took points away from cities with strong negative indicators for African American literacy as reflected on reports like, The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males 2010.

Finally, rather than ranking these cities, as we did last year, we decided to group the cities into tiers and sort the cities alphabetically within each tier.  This article is intended to inform readers which cities are supportive of African American literature by providing the best resources for both readers and authors, and to acknowledge each city’s contribution to that effort.

Top Tier Cities

These cities ranked high on almost all of the factors considered.

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York


Atlanta, GA
Los Angeles, CA
New York, NY
Philadelphia, PA
Washington, DC

Atlanta, GA is one of the top destinations for readers of African American literature. Atlanta hosts the National Book Club Conference (NBCC), the premier event for book clubs from across the nation.  Hosting the NBCC makes sense since Atlanta is one of the cities with the most Black book clubs in the U.S. Atlanta is also home to Written Magazine who hosts the popular Wine & Words® events. The city is also one of the top cities for independent Black owned bookstores in the nation;  including the cultural institution, Shrine of the Black Madonna; Medu Bookstore; and Sisters Bookshop.

Group Photograph from the 2009 NBCC Gala

Group Photograph from the 2009 National Book Club Conference Gala, held in Atlanta, GA

Los Angeles, CA is home to one of the oldest and perhaps finest remaining Black owned bookstore in America, Eso Won Books.  The city hosts a number of popular events including, the 8 year old, Leimert Park Village Book Fair.   Los Angeles is another top city for socializing with other readers, as it is in the top five cities with the highest number of book clubs focused on African American literature.

While New York, NY is arguably the publishing capital of the world and home to the National Book Awards, “The City,” however, did not earn any points for those reasons. New York is home to The National Black Writer’s Conference, The Harlem Book Fair, The African American Literary Awards Show and many other events dedicated to African American literature.   The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture hosts a variety of programs and is one of the finest Black cultural institutions in the world.  New York City is also home to Mosaic Literary Magazine and Writers’ World Newspaper, two publications dedicated Black literature.

Philadelphia, PA is one of the cities with the most number of Black owned book stores including Black and Nobel, Hakim’s Bookstore and Gift Shop, and Horizon Books Inc.  The city’s Black owned newspaper, the Philadelphia Tribune, was founded over 130 years ago. Philly also hosts to the 23 year old African American Children’s Book Fair, the largest event of its kind in the country.

Washington, D.C. is one of the nation’s great cities for readers of all types of literature, and despite the loss of a several important booksellers in recent years they continue to be one of the nation’s top cities for readers of African American literature.  D.C. is home to the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation and the ubiquitous booksellers Mahogany Books.  They have three newspapers, the Afro-American, District Chronicles, and the Washington Informer.

Second Tier Cities

Black Classic PressBaltimore, MD
Chicago, IL
Houston, TX
Columbus, OH
New Orleans, LA

Baltimore, MD, covered by the Baltimore Times, hosts several annual Black book events including, the Baltimore African American Book Festival. Baltimore also the home of the publisher Black Classic Press who has been publishing books for over 35 years.  The bookstore, Everyone’s Place, also calls Baltimore home.

Chicago, IL is a city with a great literary tradition. They are the home to the venerated, Third World Press, who has been publishing books for almost 50 years.   They are the top city for independent newspapers, leading the way with the iconic, 114-year-old, Chicago Defender.   Chicago is also one of the top cities for independent bookstores which include Frontline Bookstore and The Underground Bookstore.  The city also hosts the popular, The Cavalcade of Authors, an event which just celebrated its 10 year.

Houston, TX is home to one of the oldest websites, dedicated to Black books, Cushcity.com,  Cushcity also ran a physical store for a number of years but is now best known the National Black Book Festival, which has hosted most of the top African American authors.  Houston is also another top city for Book clubs and brought the most number of new visitors to AALBC.com in 2014.

Columbus, OH readers take advantage of their library visiting the Columbus Metropolitan Library, at an average rate of almost nine visits per year, the 5th highest in the country.  Columbus is home to the Ujamaa Book Store.  Readers from Columbus are also active online; they are #9 on AALBC.com’s list of top visitors based upon, page views, time spent on the site, and number of visitors.

