EOA opens African-American 'bookstore'

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When you walk into an African-centered bookstore you would expect to see rows and rows of books, with tribal music maybe playing in the background, and store clerks dressed in dashikis and wearing afros or braids. Eyes on Austin's "Your Book Store" might change your expectations on how an African-centered bookstore should look and run.

Eyes on Austin opened its own "bookstore" Saturday, Aug. 12, at its headquarters, 5519 W. North Avenue. This bookstore, however, is more like an African American book section located in Eyes on Austin's multi-functional center.

On the outside of the building Saturday were a couple of workers passing out information on the bookstore. They were also selling big cold cups of lemonade. On the inside of the center were bright colored cloths on tables that were stacked with books by different African American authors. Different topics of books, such as African American history, fiction, and children books were piled high. According to James Hammonds, project director for Eyes on Austin, there will be no African American romance novels in "Your Book Store".

"I want the community to read, but we have to be real picky on what we as a people read," he said.

The books sold at "Your Book Store" are priced around the same as those sold at a mid-sized or full-scale bookstore that sells African American literature.

The book section also offers novelty items such as T-shirts with pictures of black heroes, like Rosa Parks and Malcolm X on them. In addition to the new book section, the center also has its Lucky Cup Cafe that sells coffee, lemonade, and sandwiches. The store clerks are members of the center's job training program.

"By working in the cafe and bookstore they are getting hands on experience that they will need, from customer service to set-up," said Jean Jackson, Eyes on Austin's executive director, of the workers.

Eyes on Austin collaborated with Afri-ware Inc., an African-centered bookstore in Oak Park, for its "Your Book Store". Hammonds explained that Eyes on Austin also wanted to run a bookstore in order to help generate funds for the organization.

"We are a non-for-profit organization, so we get funding, but the funding is not promised," he said. "We needed to find a way to generate money for ourselves. Also there is no African-centered book store in Austin".

Jackson, nodding her head in agreement, added, "No guarantee we will keep funding."

Eyes on Austin is what some might call a 'Jack-of-all-trades' organization. EOA offers different services, including job training programs, ex-offender programs, and CEDA Energy programs to the Austin community.

One worker on Saturday said, "adding a bookstore and cafe is a way to offer something different to our people and in our community."

"Your Book Store" and Lucky Cup Cafe is opened daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information on Eyes on Austin and all of its services and programs, call 773/479-1569 or visit their website at www.eyesonnaustin.org

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