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May 28, 2019

Gentrification Threatens Black-Owned Bookstore in Washington, DC

Sankofa Video Books & Cafe in Washington, DC

Sankofa Video Books & Cafe, a Black-owned bookstore that has been a part of Washington D.C. for the last 2 decades, is facing a threat of impending closure after being slapped with a huge amount of property taxes. Sankofa's co-founder Shirikiana Gerima believes the move could be considered modern-day gentrification.
The bookstore, which features works by Africans and people of African descent, is facing a $30,000 tax assessment due to the recent increase in property value. If forced to pay that huge amount, Gerima fears the bookstore might no longer be able to continue to operate.

Recently, the threat of gentrification has been plaguing bookstores, particularly those that are Black-owned, in Washington, D.C. and the whole country as well. Sadly, many didn't make it through because of the increased overhead and basic expenses, much more the tax payments.

However, Gerima is positive that they would still be able to survive if the bookstore could be exempted from tax payments for 10 years. She has appealed to city councilmember Brianna Nadeau who is sponsoring a resolution for that.

"Nadeau understands the importance of Sankofa not only as a bookstore but as a cultural institution that provides artists, filmmakers, and authors with space and platform to present, deliberate, and showcase their work to eager audiences," she wrote in an e-mail to Publishers Weekly.

Gerima also calls for support from the community to be with them during the June 3 hearing on the resolution and appeal for the tax abatement the bookstore is going through.

"Sankofa is one of the very few cultural establishments left in the area," she wrote, adding that the community is, "adamant about keeping this resource open and thriving."

For more information about Sankofa Video Books & Cafe, visit

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