Since 2013, Solange Knowles’ Saint Heron creative studio has been a beacon of Black culture, one that has preserved our legacy while allowing today’s trailblazers to shine in an industry that’s forever tried to dim our light. After producing music compilations, performance art, podcasts and more, Saint Heron is tapping into the literary space with a free library that launched online this week.
The Saint Heron Community Library — its first “season” was curated by Rosa Duffy, founder of Atlanta’s For Keeps Bookstore — made its debut on Monday. The collection boasts a selection of rare and out-of-print literary works by Black authors, including 50 art anthologies, poem collections, zines, novels, and history books that anyone in the United States can borrow from (each title can be borrowed for a total of 45 days). Books presently available include a photography and poem collection by artist Amiri Baraka, a copy of Langston Hughes’ 1942 Shakespeare in Harlem, multiple poem collections by Audre Lorde, Octavia Butler’s Clay’s Ark, and many others. Selections will be offered seasonally.
“We believe our community is deserving of access to the stylistically expansive range of Black and Brown voices in poetry, visual art, critical thought and design,” Saint Heron writes on their site. “The library’s focus is education, knowledge production, creative inspiration and skill development through works by artists, designers, historians, and activists from around the world.”
Duffy shares with Saint Heron that her goal for this first offering of the Saint Heron’s library was to focus on both classic and popular works by renowned Black creators. She especially wanted to focus on the overlooked details of what they do.
“This is the stuff that people were writing for us since the very beginning to help us get through day-to-day life, to help us get through times that we're facing right now,” she says. “They did this for us, and the reason that they're such popular names is because they had such a strong voice. So that's what I wanted to cover. It varies day to day. There's so much. We are like a goldmine.”
The launch of the Saint Heron’s community library comes just two weeks after Noname Books’ opening of The Radical Hood Library in Los Angeles. In case you missed it, The Radical Hood Library is stocked with books on various topics including Black resistance and imperialism — all available to the public for free. Since libraries use many of the same methods to acquire books as bookstores do, pulling from the same pools of content, many important Black titles are left out of local collections, making it challenging for people to find them.
“This was in part why I wanted to build [our library],” Noname shared on Twitter around the opening of The Radical Hood Library. “Books by Amilcar Cabral, George Jackson, Mumia, Sèkou Tourè and other Black revolutionaries/marxists are damn near impossible to find in state libraries. Their books are curated to service the largest demographic in the US... whites.”
As Black creators continue to push for literary access within their communities, a new channel of self-emancipation continues to open amidst a catalyst for social change. The revolution will not be televised; the revolution will be read.