Here’s a ‘novel’ concept, build an online bookstore and publishing house to answer the call of social change. And what could be timelier?
Dr. Artika Tyner is the founder and manager of the Planting People Growing Justice Press and Bookstore, a “Black woman owned social enterprise” that opened its doors in 2017 in St. Paul Minnesota in the Rondo historic neighborhood.
“We were seeking to create a community learning hub that fosters diversity, equity and inclusion,” says Tyner. And they’ve been changing lives ever since with their commitment to making a difference in the lives of young leaders.
When Tyner saw a need for quality books that create awareness and promote leadership development in even the very young of age, she knew it was time to step up. And not just to promote and sell books by diverse authors but to publish books, write books and encourage all voices to be heard.
Their first release Justice Makes a Difference: The Story of Miss Freedom Fighter, Esquire written by Dr. Tyner, follows a girl named Justice whose life changes after learning about prominent African Americans. This award-winning children’s book describes Justice as a “superhero with a law degree and an afro, too!” And just looking at the beautiful covers and enchanting reads, you’ll know they’re sparking interest and opening minds.
They also sell gifts and raise funds on their site to support their institute built to teach youth about leadership and social justice.
“Our Black woman-owned bookstore and publishing company combine education, learning, and leadership development opportunities anchored in a culturally specific and community-centric approach,” says Tyner. “Our goal is to plant seeds of social change through education, training, and community outreach. This solves the problem of increasing the number of diverse books, creating access to the publishing industry for BIPOC authors, fostering a lifelong journey of learning, and meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse customer base.”
During the pandemic, they’ve increased their offerings adding ‘new book releases week’ to meet the growing demand. They’ve also hosted virtual author visits and online book discussions.
“We also started offering virtual learning tools,” explains Tyner. “We’ve created a free leadership portal in order to inspire and equip community members to embark on the journey of leadership development. We provide community organizing and leadership development training with the goal in mind of supporting civic engagement year-round.”
They call this their “Leaders Journey 36 Model.” And to this unique offering they create new ways to engage the whole family from children to community elders with intergenerational approaches at community-building. Other unique offerings from this bookstore include their Sankofa Teach-In events, community gatherings, and author readings.
“These efforts will have a cascading effect as community members lead change not only for a particular issue or when casting a ballot but throughout their lifetime as change agents in our community,” she said. You can learn more about these initiative at their Overview link.
When asked what she likes best about their bookstore, Tyner says the power of representation.
“When I was growing up, I did not have books with characters that looked like me,” she explains. “Recently, a dad noted when his daughter received our ‘Justice’ book, she exclaimed: ‘Daddy it’s me!’ This is a confirmation that what we are doing is working. We are creating mirrors so children can see a positive reflection of themselves in our books and windows for all children to appreciate their cultural differences.”
This is just too unique and exciting of a bookstore to miss. So if you are in the St. Paul region, swing by 1832 East 35th St. Minneapolis, MN 5540. But everyone else can engage interactively and take part in the weekly events via their website.