Over 50 people came together Sunday afternoon to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the opening of Librarie Racines.
The Montreal-North bookstore held a celebratory event with drinks and songs to mark the milestone.
“The first year is always the toughest,” Sophia Sahrane from Librarie Racine said.
The bookstore sells literature almost entirely written by black or racialized authors. Of the books sold at Racines, 90 to 95 per cent are written by people of colour, Indigenous people and other minorities.
Founder Gabriella Knité says she and her friends did not feel safe at certain big chain bookstores.
“We didn’t feel represented. We couldn’t see us and people that look like us inside the books or on posters on the walls,” Knité said.
Knité said she could not find the place she was looking for so she decided to make her own.
Over the past year, the store has grown into something bigger than a bookstore, Sahrane said. The colourful, vibrant space has transformed from a bookstore into a community space.
“Representation in literature is how it started, but it has developed into this amazing community space where people have events and workshops,” Sahrane said.
Now, not only does the Afrocentric store sell books but also art and fashion by local artists in the community and abroad.
Haitian graphic artist Ralph Penel says the store gives him the opportunity to showcase his work to a wider audience.
Knité says the literature from other countries helps those who have not been to their home country experience it through reading.
“It makes me travel to Haiti even though I have never been. It’s important for me to reconnect with my roots and I do it while reading,” Knité said.
The store is only open weekends and is completely run by volunteers.
Knité hopes that she can soon offer the workers a salary but for now she cannot. All proceeds from sales go back into the store.