In the midst of the Coates phenomena I saw a call for people to buy copies of TaNehisi Coates' Between the World and Me at black bookstores. I found the suggestion laughable.
The current state of black booksellers gets at the impracticality of buying Black. If there are only fifty four leftRead FBS The Fifty Four Black Bookstores Here we obviously have not been buying black enough to sustain certain institutions in our community. To tout black bookstores as something worthy of support in the face of the Coates phenomena is like giving us the chittlings while somebody else eats the hog. Though Coates is black and blackness seems to be up in the mix, it is the type of blackness that would be hard pressed to survive or be popular without white folks.
The economics seem to be less important than the message, however, black folks ain't realy making money off the book. It could be we didn't even do the cover design-fascinating. Publishing is an industry and the corporations who do the work serve as brokers for cash flow to their workers. If few of those workers are black, black people loose. It is a very uncommon idea, but for our authors who actually influence (through cultural production/literature) to be disconnected from such an issue hints at the how far we haven't come. Some portions of black success seem to be opportunity for individuals and white organizations. To imagine that a series of successful star anythings will change the landscape of our economic survival is to believe in trickle down economics. Albeit, whites have learned the game post Civil Rights. The black genius author is as much genre as it is talented individual.
The drastic changes in the bookselling industry have given all booksellers a run for their money; but still, to be clear, if we want to get rich-the idea that selling books to African Americans is the way to do it, reflects a lack of clarity about our culture. In many ways the black book market our bookstore engaged in was a leftover of the largest market.
The dynamics of the market and bookselling have been written about extensively here on Free Black Space and if you read us you know we have also discussed the other factors at play in the demise of black bookstores. In other words, we are not simply blaming black people for their demise. We could cuz it often seems like that is the most practical thing to do, but things are more complicated than that.
Where blacks purchase their consumer goods is as much a question of practicality as it is belief system or ideal. The market presses towards practicality for consumers, while the idea of buying black is a lower tier religion folks may profess but can't seem to integrate into their life.
For instance, in the P.G. County I live in there are limited African American purchasing options for most products and services. Retail's showroom often seems to be the most depressing. The black consumers in P.G. County get excited when Macy's and Victoria's Secret come to town. Major retailers are a sign of our comeuppance. It is the post segregation phenomena. A study of African American history will lead to a street where we cannot even purchase certain products. Imagine that, a blackness that makes it so some folks under certain circumstances won't even take your money-in a country were money is worshipped! It is enough to make you think you are not good enough, and have you buying something from someone white like you are desegregating a bus you need to ride in order to get to work on time. Our freedom now is to buy anything we want, if we have the money. In many ways consumerism is our most accessible freedom.
Though it must be said in P.G. County and many places all over the country, one can utilize African American businesses or individuals to facilitate insurance, schooling, restaurants, clubs, barbershops and salons, financial management, and a host of other products and services. Yet, the amount of services needed are rarely in sync with the demand. Even in one of the wealthiest African American counties in the country, purchasing black is full of a series of problems that prevent us from utilizing our true business potential.
The truth is, I found a buy black option laughable for the same reason Coates didn't take the option of publishing his blockbuster book with his father. He would have lost money. His father's press was to small to handle the volume of copies to be produced. The Atlantic would most likely have not stood for it. Within the empire of language, blacks lack sufficient infrastructure to handle the large projects and success of many of our authors. I am like Coates. Why be black in business if it limits your potential to actually distribute your ideas? The question is more practical than black, and the same reason blacks will by pass a black option that charges a few dollars more on a product.
Let me say clearly for the record though I understand the practicality, I also understand our inability to make a different set of decisions prevents us from being free in the millennia. In other words, envisioning a transformed America where everyone works for white folks is some crooked form of satire. I might also add, as crooked a form of satire as the majority of our heroes being cogs in the wheel in larger systems of power. If one considers how we are employed, it is arguable that some strange cousin of slavery rules most of us.
Purchasing an item at black bookstores requires someone In fact Black Books were one of the last things one could actually do that was black. The reality is most blacks and whites don't wanna sell books to black folks. One can be clear there's little or no money in it.
