News & Politics

Solange Gave Away 250 Books to Howard Students at a Black-Owned Bookstore in DC

Solange talking with one of her fans at Sankofa Video Books & Cafe. Photo via Twitter.

The day after her performance at the Peace Ball on Thursday, Solange Knowles stopped by Sankofa Video Books & Cafe, a bookstore on Georgia Avenue to meet with her local fans and buy them 250 books.

She originally wanted to plan a speaking event at Howard University, but when she found out the school was closed for the inauguration, she asked the bookstore if it would host instead. She announced the book giveaway on her Instagram just a few hours before it started. Hundreds of people, mostly from Howard, flocked to the store.

“I think that now more than ever we have to invest in community and fellowship,” Solange said as she greeted the crowd. 

One of the owners of Sankofa, Shirikiana Gerima, says that Solange’s decision to come to the store had symbolic meaning for members of the black community as it faces an uncertain future in the Trump era. The bookstore has been open since 1997 and specializes in books about people of African descent around the world.

“For Solange to feel like [Sankofa] is a touchstone for when times get challenging is rewarding for us,” Gerima says. “We hope to be the kind of place for anybody who needs to remember that what we’re facing is not new, and that there are people who have stood up to harder things. They’ve left messages and symbols and signs about how to go about this kind of thing. They made it, and we can make it.”

Among the books Solange bought for attendees were Black Skin, White Masks by Frantz Fanon, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Nearly all of the store’s James Baldwin collection was bought out.

Solange said one of her favorites on Sankofa’s shelves was Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Charles Blow.

“For her to do this in a bookstore—an intellectual space, a place where you’ve got to come and think and read and discuss—it was quite significant,” Gerima says.

After Solange gave a short speech, she talked to fans and took pictures. You can watch her speech here:

Web producer/writer

Greta started as an editorial fellow in January 2016 and joined as a full-time staff member that August. She now works as a web producer and writer. She was previously an intern at Slate and National Geographic and graduated from the University of Missouri’s Journalism School. She lives in Adams Morgan.