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.

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