“Black bookstores are becoming extinct. Marcus Books is the oldest of them all. Fifty years is a long time to serve as a cultural vessel and venue for not just a community, but the entire Bay Area.
In 1989, I stood on the corner of Ashby and Shattuck Blvd. and called Blanche Richardson at Marcus on MLK, Jr. Drive to tell her I wanted to stop by to sign copies of my then novel because my publisher had failed to include Marcus on my short book tour. Blanche picked me up at the phone booth and drove me to Marcus. We have been friends ever since.
I have witnessed new authors standing in front of huge audiences because Marcus helped promote their work by the compelling synopsis Blanche would write about their books in mailers. Black writers consider Marcus books a cultural landmark. There are trees in my neighborhood that aren’t allowed to be cut down for this same reason. I can’t imagine Oakland or San Francisco without them.
As things now stand, the chains who undercut the prices are running too many independent bookstores out of business, and black bookstores are faced with a double whammy. I will continue to support them no matter what because I am not going to stand by and watch this cultural tree with very deep roots, become another casualty. The economy is partially to blame, but then there’s also greed and the cut-throat, win-at-all-costs, who-cares-about your neighbor attitude that has brought us here. It’s shameful. Marcus Books should still be standing and thriving fifty years from now. It’s up to us to put our money where our mouth is. I’m willing.”