Traveling Free Black Women’s Library seeks permanent home

By: Norman Dotson Jr./BNC Digital

The traveling Free Black Women’s Library is finally getting a permanent home after nearly six years of pop-up shops throughout Brooklyn, New York.

In 2015, the Free Black Women’s Library could be found on the steps of a Brooklyn brownstone.

Founder, OlaRonke Akinmowo would carry at least 100 books by Black women authors to a stoop and invite community members to trade a book by a Black woman author.

According to Because of Them We Can, Akinmowo figured the library would be just as effective in community building. The community project quickly took on a life of its own, building a name for itself and inspiring Akinmowo to dream of creating a more permanent home for the library.

“It’s community, it’s Black womanhood. It’s reading. It’s the transformative power of reading and community. I’ve always wanted to figure out a way to have a space where the library can live full-time, and I’ve always wanted to have a bookmobile,” Akinmowo told the site. “I am hoping this will be a fully-funded cultural institution with staff, that people can use in the same way that they would use any public library. I’m hoping that it will serve as a powerful resource in the community.”

Akinmowo also described her library as a “Black feminist space,” which is “anti-racist, anti-sexist, and anti-capitalist,” as she features works by Toni Morrison and Zora Neale Hurston but also has new titles like Tressie McMillan Cottom’s THICK.

“I’ve started a collection of Black nonbinary authors as well. I want to make sure I acknowledge not just Black women, but Black nonbinary authors, Black gender-nonconforming authors, Black agender authors, Black queer authors. I want to make sure I’m highlighting their work as well. I claim them as authors whose voices need to be amplified,” she explained.

With a GoFundMe campaign which has raised more than $100,000, the plan is to use the funds to find a storefront in Brooklyn for the library as well as a van or truck to operate as a “bookmobile” so she can continue her traveling work.

In a statement with NBC Akinmowo stated she was “humbled and blown away and surprised” by the amount of support the library has gotten.

“I was feeling really affirmed, like, ‘People really believe in this project and think it’s a good idea!’ I want to make people proud. The fact that I was able to raise it in such a short amount of time is something I’m super grateful for,” she said.

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