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Anacostia business opens in 'book desert'

People living east of the Anacostia River had not had a place to buy books for the past two decades.

The area became known as a 'book desert.'

Literacy advocates said the lack of bookstores hurt communities and hindered mental growth.

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Mahogany Books opened on Friday inside of the Anacostia Arts Center.

“To sell books that were written for, by, or about people in the African diaspora,” Derrick Young said.

“This is where our community is. This is where our readers are. This is where our demographic lives,” Ramunda Lark-Young explained.

The Anacostia community is historically where many African-American families live.

The neighborhood and surrounding areas had been without a bookstore for more than 20 years.

“When they talk about a child and where they are on a reading level from the fourth grade -- it is a huge predictor of them even being a part of the penal system because of a book, because of the words that they read, because of the exposure to different environments— different journeys,” Ramunda Lark-Young said.

The business was a dream ten years in the making for Ramunda and Derrick Young who started their business online back in 2007.

The couple participated in community book events all over the DMV and interviewed big-name authors.

“Every community deserves a bookstore, but it deserves a bookstore that reflects its own community,” Angela Maria Spring, with Duende District Bookstore, said.

The Young family partnered with Duende District, a mobile bookstore for and by people of color, to be a longtime popup bookstore within Mahogany Books.

The business plans to provide workshops, children’s story time, and community discussions.

“Having books that allow you to see yourself in those situations begin to take the lid off of what you once thought your limitations were,” Derrick Young said.

While many of the stories here focus on people of color, the store welcomes everyone.

“There is no animosity,” Derrick Young told WUSA9. “There is no way that people should feel like this is not a welcoming space for them even if they are not African American or from the Latinx experience.”

The Young family hopes their presence in Southeast Washington will help keep young people off of the streets and out of jail

“The bigger picture— the bigger impact that we want to leave for our community and legacy is how do we shift that pipeline. It’s amazing what a $10 book can do to help shift that pipeline,” Ramunda Lark-Young said

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