New Orleans, LA, is home to three newspapers, Data News Weekly, Louisiana Weekly, and the New Orleans Tribune.  They are also known for several book events including; The Bayou Soul Writers and Reader’s Conference; and Homefest, hosted by the Community Book Center.  New Orleans was also one of the few cities listed here not penalized for making the list of the worse performing cities for literacy.

Third Tier

St. Louis American

St. Louis American, the Best Black Newspaper in the Nation


Cleveland, OH
Detroit, MI
Memphis, TN
Newark, NJ
Richmond, VA
Seattle, WA
St. Louis, MO

Cleveland, OH has one of the highest library visits per capita of any city in the country.  They are the home to A Cultural Exchange bookstore.

Detroit, MI, boasts a Black citizenry of more than 82% of the total population and is the home to three newspapers, Michigan Chronicle, Michigan Citizen, and the Telegram Newspaper.  They are the home to Source Booksellers and The Essence of Motown Writers Alliance & Motown Writers Network.

Memphis, TN, hosts the Black Writers And Book Clubs Literacy Festival is one of the top 10 cities visiting AALBC.com over the past year.  The city is home to the Tri-State Defender newspaper and is also a top city for book clubs.

Newark, NJ’s newly elected Mayor, Ras Baraka, the son of former NJ State Poet laureate Amiri Baraka, holds a great deal of promise for a city with an established literary legacy.

Richmond, VA is the home to Richmond Free Press, and The Richmond Voice newspapers.  Richmond, with a Black population greater than 50%, is on Amazon’s list of the “Most Well-Read Cities in America.”

Seattle, WA attracted Go On Girl! Book Club’s, 30 national chapters, for their 23rd Annual Awards Weekend.  The city of avid readers visits the Seattle Public Library at one of the highest rates, per capita, than any city in the country.  Seattle is also #4 on Amazon’s list of most well-read cities.

St. Louis, MO is home to The St. Louis American who won the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s Russwurm/Senstacke Trophy for general excellence, making it the “Best Black Newspaper” in the nation.

Worthy of Note

aa-citiesAnn Arbor, MI;
Baton Rouge, LA;
Birmingham, AL;
Dallas, TX;
Fort Worth, TX;
Indianapolis, IN;
Milwaukee, WI;
Oakland, CA;
Tallahassee, FL; and
Raleigh, NC.

Each of these cities rank well on three or more dimensions and show strong potential for breaking into one of the top tiers.

We appreciate people still prefer to see rankings, so we published the ranking of the top 50 American U.S. cities on our discussion forum.

You may freely share this information provided you credit the source, Troy Johnson, AALBC.om and include the following URL, http://aalbc.it/cities4blackreaders to link back to this page.

We welcome critiques in the comments section below.

Sources

American Library Association (Public Library Information)
Cush City (Book club information)
Huria Search (Newspaper, Magazine, Bookstore, Book Web Site, Information)
United States Census Bureau (Population Demographics)

newsletter-june-2014

Good Books, Films, Events & Articles – June 23, 2014 eNewsletter

You may receive this eNewsletter directly in your email-box by subscribing.  It may also be read on your Kindle ebook reader, or any device by downloading a PDF version. Enjoy our previous eNewsletters.  Consider Sponsoring our eNewsletter or a dedicated mailing.


This eNewsletter is sponsored by Brown Girls Publishing

macro-marketing-authorsIntroducing the next four books from Brown Girls Publishing: D.J. McLaurin’s What if it Feels Good?—the story of an unconventional romance that may not survive a woman scorned or the public’s outrage. Pink & Patent Leather, Candy Jackson’s mind-blowing tale of one-woman’s quest for love at all costs, and the spiraling descent she’ll travel to get it. The Next Thing is Joy: The Gospel According to Vivan Grace, by Tracey Michae’l Lewis, is the story of a woman who is about to find love in a way she never imagined…but what will she have to do to get it? Roni Teson’s Twist, where romance, insanity, mind-altering experiments, and a government conspiracy, all lead to the fight of Beatrice Malcolm’s life. Visit browngirlspublishing.com to find out more.


ellis-j-stillAALBC.com Mourns the Passing of Ellis J. Still

AALBC.com joins the book world in mourning the unexpected passing of Ellis James Still on Tuesday, June 17, 2014. Ellis was the President & CEO, The Burning Bush Christian, Literary, & Scholastic Bookstore. Ellis was a terrific advocate for our literature and was simply one conscious brother. His loss to the book world is incalculable and will be felt for years to come.

