Xera Britt, Contributor
“Minnesota doesn’t have a Black-owned bookstore. I think that is my new dream.” This tweet went viral in June of 2020 as Dionne Sims, the soon-to-be founder of Black Garnet Books, voiced her new dream to help remedy the lack of Black-owned bookstores across the state.
In the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the rising public attention on police brutality, more and more people are beginning to search out Black-owned businesses to show support and gain a better perspective of the nuances of the Black community. Now, as the only Black-owned bookshop in Minnesota, Black Garnet Books provides this new audience with racially-diverse books and authors whose voices need to be heard.
Dionne Sims is a Black, queer, Minnesotan designer who has always loved reading, writing and publishing. When she initially went to college, Sims claims, “[I’d] been trying to force a narrative for my life that isn’t for me.” Her original intent was to go into publishing as a career, but Sims eventually got a Bachelor’s in Communications, saying that she “ended up in tech because I needed to pay student loans.” She found herself in the beginning of 2020 with a job she had no passion for and a yearning to be close to books and literature. With the death of George Floyd and the increased visibility of police brutality, Sims found herself increasingly stressed and unhappy with the position she was in. As she posted about her yearnings and discontent with the lack of Black-owned bookstores in Minnesota on Twitter, Sims found overwhelming support and began making connections to people who “know their shit” to begin the careful process of creating Black Garnet, pursuing her passion at last.
Black Garnet Books initially launched as an online bookstore following the Twitter thread. Shortly after making the tweets, Sims opened a GoFundMe page that quickly grew in popularity and support. Within 48 hours, Sims met her goals to kickstart Black Garnet. Shortly thereafter, she posted a new goal that would go towards paying future employees and help for the future bookshop. Because of the pandemic, a physical location has yet to be selected as the headquarters for Black Garnet, however Sims says that her ultimate goal is to find a good location by spring or summer of 2021.
Until then, Black Garnet Books is sticking to online sales and limited hours at its temporary location at Merci Tattoo on Lyndale Ave South. The store showcases contemporary adult and young adult literature published by Black authors and authors of color. Their goal is to introduce a wider audience to these underrated, underrepresented voices, both new and old. The home page of their Bookshop website has Sims’s curated list of favorite books, along with ones she is ecstatic to read in the future. There is a wide selection of books to choose from, ranging from autobiographies, to children’s books, to adult and teen fiction- all written by Black authors.
Black Garnet offers something that Minnesota, particularly Minnesotan literature, needs direly: connection between the Black community and their non-Black neighbors, as well as a literary space that pushes Black voices from the margins to the center. Art remains a way to vent frustration, grief and anger, as well as creativity, solidarity and kindness. It remains a medium of connection for Minnesota as a whole. Black Garnet is a hopeful sign of what is to come in the future of Minnesota and the United States. Connection, solidarity and many, many more books to read.
Black Garnet can be found attached to Merci Tattoo on Lyndale Avenue South, or by following their Instagram @blackgarnetbooks, as well as websites bookshop.org/shop/blackgarnetbooks and http://www.blackgarnetbooks.com.