Alex Crayon finds more than books when he visits an Oklahoma City bookstore.
The first thing I noticed when I pulled into the snow-covered parking lot at Nappy Roots Books in northeast Oklahoma City were the posters. At the entrance to the glass door, there were handwritten signs that read, “Masks are required inside,” inviting people to “come in and warm up.” In the window by the door, signs proudly advertised Nappy Roots as a black-owned company supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, and flyers posted information about voting rights, clearing warrants, and the chess club.
Not exactly Barnes & Noble – in the best possible way.
Nappy Roots Books, if I have to sum up, is an intimate setting – not just a place. To simply refer to this bookstore as a place would mean devaluing it and shedding life on the walls of this one-room store. New and old books, fiction and non-fiction, religious texts and travel companions are on the densely packed bookcases. Two well-worn loungers flank a small table with a jar of biscuits. A coffee machine is on a shelf next to the cash register. And in the middle of the store is a long metal bookcase that holds all kinds of black literature: James Baldwin leans on local writers whose self-published books, according to owner Camille Landry, are a source of empowerment for their authors. “There are people who say, ‘I spent twelve years in prison and I came out and wrote about it, and I want to share that. “It is random house Not I will pick up the book. But it’s on the shelf, and the author speaks not only to other people who have had the same experience, but also to other people in the church who have not had that experience and who would otherwise have difficulty understanding it. “
According to Landry, this shared understanding is at the heart of Nappy Roots Books’ mission. When I visited Nappy Roots, which has been struggling financially since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, I had the opportunity to sit down with her and talk about the store, why it’s so much more than just a place to be Books can buy.
It is this shared understanding that is at the heart of Nappy Roots Books’ mission.
Diaper Roots opened on June 19, 2018, a day that celebrated the full emancipation of slaves after the civil war. This was no accident as the support and mobilization of the Black Community in northeast Oklahoma City is at the heart of what makes Nappy Roots so special. “When we first opened,” Landry said, leaning on one of the daybeds next to me, “we were the only black bookstore between St. Louis and Dallas. We exist because there was no place to keep literature by, for, and about the African community. And there was nowhere for people to gather and do the work that needs to be done for that community. “She described countless examples of services offered by Nappy Roots: lessons in financial literacy, affordable funeral planning, religious advice on end-of-life decisions, and information on women’s health – to name a few. “We released this information for the community. Other organizations do this, but they don’t do it in a way that is culturally accessible and they are not always trusted. So let’s try here. “
Her inspiration for Nappy Roots Books came from her teenage years, when she regularly visited a black-owned bookstore in Chicago where she grew up. “Ellis Books is why I am who I am today. This shop was the first place I read a whole bunch of things that made up the commitment I have to the things I do now. It meant everything to me. “She stressed the importance of business as a cultural hub, a meeting place where she was trained in ways that several universities could not. “It was a room very similar to this one [in Nappy Roots Books], just a little funky room on the south side of Chicago, filled with books piled in used bookcases. I sat with people who were smarter than me, who were better informed than me, and Mr. Ellis said, “You need to read this. Come back and let’s talk about it. “It was fundamental. It made so many things happen in our Chicago community.” Landry hopes that Nappy Roots in Oklahoma City can make the same changes by making the store the epicenter of black empowerment and a source of what is needed Uses resources for the OKC community.
This homely bookstore is a place to unleash this opportunity, to tap into this potential and to bring about collaborative improvements and change.
When I asked her about the power of books themselves, she gave me a specific example describing her firefighter obsessed grandson’s reaction to receiving a book with a multicultural cast of firefighters. “He did the happy dance. He said, “This is what I’ll look like when I grow up!” This is me! This book is about me. “That may sound trivial, but it is anything but trivial. Seeing a face that looked like his was everything for him. It told him that his dream was a possibility. “This possibility is the breath of life from diaper roots. Potential that has not yet been exhausted seems to float up and down the hallways, nestle between the books and wait under the pages. This homely bookstore is a place to unleash this opportunity, to tap into this potential and to bring about collaborative improvements and change. As Landry simply told me, “We try to be a place where ideas come to life.”
When I left Nappy Roots Books with a newly purchased copy of Things that make white people uncomfortable, by Michael Bennet, a former NFL player, and Dave Zirin – I felt the prolonged touch of the bookstore: a gentle, warm breeze with a swelling feeling, a sensation unlike the unique intimacy, dustier with the finger over the spikes Driving novels and poetry collections like drawing a line on that one particular book that will inevitably spark your imagination and maybe, just maybe, inspire you to act.
University of Oklahoma