He was a member of Abundant Life Family Worship Church in New Brunswick and was part of their Youth Ministry. He was 46 years old. A memorial fund has been started in his honor.


Book Reviews

news-the-man-from-essenceThe Man from Essence: Creating a Magazine for Black Women

Despite the irony of four brothers being behind a publication aimed at sisters, the periodical proved phenomenally popular, soon blossoming into the premiere beauty and fashion magazine for its target demographic. And over the intervening decades the Essence brand has been extended to include an annual Fourth of July weekend cultural festival featuring everything from musical concerts to empowerment seminars.

However, the magazine has also experienced considerable behind-the-scenes turmoil, and much of that drama is the subject of The Man from Essence, a revealing memoir written by Mr. Lewis with the assistance of his former executive editor, Audrey Edwards. Inter alia, we learn that the four founders had no experience in the field of publishing, yet ultimately managed to flourish in part because they had identified a need just begging to be addressed.

new-prodigalProdigal: Special Edition by David Covin

Often, fiction can be confusing when the author loses his way. That is not the case with Prodigal’s author, David Covin, Emeritus Professor of Government and Pan African Studies at California State University, even as he attempts to stuff as much cultural seasoning and action as possible into this bloated plot. The reader, once strapped in, is just encouraged to hold on and go hell-bent for the thrill ride.

In this tale of identity and cultural salvation, Covin displays his incredible capacity to give us a brief history lesson wrapped in a glittering jacket of contemporary urban fiction. It is often brilliant, aware, informative, and somewhat cluttered. If a reader submits to Covin’s commanding will and imagination, Prodigal will be an unforgettable, fulfilling experience.

news-unbreak-my-heartUnbreak My Heart: A Memoir by Toni Braxton

While Toni’s blossoming career would catapult her to the heights of superstardom in a matter of months, it also left her haunted with a sense of overwhelming regret. For, although striking that devil’s bargain led to fame and a half-dozen Grammys, it also meant temporarily alienating the affection of the folks she was closest to.

Furthermore, over the ensuing years, she would find her faith tested by a host of woes reminiscent of Job in the Bible. Not only did she make and lose a fortune, declaring bankruptcy twice in the process, but she married Mint Condition’s keyboardist Keri Lewis and had a couple of children with him before going through a messy divorce.

news-yogaYoga, Meditation and Spiritual Growth for the African American Community

Daya Devi-Doolin shares her philosophy in an easy-to-read how-to tome with an easy-to-follow illustrated introduction, aimed at beginners and also the young at heart. The book features photographs not of skinny contortionists, but of the author and some of her students who, as you’ll see, come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

That lets you know that you don’t have to be lithe and limber like a runway model to assume such poses pictures as the Boat, the Butterfly, the Half Lotus, the Cow, the Chair, the Eagle, the Half Bridge, the Dancer, the Cobra, the Tree, the Spinal Twist, or my favorite, The Mountain (which looks the easiest). Why should the uninitiated even consider trying yoga? “For a new or a renewed body, mind and spirit,” Daya suggests.


Book Recommendations

news-song-of-the-shankSong of the Shank by Jeffery Renard Allen

At the heart of this novel is Thomas Greene Wiggins, a nineteenth-century slave and improbable musical genius who performed under the name Blind Tom.” The novel ranges from Tom’s boyhood to the heights of his performing career, the inscrutable savant is buffeted by opportunistic teachers and crooked managers, crackpot healers and militant prophets. In his symphonic novel, Jeffery Renard Allen blends history and fantastical invention to bring to life a radical cipher, a man who profoundly changes all who encounter him.

