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A Black Women's Oasis for Reading and Empowerment
A Black Women's Oasis for Reading and Empowerment

Thu, Apr 11


Location is TBD

A Black Women's Oasis for Reading and Empowerment

Read more about SisterSpace and Books!

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Time & Location

Apr 11, 2024, 7:00 PM – 11:00 PM

Location is TBD

About the event

How D.C's seven-year Sisterspace & Books has evolved into a community resource center "Once you walk in, you can't leave," says Shireen Mitchell. Indeed, visitors to Sisterspace and Books in Washington, D.C., immediately realize they are in a special place. There are books on the shelves by Toni Morrison, Octavia Buffer, Alice Walker, Connie Briscoe, Shay Youngblood and others. The posters on the walls unabashedly celebrate the achievements of black women. Since November of 1994 co-founders Cassandra Burton and Faye Williams have nurtured Sisterspace from a shelf of books for sale in a boutique to a bona fide community resource for black women. Today, Sisterspace specializes in books, magazines, posters, cards, tapes and other items that "reflect the vast literary experiences of African American women." Sisterspace quickly became a meeting place, an oasis and a safe haven for women to come to talk about their issues--health, career, family, romance and finance. While there may not have been an immediate solution to a problem, there was always a listening ear. Burton and Williams soon realized they could not run their business and provide one-on-one attention to each concern. Sisterspace relies on assistance from the community and a core group of talented supporters. Collectively, they have developed a wealth of resources and experience and have become a clearinghouse for information. "Sisters bring their skills to the table and leave their egos at the door," says Burton, who also serves as executive director of the African American Women's Resource Center, Sisterspace's not-for-profit organization.

A visit to Sisterspace on any given day reveals a wide range of activity aimed at nurturing the mind, body and spirit. There are yoga classes, workshops for aspiring writers, an investment club, readings, a single mother's support group and a spiritual circle that meets for an hour each Monday afternoon. Sisterspace has welcomed I. California Cooper, bell hooks, Sonia Sanchez, Randall Robinson, Tavis Smiley and other writers promoting their books. It is an environment that encourages authors to expand, if they wish, beyond the traditional signing and reading format. Venise Berry, author of All of Me, A Voluptuous Tale, held a two-hour workshop that explored "Women, Weight and Wellness: Challenging Myths," and inspirational author Sharon Ewell Foster led a Christian fiction seminar for writers. The events have spun off into personally satisfying ventures for many of Sisterspace's volunteers and spiritual godmothers. After reading Sandra Jackson-Opoku's The River Where Blood is Born, Anntoinette S. McFadden formed the Women of the African Diaspora Literary Book Club which reads works by African American, Caribbean and African authors. Shireen Mitchell, in addition to maintaining Sisterspace's web site, has developed what she calls "computer literacy" and "computer fluency" courses for low-income women aimed at creating marketable skills. A stint as a publicist for authors who visited Sisterspace on tour led Sandra Jowers to establish her own public relations firm. Jowers also began a monthly book club for deaf and hearing-impaired girls nine to eleven years old. "People do not realize that although many of these children do use sign language, they need to develop strong vocabulary skills to communicate in the world at large," says Jowers. When Shireen Lewis earned her doctorate in French literature from Duke University, there were no support systems to help her navigate through what she calls the "hostile environment women of color face in the academic community." In 1997 Lewis established the SisterMentors Dissertation Support Group to demystify the dissertation process. Ten women in the program have earned their degrees, several others are close to completion, and there is a waiting list for new members. Sisterspace is about women's access to reading and empowerment. "We've been aware since the days when it was illegal to teach blacks to read," adds Williams. "It all begins there." What D.C. Sisters are Reading ... Cassandra Burton of Sisterspace and Books says her customers are buying: Bein' a Strong Black Woman Can Get U Killed!, by Laini Mataka On Her Own Ground--The Life and Times of Madam C.J Walker, by A'Lelia Bundles Passing by Samaria, by Sharon Ewell Foster Salvation: Black People and Love, by bell hooks Standing at the Scratch Line, by Guy Johnson Taking Dollars and Making Sense: A Wealth Building Guide for African Americans, by Brooke Stephens The Personal Touch: What You Really Need to Succeed in Today's Fast-Paced Business World, by Terrie Williams The Truth That Never Hurts: Writings on Race, Gender and Freedom, by Barbara Smith The Haunting of Hip Hop, by Bertice Berry Whatever Happened to Daddy's Little Girl?--The Impact of Fatherlessness on Black Women, by Jonetta Rose Barras

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