Ramunda and Derrick Young gained inspiration for their bookstore’s name from their daughter, Mahogany. The shop sells books written by and about people of the African Diaspora. (Courtesy Photo, credit to Kea Taylor)

By Megan Sayles, AFRO Business Writer
Report for America Corps Member
Msayles@afro.com

MahoganyBooks, a bookstore that exclusively sells works written by and about people of the African Diaspora, is opening its second store at the National Harbor in Prince George’s County.

Co-founders and owners Ramunda and Derrick Young initially intended to launch this location on June 19 to commemorate the Juneteenth holiday, but the permit process was delayed, in part because of the pandemic. The couple is hoping to open the shop this Saturday, July 3, but if not, they plan to host their soft launch next week. 

MahoganyBooks derives its name from the Youngs’ daughter, Mahogany, as well as the color, which the couple said represents the strength and beauty of the Black community. It originally opened as an online bookstore in 2007, and in 2017, the Youngs established their first bricks-and-mortar location in the Anacostia neighborhood in Washington, D.C. 

Now, they are migrating to Prince George’s County to reach their target audience. The county’s population is 63% African-American, and they said it’s important to provide the community with a bookstore that focuses on them. 

As young people, both Ramunda and Derrick had an interest in books. Growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Ramunda did not have access to books written by or about Black people until she attended college, but it was important for her to learn more about the history and accomplishments of her community. 

“Knowing how important our history is and knowing how impactful our culture is was a huge impetus for why we started,” said Ramunda. 

According to Derrick, books were a significant part of his childhood, but similar to Ramunda, they really began to impact him when he attended college. Through reading, he was better able to identify his roots and discover what he wanted to become of his legacy. 

“I wanted to be able to be in business for myself, but in doing that, I wanted to find something that would allow me to have an impact and give back in a way that I had the chance to grow from and be empowered by,” said Derrick. 

Although MahoganyBooks is targeted at the Black community, it also serves as an educational setting for the wider American community where regardless of ideology, ethnicity, gender and sexuality, people can access information to better themselves. 

“When people connect with other ethnicities and backgrounds it creates empathy, and right now, more than ever in the world, we need more empathy,” said Ramunda. “We need to understand different cultures and ethnicities, and Black books allow people to do that.” 

The new location is three times the size of the Anacostia bookstore and will provide a larger selection of books for customers to browse. MahoganyBooks is also partnering with Jirani Coffeehouse, a Black-owned business, to serve coffee to its patrons. 

Although being in business together as a married couple has come with its challenges, the mutual respect and trust Ramunda and Derrick share has allowed them to capitalize on their strengths and remain successful. 

“I learn from him, and he learns from me, and we grow, not just as business people, but as a husband and wife team as well,” said Ramunda.

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