Juneteenth, which commemorates the abolition of enslaved African Americans in the aftermath of the Civil War, was designated as a federal holiday this week, and many people across the country are marking the occasion by raising awareness and recognizing the Black community’s history and achievements.
Juneteenth is about focusing on the tales within the Black community for Black-owned businesses like Cafe con Libros, an intersectional feminist bookshop and coffee shop in Brooklyn, New York, that focuses on selling books on women’s stories.
One of the ways they’re commemorating the 156th anniversary of Juneteenth is by having a virtual conversation with the Black-Owned Bookstore Collective, actor Rashida Jones, and Zakiya Dalila Harris, author of “The Other Black Girl,” which is also this month’s “GMA” Book Club choice.
“One of the things we focus on,” Cafe Con Libros owner Kalima DeSuze told “Good Morning America,” is “uplifting the stories that are conveying the people’s history.” “This event is a Juneteenth celebration with ‘The Other Black Girl’ [author]. Because we were not free on July 4, 1776, [Cafe Con Libros] does not participate in the festivities. That has nothing to do with me or my background, but Juneteenth does, and thus it is included. That is something we applaud and encourage.”
In the midst of the epidemic, DeSuze founded the Black Owned Bookstore Collective, an informal organization of Black-owned bookstore owners throughout the country looking for camaraderie and assistance. DeSuze aims to continue the conversation about the value of Black-owned bookshops and what people can do to support them throughout the year with the help of her colleagues.
In our chat, DeSuze discusses what Juneteenth means to her.
GMA: How do you think Black-owned bookshops contribute to community development?
DeSuze, Kalima: For my part, I believe that bookshops symbolize the country’s current socio-political atmosphere on numerous levels, regardless of what is going on. Bookstores are devoted to promoting the tales that individuals are writing about our current sociopolitical situation. They act as a calendar for that. It’s a place where individuals may discover a sense of belonging as well as a place where they can study, develop, and grow.
Why is it critical to support Black-owned bookshops on Juneteenth and throughout the year?
I believe the problem with focusing on one day as a celebration is one I want to avoid, and instead focus on celebrating and supporting Black-owned bookshops every day. Whether it’s Juneteenth, July Fourth, or any other day of the year, we should always be having this debate. We should simply be discussing what it means to help those who have been systematically marginalized on numerous levels.
Are there any obstacles you encounter as a Black female business owner, and how does the Black-Owned Bookstore Collective help to strengthen the Black bookstore community?
Women make up the majority of those who are starting Black-owned bookshops. The bulk of the people are women or have a feminine identity. When we first enter the bookshop sector, we don’t have the money, resources, or connection to publishers, and we don’t have any insight. What we have is a strong desire to help our communities. Simply by getting together, we are able to create new capable, powerful, and confident bookshop proprietors. There’s a lot to learn about the bookshop business. What we need to do is figure out how to work together rather than allowing capitalism to divide us.