Afrodiasporan Teen Literature independent bookstores YA Literature

Black Books+BlackPeople+Black Coffee = Joy

We love it when our virtual world gets to step into the real world.

This weekend, we had an opportunity to road trip from Connecticut to Philadelphia with the primary intention being a pop-in to three of my favorite Black owned independent bookstores. The secondary intention was seeing the campuses that were only doing virtual tours. Finally, we wanted to feel a bit of just joy in the spring.

Traveling while Black is often filled with lots of planning, preparation, and prayers. We did all of these. Our Driving While Black and Greenbook were not needed, being in a different time and place. It did hit us, though, that we were road tripping just days after finding out about an African American motorists’ losing his lives over car air freshener. He was the age of our Hurston and Hughes Literary Circle™ Alumni who are freshman or sophomores in college. So we took pains to make sure air freshener wasn’t hanging up. And we decided we needed joy.

Black life is not all oppression, that is what one of our circle members repeatedly says whenever we are discussing culture and literature from their perspective. They deserve joy and wonder.

So we were very excited to make it to Philadelphia to one of our favorite independent bookstores, Harriett’s Bookshop in Fishtown. It sits on land dating back to 1643 era. It pays homage to those Native Americans and to the Black woman who dared to speak up and act up for liberation. We bought some books and a young African American man was the one working in the quaint shop that day. There were smiles about seeing him as a bookseller.

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Later that day, while on tour at University of Pennsylvania, we took in the energy of possibilities.

Saturday was the last day of our quick jaunt and there was no better place for it to begin than at Uncle Bobbie’s Café and Bookstore in Germantown. It did not disappoint. The store was spacious with volumes that would make any of my circle members smile. We started curating for 2022 right then and there. We also bought mugs and sweatshirts, and of course, a toffee and oat milk latte. The staff was very helpful, all young, gifted, and Black in a space celebrating the stories of Black people.

Soho and a pop to NYU’s campus met us with people writing in Washington Square Park, street art messages, and a display collecting stories of people during the pandemic. The campus is closed for prospective freshman but open for walking around, it is all New York, so we walked captured images and thought about the diversity of stories surrounding us on that music filled evening. There was joy, such sheer joy, surrounding us.

The night ended in Harlem and dinner outside, feeling the energy of the community who was just vibing on a Saturday night at a Black owned popular spot. It was all smiles and laughter. The flow was something we wanted to put in a bottle and hold onto it as precious.

The entire weekend was a part of Black Americans that the evening news often misses, intentionally. The sheer wonder of life, the vibrance of cultures, Philly and New York are completely different, yet each one had so much intention about living a full life.

That is what we celebrate at The Hurston and Hughes Literary Circle™. We are community, culture, and conversation wrapped around ten weeks of poetry, prose, and works written by Afrodiasporan peoples. Our teens are Afrodiasporan and the gift of the pandemic is we expanded from one local bookstore or coffeeshop gathering to a virtual space with teens from across the country.

We have an exciting line up of books, author visits, and maybe even a few good lattes.

This is a summer engagement and enrichment opportunity that celebrates books and writing. The ideal teen is Afrodiasporan and in middle or high school who wants to vibe in a space of words with teens like them. It is a mini writing workshop and space to put their words and thoughts in the universe in an experience that celebrates their brilliance. We celebrate ten years this year and are excited to see what the future brings. we certainly have more books than when we started, more nuanced stories, and more friends.

Books connect us. Can’t wait to read with you!

To learn more, contact the Director, Ms. Antona at or visiting at

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