Word hit the internet today of sad news for the community of writers and readers of New York City. Harlem’s Hue-Man Bookstore and Cafe will be closing its doors as of July 31st. An email went out directly from the store itself today, notifying the supporters of the difficult news. After a decade of operation, the well known bookstore will cease to operate in a brick and mortar fashion. They will be converting their model to an online store, to continue to exist on the market. This is shocking news to many people, as it comes just after some of the biggest events the store has hosted this year. I have heard that the Van Jones signing went really well, and in general, the bookstore is a hub of intellectual activity. It was a good place to build with those interested in improving the Black community. Now, Harlem is full of restaurants and churches, but there doesn’t seem to be enough space for Black bookstores to be prosperous. This is really a shocking and saddening moment, speaking as a frequent patron of the store. I wish the best of luck to the staff of Hue-Man in future endeavors.
Aside from what immediately came to mind about the loss of a great institution, is the future of the Hue-Man Book Club. How can we have a book club with no meeting space? Essentially, at the moment, we are in a position of dispossession. We just had the meeting this past Wednesday on “Think Like A Man” and were planning to discuss Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome later in the month. For obvious reasons, that may not occur. Now, we have to find a new location to have the meetings. To all the book club members reading this, we will need your input to brainstorm about how we can carry on the intellectual fellowship that we have fostered over the last two years. If anyone wishes to work with us to consider possible spaces, we are all ears. This is when we should pull together, to come to some kind of alternative. I hope many of you will be reaching out in the next few weeks or so.
As I think of the people I have met there, events hosted, signings, I already know that its a major contribution that Hueman was able to bring to the neighborhood, not just siphon off money from Harlem residents like far too many businesses that come here. I am also thinking of all the people I was fortunate to drop by the bookstore and hear speak. From Sista Souljah, to Michael Eric Dyson, Asadah Kirkland, Teri Woods, Gloria J. Browne-Marshall, and many others who have come through the doors to share their stories and inspiration with us. With one whole month left, lets support July’s events as much as we can. They definitely deserve it.
-Marc W. Polite
P.S. While the closing of Hue-man is a major loss for the Harlem community, let us remember that we still have one Black owned bookstore left in Harlem: Sister’s Uptown Bookstore and Cultural Center