Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Letter from Henry Kroll on the importance of Boulder Book Store and my reading tomorrow night

In my post on my talk/reading/signing on Black Patriots and Loyalists at Boulder Book Store, tomorrow (May 31) at 7:30 here, I emphasized the threat that independent book stores and libraries are under. The money-hungry culture of the 1% does not value education and independence of mind for the 99% or scholarship.

Henry Kroll wrote me a fine letter about the role of people who work in and run bookstores: his wife worked at Stacey's in San Franciso which has now, sadly, closed and comments on how helpful people are at the Boulder Book Store in working around the new admission fee for talks. He also makes the shrewd point that were J.K. Rowling to come, the store could collect whatever admission fee they liked, but for lesser known authors and for sometimes unusually good books, the fee probably diminishes the audience. It thus does exactly what a serious bookstore aims not to do (again, the terrible competition which such bookstores now face pushes them to seek additional sources of revenue, sometimes unwisely).

Henry rightly worries that the Boulder Book Store will be forced to cut back (ironically, Tattered Cover, though it has three stores, is less stocked with good books than the old Cherry Creek store - TC was the main reason I and my family went to Cherry Creek - and is also today gradually "trimming"). He makes the point that we all can work to support independent book stores. No community which is not a spiritual desert can do without a good bookstore.

"Hi Alan,

Like you I am very concerned with survival of ind. bookstores in communities all over (Boulder, Golden, Denver, San Francisco et al).

My wife ran for 6 years a one woman business - employment bookstore in San Francisco and worked then at Stacey's ... one of SF's oldest, best and well regarded store on Market Street which also hosted readings and programs some VERY progressive! With key window displays on one of the West's major boulevards. Stacey's (owned by Brodart Industries which makes and markets furniture and supplies for libraries and schools over over USA) closed about 2 or 3 years ago.

Likewise, I was aghast at the BBS $5 charge for admission for the book talks.

Clearly they CAN be counter productive.

However living in Boulder and attending many programs sometimes with out of town authors who I know from San Francisco
and others...I discern that the problem is NOT the fee itself. For noted authors who are well known to wider community and "famous" to some degree...the fee does not seem to keep a full house from forming at the store for the author's talk.

It is those who are "unknown" OR whose material is deemed "esoteric" by many that results in low turnout. Of course, the FEE may be an added obstacle.

However, the folks at the store on the night of the event .... have been very liberal in allowing those browsing the store or otherwise showing up to access the talk many times WITHOUT charging the fee. A simple curiousity and request to observe seems to get "last minute" folks in without the charge. Many on the staff agreed with us that the charge is counter productive. And it should be noted Tattered Cover DOES NOT charge for a program and in many cases, the same authors are covering BOTH Boulder Books and The Cover on a Colorado book tour.

With all that said, perhaps you can encourage your e mail readers to attend the program tomorrow [Hope I have...].

Even those paying the $5 charge can use the coupon towards a purchase that evening of ANY book in the store ... (or other items too such as DVD, Cards, et al - I believe).

Hopefully, Boulder residents and others nearby will NOT be discouraged and work with Boulder Books to help secure their survival and ask them to review their policy now that it has been in place nearly 2 years.

From one of the executives - I had learned that sales in February were down significantly. And while, it is unlikely a store such as Boulder Books in this university town with so many college grads working professionally ... will close down completely ... reduction of staff, floor space and diversity of titles might be coming unless the people keep supporting their local independent bookstores.

All the best,

Henry Kroll
Unitarian Universalist Church of Boulder (UUCB)
member and Chair, Forum Planning Committee
Social Justice Council - UUCB
and National Board member, Action Coalition for Media Education"

In addition, Freedy Cole Shebaka, a singer/activist from Sierra Leone, wrote to me:

"Hi Professor Gilbert,

My name is Freddy Cole Shabaka and I'm a singer/songwriter from Sierra Leone based in the U.S. I just came across your name with regard to your work on the Black Loyalists and I just wanted to make contact with you. I recently released a song and video called "The Black Loyalists" after researching my own history. I am a Creole and we are descended from the Black Loyalists who are called Nova Scotians in Freetown, The Maroons from Jamaica, and other Africans collectively known as the "Recaptives" who were taken into slavery and released in Freetown by the British Navy patrols as they were enforcing the abolition of the slave trade. As I was researching my own ancestors I was able to make a connection to the Black Loyalists and found out that a very good friend of mine is a descendant of Thomas Peters and another friend of mine is descended from David George. I gave a little help to Maya Jasanoff in her book "Liberty's Exiles" as she planned her visit to Freetown to research the Black Loyalists.

It is very important that the story of the Black Loyalists be told as many people are unfamiliar with their story. We recently held a Black Loyalist event at a small cafe in Washington DC to help tell their story. We had Kevin Lowther who recently wrote a book on the Black Loyalist John Kizell, and we also had Nemata Blyden a history professor at George Washington University. I plan on doing more events to help tell this story to a wider audience. I wish you well in your work and I'm sure our paths will cross at some point. Black Loyalist Video Article on Black Loyalist event -video of event

Take Care

I wrote back:

"You will like Black Patriots and Loyalists. Unlike previous accounts, I emphasize the fight for democracy from below led by Peters and Isaac Anderson, around Granville Sharp's ideas, and against the autocracy and exploitativeness of the abolitionist Sierra Leone Company. The literature had portrayed the rebellion not as the first great fight for democracy in Africa (and hence a precursor of the Paris Commune in France), but as an early nationalism. But that view runs into the difficulty that of course David George and the Baptists supported Clarkson and paid quit-rents to the later governors; it was the Methodists, taking up Sharp's ideas, who rebelled in favor of serious local organization and democracy. This puts the democratic experiment in Sierra Leone in a context of radical democratic movements which is of broad, international historical interest (would that Toussaint had had some of these ideas in leading the revolt in Saint-Domingue!)."

I am also going to be in Washington from the evening of June 23rd till the morning of the 29th giving a talk at the Treasury Executive Initiative and appearing on the Marc Steiner show in Baltimore and hope to see Freddy and others in the Washington/Baltimore area.

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