For decades Anacostia—a Black neighborhood in Southeast Washington, D.C.—had a bad rap for being plagued by violence and drugs. A Black couple is looking to change that narrative and reclaim the neighborhood’s image by opening up a bookstore in the community that features literature centered around the African diaspora, Atlanta Black Star reported.
Entrepreneurs Derrick and Ramunda Young—founders of MahoganyBooks—felt like there was a pressing need to introduce a bookstore to the community, the news outlet writes. Over the past 20 years, there haven’t been any bookstores in Anacostia and the alarming illiteracy rates in D.C. are reflective of the lack of access to literature. Of the 469,000 residents who are over the age of 16, nearly 36 percent of these individuals are below the basic literacy level. Many of those people live east of the Anacostia River, reports the source.
“When you look at what illiteracy means for our community, and how the rate of young people being incarcerated is based off the level of their reading, we want to help stop that increase,” Ramunda told the news outlet.
Combating illiteracy in the area isn’t the only thing that motivated the Youngs to open MahoganyBooks. Like many other Black cities throughout the country, D.C. has felt the wrath of gentrification and the couple wants to ensure that the neighborhood’s Black identity isn’t erased by the changes. Centuries ago, the neighborhood was occupied by Nacotchtank natives and Frederick Douglass once called Anacostia home. It was also home to Black families during the Civil Rights movement. The community’s rich history inspired the Youngs to feature literature by African American writers and books that capture the essence of the Black experience in America.
The couple—who both worked at Black-owned bookstores in the past—also wanted to step into the realm of entrepreneurship because they believed representation amongst business owners in the community was important. “It is important for MahoganyBooks to be in Anacostia because we need to have places where entrepreneurs look like the community, where they see that positive reflection, and where they feel like they are a part of something greater than themselves,” said Derrick.
MahoganyBooks—which is named after the couple’s 12-year-old daughter—is housed in the Anacostia Arts Center.
SOURCE: Atlanta Black Star