When the Black Lives Matter Protests were in full swing this past May, in response to the police killing George Floyd, there was not only a flooding of people in the streets showing their passion and support for the Black Lives Matter movement and the end of systemic racism, but also a rush of book orders through black-owned bookstores.
Businesses like Black Pearl Books in Austin Texas, with the mission “Sharing Stories. Sharing Lives,” and Semicolon in Chicago saw an overwhelming influx of support at this time. Katrina Brooks, owner of Black Pearl Books, expected a lull when the pandemic struck in March of 2020, but as the protests persisted she reported:
“Overnight we went from getting dozens to thousands of orders, and it felt overwhelming,” Brooks says. “I had to switch my thinking about the scale of my business. I’m still working until 3 a.m. many days—but it’s been a blessing.”
Black Pearl Books and many other similar businesses are confronted with the need to restrategize in order to process the significant demand. Titles like Robin Dinagelos’ White Fragility, Ibram Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist, and So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo can’t seem to sell and restock fast enough. And much of this success is due to the positive influence that social media can have when the public uses it to communicate the need for change. Sites like Bookbub, Penguin Random House, Literary Hub, and our own Bookstr team are great avenues to peruse when looking for black-owned book stores to continue to support.
Danielle Mullen, owner of bookstore, Semicolon, “is tapping into that legacy to build on this summer’s sales uptick. She’s inviting local artists to display their work at her store, where reading chairs have been removed to allow for social distancing. She’s holding book giveaways for public school students. And to encourage customers to browse and purchase books on subjects they aren’t familiar with—instead of only race-related bestsellers, which have accounted for half her sales this year.”
At a time when several other businesses are struggling to stay afloat, it’s encouraging to see that helping hands are extending toward black-owned bookstores. Not only is it satisfying to see support being lent where it is due, but the books being purchased will contribute toward the edification of their readers and a continually evolving, open-minded society.
We are lucky enough to live in a time where we can utilize social media in order to extend our influence much further than we ever could before. We’re starting to see real results to a problem that truly deserves, and is in dire need of, changes. And we can continue to create great change by using our voices wisely, fostering healthy communication, and spreading love. To support other black-owned businesses, click here. And to see a comprehensive list of “125 Black-Owned, Independent Bookstores by state,” click here.
feature image via bloomberg business week