Browsing the titles displayed at her local Spartanburg, South Carolina bookstores often left Tamika feeling discouraged.
Although each store offers a wide variety of authors and topics, the selection of books available about Black people written by Black people are limited.
“Most of the books available have main characters that have blonde hair and blue eyes or a Black character written by a non-Black person,” she said. “When I am searching for books for me and my family, I believe that it is better that the author is writing from a place of lived experience instead of observation. When we (as Black people) read stories by us about us, we remember that we exist.”
Her dissatisfaction with the lack of Black representation in the local reading options led Tamika to create a space where Black stories are the priority. Her independent bookstore, Beyond This February, focuses on work by Black writers.
“I chose the name for my business because Black stories need to be heard all year-round not just during the month of February,” she said.
February is Black History Month in the United States. It was created in 1976 as an opportunity to understand Black histories, going beyond stories of racism and slavery to spotlight Black achievement, according to WeForum.org.
Beyond This February participated in our statewide Local Entrepreneur Acceleration program (LEAP) and was awarded $5,000. LEAP supports diversity in small business ownership across South Carolina by providing minority and women entrepreneurs with business plan development support, technical skills, and the chance to compete for a startup capital award.
Tamika currently runs the business as a pop-up shop which allows her to visit communities around Spartanburg that may not have access to bookstores.
“A lot of people that visit my business are actively searching for stories outside the traditional ones being displayed at the local corporate bookstore and it might be their first time reading a book from a Black author,” she said.
She has plans in the future to open a physical location.
“I hope my business helps transform the reading experience and shows people that there’s more stories out there than just slavery and death when it comes to the Black experience,” she said.