Maywood

Community raises money to support Black-owned bookstore on brink of closure in Maywood

NBC Universal, Inc.

Hundreds of books about Black culture, history and experience can be found on the shelves at Afriware Books in Maywood.

“We focus on those [books] that are culturally relevant to the Black experience, mainly because those are the books that changed my life,” said bookstore owner Nzingha Nommo.

Nommo told NBC Chicago she quit her job as an electrical engineer 30 years ago to open the independent bookstore in Oak Park before moving to Eisenhower Tower in Maywood.

“I was definitely on the fast track I was making lots of money,” she said about her career. “I quit my job to this—this passion.”

Her passion is to share and inspire others in the community to read and learn about Black history and culture and to find their identity.

“Just the joy that it brings to them lifts me. That’s what fuels me, that’s why it's so easy to not even care about the numbers,” she said. “Because it's worth more than gold to see someone’s life changed in a way that will connect them with who they are meant to be.”

With more people turning to online shopping and Amazon, Nommo said she’s been struggling to keep her doors open.

“What we think is convenient, what we think is the best cost, but what we are sacrificing by going that direction is cultural capital. That’s what’s being sacrificed,” she said.

But to sustain and survive, Nommo knows she must pivot. She is closing her storefront by Oct. 20 and moving back to Oak Park to do monthly pop ups.

She said her focus now is getting the books she carries into school districts to reflect the student body and demographics of the students being served. She’s already in talks with school districts like Proviso and Bellwood.

Meanwhile, people in the community rallied behind her raising more than $17,000 on GoFundMe to help with her cause.

“People are reaching in their pockets for their hard-earned dollar to share it with a bookstore that is amazing to me,” she said. “I feel thankful, appreciative, grateful for being in a place where the community just rising to the occasion.”

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