Money isn't important, but then again money is important, and the choices authors and intellectuals make about their work and its production, distribution, and shape in the world are connected to money. Prestige means money. PWI's more time to make money. Wider distributions-more money. Awards-more money, more speaking engagements.
I think for some, we imagine that those who critique the position are simply hating; but the truth may be much closer to freedom. It is hard to imagine a world one hundred years from now without more black businesses that represents something tangible in our condition.
But I also understand the Nation of Islam bean pie, Black Nationalist work for yourself approach is only but so viable in terms of economic infrastructure. Though Farrakhan is leader who speaks truth, he is most importantly financed by his followers. In many ways he functions like a mega pastor whose Church is not Christian.
Black Wallstreet is gone, U. Street is gone. Gentrification of the Chocolate City, the Nation's Capitol, is an extraordinary event that occurred over the past decade or so. In many respects blackness is not financially viable except among the elite, the pre-educated, the churches, and in the barbershops and salons. The Free Black Space makes money for black people and provides jobs for blacks. Where there is little free black space, imagine the money flowing out of our community, or the money flowing from whites to a very small portion of blacks who operate at the pinnacle of these fields. They can easily be made into Black History Month symbols, but lack the infrastructure to employ themselves or build other businesses in their industries.
It is strange that black progress has given rise to fewer black businesses. In the community I live in, many years ago, the residents demanded more upscale retail come to the county. Again, we are the same P.G. County connected to Prince Jones in Ta Nehisi Coates Between the World and Me. We are one of the richest black counties in America; but if you go down the road, the Asian community in Montgomery County has a whole range of businesses designed to provide their community with products and services. Albeit, the Asian advantage is the mother county concept. They come from some place else they can still remember while African Americans imagine themselves as coming from some place else but being here, wanting to be here. Being different but wanting to be the same.
I also have to add, that I signed in on a petition against Male Privilege this week, which talked about Black Men being dedicated to acknowledging the position of women marginalized and hurt by expressions of Male Privilege in Institutions. We will have more on that later, but it seems that business is the ultimate place to express ones sense of justice, logic, and refined ideas in conjunction with the practicalities of running and building institutions. I personally view business as a creative act. Indeed, it is hard to imagine that someone speaks of activism or even advocacy without a secure business base.
Let the truth be said: if you run the business you can enact all the activism you want under the guise of policy and procedure influenced by the intellectual ability of you and those around you.
Our approach to activism is often like consumerism itself. We imagine ourselves being able to not consume or one person one voice our way into some form of tangible freedom. The truth is our spending power removed from white bank accounts is not as important as having people who run businesses whose consciousness is similar to ours.
Though I understand perfectly why we avoid such approaches. The idea that we will have to build something out of the little or almost nothing we have is frustrating idea. It seems as if that will take forever; but then again if I think of reparations, or the riots, or the restructuring of centuries of oppression-forever seems to be only a measurement of time. Our best course is to argue for, promote, and articulate images of African American economic structures that exist on the micro and macro level as part of our vision of freedom in the country. This promotion, this imagining is the missing link in our activism, protest, and movement forward as a people.
Without a public thrust towards this we are simply dealing with false allegiance and leftovers. Leftovers for the small black businesses, and allegiance towards people we believe in with a certainty that someone else will do the job we have don't have the resources for.
the reason someone makes choices about how their literature or work is going to be distributed or channeled into the larger pop
Business makes money, and there's something about money that destabilizes black knowledge. It could be our original slave position-whack in relationship to money from the beginning.
We all gotta make money, but the African American moment often isolates the activity.
Our need to be recognized by America grants folks the right to sample us in in association with other values and ideas. We get the feel good and they get the money.
