Tag: Afriware Books

Novelist With Maywood Ties Explores Suffocating Reality of Race

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Marian L. Thomas takes a break from a book signing and discussion inside of AfriWare Books in Maywood on Saturday to talk about her most recent novel, “I Believe in Butterflies.” | Michael Romain/VFP

Monday, June 5, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

In the opening scene of Marian L. Thomas’s new novel, “I Believe in Butterflies,” Emma Lee Baker, one of the lead characters, is standing on a bridge “during the heat of the day” and staring at fish.

“I ain’t crazy. I just like staring at freedom,” Baker says through the book’s first-person narration. Moments later, the reader finds out the 76-year-old woman’s grim discovery — the body of a young girl who appears to be no older than 14, her blonde hair “wrapped around her neck like it was the thing that choked the poor life out of her.”

Thomas flips the script, so to speak, on a very familiar literary occurrence — instead of a black male found dead, the victim of a lynching; here is white innocence itself, a young blonde female teen, symbolically lynched by the very standard of beauty and power meant to be her protection. Before long, racism makes victims of us all, Thomas’s novel proposes.

Race and its many, suffocating complications, loom over much of the author’s body of work, which includes a children’s book, a play and six novels.

But it took leaving relatively integrated Oak Park and moving to Atlanta for Thomas to start working through those many complications.


In Oak Park, Thomas lived with her maternal grandparents, who were one of two black homeowners on the block, she said. The reality of race here, however, wasn’t quite as domineering as it was in Atlanta.

For the most part, Thomas’s grandparents lived the American Dream, which they earned through a degree of thrift that’s rare nowadays. Thomas’s grandmother, a nurse at Mt. Sinai Hospital and her grandfather, a baker, bought their Oak Park house and their Cadillacs in cash.

“They drove Cadillacs that were paid for and they would drive a car until it just fell apart,” Thomas, 45, recalled during a recent interview after a book signing event held Saturday at AfriWare Books in Maywood.

 “We don’t do that today, but that was them. They paid cash for everything,” she said of her grandparents. “They didn’t believe in credit cards. In the book, Emma Lee Baker talks about how her husband was able to afford the home she still lives in and how it was unheard of for African Americans to own a home.”

In 1988, Thomas moved to Atlanta with her father and stepmother. She was only one of two black seniors in her high school’s graduating class. Thomas said her father now lives in Maywood.

“Growing up in Oak Park, I didn’t really understand the whole black, white, interracial dynamic until I moved to the South, which is a very different culture,” she said. “It was an eye-opener.”

If moving to the South sparked an awareness of grand themes that would define her work, Thomas’s time in Oak Park fertilized her passion for storytelling. It was in the library at Oak Park and River Forest High School where she wrote he first short story, which became the basis for her first novel, “Color Me Jazzmyne” — published two decades and many rewrites later.

The book climbed to the top of the Amazon bestseller’s list and won a Sankofa Literary Society award.

Thomas had by then graduated from college magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in business. She said she was pushed by an old boss to rework her high school short story into a novel.

Now, Thomas, who works full-time as a digital marketing professional, is experiencing a fresh surge in popularity and appeal. Her message, though, is as age-old as her grandparents’ thriftiness.

“Emma talks about her fish and why she loves her fish, which she call ‘freedom,’” Thomas said. “That’s because that’s how God meant for all of us to be [just as fish are fish, people are people]. We should focus on being men and women. Race shouldn’t be the first thing we think about. The message in the book is to treat each other as humans.” VFP

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D89 Ends Black History Month With a Bang, Maywood Bookstore to Host Author of ‘From Colored to Black’


Students, staff and teachers of District 89 celebrate a district-wide Black History Month event on Feb. 28. | Photos submitted

IMG_4557Wednesday, March 8, 2017 || By Community Editor || @maywoodnews

District 89 ended Black History Month with a district-wide celebration on Feb. 28 at Jane Addams Elementary School, 910 Division St., in Melrose Park.

According to teacher Tyra Bolton, the program featured performances by students from Garfield, Emerson and Washington Dual Language elementary schools, along with Irving Junior High students.

Tables were setup by all nine district schools displaying various elements of black history, with all converging around the theme, “Pride, Determination, Resilience.”

Bolton said that last month’s program is the start of an annual tradition within the district.

Author of ‘From Colored to Black’ to visit Maywood

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Author Erin Goseer Mitchell poses for a portrait in 2013 for the Chicago Tribune. | Zbigniew Bzdak, Chicago Tribune

ColoredtoBlack frontcover.jpgJust because Black  History Month is over doesn’t mean that black history ends. Case in point — Afriware Books, located inside Suite 503 within the Eisenhower Tower, 1701 S. 1st Ave. in Maywood.

