AKRON, Ohio (WOIO) - Rachel Cargle is adept at making room where there is none.
“I’m excited and grateful to exist with you all in this space and be in conversation and community,” she said at her grand opening.
She calls it Elizabeth’s Bookshop & Writing Centre. The space will feature literary works from marginalized voices: Black women, LGBTQ writers, trans authors, indigenous storytellers and others.
“Elizabeth’s is just giving a new avenue for people to explore the world through literature that has been written away from the pen of the white, cis, hetero man and gives us a new way to understand the world,” said Cargle.
Cargle lived for years in New York City before moving back home to Akron. She felt the people in her hometown deserved the same access that many folks on the East Coast are accustomed to.
“There’s so many opportunities to see myself in the literary landscape, there’s so much creativity just flowing through the city and when I was looking for a place to experience that in Akron, I didn’t really find anything that inspired me,” she said.
Plans were in the works to actually open a physical location but the coronavirus pandemic slowed that down. For now, Elizabeth’s will be housed at Compass Coffee on East Market Street.
And it seems people are eager for the information.
Forbes reports that over the summer, sales of books on anti-racism jumped 2,000%.
Cargle curated a collection of her favorites called the #Revolution Reading List: books about racial inequality, feminism, voter suppression, the revolution and other topics.
“We have classics like Nikki Giovanni, we have the Black Power Mix Tape, children’s books and of course we have LeBron James’ I Promise, academic books, Imani Perry...so we really run the gamut to ways you can explore from science fiction to academic to children’s books. So I’m excited for people to find news way to explore literature,” she said, listing some of the books that were featured at the grand opening of Elizabeth’s.
Over the last few years, Cargle has made a name for herself and built a brand by calling out racial injustices.
She gained visibility at the 2017 Women’s March in Washington DC when she and a friend went viral for their signs.
She now tours the country leading sold-out lectures about race, feminism, intersectionality and other topics.
One of her most popular is called: “The Start,” a hands-on three-hour workshop about how to be an anti-racist.
“With white people, they often have this idea that I didn’t lynch anyone today, I must not be racist,” she said. “And I teach from a platform from a frame of knowledge plus empathy plus action. You have to have each of these things to be actively anti-racist and if you don’t, you’re either self-performing or you’re doing some type of self-help and anti-racism work is not self-help work, it’s intensive action towards anti-racism and diminishing and absolutely tearing apart the racism and white supremacy that exists,” said Cargle.
“With everything going on, why now, why this space,” asked 19 News reporter, Sia Nyorkor.
“I think the question of why now is deeply rooted in why hasn’t this happened yet? And I just take this opportunity to as I often say, put my brick in the all of what we’re all building. Elizabeth’s is just my contribution to the work that so many people are doing, have been doing for a very long time and particularly with the race politics in the country,” she said.
A portion of the proceeds from Elizabeth’s will benefit Cargle’s non-profit, The Loveland Foundation.
She founded it in 2018 to provide therapy and mental health support to Black women and girls. She says it’s just one of the ways she defends black women.
“It comes to mind that Black women are the foundation of so many aspects of Black culture and American culture at large so thinking about things like the church, the schools, the work that black women do as activists, the educators, the organizers and so when I hear #DefendBlackWomen, it sounds like maintain our security, maintain our sanity, maintain our peace, maintain what we know to be possible because Black women are at the frontlines of that, more times than not,” said Cargle.
She hopes people find themselves on the shelves in some way, shape or form.
“There’s so much value in being seen, being heard, being celebrated and these books often give that for so many marginalized people,” said Cargle. “I hope that Elizabeth’s will be part of that knowledge that people gain about the world about Black experiences about Black life that will lead them to more empathy that will hopefully make bigger change,” she said.
Elizabeth’s is located in Compass at 647 E. Market St, Akron, OH 44304.
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