Blackness as conceptual idea towards freedom is usually only skin deep when it comes to meet business. The prominence of the concept hinges on an assertion of power rooted in our ability to counteract some negativity within the larger society. No doubt, blackness must do this, for if it does not, who will?; but also, reactionary politics give rise to a prominence that flames brightly like those dying stars. The energy burns brighter because we must consume ourselves at a greater rate. We must say something. We must speak truth to power. We must address what needs to be addressed. No doubt, the phenomena operates as a subconscious urge cultivated by years of studying our struggle for freedom. Our need to say what must be said; what others have not said; what others are not saying, is often impulsive. The craft of it does not eliminate this impulse. It is our legitimate response to what we know as oppression.
Academia too is important. The notions of the precise, the nuanced, specific, and detailed are all to be rigorously attended to; but we must also study the industry of writing. If the Black voice is important, so also, is the way in which that Black voice makes it way into the public sphere. Now we are talking about the paper the literature is printed on, the printing presses that roll at midnight, and the industry of the empire of language.
The gaze upon the industry of writers is a wide one. African American writers today are talented and diverse. Diversity, which in the larger society suggests blackness as one sector, does not do the African American writers of today justice. We are many under our one flag granted to us by the country. Under its shadow is the darkness of diversity denied; we are different, dynamic, and yes, black.
A Black Business operating in the industry of the empire of language is a fascinating enterprise. Though we know many Blacks do read and the amount of reading is enough to bolster our self confidence, our role in the industry is still far too small. Many would contest this, though the numbers suggest something different. If we do say the black book market is worth $400 million in sales out of the billions of books sold, we are still insignificant. Black businesses who publicly suggest they should be supported by Blacks operate under the guise of a played out consciousness that imagines blacks would support a black business before a white one. Price point, accessibility, and connotations of quality and being "good enuff" prevent blacks from making these consumer decisions. If we need to change the minds of consumers, we must first realize education is businesses' most expensive proposition. Business meets the urge-the demand, for there the prospects are cheap. Satisfaction via consumerism soothes the will and desire for union with the product. Suggesting that Blacks buy black does address a certain need, but it is low on the list of priorities for most blacks. We want assets. We want to be an asset; and are most times certain that in most situations blackness is not an asset.
"You know you gotta work twice as hard."
"You know they ain't trying to give you that."
It takes a special mind or one empowered with industry and infrastructure to figure out how to make blackness an asset. For the lone individual, the weight is upon them. It rests upon their shoulders. The sleepless nights, the confusion, the doubt, the waking up wondering if the negated value is real. The sense of doom pervades the existence. It is Bigger in the beginning of Native Son asked by his mother to get a job. Who are you to say you are beyond employment, that you have some other value?
It sounds cliche, but then again, the demise of Black Bookstores is rather common knowledge. The answers to the questions Why? are ones that are nowhere more fully avoided than in a statement like "support black businesses." To be harsh, the tired mantra from the late 80's and early nineties belongs to a very different business market and denies the current landscape where class and education issues seem to make it more difficult to navigate technology, transform African American consciousness, or acquire capital and infrastructure.
Indeed, as I ran my own business, Karibu Books from the mid-1990's into the late 2000's I often thought about the times I heard people talk about the only reason they supported me was because our business was black. At the time I found the gesture endearing and sign of some growing consciousness that was destined to radically transform the way in which African Americans interacted with the larger society. The position was one that managed to blend my youthful idealism with my own personal conviction. I was intoxicated by the jet lag of a Black Arts Movement that had not only suggested African Americans create books for African American readers but also, as an extension of Nationalism and the quest for African American independence insisted we spend money with as many African American businesses as possible and filter as much money as we could back into our communities.
Late at night, after working twelve hour days behind a register, only to find myself in front of a computer doing accounting, I thought of Garvey and the Black Star Line and the pomp and circumstance of the parades through the center of Harlem. Actually, I didn't really think of that. I was young and intoxicated by two things, which were not limited to being black. I was excited. My children were young. I sought conviction and a dream that I could actualize through effort and hard work. Perhaps it was the American in me. It could all be worth it.
