“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” –Frederick Douglass
It’s the month of February, a very special month for African American people— Black History month. What first started off as a week to celebrate the American people, belonging to the lineage of the African Diaspora, became a month-long celebration. This is the month that is dedicated to celebrating the legacy and importance of our Civil Rights activist, our Literary scholars, our Educators, our rule-breaking athletes, our musicians and entertainers, our entrepreneurs, and so many more. It’s a time where we learn about the history of our yesteryear and enlighten one another on the cultural history in the making.
In light of Black History month, I would like to take the time to recognize a Black-owned book store located here in the District. MahoganyBooks, located inside of the Anacostia Arts Center at 1231 Good Hope Rd., SE Washington DC 20020, is a bookstore that offers a variety of books written by, for, or about people of the African descent. It was originally an online bookstore founded by Ramunda and Derrick Young almost 13 years ago, and during the Fall of 2017, it opened its first physical location.
Their Story: “Created online in 2007 by an enterprising husband and wife duo in the Washington DC area, MahoganyBooks is the result of Derrick and Ramunda’s love for culture, community and literature and their desire to see it empower others as it has empowered them. With over 20 years of combined experience in the retail book industry, they have witnessed the book industry’s highs and lows. That practical knowledge has given them the insight needed to develop a new bookstore model that capitalizes on today’s technology while staying true to the independent community bookstore roots that define the core values of MahoganyBooks and its founders.”
Their Vision: “We take a leadership role in the African American community by promoting reading, writing, and cultural awareness as tools to improve self-esteem, self-love and ultimately our communities to enrich the lives of motivated individuals.”
To give you an idea of what you can possibly read this month, I came across a few literary pieces written by African American authors that just might grab your attention:
For Children: “Hair Love” by Matthew A. Cherry Illustrated by Vashti Harrison
Zuri’s hair has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way. Zuri knows it’s beautiful. When Daddy steps in to style it for an extra special occasion, he has a lot to learn. But he LOVES his Zuri, and he’ll do anything to make her — and her hair — happy. Tender and empowering, Hair Love is an ode to loving your natural hair — and a celebration of daddies and daughters everywhere.
For Teens: “SLAY” by Brittney Morris
Ready Player One meets The Hate U Give in this dynamite debut novel that follows a fierce teen game developer as she battles a real-life troll intent on ruining the Black Panther–inspired video game she created and the safe community it represents for Black gamers.
For Young Adults: “Children of Blood and Bone” (Legacy of Orisha) by Tomi Adeyemi
Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls. But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope. Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.
For Adults: “An American Marriage” by Tayari Jones
Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. This stirring love story is a profoundly insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look deep into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward—with hope and pain—into the future.
For Those who love History: “Barracoon” Zora Neale Hurston
Based on those interviews, featuring Cudjo’s unique vernacular, and written from Hurston’s perspective with the compassion and singular style that have made her one of the preeminent American authors of the twentieth-century, Barracoon masterfully illustrates the tragedy of slavery and of one life forever defined by it. Offering insight into the pernicious legacy that continues to haunt us all, black and white, this poignant and powerful work is an invaluable contribution to our shared history and culture.
Visit their website at https://www.mahoganybooks.com/ to purchase books, merchandise, or to know what literary events they will be hosting throughout the year. Also, follow them on Instagram and Twitter: @mahoganybooks.
Information about the store: https://www.mahoganybooks.com/