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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

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Sistahs in Business: Remembering DC’s Sisterspace and Books
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Tiffany’s posted something about a research study on Black (American) women businesses and their owners, or something like that. I remain haunted by positive memories of DC’s popular - but now-defunct - Blackwoman-owned Sisterspace and Books. For several years with active support from their clientele/guests/patrons those two sisters articulated and tried to realise their dream of buying their building. We really thought and hoped they could do it. The bookstore was located close to DC’s famous 14th & “U” Street intersection. This was the heart of the historically Black shopping district that thrived up to 1968 and the assassination of Martin Luther King and the local riots that followed. (The same type of rebellion against property - much of it not Black-owned - happened in 1968 in several “inner-city” (i.e., patronised by Blacks) business centers.) The banking & real estate powers-that-be that really ran local Washington never chose to invest to rebuild this Black-owned business neighborhood; and now after damn near 40 years the whole area now has fallen prey to outsider ‘gentrification’. Sisterspace was about more than just selling books. It was also a cultural and community meeting place. I remember one of their events held at a nearby church where native Baltimorean poet Laini Mataka got up and did a reading of her phenomenal The Strong Black Woman is Dead that had us all crying. I know I’m not the only sister who wants to know why, in the middle of Washington, DC, an institution like Sisterspace could not survive and thrive. I think a lot of sisters know that business has to be about making money - but it also has to be about something bigger. Peace. - Marian

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