Song of the Shank is also our Deal of the Week and is available to you at perhaps the lowest price online! But buy it now because this deal is only available until Sunday, June 29th.

news-strange-fruitStrange Fruit, Volume I: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History

Written and illustrated by Joel Christian Gill Strange Fruit, Volume I (Grade Level: 4 and up) is a collection of stories from African American history that exemplifies success in the face of great adversity. This unique graphic anthology offers historical and cultural commentary on nine uncelebrated heroes whose stories are not often found in history books.

Among the stories included are: Henry “Box” Brown, who escaped from slavery by mailing himself to Philadelphia; Alexander Crummel and the Noyes Academy, the first integrated school in America, established in the 1830s; Marshall “Major” Taylor, a.k.a. the Black Cyclone, the first black champion in any sport; and Bass Reeves, the most successful lawman in the Old West. Written and illustrated by Joel Christian Gill, the diverse art beautifully captures the spirit of each remarkable individual and opens a window into an important part of American history.

news-the-sacred-bombshellThe Sacred Bombshell Handbook of Self-Love by Abiola Abrams

The Sacred Bombshell Handbook of Self-Love is your passport to become the woman you were born to be. If you’ve been looking for a sign, this is it. Love-Body-Spirit coach, advice columnist, and motivational speaker Abiola Abrams reveals 11 self-worth secrets with assignments to awaken your feminine energy, reclaiming the word bombshell to mean a woman who deliciously embodies her mind, body, spirit – and joy. Abiola’s transformational coaching is buoyed by her Guyanese family lessons and overcoming personal challenges from disordered eating to a failed marriage. If you have everything going for you, except what you really want, this journey is for you.

news-wahts-done-in-the-darkWhat’s Done in the Dark by ReShonda Tate Billingsley

Felise is not the kind of woman to cheat on her husband—especially with her best friend’s man. But after one perfect storm of a night, it happened…and she can hardly believe it herself. To top it off, when she woke up in the morning, she found that the man to whom she guiltily made passionate love died of a heart attack overnight. Felise, who is a nurse and a good citizen at that, leaves the hotel room without reporting his death.

When her best friend, Paula, finds out about her husband’s sudden death a day later, Felise is overcome with guilt and grief. She must be there for her friend and her family, but when her husband repeatedly tries to apologize for his absentminded behavior and Paula starts investigating who Stephen was with the night he died, Felise finds it hard to hold herself together. Should she come clean and tell everyone what she did? Or should she just let it go and move past the mistake on her own?

news-nine-years-underNine Years Under: Coming of Age in an Inner-City Funeral Home by Sheri Booker

Sheri Booker was only fifteen when she started working at Wylie Funeral Home in West Baltimore. She had no idea her summer job would become nine years of immersion into a hidden world. With AIDS and gang violence threatening to wipe out a generation of black men, Wylie was never short on business.

This vibrant tour of a macabre world reveals an urban funeral culture where photo-screened memorial T-shirts often replace suits and ties and the dead are sent off with a joint or a fifth of cognac. As families came together to bury one of their own, Booker was privy to their most intimate moments of grief and despair. But along with the sadness, Booker encountered moments of dark humor: brawls between mistresses and widows, and car crashes at McDonald’s with dead bodies in tow. While she never got over her terror of the embalming room, Booker learned to expect the unexpected and to never, ever cry. Nine Years Under offers readers an glimpse into an industry in the backdrop of all our lives.

news-go-de-ras-to-sleepShaggy Records Jamaican Patois Version of Go the F* to Sleep

Reggae superstar Shaggy repeats Samuel L. Jackson’s reading of Go the F* to Sleep, but in a Jamaican fashion. Shaggy’s humor and verbal prowess are on full display as he reads the book’s stanzas such as:

Modda puss a hug up har pickney,
Young sheep a lay down wid big sheep.
Yuh wrap up an warm inna yuh bed, putoos,
Beg yuh, go de rass to sleep.


