When I was a little girl in Jamaica, my mother had a dear friend, Mrs. Powell, who had a bookshop in downtown Kingston that we visited weekly. While my mother and Miss Powell spoke and caught up on each other’s news, I would browse around, flipping through books, reading a few lines or several pages. When I got older, in my teens, I went to the store on my own, to visit with Mrs. Powell, whom I liked, but also to be in the neat, small shop with rows of books that hardly anyone seem to frequent. Although, as a child, I was not an avid reader I loved books, the very notion of words trapped on pages that tell a story was miraculous. I receiving many books as gifts as a child, and I always cherished and cared for them.
Mrs. Powell's book shop will always be dear to me, but for the last twenty plus years Marcus Book Store has been a staple in my life and an important historical place as a Black Writer living in a society that purport not the censor, but does in blatant and glaring ways. Marcus Books was the one place I could count on getting books that pertain to the history and culture of Black People in the USA, as well as throughout the Diaspora, and books by Black writers, period. Even today most bookstores do not carry books by Black Writers, except for the few selected authors deemed best sellers. Marcus Book Store in Oakland on MLK is the one place I could be sure to find books by famous as well as unknown writers. There I would be introduced to a writer I had not heard about before. When my children were young it was the one place I was certain I would find books for them that reflected themselves back to them, books that taught them about their culture, books that made them know that who they were was worthy and important.
Marcus Books is not just a place where folks go to buy books, it is a cultural nexus that is invested in the community and the life and well being of Black People. To walk into the store is to know you matter, your contributions matter, who you are matter, and that you have both a profound and amazing past as well as a future. Thank you Marcus Books and the Richardson’s family and may the community support your continued existence.
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