All photos by: Rob Jinks
The historic Anacostia neighborhood in Southeast Washington, D.C. is filled with monumental stories from the pinnacle of the civil rights movements, to hardworking African Americans trying to stabilize their neighborhood to racial violence and drugs that have deemed the area an unsafe zone for many. However, throughout the neighborhoods history and transition points, there has been no bookstore in sight to harness these stories for the past two decades… until now.
Thanks to Black-owned company MahoganyBooks, a little piece of community education will be added to the area in the four-year-old Anacostia Arts Center.
“In D.C., there’s a bunch of gentrification going on, as we know, but Southeast is still heavily populated with Black people,” Ramunda Young, who co-owns the company with her husband Derrick tells Atlanta Black Star.
She adds that for us to be in that space, “it was critical for our community to have access to quality new books that reflect who we are as a people. And that location really speaks to that.”
While the African American population in the nation’s capital, which was once known as “chocolate city” has fallen below 50 percent, Black people still make up 90 percent of the Anacostia area residents. When it comes to education, approximately 36 percent of the city’s 469,000 residents over the age of 16 are reading at the lowest literacy level.
“When you look at what illiteracy means for our community, and how the rate of young people being incarcerated is based off the level of their reading, we want to help stop that increase,” stressed Young, noting one effective way is to offer a representative and “accessible bookstore in the community.”
Mahogany, which is also the name of the couple’s 12-year-old avid reading daughter, will be the first bookstore in the Anacostia neighborhood since Pyramid Books closed in the mid-1990s.