Related Articles

CBC_Essence[1]

The ESSENCE Brand—Where Black Women Come First—NOT!

“Community Book Center, owned by a Black woman, had been the sole bookseller for Essence Fest from the beginning. At that time the idea was to do everything possible to strengthen and empower Black owned businesses. Last year [2012] Wal-Mart and local white bookstores were allowed in. This year [2013] CBC was told that they did not have space for them. When another vendor reportedly dropped out, CBC was still not allowed back in. The local white-owned bookstore had already been approved.

In a nutshell, Essence has evicted, booted, put out the only Black-owned bookstore to make more room for retail giant Wal-Mart and a local white book store. The Black-owned Community Book Center is practicing Self-Deter­mination by hosting its own Home Fest during the same time as Essence, so I’ll be making a special trip; hope you will too.”
—Minister J. Kojo Livingston

news-market-your-bookDo Yourself a Favor Authors; Market Your Book by A. Yamina Collins

My fantasy romance novel, The Last King, has already been in Amazon’s Top 100 Bestseller List in no less than four separate genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Christian Women’s Literature. And yet I’ve only sold 210 copies of the book.

To me, the money hasn’t been a waste. In fact, I am inspired to now hire a professional publicist. I believe in my book and it’s chance to succeed, but that means I have to give it a chance to reach a larger audience.

news-griot-solutionThe Griot Solution

Since black people in large numbers might not read fiction, live storytelling may still resonate in their blood because of the oral tradition. A combination of story telling and controlled psycho-drama—It will necessitate community and traveling theaters, block play parties, or street theater if no buildings will have you—but the big caveat, the silent elephant in the room is the class dynamics within the black community itself or rather not in the community. That is the best and the brightest with money don’t live in the slums.

new-writers-worldWriters’ World Newspaper

A Resource for the self-published, established authors and readers who love them.

Writers’ World will publish positive news and information. We are here to bring good and informative news to our readers. We will also provide valuable information from our authors. Writers’ World Newspaper is a resource for self-published and established authors and the readers who love them to have a forum to exchange opinions on literature. Readers will be provided with unique and motivational articles, implementing ideas and resources to further enhance their lives.

news-black-star-project-journal-logoBlack Star Journal

Check out the news and events archive of The Black Star Project. The Black Star Journal is the news and events archive of The Black Star Project

Founded in 1996 by Phillip Jackson, The Black Star Project is committed to improving the quality of life in Black and Latino communities of Chicago and nationwide by eliminating the racial academic achievement gap.


Interviews

news-ammaAmma Asante

Writer/director Amma Asante made an unusual entry into filmmaking. As a child, she attended the Barbara Speake stage school in London, where she trained as a student in dance and drama.

Here, she talks about her new film, Belle, a fact-based, historical drama starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw about the daughter of an African slave and a British ship captain who was raised in England as an aristocrat.

news-michael-ealyMichael Ealy

For the last few years, Michael Ealy has been red-hot, jumping from TV to film and back to TV, seamlessly. He recently starred in the sci-fi television series, “Almost Human,” for which he earned an NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Leading Actor in a Drama Series.

In terms of the tabloids, the blue-eyed hunk was named one of People magazines’ “On the Verge” actors in the magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” 2002 and 2013 issues. Furthermore, he was named one of E! Entertainment Television’s “Sizzlin’ 16” of 2004 and appeared on the cover of Essence magazine’s “Hollywood Screen Gems” for their April 2004 issue.


Film Reviews

news-think-like-a-man-tooThink Like a Man Too – Film Has Little to do With Thinking Like a Man

The surprise hit Think Like a Man was #1 at the box-office over its opening weekend back in April of 2012. Inspired by Steve Harvey’s best-selling, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, the original explored some of the serious issues tackled by the popular, relationship advice book by examining the angst of four couples in relationship crisis.

