Black-owned bookstores are a staple of small towns across the United States, and there’s no shortage of reasons to love them.
But what’s it like to visit a bookshop in a predominantly white town?
Recode asked Black-Owned Booksellers Association (BOBSA) president James Hagerty what it’s like to work in a community with a history of racism.
“It’s very exciting.
You have an opportunity to see the diversity of a community that you love,” he said.
“It’s always been about celebrating people and embracing them.
It’s not about who you are, it’s about who we are as a community.
There’s a lot of people that don’t understand that, and I think that’s a real struggle for them.”
They’re really excited to come into a community and to see a place where people are truly comfortable.
“A few days before we met up in Nashville, I visited the BOBSA headquarters in Philadelphia.
It was a sunny Friday, and it was sunny outside.
There were signs reading, “Black Books,” “Black Arts,” and “Black Culture.”
I was nervous about meeting some people from the community, but I was also excited to find that these were not just a few bookstores.
The BOBAA, as they call themselves, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
The BOBABAs website describes its mission as, “a voice for Black American authors, artists, writers, musicians, and educators who are inspired by the art of storytelling and writing, the creative genius of African-Americans, and the rich heritage of the Black community.”
Hagerty said that many Black bookstores aren’t just owned by people of color, they’re also owned by other communities of color.
“They have Black owners. “
This bookstore is 100 percent owned by Black people and 100 percent Black owned,” he told Recode.
“They have Black owners.
We don’t have a majority of Black booksellers in the country, but that’s the majority.
We’ve got a lot to be proud of.”
It is the community we are.””
We’re not here to sell books, we’re here to serve people.
It is the community we are.”
The BABAA is comprised of a diverse group of individuals who have a lot in common.
They’re all professionals.
They have degrees from the University of Michigan.
They are in their mid-30s.
They grew up in the same area.
They love their jobs.
They’ve got children.
They know that they have a voice.
They want to make a change in their communities and their communities are the places that they can do that.
“There’s so much of this community that’s overlooked,” he added.
“The only people that really get recognized for who they are are the people who come to the bookstore.
We’re not trying to change the demographics of the community.
We just want to be the voice of the people.
I feel like we’re doing a good job of that.”
Hagel said that while the BABAAA doesn’t want to see Black people lose their jobs, it wants to make sure that Black people have a positive voice in their community.
“If we can bring a positive community perspective to the bookstores and to the community at large, that’s what we want to do,” he continued.
“That’s what the community is really for.
If we can do both, that is what we think is the best way to go forward.”
Hagarty said he hopes that the Black book shops will continue to be a place of learning and support for people of all backgrounds, but they also want to inspire Black children to read.
“I think the book is really important to a child,” he explained.
“So I think books are important.
The Black book is a wonderful way to give back.
It doesn’t matter who you love, or what you’re doing.
It matters who you were before you were born.
It really matters who your ancestors were.
It can help people.
And we think it’s important that we give back and we think the Black kids are going to get more books.”
Hagers, who has been involved in the BBA for about 15 years, said that the BUBA’s mission is to empower the Black children of America.
“If you don’t give back, what is this society for?” he asked.
“What’s our mission?
What’s our focus?
I think if you don, then you’re not giving back.
So I think you need to give.”
I wanted to find out what Black children in the U.S. are reading