The love affair between Mahogany Books, Anacostia’s new African-American bookstore, and Washingtonians has proven itself a thing of classic passion rather quickly. Having opened its doors on Nov. 24, the 500-sq. ft. bookstore, located in the Anacostia Arts Center on Good Hope Road, has become a staple and wistful reminder of positive community spaces. At a time when brick and mortar book retailers have all but gone the way of the West African Black Rhinoceros, D.C. residents remain firmly attached to Black bookstores.
“I think part of this is engrained in my wife and myself that moving away from the traditional bookstore was heart-wrenching. When my wife and I were dating, that was a date for us – meet at a bookstore and browse the shelves and have coffee,” Mahogany Books owner, Derrick Young told the AFRO. “Bookstores have always been a place of refuge, where you can go and relax and find knowledge or chill out. It’s a place of community.”
Young, who co-founded Mahogany Books alongside his wife, Ramunda, said it was important to provide a space where Blacks saw themselves represented positively and accurately – and within a community where access is often denied. “The core of what we want is social entrepreneurship; I wanted to create a legacy for my family by supporting them, but also paying forward what I received from my mentors. I grew up in Anacostia playing dodgeball in the street. This is home, so I want to give back and give opportunity,” Young said. “People here have the desire and the drive, but in many instances, they lack the access. Many are geniuses, yet the thing that doesn’t allow them to reach their full potential is access. That is what having a bookstore in Anacostia allows.”
Candace Crews, a Virginia-based educator told the AFRO: “I believe that children, and really all people, need to see reflections of themselves in all aspects of life – including a bookstore, which is a community space. It is awesome that it is here. I live in Arlington and made a special trip over here just to offer my support.” Mahogany Books joins other Black-owned bookstores that are mostly located in Northwest D.C.
Mahogany Books, named for the Young’s 11-year-old daughter, partners with Duende District, a D.C.-based pop-up bookstore that specialized in books written for, by, and about people of color including Latinx, Native American, and African cultures.
Duende owner Angela Maria Spring told the AFRO that integrating spaces for people of color to share stories and experiences helps reset the gaze. “There are so many Latinx authors who have been writing and young people who did not know they existed. With so many second-generation Latinx young adults who speak Spanglish (a language that combines words and idioms from Spanish and English) it was important to introduce authors that write using it,”
Spring, whose family is from Central America told the AFRO. “Also for African-American students receiving bilingual instruction, these books offer a cultural bridge between school lessons and their imaginations.”
The bookstore is scheduled to have a formal grand opening in February during Black History Month.