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What is the importance of Black bookstores?

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There’s no denying the power of literacy and its critical role in shaping a successful and fulfilling life. But there’s more to reading than its practical application in school and at work. Reading enables the practice of storytelling, and storytelling is a way for us to share experiences, pass on knowledge and wisdom, and connect with others on a deeper level. It’s a way to heal, grow, and overcome.

In celebration of International Children’s Book Day (April 2), we are exploring the value of Black bookstores in Canada and beyond.

Why are Black bookstores important?

Black bookstores hold significant importance in our society for various reasons.

First, Black bookstores provide a space for Black authors, writers, and publishers to showcase their work and share their stories. This is especially important as, historically, Black voices have been marginalized and underrepresented in the mainstream publishing industry. By having a platform to showcase their work, Black bookstores help to promote diversity and inclusivity in literature.

Additionally, Black bookstores serve as community hubs. They offer a safe and welcoming space where individuals can come together, connect, and engage in tough conversations about issues affecting the Black community.

Black bookstores also play an essential role in educating the public about Black history, culture, and experiences. By providing access to books and resources on Black history and culture, these bookstores help to combat the erasure of Black contributions to society and promote a more accurate understanding of world history and the Black experience.

Black-owned bookstores in Canada

Canada is home to many exceptional Afrocentric bookstores. Here are nine across the country worth a visit (or browse online):

  1. Tusome Books in Winnipeg, MB — This online bookstore offers a great selection of books. You can visit their website at

  2. Cover to Cover Bookshelf in Winnipeg, MB — Find them at 3737-B Portage Ave. or visit their website at

  3. Librairie Rancines in Montréal-Nord, QC — Find them at 5118 Charleroi, or visit their website at

  4. The Biscuit Eater Cafe & Books in Mahone Bay, NS — Find them at 16 Orchard St. or visit their website at

  5. A Different Booklist in Toronto, ON — Find them at 779 Bathurst St. or visit their website at

  6. Nile Valley Books in Toronto, ON — Find them at 1921 Gerrard St E, or visit their Facebook page at

  7. Old’s Cool General Store in Toronto, ON — Find them at 250 Westlake Ave. or visit their website at

  8. Knowledge Bookstore in Brampton, ON — Find them at 177 Queen St W or visit their website at

  9. Burke's Bookstore based in Toronto, ON — visit their website at

Why is storytelling important in Black culture?

Storytelling is an integral part of Black culture and has played a crucial role in preserving and sharing the experiences, values, and histories of Black people.

Here are a few reasons why storytelling is so important in Black culture:

  • Preserving cultural traditions: Through storytelling, Black communities have been able to preserve their cultural traditions and pass them down from generation to generation.

  • Building community: Storytelling has also played a key role in strengthening Black communities.

  • Amplifying voices: Storytelling has also been a powerful tool for uplifting marginalized voices and shedding light on the experiences of those who have been historically oppressed.

  • Educating and inspiring: Storytelling has the power to educate and inspire. By sharing stories of struggle, resilience, and triumph, Black people have inspired others to persevere in the face of adversity and work towards a better future.

Feeling inspired? Here are ten talented Black Canadian authors:

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  1. Harrison Mooney

  2. Michael Fraser

  3. Lorna Goodison

  4. Tolu Oloruntoba

  5. Dionne Brand

  6. Jasmine Sealy

  7. Janice Lynn Mather

  8. Suzette Mayr

  9. Chelene Knight

  10. Deborah Falaye

And let’s not forget the kids. Here are three Black storybooks:

  • I am Curious by Kelly Greenawalt, ideal for beginner readers

  • It’s OK by Christopher Germer, teaches kids three to seven the power of self-compassion

  • Where the Black Flowers Bloom by Ronald L. Smith, an imaginative fantasy YA novel

For more recommendations, check out reading suggestions from these Black bookstore owners.

What is the oldest Black-owned bookstore?

While there is some debate about which bookstore is truly the oldest in North America, Marshall’s Music and Book Store in Jackson, Mississippi, is often cited as the oldest operating Black-owned bookstore in the United States. Founded by Benjamin Marshall, the store has been a staple of the Jackson community for over 75 years.

Here’s to the power of storytelling

Storytelling inspires and challenges, heals and builds, confronts and comforts. Let’s continue supporting Black-owned bookstores in Canada and abroad, continuing the tradition of community and connection.

Want to continue the conversation with your team? Let’s talk.

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