For this week’s Community Conversations, our host ST Billingsley chatted with Ramunda Lark Young, co-owner of Mahogany Books.
Q: So what is Mahogany Books?
A: Great question. So Mahogany Books is an online bookstore that my husband Derek and I founded just a few years ago. But the whole premise is how do we give back, how do we increase literacy and reading in our communities, especially in the African-American community.
The reading and literacy rate is very low, and so our goal is how do we introduce the community to books? How do we introduce youth to books, and get them excited? So we do that through Mahogany Books in a lot different ways. So you’re very tied to the community.
Q: Tell me how that works with Mahogany Books and Prince William County?
A: Absolutely. So we’re based here in Prince William County. Community’s huge to us. In the last couple of years we do a huge initiative called Books for the Block. And the whole premise behind that is how we get books into the hands of kids on the block on a neighborhood in the neighborhoods and so the goal is we partner with the Boys and Girls Club, we partner with Chinn Library, and giving books back. And what it is is a huge community book drive. People come to the Boys and Girls Club. They’ve dropped off books there, at both locations, and then what we do is turn right back around, and give those books out to youth in the community.
We’ve participated in the African-American festival that’s held at METS. They have a huge festival there, and then hundreds of kids come to that event, and they come to our table, and we just hand them books. They get to choose whichever book they like, whichever book speaks to them, and that take that home for free. So again it’s in the summertime, we really want kids to be passionate about reading, and a lot of times, they don’t have access to books. You’ll be amazed where, you know, where a parent has to choose from food or a book, well of course food is going to win.
And so how can we, as a bookstore, turn around and give books to those children? We love it. We’ve collected a few thousand books over the years that we’ve done Books for the Block. It’s exciting for us.
Q: You have some other events coming up, tell me about those.
A: We do. So again we’re here in Prince William County but we’re very active in the region. One of our big events coming up is in June, and we have–it’s so top secret, you’re the first person hearing about it.
It’s focused again on summer reading, and we have four high profile authors coming in. We’re going to have the youth there. We’re going to have people from the community there, and really focusing on reading throughout the summer. Getting kids pumped up about summer reading, giving out free books, and having them come into contact, and ask questions of these authors that really are focused on youth. So that’s in June, and I another one that we’re first announcing here is with Terry McMillian. Huge African-American writer. We’ll have here in Baltimore in June.
So again, or goal is how do we connect our community to books? How do we connect these authors to readers, in a fun and exciting way? So that’s what’s coming up for us right now. And another one I’m really excited about, I have the liberty to say, is that in Manassas City there is a new coffee house open called Jirani Cafe, and Mahogany Books will be partnering with them to do a lot of community events. We want to be able to connect readers and writers together in a great space that allows the community to heighten its awareness about reading, so we’re excited, we’re pumped up, my husband and I. We’re looking forward to impacting the community. Well thank you very much.
Check back for the next episode of Community Conversations.