Unfortunately, this relatively-tame sequel fails to measure up to either of those side-splitting descents into debauchery, being basically a vehicle for Kevin Hart’s kitchen sink brand of comedy. Here, the motor-mouthed comedian serves as an omniscient narrator who calls the battle-of-the-sexes’ play-by-play.

news-black-church-incBlack Church Inc. – Film Tackles Topic of Financial Abuse in the Black Church

Gone are the days of working class preachers who didn’t expect financial gain in exchange for spiritual guidance. A new breed of pastors has emerged: the mega-pastor… one who aims to sell their religious brand and get rich off the gospel.

Black Church, Inc. is a feature-length investigative documentary that examines the sensationalism of the black church and its present day relationship with serving the community. The documentary compares the black church’s origins to its modern day cultural relevance. The film focuses on modern mega-churches and asks hard-hitting questions about service vs. the extravagant lifestyles of its multi-million dollar ministers and ministries. The documentary takes a deep dive into controversial issues clouding the church including “love offerings” (cash payments given to ministers), financial abuse and the deification of the mega-church pastor all while asking… is prayer-for-profit moral?


Upcoming Events

news-homefest2014


Power to the Publisher (or author with more than one book)

news-two-book-positions

We currently have two positions available on our Homepage and Books Main page. The regular price is just $49 for 32 days (dropping to $39 on the 3rd consecutive month). However, if you act now, you may secure both positions for just $74. You may even rotate two different books in each position! That works out to a little more than 50 cents per book, per day. Act now, because at this price these positions will not be available very long. Learn more about this service here.

Email Troy Johnson if you are interested in this special price (it is not available for purchase online).

Dear Reader,

In addition to our regular monthly eNewsletter you will may receive one additional “Sponsored Email” each month. These emails will be curated, in exactly the same way our regular eNewsletters are, but will be dedicated to a single business, author or event we believe you will find worthy of special attention.

With the potential addition of the sponsored emails, you will only receive a maximum of two emails from us each month.

Some sponsored emails may be fee based, but not every potential sponsor’s message will qualify; this is not a traditional “eBlast” service; messages will be limited to one per month and curated. This past year, we sent two email messages which reflect the type of information we will communicate with a sponsored email, The National Black Writers Conference Schedule and Join Effort to Make “Forever an Ex” a Best-Selling Book. We may not send a sponsored email each month. However, if we do send a sponsored email you will be automatically entered into a contest to win $50!

If you are interested in sponsoring a dedicated email, please contact Troy Johnson.

As always, if you’ve read something in our eNewsletter, you enjoyed or felt was important, please share it with others. We are responsible for ensuring the depth and breadth of our stories are told, shared, recorded and archived.

paypal-sunscription-buttonIn order to continue our work, and to improve our offerings, we still need your support. Please consider purchasing or renewing your subscription to AALBC.com’s monthly eNewsletter—less than a dollar an issue.

If you are interested in providing more substantial support through website sponsorship please contact Troy Johnson.

Peace,
Troy Johnson,
Founder and Webmaster

The ESSENCE Brand—Where Black Women Come First—NOT!

A few weeks ago, I visited Essence Magazines website to learn which Black owned bookstore they were going to use as the bookseller for their popular ESSENCE Festival.  The festival, which takes place every 4th of July weekend, in New Orleans, is actually one of the nation’s biggest events for Black books—many celebrity and empowerment authors turn out to give free presentations and to autograph books.  I was planning to promote the bookseller in my June eNewsletter, by acknowledging the store and reminding attendees that the ESSENCE Festival is a great event for book lovers.

Unfortunately, I was surprised and dismayed to discover Essence, the self-described institution that, …embodies the hopes and aspirations of Black women, did not choose a Black owned store to benefit from sales, sure to be generated, by the more than 500,000 attendees of the four day festival.

My very first thought was that New Orleans no longer had a Black owned bookstore.  Given the rate at which Black owned stores have been closing, this would not been too terribly surprising.  I checked my database of bookstores and discovered the Community Book Center owned and operated by a Black woman, Vera Warren Williams, for the past 31 years, continues to serve the New Orleans community.

After a little research I learned that Community Book Center not only presented Essence (“Where Black Women Come First”) with the idea of selling books, her store was the bookseller for 17 years!  Sadly this changed two years ago.