The venerable Maywood bookstore will host Erin Goseer Mitchell, author of  From Colored to Black: A Bittersweet Journey on Saturday, March 11, from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Doors will open at 2:30 p.m.

According to Mitchell’s website, the book is the result of a 2014 writers’ workshop she attended that was held at National Louis University.

“One of the requirements for attending the workshop was to submit and present a page of work in progress,” Mitchell writes.

“Rick Kogan, a senior editor at the Chicago Tribune, was the facilitator of the session. When my turn came, I read a page from an account about my first year in Chicago after I left Fitzgerald, Georgia. The group found it compelling. Kogan was very encouraging and told me that he wanted more, that this was a part of Chicago history that he had never heard.

“With his comments and the prodding I had gotten from my readers, I began the arduous and often painful process of writing about my life in Chicago. The reminiscences that comprise this book are a result of that effort.”

Mitchell, who was born in Selma, Alabama and grew up in Fitzgerald, Georgia “one generation before the Civil Rights Movement began,” according to an Afriware promotional flyer, gives a detailed personal account of her life in the segregated South.

For more information on the event or on Afriware in general, call (708) 223-8081 or click here. For more information on Mitchell, visit her website by clicking here. VFP

P A I D  E V E N T



Maywood Kwanzaa Ceremony Highlights Day Five’s Nia, or Purpose, By Emphasizing Black Economics


Attendees at Afriware’s annual Kwanzaa celebration on Friday recite Amy Jacques Garvey’s “This Flag of Mine.” | Michael Romain/VFP

kwanzaa_123016Saturday, December 31, 2016 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || Updated: 1/3/17

Dozens of people packed a second-floor conference room inside of the Eisenhower Tower, 1701 S. 1st Ave., on Friday night to commemorate the fifth day of Kwanzaa, whose principal, Nia (which means purpose), was celebrated in a keynote address by Maywood-born author TeQuila Shabazz.

The event, sponsored annually by Afriware Books — which partnered this year with Maywood Youth Mentoring — also featured Atiba Jali’s African drum rhythms, a ceremonial candle lighting and a book givewaway. The Dec. 30 gathering was Afriware’s 22nd annual Kwanzaa celebration.

Shabazz, the founder of the BRIJ Embassy for Black America and the author of The Neo-Green Book, said that her purpose is to help build capital in the African American community by emphasizing the importance of buying, and building, while black.

“You hear a lot about ‘buy black, buy black, buy black,’ which is good, but you have to also give black, too,” Shabazz said. “And time is money. We give a lot of it away.”

Shabazz, 39, worked for 15 years in sales at various media companies, including the Tribune Company, before she discovered that her purpose was beyond Corporate America.

“Today is purpose and I can tell you that it is quite fitting that I would be standing here in Maywood, the community where I was born,” Shabazz said. “My family is from here, parents went to Proviso East. Twenty years ago, at Afriware, I bought my first set of books that brought me into knowledge of self.”

Five years ago, Shabazz said, she left her six-figure job with the Tribune-owned CW TV network. She was stationed in Dallas, which she described as “a perpetual suburb” with no shortage of racial animosity.

The growing frustration and dissatisfaction Shabazz felt with her corporate job and the city’s cultural environment combined with life circumstances to draw her to what she described as another phase of nia.

Her best friend had been killed by the police in 2010. Her daughter, who was born when Shabazz was still a teenager, was about to go off to college on a full scholarship. One day, while driving in Dallas roughly five years ago, Shabazz felt tormented by the pain of being pulled one direction by a job and a culture she despised and what she believed was her true calling.

“In that moment, I swear to you, I was hit by a utility vehicle, smashed into a cement wall and was hit from behind by a little sports car,” she said. “My car was totaled, but I was unscathed. That’s what sent me home [back to Chicago]. I was in a job that required me to be in the field all the time. I’d just bought a new car and I was like, I can’t buy another one. So, I returned home.”

Instead of going back into Corporate America, Shabazz said, she started the BRIJ Embassy, which she describes as “cooperative of people who want to eradicate poverty and build wealth in black America.”

The cooperative has since grown into around 5,000 members whose goal is to “intentionally and strategically” eradicate poverty and build wealth in Black America.

The members, Shabazz said, collect receipts, conduct secret shopper visits, make phone calls and do extensive research in order to make sure that they’re supporting black-owned businesses.

In addition to having a presence on Facebook, the group also regularly hosts single-day shopping events for black-owned businesses, pouring thousands of dollars of money into the enterprises within a matter of hours.

