Traveling ‘Free Black Women’s Library’ Is Finally Getting A Permanent – BOTWC

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Traveling ‘Free Black Women’s Library’ Is Finally Getting A Permanent Home

Traveling ‘Free Black Women’s Library’ Is Finally Getting A Permanent Home

When consistency meets opportunity!

The traveling Free Black Women’s Library is finally getting a permanent home, Today.com reports.

OlaRonke Akinmowo started the Free Black Women’s Library six years ago in Brooklyn, New York. The community leader would carry at least 100 books to a stoop in Brooklyn and invite local residents to trade a book by a Black woman author. The library was an extension of Akinmowo’s commitment to social justice, born out of her exhaustion from organizing against police brutality. She figured the library would be just as effective in community building. The community project quickly took on a life of its own, building a name for itself and inspiring Akinmowo to one day dream of creating a more permanent home for the library. 

“It’s community, it’s Black womanhood. It’s reading. It’s the transformative power of reading and community. I’ve always wanted to figure out a way to have a space where the library can live full-time, and I’ve always wanted to have a bookmobile. I am hoping this will be a fully-funded cultural institution with staff, that people can use in the same way that they would use any public library. I’m hoping that it will serve as a powerful resource in the community,” said Akinmowo.

The 100 books became 1,000 and began including comic books, zines, journals and more. Soon, Akinmowo was hosting pop ups across the city, eventually expanding to various states including Detroit, Philadelphia, North Carolina, Baltimore and Los Angeles. Akinmowo is fueled by the historic reality that literary spaces have always been safe havens for the Black community and some of the earliest examples of community-building. She defines her library as a “Black feminist space,” which is “anti-racist, anti-sexist, and anti-capitalist.” Akinmowo already has literary works by icons such as Toni Morrison and Zora Neale Hurston but also has new titles like Tressie McMillan Cottom’s “THICK.” She plans to continue expanding the collection and the mission.

“I’ve started a collection of Black nonbinary authors as well. I want to make sure I acknowledge not just Black women, but Black nonbinary authors, Black gender-nonconforming authors, Black agender authors, Black queer authors. I want to make sure I’m highlighting their work as well. I claim them as authors whose voices need to be amplified,” Akinmowo explained.

Now her dream is coming true. Recently, she launched a GoFundMe campaign which has raised more than $100,000 since its inception. She plans to use the funds to find a storefront in Brooklyn for the library as well as a van or truck to operate as a “bookmobile” so she can continue her traveling work.

“I was humbled and blown away and surprised. I was feeling really affirmed, like, ‘People really believe in this project and think it’s a good idea!’ I want to make people proud. The fact that I was able to raise it in such a short amount of time is something I’m super grateful for,” Akinmowo said. 

She hopes to have secured the building and bookmobile by the end of summer. She plans to continue her transformative and liberating work of being a beacon for Black women everywhere.

“The library shows us as we are, in different forms and different perspectives. This is important to me because, still, in 2021, Black women are minimized, objectified, erased, harassed, criminalized, threatened and made to feel like we’re less-than. Part of what the library does is, in addition to showing how amazing we are, it shows how human we are. It shows us as human beings who are worthy of space, daydreaming, and vulnerability,” said Akinmowo.

Congratulations OlaRonke! Because of you, we can!

Photo Courtesy of @TheFreeBlackWomensLibrary/Instagram