As a note, minimum wage does not exist for the self-employed. If you want to know why some of the owners mistreat their workers, ask them about how they work. The answer is ego and do unto others as you do unto yourself. The hours they work, they sleepless nights, are the result of their lessons taught to themselves by themselves on how to treat a person who works for you. One counts money, hours, time, and investments; but then often stops counting when it comes to themselves. Some will call this, simple capitalist intoxication-the dream of being rich; but I bear witness to a dream (now deferred) that imagines the sacrifice produces tangible results and suggests a small, snail paced, progress that allows one the freedom of being in sync with their ideals.
I confess, late at night when I was tired, with a to do list two or three pages long, that I thought, perhaps I endured, the same challenges my ancestors had confronted. The thought of Garvey's Negro World and the distribution of African American content seemed to be my mission well connected to the thought of one owning ones destiny. Call it American Dreaming' (Jay-Z 2007).
In the clouds of smoke, been playin' this Marvin
Mama forgive me, should be thinkin' 'bout Harvard
But that's too far away, niggas are starvin'
Ain't nothin' wrong with aim, just gotta change the target
I thought of the small businesses that would somehow build an economic infrastructure that would provide jobs and opportunities on a local and national level. Now, I'm not so sure.
Think about it, the publishing industry in the last few years has seen a series of dynamic African American authors take center stage in the world of literature. Claudia Rankine's Citizen,one of the most prized literary books of 2014-2015 was published by Greywolf Press, a top notch literary press whose diversity is notable; but the press is not Black owned. Citizen has racked up a series of awards including The Pen Open Book Literary Award, Finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry, and Winner of the National Book Critic's Circle Award in Poetry. During this same time period Kwame Alexander's Crossover, was winner of the John Newbury Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American Literature for Children. Crossover was published by Houghton Mifflin, though notably rejected by several publisher before being accepted. Most recently, Ta Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me published by Speigel and Grau, an imprint of Penguin Random House, was released this past summer to national acclaim, in what seems to be the race book event of the new century. Coates is touted as the literary descendant of James Baldwin and more specifically the successor of the literary estate belonging to the Fire Next Time.
Coates' personal situation best reflects the lay of the land. His father Paul Coates, is the owner of the independent, Black Classic Press, which specializes in publishing classic African American texts, which include the works of the late great Yosef Ben Jochanan, who died earlier this year, along with George Jackson, and J.A. Rogers. At surface glance, one might imagine that in the spirit of independence, Coates has the capacity to publish his own son's book. After all, if we are to buy books black it follows as a logical conclusion that we should publish our books black so that more jobs are created or higher tiers of the industry.
Theoretically it makes sense, but in practicality it does not. Coates' decision to not publish with his father, reflects the true practicalities of big business. Now, I am thinking of the Prince of Egypt. Yes, the Disney flick where Moses steps into the arena of the Egyptian magicians who sing a ditty for him about "You are playing with the big boys now." It's a funky tune, that invokes Set, Ra, Anubis, and the Egyptian deities we learn in the African-centered community. In league with the big-boys, one knows that you can publish all the books you want, but may still be outside of the commerce of ideas in the empire of language. Coates' decision is not a question of authenticity or commitment. Instead, it reflects the same practicality everyday working people exercise everyday. A few dollars more is all that is needed to justify getting another job. And for Coates it is not simply a few dollars, but potentially millions. Book publishing is a game of assets. Assets are not simply money made; they appreciate and depreciate. Linking up with more advanced publishers is not a question of commitment to some black ideal, it is a question of who has the ability to better increase the value of your manuscript(read asset) in the marketplace. It is the same logic invoked when we think to move to a better neighborhood to gain our children an opportunity to enter a better school. It is the same logic invoked when we we buy a house in a neighborhood full of white people because we know it will appreciate. Some of us can afford that. Some of us cannot. Regardless, this is the logic. Life and business are too often about advantage. What could be considered confusing is in reality ver instructive.
Publishing is big business, ruled by capital as much as any other. Though the empire of language exists technically in the world of the invisible, like all businesses visible assets dominate ones ability to operate within it.
And when one wants to publish a New York Times Bestseller or an award winning book, lawyers, office space, credit, and marketing capacity all influence the fluctuating value of the text.