CBC_Essence[1]

Sure I know Essence, and its festival, has not been Black owned for almost a decade when, Time Inc. acquired the remaining shares, of Essence Communications, it did not already own.   I’m also not naive enough to believe that uplifting and empowering Black women would really be a top priority for Time Inc.  However, I’m still disappointed.

An article written, by Minister J. Kojo Livingston (originally published in the June 24, 2013 edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper) articulates the outrage of many people:

I realize that boycotting Es­sence amounts to swimming upstream. First, it’s a party, and most of our people would not care if the party were being thrown by the KKK, as long as the racists provided good tasting food and entertainment. Second, many famous celebrities will be there and will decline to “bite the hand” that is feeding them regardless of how much blood or filth is on that hand. Our people will flock to see those celebrities. However we can’t stop trying to inform and motivate our people. One day we will have the pride and awareness to refuse to participate in anything that does not benefit us.

Community Book Center, owned by a Black woman, had been the sole bookseller for Essence Fest from the beginning. At that time the idea was to do everything possible to strengthen and empower Black owned businesses. Last year Wal-Mart and local white bookstores were allowed in. This year CBC was told that they did not have space for them. When another vendor reportedly dropped out, CBC was still not allowed back in. The local white-owned bookstore had already been approved.

Minister Livingston described the genesis of Community Book Center’s, alternative celebration, Homefest:

In a nutshell, Essence has evicted, booted, put out the only Black-owned bookstore to make more room for retail giant Wal-Mart and a local white book store. The Black-owned Community Book Center is practicing Self-Deter­mination by hosting its own Home Fest during the same time as Essence, so I’ll be making a special trip; hope you will too.

The loss of the opportunity to sell Books at the Essence Festival obviously hurt the Community Book Center financially.  Given the fact that we have just over 50 Black owned bookstores left in the United States, it incumbent on all of us, who believe these institutions are important, to go out of our way to support our bookstores.

Essence, despite their flowery rhetoric of uplifting Black women, will not support Black owned bookstores—it is up to us to do it.

In 2013, bestselling author Iyanla Vanzant, in a show of support, took time out of her schedule from the Essence Festival and made a special trip to visit Community Book Center, during Homefest.  This is the type of effort that is needed by all authors.

This year HomeFest celebrates its 2nd year.

homefest

If you plan to be in New Orleans for the Essence Festival, consider checking out HomeFest, a pure New Orleans event.  I’ll be there :-)

The video below illustrates the important, but not unusual, impact Black owned bookstores have on a community.  Here, multimedia activist and principal of the Black Arts MovementKalamu ya Salaam describes one such activity at the Community Book Center:

Learn more about Community Book Center as well as all of the nation’s Black owned bookstores at Huria Search.

One of the most disturbing things about the internet since it has come under corporate control is that the dissemination of information, important to our community, is much harder to accomplish—despite what proponents of social media might have you believe.

So please, share this information.  Tell people.

Of course I can’t let you go without recommending a book

Check out The Man from Essence: Creating a Magazine for Black Women (published June 10, 2014) by Edward Lewis (Essence Magazines co-founder) and Audrey Edwards (Essence’s former Executive Editor).

the-man-from-essence“…the magazine has also experienced considerable behind-the-scenes turmoil, and much of that drama is the subject of The Man from Essence we learn that the four founders had no experience in the field of publishing, yet ultimately managed to flourish in part because they had identified a need just begging to be addressed.

He also talks, here, about the historic sale of 49% of the company’s stock to Time, Inc. in 2000, as well as the balance of the shares in 2005. In that passage he further recounts how the magazine’s legendary editor-in-chief, Susan L. Taylor, and other suddenly-disgruntled staff members began issuing demands in an avaricious attempt to share in the windfall profits deservedly earned by the magazine’s creators.
Kam Williams, AALBC.com (read the our full book review).

Also check out this conversation with NPR’s Michel Martin, Edward Lewis and Audrey Edwards (Recorded by NPR on June 11, 2014).

See you at Homefest!

 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...