Shabazz’s Neo-green Book includes about 500 black-owned businesses, most of them in Chicago, and is released quarterly. The book is an echo of The Negro Travelers’ Green Book, once considered the “Bible of black travel during Jim Crow.”

First published in 1936 by Victor Hugo Green, a black postal employee from Harlem, the Green Book was designed “to give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trip more enjoyable,” according to Kathleen Franz’s and Susan Smuylans’ Major Problems in American Popular Culture.

Shabazz said her book “the next generation to [Hugo’s] book,” which went out of print in 1966, shortly after the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts.

“Today, we have to expose and highlight places that are safe to shop at,” she said in an interview earlier this month. “This is an economic war. There are companies we give our money to that fund the prison industrial complex [among other social problems that ensnare poor and minority consumers].”

The struggle, however, is real. That’s a dictum, Shabazz indicated, that holds for all ages, it seems. While looking through the original green book’s archives in New York City, Shebazz discovered a sad truth. Hugo was careful to add a publisher’s caveat to his editions, cautioning his readers that some businesses, while operational before the book went to print, may no longer exist after the publication rolls off of the presses.

Shabazz said part of the motivation to publish her book quarterly was the fact that the lifespan of many black businesses is short, making regular, frequent updates a necessity. In addition to going out of business, some enterprises may change contact information as well, she said.

But the struggle extends deeper than that tough reality, Shabazz noted.

The $1.3 trillion spending power of African Americans that’s often touted as a sign of economic strength, the author said, is less potent when scrutinized. The key word, she said, is spending.

“Spending power, spending, spending, spending,” she repeated. “Not saving, not accumulating wealth, spending, which means I’m giving it away constantly.”

Only around two percent of that black spending power, Shabazz said, gets invested into black businesses. The factoid elicited a collective gasp from the audience.

“That’s terrible, terrible,” said Maywood Youth Mentoring Founder Barbara Cole.

“There is no reason why we shouldn’t support our own all of the time,” said Pamela Hunt, of Hunt Cultural Brilliance Group, who introduced Shabazz.

“We only get $26 billion of $1.3 trillion,” Shabazz said. “That’s not even a dent. True wealth is in ownership, which means that our wealth is reflected in our black businesses. Those black businesses earn about $186 billion per year, which is really sad, because we’re spending, like, 10 times that.”

Shabazz said that, of the roughly 2.6 million black businesses in existence, around 90 percent of them are sole proprietors making about $50,000 to $60,000 a year. That means, she said, “we have to increase the intensity of our support to them if, realistically, we are going to have them employ our young people. Right now, [black business owners] are only making enough to survive day-to-day.”

Shabazz suggested that the widely held belief, particularly acute among blacks, that black businesses are often substandard or not very professional often omits the responsibility of black consumers.

“Instead of complaining, contact the business and say, ‘This is what I experienced coming into your place. I really loved this, but if you changed this, you’d be exceptional,” Shabazz said. “That’s accountability, y’all. That’s reciprocity, y’all. That’s among the small things we can do, instead of making excuses all the time about what we ain’t doing.” VFP

Correction: This article has been updated to clarify statements of Pam Hunt. VFP regrets the error. 

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Maywood-born Author Publishes Guide to Black-owned Businesses, To Present During Dec. 30 Kwanzaa Event


The Negro Travelers’ Green Book, published from 1936 to the early 1960s, was responsible for helping black travelers navigate the country’s roadways safely. | PBS || Below left, Tequila Sahaya Shabazz has authored what might be called a Green Book for the 21st generation, The Neo-Green Book. || R. Amon Photography/Facebook

tequila-shabazz-photoThursday, December 22, 2016 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

In its heyday, The Negro Travelers’ Green Book was considered the “Bible of black travel during Jim Crow.” First published in 1936 by Victor Hugo Green, a black postal employee from Harlem, the Green Book was designed “to give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trip more enjoyable,” according to Kathleen Franz’s and Susan Smuylans’ Major Problems in American Popular Culture.

Circulation of the book may have been discontinued shortly after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but one Maywood-born author says that the book’s disappearance doesn’t mean that something like it is no longer needed.

TeQuila Sahaya Shabazz, the author of The Neo-Green Book, said in a recent phone interview that her book is a successor of sorts to the Green Book.

“This is the next generation to that book,” Shabazz said, adding that her work, which was published this year and is now available for purchase online and at select book stores (including Afriware Books in Maywood), provides information for consumers who want to shop at businesses that are black-owned, local and socially responsible.

“The Green Book published places where people could safely stop during their travels,” Shabazz said. “Today, we have to expose and highlight places that are safe to shop at. This is an economic war. There are companies we give our money to that fund the prison industrial complex [among other social problems that ensnare poor and minority consumers].”