It as though the world of literature promotes the same myths of the NBA or any other entertainment industry. We believe our individual effort to be definitive, while those who manage institutions and power know individuals are a dime a dozen.
No doubt some of us are special. But who would imagine the NBA would fold if one or two players were not elevated to the ranks and given contracts. We are a country of well over three hundred million people. We are special; yes, but then again we are not.
And perhaps this is the place where literature differs. The Bible, the first and last of all great books, because it deals with God and how you gonna get to heaven, gives us insight into the precious status given to literature within the empire.
The writer is trained to dream of creating literature that functions like Bibles within the culture. We dream of the canon and books that transcend the mundane and everyday. We want to write the book that will be read fifty, one-hundred years from now.
And so do the publishers. Someone once told me how Toni Morrison's agent paid for her children's college education with Toni's books. Books are assets within the market. They are not simply an expression of an individual's skill and quest to document the human experience via words. Isn't that what makes the writer so glamorous-the potential of a celebrity status that extends even beyond the current epoch of time?
Imagine us developing property on a gentrified city in D.C. where crack dealers harassed single mom's and set their children out on the street to hustle drugs with the risks of being sent to jail that will pay us returns for the rest of our life. A great book is Clifton Terrace just off of 14th Street in D.C. where young men hustling drugs engaged in intense battle with the Nation of Islam over the safety of citizens on the street. But that wasn't really the issue. Just hold the property, baby, hang on in there. Ten years later the property has tripled in value, there are regulations, rent restrictions and the like, but the booked value is tens of millions. Wherever black assets are, they are undervalued. They only need whites to come in and juxtapose themselves, flip the switch on the wheels of industry, to make them work better. It is the Bluest Eye, that book published first, almost under radar, that becomes powerful backlist when Beloved wins the Pulitzer Prize. And backlist is like gentrified property steadily increasing with an almost unlimited range-until the copyright runs out.
In a capitalist system the question is how do your assets appreciate.
In poetry African American authors in 2014 to 2015 were at the top of the game. Michael Afaa Weaver won the Kingsley Tufts Award in 2014 whose prize amount is $100,000 for his book the Government of Nature. In 2014 Terrance Hayes a MacArthur Genius Grant awarded whose prize amount is currently 625,000 dollars to be awarded over five years. Hayes is author of numerous books including Lighthead, which won the National Book Award, and most recently How to Be Drawn published by Penguin Books. By no means are these the only authors, though they are some of the most well-versed and talented who have been working in the world of poetry for decades perfecting their craft. Without a doubt they are some of the most disciplined, revered, and gifted writers of their generation. Even this year's winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Gregory Pardlo, author of Digest was an African American. His book is published by Four Way Books, a small black outfit-all black employees, all black staff, even the printers are black. You know I'm joking.
(Since this essay was first formulated there have been several more awards given including the Kingsley Tufts and Kate Tufts Awards going to African Americans this year. Another notable is the Yale Younger Series being awarded to an African American poet this year. It is the oldest book prize in the country and no African Americans males have won the award in its almost one hundred year history.)
It may help to explain the business of writing. While we like the idea of the celebrity author's the core of the industry is based on backlist. For this reason prizes and awards are so important. A Pulitzer Prize or Award helps the academic community wade through the thousands of published books in the book universe. The core of the industry is asset production.
Many years ago, after ordering tens of thousands of dollars of books a month, a publisher of an independent African/African American press, who also spent time as a distributor, invited my former partner and I up to New Jersey to review his operation. Though we were young brothers, half Nationalist and dedicated to selling books, by and about African people, his invitation had little to do with our consciousness. Instead, he understood the size of our orders and wanted to discuss with us ways we could do more business. At the time, street life had not yet become a fad. At the time Assata Shakur, Malcolm X, and Yurugu, a title written by Marimba Ani, which discusses the nature of Western Civilization as a corrupting force in the world, were high on our order list.
As it turns out, in these early years, poor and broke as we were, we ended up fronting the distributor fifty thousand dollars from our first bank loan. We did so in stupidity, but also in the interest of increasing the amount of money we did with Black publishers. As an extension of our commitment to African culture, we were naive enough to put our money where our mouth was and forward the money to a publisher so we could simply do more black business.
