Thursday, January 24, 2008

January 24, 2008: RIP, Karibu

Imagine my complete and utter astonishment when I opened my e-mail and received this missive, date January 22, 2008:

Dear Karibu Customer,

After 15 years of service within the Washington, DC metropolitan area, Karibu Books, a Black bookstore chain will be closing its doors. We sincerely thank each and every one of you for your patronage and support. We are optimistic that our mission to empower and educate through a comprehensive selection of books by and about people of African descent will continue to resonate within the communities we proudly served.

Since 1993, we have been blessed to help thousands of local, regional and national authors share their incredible stories of faith, hope, love, peace, politics and race. We cannot begin to express our gratitude for the countless authors who have graced our six stores and enriched our customers’ lives.

On Sunday, January 27th, We will be closing our Security Square (Baltimore, MD) and Forestville locations. The remaining locations, Bowie Town Center, The Mall at Prince Georges and Iverson Mall will close on Sunday, February 10th. Our Pentagon City store is already closed.

Effective immediately, all inventory at all locations will be 50% off. All fixtures will also be available for purchase on February 10th. See individual store managers for more information.

Again, we respectfully thank you for your loyalty, laughter and love. What an honor and privilege it has been to serve our community!

Simba Sana
Karibu Books

Let the bloodletting begin.

I don't know if folks understand the ramifications of this loss to the book-buying communities and to authors like myself who aren't pulling down J.K. Rowling-like numbers.

Where I can hardly find any books on issues concerning people of color, or books by authors of color in the evil chain bookstore just up the street from me, I never have a problem locating what I needed at Karibu. Where the same evil chain, less a mile from my home, requires people to special order my books, Karibu stocks my work at their six locations.

I had a signing at the Karibu store in P.G. Plaza in the fall of 2004 for my book Back to Life. I couldn't put my signature on the title pages fast enough before the books would go flying out the building. The staff was always helpful and courteous, always making me like I was more than just some lowly midlist author. Signings at a Karibu store were more like hanging out with friends and less like actual work.

The venues in the DC-area for books by people of color have been dwindling as of late. Reprints in L'Enfant Plaza shut its doors. So has Sisterspace. Now Karibu. I pray that this isn't the first note of the death knell for independent bookstores in general, and of those for folks of color in particular. As both an author and a person of color, I couldn't and wouldn't want to imagine a world so horribly deprived.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Greetings from Bootleg University

I have to share, y’all…

So, I am answering my e-mail on the first Monday of the New Year – “minding my own bidness,” as Eddie Murphy would say – when I open the following e-mail from my alma mater, Bootleg University (obvious, though apropos, not its real name; all names are withheld or changed to protect anonymity):

Dear Dr. Coakley-Thompson,
President [Name Withheld] of Bootleg University was invited to the inauguration of Robert Franklin, Jr. as the tenth president of Morehouse College in Atlanta on Friday, February 15, but… is unable to attend. Is there any chance you would be interested in attending as the University's representative?

I confess; I am both honored that they’d thought of me and curious as to why… all at the same time. After all, when I’d attended the university, I wasn’t even a mere blip on the radar screen there. I also have a love/hate relationship with the place. Never known to nurture talent, this is the same university who, rumor has it, told a certain popular action film star (hint: his ex is married to a much younger man, with whom he’s friends) to hang it up and find work in some other field. Rumor also has it that they’d told another theater student that she’d never amount to nothing. Years later, she became one of the breakout stars of a famous Black musical co-writen by Ossie Davis. I rest my case.

Nonetheless, curiosity devours me whole. I send the following missive in response:

Good evening, [Redacted].
I am honored that you are considering me to be the University's representative on such a monumental occasion. I am certainly interested in attending but remain curious at to what representing the University would entail.
Please feel free to reach me at xxx-xxx-xxxx to discuss this further.
Wendy Coakley-Thompson, Ph.D.

[Redacted] does, indeed, call, and we discuss the proposition on the table. It turns out that our chronically wrong Alumni Association has told him that I still live in Atlanta. When I tell [Redacted] that I’ve relocated back to DC, he asks if I’d consider flying down to represent the president at the graduation, at the ensuing convocation, and at the concert on graduation night. I’m thinking a free trip to the ATL, during which, after my spokes model duties, I could drop into my old haunts and sign a few books… perhaps host a reading or two. “Sure,” I say.

[Redacted] and I hang up, all simpatico. “Thanks very much for agreeing to represent Bootleg University,” he says in a subsequent e-mail, then asks for my updated contact info, which I happily give. Moreover, [Redacted] and I are now on a first-name basis now. I e-mail back promptly:

Hi there, [Redacted].
Good talking to you today.
I'm happy to represent my alma mater. I'm sure we'll be working out all of the transport and accommodation details as the time approaches… Let's talk again soon.

Simpatico evaporates like water in the Mojave Desert, though, when I get [Redacted’s] next e-mail:

To read the rest, check out the January 17, 2008 entry on Blogging in Black...

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

January 1, 2008: Wishing You a Happy New Year

Just a shorty to extend peace and blessings to you for this New Year, 2008.

Keep watching this space and travel with me for what I hope will be a year of numerous successes in reaping the fruits from a field well tilled...