Shabazz, 39, worked for 15 years in sales at various media companies, including the Chicago Tribune and PBS, before retiring in order to dedicate herself full-time to guiding people on ways they can “buy, give, love and live black.”

In addition to publishing the Neo-Green Book, which she plans on releasing quarterly, she also heads up the BRIJ Embassy for Black America, which Shabazz describes as a “cooperative of people who want to eradicate poverty and build wealth in black America.”

Shabazz said that she and her colleagues log how much money they’ve spent at black-owned and socially responsible businesses. They also conduct secret shopper visits to stores and analyze a businesses investment patterns, cleanliness and customer service, among other baseline indicators that businesses must satisfy if they’re to be included in The Neo-Green Book.

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Shabazz said she’s been gathering data herself for four years and has worked intensively at data-gathering with her colleagues at BRIJ for roughly a year. So far this year, she said, they’ve invested over $700,000 into businesses within black communities in metro areas across the country, including Chicago, Gary and Cleveland.

Shabazz will present a keynote address on Dec. 30 during the annual Kwanzaa celebration hosted by Afriware Books, 1701 S. 1st Ave. in Maywood. The event will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m.

The timing is particularly ripe, considering the village’s recent woes. Shabazz, who grew up in Maywood and the West Side of Chicago, said she was shocked to learn that Aldi was Maywood’s only full-service grocery store and dismayed when she discover that it would be closing on Christmas Eve.

How, she was asked, might she translate her philosophy of economic self-sufficiency to some of the residents of her hometown?

“First, you have to analyze your capital base,” she said. “It’s going to be hard work. It’s not easy and won’t happen overnight. But you have to know what human capital — what knowledge, skills, resources and tools — you have access to immediately.”

Shabazz said that Maywood residents should look to places in Chicago, such as sustainable farms and cooperative grocery stores, for examples of what economic independence looks like and for potential investment opportunities.

“How do we open grocery stores owned by the community and in which the community invests and receives the profits?” she said, adding that the key isn’t to protest or to pressure large private and public institutions.

“In the city, there are many areas without grocery stores, but people have created mobile grocery stores and opened up stores of their own,” she said. VFP

For more info, or to purchase Shabazz’s book, click here

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Briefly: Honorary Street Named After Hillside Pastor | A Maywood Brotherhood to Give Away 350 Toys to Needy| More Inside

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Apostle Donald L. Alford was honored with a street-signing named after him during a Dec. 4 ceremony at his Hillside church, Progressive Life-Giving Word Cathedral, which was located in Maywood before moving west in 2002. || Photos: David Dickerson/Facebook

Progressive.jpgTuesday, December 13, 2016 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || UPDATED: 9:22 p.m. 

Apostle Donald Alford, the longtime pastor of Progressive Life-Giving Word Cathedral in Hillside, recently received a rare distinction.

A portion of Frontage Road in Hillside, where the church is located, will be renamed Donald Alford, Sr. Road, according to members of the church who were in attendance at a service held earlier this month where the distinction was announced.

When Progressive was founded in Maywood in 1925, it was considered the first church in the village affiliated with the Church of God in Christ — the 6.5 million-member, predominantly African American Pentecostal-Holiness Christian denomination.

Alford’s father, James Alford, was named pastor of the church in 1941. The younger Alford succeeded his father as pastor in 1983. In the decades before moving to Hillside in 2002 — into a building that once housed a Leow’s movie theater complex — the church worshiped at various locations in Maywood. For a long time, it’s home was a converted Jewish Synagogue located at 431 S. 13th Ave.

Numerous elected officials, including state Sen. Kimberly Lightford (4th), were in attendance at the Dec. 4 service where Alford learned about the honor.

A brotherhood looks to rebuild the Maywood block responsible for its bond

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A group of Maywood natives who form the group 13th Positive. | Photo submitted

A group of men who hail from 13th Ave. in Maywood are trying to transform their old stomping grounds one Christmas at a time. The group, called 13th Positive, is planning to host its second annual holiday toy drive.

“Last year, we went door-to-door passing out 150 toys,” Anthony Lindsey, one of the members of that group. “This year, we want to give out 350 toys.”

This year, instead of going door-to-door, the men of 13th Positive will be at the Maywood Multipurpose Building, 200 S. 5th Ave., on Dec. 23. From 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., they’ll be at the facility “passing out toys until we run out,” Lindsey said, adding that the group will also provide holiday music and refreshments.

“We don’t ask for [monetary] donations because we don’t want to give people any reason to be suspicious,” he said. “We just want to give back and put families in a better position for the holidays — whether it’s two or 30 of them.”

