Black Stone Bookstore: A Brilliant Cultural Center and Community Hub

. June 6, 2020.
Black Stone Bookstore and Cultural Center
Image courtesy of Carlos Franklin.

Carlos Franklin, co-owner of Black Stone Bookstore and Cultural Center, shares his passion for books and their readers.

Since 2013, Black Stone Bookstore & Cultural Center has been fulfilling Carlos Franklin’s mission of serving as a community hub in the heart of downtown Ypsilanti. “A place,” as Carlos reveals, “where the community can come together and exchange ideas.” 

Black Stone’s Origin Story

Prior to co-owning Black Stone, Carlos was running a pop-up bookstore, selling books at local gas stations and beauty salons. Athena Johnson was a regular customer and recommended Carlos meet her husband, Kip Johnson, who also owned a bookstore at the time. “We met and never looked back,” shares Carlos. “We’ve been family ever since.”

The original store name, Black Stone, was a creation of Kip’s. It serves to symbolize black women, who are solid foundations in our communities. Carlos explains, “We see our store as that rock in the community.”

Image courtesy of Carlos Franklin

Expanding what you read to understand culture

Given current events, it is no surprise that the bookstore’s most popular books rights now are about racism in America. Carlos sees this as a sign of hope. However, he also encourages everyone to read a wide variety of books to further expand their horizons..

“There are other books that people might not feel are good for the cause, but they actually are,” Carlos says. “When you wanna understand a person and a person’s culture, you can’t just pick out the parts you think will help you. You’ve gotta read it all so you can get a better understanding.” 

Raising a family of readers, his thirteen-year-old daughter Tatianah was quick to share one of her favorite books: Standing Against the Wind by Traci L. Jones.

Carlos’ favorites range widely and include: Manchild in the Promised Land (an autobiography by Claude Brown), The Coldest Winter Ever (Sister Souljah’s debut fiction novel), and Anna Karenina (the classic Russian novel by Leo Tolstoy).

“It seems like it’s sometimes perceived that the black culture only enjoys political issues,” shares Carlos. “When we come to talk, it’s always gotta be about injustice. We always have to be taken so serious. We like art. We like music. We like fun.” 

The pandemic’s effect on recent protests

In regards to the George Floyd protests in the midst of a pandemic, Carlos shares the following insight: “People were able to sit down, stop, think. We have killings all the time, but this one is getting more attention because people are sitting still.”  

“I hate to use colors, white and black, but I’m using that to identify the fact that a lot of white people really want to know and do better. That’s why these books on racism are selling the way they are. You have to give people credit for that. It’s a start. It might not be this generation. It might not even be the next. But if people plant that seed, then one day, it’s gonna grow into a plant.” 

“Society has a short memory, but I am hopeful we’ll be better from all of this.”

Co-owners Carlos Franklin (left) and Kip Johnson (right), sell books as well as self-care items such as shea butter. Image courtesy of Carlos Franklin.

Supporting the Black Stone mission

In addition to ordering books from their online store, a great way to support Black Stone is by donating on their GoFundMe page. 

Carlos says, “I want to be able to give great service. The GoFundMe is so helpful because it supports us and helps us to develop a bigger team with better infrastructure to support an even larger number of people.”

Even though Black Stone is able to sell books online right now, Carlos misses the conversations with in-store customers. “People are like books to me,” Carlos explains. At the heart of every book is a person. Everyone has a story, or a book, to share. “All of these books would come into the store, and I’m unable to read them right now.”

Carlos and Kip look forward to the day Black Stone can become an in-person community hub once again.

To support Black Stone Bookstore and Cultural Center, visit their GoFundMe page or shop online at blackstonebookstore.com.

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