“Booked” for Support

Community asked to give financial support to Marcus Books
Yahasantewaa Williams proudly holds up the book which she purchased after the Marcus Community meeting on the first day of Black History Month.

Yahasantewaa Williams proudly holds up the book which she purchased after the Marcus Community meeting on the first day of Black History Month.

Two young supporters of Marcus Books. Photo by Gene Hazzard.

Two young supporters of Marcus Books. Photo by Gene Hazzard.

By Lee Hubbard A cross section of people from all over Northern California showed up in Oakland at Marcus Book store Monday night to discuss ways to keep the oldest black bookstore in the country open. Conducted by Oakland Post Publisher Paul Cobb, the history and legacy of the store was discussed as patrons walked in and out buying books. Many of the attendees volunteered to help spread the word to their friends, neighbors, churches and social groups. “We must use all methods of marketing, but more importantly, this is an opportunity to structure internet marketing and promotions campaign as well”, said Wil Ussery, who lives in San Francisco. Ussery also proposed a multi-level strategy involving refinancing, creation of a foundation and securing investors as ways to bring more revenue the black book store. “We have to convert communication about what’s going on at Marcus books, into support for the store within the community,” said Walter Riley, an Oakland attorney who was able to return home safely from the recent Haitian earthquake. Riley also explained how individuals could contribute to their favorite non-profit tax-exempt organization to encourage them to purchase books for their libraries. He also asked the attendees to have their churches, temples and mosques purchase books for their libraries. Rev. Dion Evans, religious broadcaster for KFAX’s “Issues after Dark” radio program said he will use his program to promote faith-based community for the store. The store has been at the center of black literary and black cultural life across the country. But the recent economic downturn along with the advent of the large discount book stores and the decline in black book sales over the last few years, helped to shrink the sales of the business. Some of the ideas bantered about at the Monday meeting included having organized fieldtrips of students to visit the stores in San Francisco and Oakland to buy books, get various political and social organizations involved in buying books as a group purchase, have collegiate and high school departments buy books, and encourage fundraising efforts to help fortify the stores finances. Douglass Coleman, an Oakland based black activist, wrote a check for $1,250 dollars to Marcus Books. He said that Marcus has had an everlasting impact on his life and he was giving back to help the store when it is in need. “This store is an important institution to the African American community,” said Coleman. “A light is turned on in your head, when you come into this place.” Alona Clifton, a former Peralta College Board member and Vice President of the Oakland chapter of Bay Area Woman Organized for Political Action, said she is going to organize her group to hold a series of meetings at the Oakland Marcus Books location and encourage its members to shop at the store for books, cards, calendars, posters and children’s books. Clifton said she would help lead the effort to help coordinate the 1,500 various Black interdenominational houses of worship, in the nine bay area counties, “to buy and order books through Marcus for the youth in their churches,” said Clifton. “They need to develop libraries for their children. Marcus Books Store needs to be a conduit to provide books to Black children who need them.” Sylvester Brooks, a member of the Associated Real Property Brokers, a group of black realtors, said he would help to spread the word through his association. “Through our newsletter, I will help inform our members about the plight of Marcus Books,” said Brooks. “We will make a donation through our legal fund to buy books. To give back to the community that helped to support us.” For more information on how to join the campaign to save Marcus Books contact Paul Cobb or Maxine Ussery at the Post (510) 287-8200.
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