Unfortunately, things didn't work out. Those in business know, the name of the game is cash flow. After fronting the fifty thousand dollars to the distributor and , we ended up author of to imprint of Random House that was published Sometimes they would go out of there way to explain how they could buy their books anywhere, but chose me because they were conscious. I also remember the first District Manager we hired calmly negotiating with me for an extra four of five thousand dollars on our offered salary, under the explanation that the market rate for a DM was higher than what we had quoted, and that she had bills to consider-other issues to deal with. My response was to talk to my partner and approve the raise, while he and I had operated in a business with effectively no raise for four or five years as expenses and employee compensation went up.
In that respect my DM was smarter than me. Mind you, she will probably never hire anyone or run a business even a tenth of the size we did, but in terms of personal one on one negotiations one cannot deny her intelligence.
And while it is acceptable for someone to talk about all of the ways white folks abuse African Americans publicly and to speak some internal rage, it is considered a detriment to the race to speak those same concerns about African Americans.
Without a doubt, Bookselling is one of the few things someone can still do "Black". Indeed, this moment in our history may be over, but for a moment, and a great one it was, Books served as a sorta final frontier for a product that symbolized something inherently Black. IN other words, as the world of Black becomes more and more conceptual, Books serve as the final battleground the concept of being black. Yet, it is one of the most impoverished industries in the country, which is why no one else puts up Black Bookstores. Take for instance hair products, the Asian lock down on Black hair is a result of a fight to gain weight in an industry where the rewards are steep. What Black booksellers, and Black readers must contend with, is the reality that the industry and business is worth mere pennies in relationship to other products and markets African Americans engage in. In other words, Black Books are a leftover market, whose only hope resides in market innovation in line with Streetlife, Erotica, and Booksellers was Black Bookselling is one of the last sites of Black anything. It is a badge of authenticity, as shown in the case of Ta-Nehisi Coates' father, Paul Coates, who has owned a Black Press for many years. The father Coates adds an important narrative of authenticity to the story. Black authenticity is of course the closest will get to exoticism that characterizes other parts of the African Diaspora outside of America. Again, the elder Coates, assures us that Coates' anger and perspective is not a limited musing suddenly emerging from a young mind radicalized by the recent events, but actually a window into the dark matters that have always been with us. Ex panther, librarian, and book seller-We know Coates was cultivated and developed to become what he has become. Yet, we must also understand that our sense of beauty could very well be someone else's sense of ugliness.
However, the niche market has little or no leverage. In the context of a Black Bookstore, black books and by extension become a hobby of sorts. This may explain why we head towards authenticity so frequently. For it is the place where we can sing louder than everyone else in the choir, knowing how good we are. Our authenticity speaks to the profound nature of our commitment. As in the case with Coates, we are given the insider scoop into why he is allowed to speak clearly for himself.
As a note to the wise, the most powerful thing any
Chances are, they probably won't. Working a Black business is being exposed to black rage in unique ways. The weight of the world and our interaction with whites and other African Americans often demands an outlet. Now I am thinking about the calm, cool way the white record executive speaks to Levee when he lets him loose at the end of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom only to return
Mind you laughable is better than enraging, which is where I would have been a few years ago.
For to suggest that African Americans purchase or support institutions based solely on the fact that they are black is impractical. The impetus belongs to segregation days, and though we are still segregated, the concept of desegregation is sufficient to allow us access to buy any and everything we want, wherever we want. Of course this applies to Black Books.
The event years in Karibu Books were always interesting. There was always the feeling that a book signing, a big book signing would somehow change the tide of the business. For those outside of the industry, we must understand that a big book is the same as a blockbuster film. A million copies of a book sold, if we take for instance, Ta Nehisi Coates's book which sales at $21.95, is theoretically (excluding discounts and special offers) twenty million dollars. I am found of referencing the numbers on black bookselling for the year 2000 as posted by Target Market News. At that time, the black book market was estimated at $300 million dollars. They could have been high or low, and as I remember, about fifteen percent of the books were purchased in African American markets.
