The Black Syllabus
Marcus Books 60th Anniversary Fundraiser
Updated: Jun 30, 2020
As you all know, I am incredibly passionate about Black owned bookstores. Being that the Bay Area is my home, Marcus Books is of course my favorite and has a very special place in my heart.
Marcus Books is the oldest independent Black bookstore in the country. They are a family-owned business, founded by Dr. Raye Richardson and Dr. Julian Richardson in 1960. The first store opened in San Francisco’s Fillmore district, followed by the opening of their Oakland store in the 1980s. The San Francisco location closed in 2014, but the Oakland store still stands at 3900 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Marcus Books (named after political activist and author Marcus Garvey) has been patronized by the likes of Toni Morrison, Rosa Parks, Muhammad Ali, Barry White, Walter Mosley, B.B. King, and Patti LaBelle. The store is currently owned and run by the founders’ children, Karen Johnson, Blanche Richardson, and Billy Richardson.
As many of us know, Black owned bookstores have been on the decline over the last couple of decades. Between 1999 and 2014, the number of Black bookstores declined by 83%, from 325 to only 54. It is vital that we do what we can to save these businesses that have served our communities for generations. Not only is promoting literacy and education essential, but being able to do so in a culturally competent environment where we see ourselves represented dynamically is a privilege that we can’t let go to waste. “We need Black bookstores because we need more chances to see the diversity and depth of our people.”
This year marks the 60th anniversary of Marcus Books, as well as what would have been co-founder Dr. Raye Richardson’s 100th birthday. While I am looking into the logistics of planning a celebration for these two milestones, I think it is fitting to start off with this fundraiser. I hope to raise enough money to offset the rising costs of running a small independent business in a corner of the Bay Area that is facing rapid gentrification. Additionally, Marcus Books has not been immune to the impact of COVID-19 on small businesses. While the store is temporarily closed and sales are at a halt, this money will help keep Marcus Books afloat so that they can re-open with confidence and security once it is safe to do so. I hope you all will consider donating and/or sharing this campaign, as well as patronizing Marcus Books when their doors re-open. While their website is under construction, you can still place orders for local pick up or to be shipped by calling (510) 652-2344. Let’s support this community treasure in keeping their doors open!
A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots. - Marcus Garvey