Black-owned bookstores want action after influx in business

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Owner Ali Nervis displays books on race relations at his bookstore Friday, Aug. 21, 2020 in Phoenix. Black-owned bookstores across the U.S. have seen increased sales following the police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and store owners are now asking people who have read about Black history and culture to take action against the systems that have enabled racism. (AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX – A renewed focus on social justice in the wake of police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd has seen sales soar at Black-owned bookstores around the country as customers seek out knowledge from their own communities.

The stores have always served as a community space for Black people to gather and educate themselves and their communities about their culture and history.

Sales increased exponentially after calls on social media in June encouraged people to spend their money at Black-owned businesses amid national tension.

Ali Nervis, the owner of Grassrootz Books and Juice Bar, Phoenix’s only Black-owned bookstore, said in two days his store received 200 orders for books on race relations, more than all they had received since opening in September 2019.

“People have this sense to be educated on what is happening in the country and what led up to this point,” Nervis said of protests and community tension in Phoenix. “We carry a lot of books about social commentary, history and books written by Black authors. I think that is part of the reason why we’ve seen a dramatic increase in our book sales.”

Nervis has since caught up with an increase in sales and has taken time to reflect on what is happening in society, like other Black leaders in the industry.

“It’s wonderful that Black people are wanting to support Black people — it’s not new, but support has expanded, interest has increased and more people have taken it on,” said Paul Coates, owner of Black Classic Press, a Black-owned publishing and printing company based in Baltimore.

“I’ve seen increases in demand before. There was a bump during the Civil Rights Movement and during the Black Power Movement. People were searching for information. There was interest around the time Roots came out too.”