The suggestion that Black Books should be purchased from Black People is in actuality a leftover of Black Consciousness. Churches remain, which is to say, many Black folks will continue to purchase books at
Here in the Washington Metropolitan Area I don't know of a Black Bookstore outside of Sankofa on Georgia Ave., across the street from Howard University. It's strange because this is a highly educated Black based town. Though the city is highly gentrified now, there are still countless black folks who read and study all over. Where they getting their books.
I grew up on leftovers, I mean, I knew I was middle class, or at least thought I was, cuz my Mom would buy those boxes of steaks from Murray's Steak house and almost anytime I wanted (she was always working), I could go down into the freezer and cook me up a steak with onions. My sister and I coming home eating a steak. We would let it thaw as we cooked it on the pan, we'd be so hungry. And for some reason, there was always the burnt smell in the air at the house. I'm sidetracked, those weren't leftovers, those were the good meals while my Mom wasn't home; the point is the fridge was always full. Our house was full of tupperware containers and the old country crock tubs that margarine spread came in. If we had corn, when my sister and I would scoop that stuff into a container and shove it in the fridge. Shit, I do the same thing now. Most times, I cook a big pot of beans, another pot of rice and then get down with onions, cilantro, and jalepeno. I mean, when you come home hungry, the leftovers put your hunger in the mix quick. I ain't got no problem with leftovers. I grew up on them.
It was that way in the bookstore too. As a businessman, one has to
Allegiance of course is part the suggestion that there is something Black that we should adhere to and support because it is the right thing to do. It is an idea whose impracticality in the world of business, usually send us straight to the world of ideas. In this particular time, the argument that one should pr
Mind you laughable is better than enraging, which is where I would have been a few years ago.
My new position, to take the idea of purchasing books at a Black Bookstore as hilarious may be in part due to a lien release coming my way from one of the final debts connected to our business which failed in 2008.
Here's how it works, Cuz 2008 is a long time ago. It takes a significant amount of time to sort through a failed business, though it is almost never 7 years as it was in my case. The final remaining debt is one that I could not muster myself to pay considering I had neither taken the money out of the business or benefited from the allocation. My responsibility was of course found in some of the papers I signed. That's just the way life goes. That's just business. We simply take the risks.
Usually, when I explain to people my minor tragedy of a bookstore gone bust, it is in response to the question of whether I would ever start a Black Bookstore again. My reply is always that I dedicated much of my wealth, time, and energy to the idea of African American content distribution via the book. Of course I had many dedicated customers who supported me, but they in no ways rivaled Nike, Mercedes Benz, Victoria's Secret, or the States we live in who will let a cop off who kills your son (you pay the taxes regardless). And our business offered 401K's, tolerated bullshit negotiations with on the spot owners, 75% of insurance cost paid for full-time employees-vested in three months (if I remember correctly.) Of course we didn't have capital for that. Chances are, even a tightening of the buckle would not have pushed us through survival in the collapse of 2007-2008. In that same time Borders was gobbled up. We had four million in sales and they had four billion. What's the difference? We start again, and they move on.
It also has to be added that my former partner operated was beyond destructive. Again, I have listened to seven years of responses to a personal tragedy. I guess in retrospect I should be happy to be alive, happy my children are healthy and strong, happy I have a job, happy I have survived. Yet, here's what's strange-my personal loss has converted me into one of those people that never shopped with us in the first place. Perhaps I am being a bit too extreme. I would shop at Everyone's Place or Eso-Wan books everyday for the rest of my life; but that's about it. My reasons for supporting those institutions are particular and personal, which is my right as a consumer.
I have as much allegiance for Black Bookstores and booksellers as folks have for me as a resident expert in the industry, which is about none. My common complaint that people don't ask me to speak, present conferences, or even work on transferring the knowledge of the business to other people in Academia or the industry is not simply a chip on my shoulder. Currently, I work as a half-academic, at an HBCU where I teach course loads that are more extensive and