You have changed Us.
A long time ago … This is how fairy tales start. With a female dreaming of something, something better than what she has.
This is how my fairy tale starts.
A long time ago I had a dream. Not a dream as in a vision. I had an actual dream.
In my dream I had this bookshop which was called The Unloved Ones. The bookshop had a post box outside and people would post their unwanted books in this post box, I would collect them and then people would come to my bookshop from all over to read the rejected books. I genuinely had that dream. I told my daughter about it and laughed at the idea that I would ever have the time to run a bookshop and we both had different ideas of what unwanted books looked like. So, I made a note of this dream and I filed it away.
Life was busy, I was an event manager, navigating family, marriage life and racism. (One day I’ll you the stories of racism in the event industry.) So, like many other women I kept going, kept trudging.
Then last year it all changed. My racist employers dumped me and the only other black employee. No problem I went back to freelance. Then the pandemic came. So, I had no income, didn’t qualify for any government help.
That dream came back to the surface.
In that moment in May last year, it was very obvious what the unloved books were. They were the ones that were written by black authors. The ones that I had spent years hunting for, so that I could read books that were representative, have characters that were like me, my friends and family.
So, I thought “OK Mrs B lets do this” I figured I would put together a few books, (I actually told the wholesaler we just want around 100 titles) and have them on a small website and a Facebook page. This project would take up a few hours of my time and it would be fun.
Then you came along.
Who me? You ask. Yes you.
You asked me if I had that other book? You wanted to know if you could have 20 copies for your book club? Could I get enough for your reception class? Had I ever heard of this book or that other author? Could I find you some science fiction? Were there any romance books with black couples? Has he written an autobiography? Is anyone talking about decolonisation? Is there a children’s book that covers bullying? What about plus size black women? Does anyone know that black feminism is a different conversation? How do I tell them not to touch my hair?
And so, we scoured, we searched, we argued with publishers, we pushed, we prodded, we got the reprints sometimes. Sometimes we didn’t. We heard what the haters had to say about it all. We heard the names they called us. We were disheartened when others who looked like us kept their pound exclusively for the big corporations.
But you.. You kept asking for more and so our 100 collection became thousands. The couple of hours a week became full time.
You did that.
You sent us the emails thanking us for helping you, you told us how finding the book meant so much to you. You told us how you cried when your child screamed that the boy in the book looked like him. You thanked us for stocking the book you wrote 20 years ago that everyone else ignored. You told us that when you saw your book in our store you suddenly felt seen.
We have cried so often that tissues are considered essential office equipment. We cried because your stories have touched us. Because when social media was showing the disgusting ugliness of this country, you showed us what perseverers looked like. You showed us that there are many allies, many who are pushing themselves to be better, not for themselves but for the fellow country person, for their neighbour. You showed us that you are a voice shouting for justice and refusing to be a bystander for hatred, racism and bigotry.
So, thank you for changing us and thank you for changing the world.
We appreciate you more than you will know.
You are what heroes look like.