Spotlight | Semicolon Bookstore & Gallery
I had the pleasure of visiting Semicolon Bookstore & Gallery while on a trip to Chicago in late August/early September 2019. While in the city, I visited a number of bookstores, but was disappointed that I hadn’t found any that were Black owned. At the tail end of my trip, I discovered that there was a brand new, Black woman owned bookstore in the River West neighborhood of Chicago! I made it a point to head over there in the little bit of time I had left in the city.
As soon as I walked in the door, I felt a sense of belonging. Danielle, owner of Semicolon Bookstore, welcomed me with a huge smile and a warm energy. I could tell immediately that she is passionate about what she does and cares deeply about the experience of her patrons. Chatting with her and her employee, Brittany, was like catching up with old friends.
Not only does Semicolon have an expansive and diverse selection of books, it also serves as a beautiful art gallery. The eclectic mix of art, music, and open workspace make for an afternoon full of inspiration, creativity and productivity.
I opened Semicolon because I wanted to create a comfortable space for Black women to read, converse, and be themselves while also being surrounded by my favorite things -- books!
When asked about the importance of Black owned bookstores in the Chicago community and beyond, Danielle responded,
In my opinion, the presence of Black-owned bookstores in my community as well as the world are not only crucial, but indispensable to the changes that need to occur in the literary narrative. Black people are avid readers, avid writers, and are deserving of comfortable spaces in which to share our stories.
She also touches on the economic difficulties for Black bookstore owners.
I feel like bookstores have extremely high barriers to entry -- the largest of which being capital, which happens to be one of the most difficult things for Black people to attain. Whether in the form of loans, investors, or even general community support, Black bookstore owners are forced to carry the load of low margins, paired with the inability to access necessary capital ... which obviously creates the perfect storm in terms of an entrepreneur's inability to continue to effectively run their business.
Despite these difficulties, Danielle was determined to provide this space for her community to encourage literacy and artistic expression. I'll never forget that as I was leaving to head to the airport, Danielle emphasized, "Don't act like you don't have a home here!" I’m excited to see what the future holds for Semicolon Chi and what its impact will be on this small pocket of the world.
I am likely more grateful for my space than anyone who enters it. It has served as a home to my thoughts, and will continue to act as a catalyst in my quest to change the world, one word at a time!
515 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60642
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