Stevona Elem-Rogers Launches First Black Women’s Literature Little Free Library in New Orleans’

Stevona ER

While we’re all aware of the need for (and the current rise in) Black representation in art, it’s often forgotten how inaccessible art remains to a lot of historically marginalized communities by design. Everything from white normative curriculum, financial lack or physical location can inhibit explorative range and in response writer Stevona Elem-Rogers, in collaboration with the nonprofit behind Little Free Libraries across the country, is bridging representation and reach. In New Orleans’ historic 7th Ward is Material Life Shop, black-owned by Carla Williams. Inside houses a beautiful garden where Stevona has created and curated the first Black women-centric Little Free Library – a book nook dedicated to, and exclusively carrying literature by Black women writers. The library features a decal of “Sistren: Black Women Writers at the Inauguration of Sister President Johnetta B. Cole” (1988) by Susan J. Ross

Stevona says, “The library is a physical manifestation of a living and breathing journey and examination of how Black women come to be. My dream is that Black girls and women across socioeconomic levels have access to books that speak to our lived experiences and guide us to reimagine freedom for future generations.” She continues, “I picked a small group of Black women writers that I admire to contribute. I also asked them to share works of Black women writers that have shaped their journey to include alongside their books. For example, Nikki Giovanni donated a signed copy of Acolytes: Poems, but noted that her favorite books are Toni Morrison, Sula and Edwidge Danticat, The Dew Breaker inside the cover. This exchange allows the library to be a collective conversation about how we shift consciousness as Black girls and women. It’s important to remember that Black people were the only group in the United States ever forbidden to become literate. This type of library is a small structure that has huge meaning for us. It’s the first of its kind in the country and I hope every neighborhood is inspired to create others in it’s likeness.”

The ‘Black Women are For Grown Ups’ Little Free Library was launched on May 19th and premiered alongside its companion piece – a short film titled “Won’t You Celebrate With Me,” shot by director Phillip M. Youmans and executive produced by Stevona herself, that gives reminiscence to literary giant Lucille Clifton’s urge to laud the intense journey that is Black womanhood. The film is set to run on site at the library’s permanent location, Material Life, through the summer.

You can view the film below along with a list of the library’s inaugural contributor listing.

Won't You Celebrate With Me from Phillip Michael Youmans on Vimeo.

Inaugural Contributor Booklist:
Nikki Giovanni, Acolytes: Poems
Sonia Sanchez, Morning Haiku, Does Your House Have Lions
In It?, and Shake Loose My Skin
Solange Knowles, A Seat At The Table (Soft Cover Art Book)
Jesmyn Ward, Where The Line Bleeds and Sing, Unburied, Sing
Rebecca Carroll, Sugar in the Raw: Voices of Young Black
Girls in America
Roxane Gay, Difficult Women and An Untamed State
Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns
Jacqueline Woodson, brown girl dreaming
Cleo Wade, Heart Talk
Morgan Jerkins, This Will Be My Undoing
Tayari Jones, An American Marriage
Aja Monet, My Mother Was A Freedom Fighter
Rio Cortez, I have learned to define a field as a space between mountains
Eve Ewing, Electric Arches
Stevona Elem-Rogers, BWAFGU. Chapbook
Jessica B. Harris, My Soul Looks Back (Memoir)
Sharee Miller, Princess Hair
Tori, Chatman, Bruised But Not Broken
Angela Y. Davis, Freedom Is A Constant Struggle
Mahogany L. Browne, Idrissa Simmonds and Jamila Woods,
The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 2: Black Girl Magic
Kristina Kay Robinson, Mixed Company
Aminatta Forna, Happiness
Akwaeke Emezi, Freshwater
Mwende Katwiwa, Becoming Black
Naima Coster, Halsey Street
Keenga Yamahtta Taylor, How We Get Free
Caneeka Elleanor Miller, Woven Womanhood
Ebony Stewart, Home. Girl. Hood.
Tomi Adeyemi, Children of Blood and Bone

Photography: Erica Kane

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