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What it means to be a mission driven feminist bookstore

Dear Charis friends,
We are living through a period of unrelenting agony and terror for Black people coupled with what seems to be a growing coming to consciousness for some white people about the pervasive and persistent anti-Black racism in this country and around the world. We take some heart that many white and non-Black people of color are seeking resources on how to dismantle white supremacy and anti-Blackness in themselves and are wanting rightfully to put their money into institutions that are doing the work of dismantling white supremacy. We support the call for people to “Buy Black,” especially in this already perilous moment of COVID-19. Charis Books is not a Black-owned business; it is a function of our white supremacist culture that a multi-racial space like Charis appears to some to be "Black." We want to take a moment to talk about who we are, so folks can make informed decisions about where you invest your time and money at this moment.

Charis Books and More is a 45-year-old mission driven feminist bookstore, founded in 1974. Our non-profit, Charis Circle, exists to foster sustainable feminist communities, work for social justice, and encourage the expression of diverse and marginalized voices. Although we have had various owners at different points in our history we are not currently a Black-owned or Afro-Centric bookstore. Our bookstore is currently co-owned by two white lesbians--one of whom identifies as Middle Eastern with white passing privilege. Our staff is multi-racial, our board of directors is multi-racial and led by a Black woman, our non-profit Executive Director is a white trans man and our Assistant Director is a Black woman. Since 1974, we have been an intentionally multi-racial, multi-gendered, and multi-generational space working in the everyday practice of being pro-Black, and anti-racist (because those are not static states of being, but every day choices and actions).

Similarly, we are always working in the practice of being pro-woman, pro-queer, pro-trans, pro-sex, pro-survivor, pro-disabled, pro-fat, pro-poor, pro-worker, pro-old, pro-child, pro-abortion, pro-families, pro-immigrant, pro-protester, pro-harm reduction, pro-recovery, pro-animal, pro-earth. These are all connected anti-racist feminist practices and choices. We take our time thinking about decisions and we seek counsel from our community members. We believe in the work of building Black power, Black health, Black safety, and Black leadership in a way that seeks to de-center whiteness at every level of our work. We believe in the power of caucusing spaces within multi-racial space, which is why we often have events geared towards Black women specifically or white parents specifically, because we know that multi-racial work requires space and room to breathe: room for BIPOC to be vulnerable, or angry or to mourn, room for white people to make mistakes and learn without doing active harm to Black people and other People of Color. That is why we also have multi-racial caucusing spaces for trans folks and for queer folks who need space from our cisgender or straight siblings.

We believe in the power of specific identity-based movement spaces at specific times for specific causes, including ongoing education, activist skill building, and personal development work. We also fundamentally believe in the power and rarity of truly multiracial Southern spaces that actively practice de-centering whiteness and honoring and celebrating Black life as a daily value. When you spend your money or your time at Charis Books and More or donate to Charis Circle you are investing in the radical belief that multi-racial organizing and movement building centered in a Southern, queer, feminist, anti-racist practice can shift culture and change lives and we appreciate your support.

We value and learn from the unique visions, histories, and practices of Black radical bookstores and booksellers. We ask that you continue to #BuyBlack and support Black-owned businesses doing this work.