Brighton and Sussex to have its first black-owned #bookshop

Just one year after opening the controversial online bookshop selling books by black authors, Afrori Books is now making plans to open a physical shop in the North Laines, Brighton in October.

Afrori has launched a crowdfund for £10,000 to transform the amazing downstairs space at Lighthouse charity’s building in Kensington Street into a bookshop and plan to open in October. A spokesperson for the charity said: “We can’t think of a better way to occupy the Lighthouse space, for it to become a home to the only Black-owned bookshop for Black authors in Brighton.”

The crowdfund hit more than £3,000 in just 48 hours of launching.

On opening the business last year, Afrori Books sparked controversy with some saying that it was not necessary to have a bookshop that favoured black authors and the store’s email and social media account were hit with a flurry of racial abuse.

In spite of this, the online store has continued to thrive and has been highlighted by several social media influencers, had articles in the mainstream press and is part of a recently aired BBC World Service documentary.

Carolynn Bain, the founder of Afrori Books said: “Yes, there were a lot of people that thought we were wrong. However, we would ask those people where is the representation for black authors in main bookshops? In the past year we have seen publishers having to do extra print runs because we have promoted a book and it has sold out. The work we do is important and it is making a difference.”

The store currently works with a local charity that gives free books to schools and say this work will expand to free workshops for teachers when the shop opens, as well as children’s days, author visits and young writer events.

Afrori Books is also committed to offering employment to those who would also find it difficult to find it. It wants to be more than a bookshop that helps you to diversify your bookshelves, it wants to be a social space, a safe space, a space that is needed, a space that did not exist in the city before.

Lighthouse is an arts charity that has been based in Brighton for more than 30 years. Alli, CEO and arts director at the charity said: “Only a few weeks ago the result of a football match shone a light on the racial abuse Black people face every day. A stark reality that spaces can change, in a matter of hours, from cheer to fear. Lighthouse is committed as a team to dismantle systemic inequality and to build a fairer cultural sector for the future – to do this, real action is needed and urgently.”

The city of Brighton is still a difficult place to live for black people with racial incidents and micro-aggressions still a part of everyday life. Education is needed. Afrori Books would be the only bookshop of its kind in Brighton and Sussex.

Carolynn said: “Changing the way people read is fundamental to affecting their outlook and reading habits for life, and it is through reading that we can have the greatest impact on attitudes to racism in the future. Afrori Books is changing the world, one book at a time.”

The crowdfund will run until October 2021