From now until Dec. 22, community members can drop off unwrapped toys (for children 8 years old and up) at any of the following drop-off locations:

  • Hair Dreams, 1919 W. Roosevelt Rd., Broadview
  • Dynasties Hair Creations, 4321 St. Charles Rd., Bellwood
  • Scotty’s Customs, 711 Mannheim Rd., Bellwood
  • Naps Barber Shop, 1109 W. Roosevelt Rd., Maywood
  • Stylistic Salon, 905A S. 5th Ave., Maywood
  • Re’Lux Hair Studio, 703 S. 5th Ave., Maywood
  • Hair Illusions, 1151 Portsmouth, Westchester

The brothers of 13th Positive

Charles Stump, master barber and entrepreneur | Reginald Neal, recovery specialist team lead for the Law Offices of Blitt & Gaines P.C. | Anthony Lindsey, contract manager at Department of Education | Leroy Davis, vice president of Hackie Cement Corporation | Clifford Williams, engineer for Union Pacific Railroad and real estate investor For IMEX INC. | Thomas B. Thompson, chairman, The NativeLight Group, Inc. and NativeLight Digital Studios, LLC (website development).  | Jason Henderson, retired Whitney Porter Forklift operator | James Truman, vice president of business development at TYLO Security | Clayton Howard, C&C Auto Sales | Clarence Frison, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church of Mississippi | Donald E. White, Jr., production supervisor for Johns Manville | Lorenzo Williams, Uber partner and president of Zinzo Clothing Inc. | Albert W. Stump, Jr., operations supervisor for Dart Container.

Enjoy these neat holiday events 


Washington Dual Language Academy, 1111 Washington Blvd., will host a “Christmas Around the World” assembly on Thursday, Dec. 15, at 1 p.m. at the Academy.

“Take part in wonderful sing-a-longs, emotive poems, and cheering creative performers,” notes a statement on the district’s website. “This is an event the entire family can enjoy.”


Everyone is invited to a Technology Holiday Open House within Maywood’s technology business district, an enterprise established earlier this year by the Economic Growth Initiative.

The open house will be held Saturday, Dec. 17 at the Global Business Center, 840 S. 17th Ave. in Maywood, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

Enjoy hot cocoa, cookies, holiday music and a chocolate fudge raffle. Donations are appreciated. Come out and observe a class, meet our community’s young people, mingle with successful entrepreneurs and learn from our tech facilitators.

Learn about the Montgomery Bus Boycotts online


Nzingha Nommo, the owner of Afriware Books Co., 1701 S. 1st Ave. in Maywood, will lead a class on the Montgomery Bus Boycott called Boycott 101. The textbook, pictured above, is the most comprehensive treaties on the topic known.

The book, authored by Wally G. Vaughn, challenges many longstanding myths about how the boycott started and what most contributed to its success. If this intrigues you, join us!

To start, fill out a short form with your contact information (click here to access the form), pay a course fee and begin reading right away to prepare for the first discussion in January.

For more details about the course, click here. VFP

F E A T U R E D  E V E N T 


Black-Owned Bookstore Celebrates 23 Years With 3-Day Sale, Book Fair, Aug. 25 – 27

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Screenshot 2014-08-15 at 3.02.08 PMTuesday, August 23, 2016 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

Afriware Books, the brainchild of former electrical engineer Nzingha Nommo, is celebrating its 23rd anniversary this year with a 3-day sale starting Aug. 25 and a book fair on Aug. 27.

The Maywood store, one of the longest surviving black-owned bookstores in the country, grew from a passion for books ignited in Nommo after she read Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” as part of a book club.

“It was so reflective of our experience at the time,” Nommo said in a 2014 Village Free Press interview.

“I eventually graduated to other works like ‘Black Economics’ by Jawanza Konjufu,” she said. “But the book that changed it all for me was the ‘Miseducation of the Negro.'”

After years doing business in nearby Oak Park, Nommo relocated the business to Maywood. In 2014, she shared her motivation for the move.

“This is where my number one customer–the African American–is concentrated. Word of mouth is a gold mine here and it’s strong,” she said.

“This community seems very tight knit. You can get to the right people quicker and sidestep the nonsense easier. Maywood is also cultural treasure–there’s the underground railroad connection, Fred Hampton. I’ve never been in a town that had a black mayor.”

More than 20 years after its founding, Afriware sells more than books. Customers can also find Shea butter, black soap, HBCU accessories and other products at Nommo’s Eisenhower Tower location. VFP

See or click the image below for more info on the store’s anniversary events and promotions.

Afriware Books Flyer.jpg