What Did Karibu Mean to You?

Share memories about authors you met, books you discovered, friends you made and other ways Karibu affected your life and community.

By Washingtonpost.com editors |  January 24, 2008; 11:11 AM ET Metro
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I am deeply saddened by what feels like such a gigantic loss in the African American literary community. My son is only 10 months old, but I looked forward to taking him to Karibu to find books with pictures of children that looked like him on the cover. I love the bookstore and will definitely miss it.

Posted by: Gwen Haynes | January 24, 2008 12:37 PM

I am a local author. I've had the privilege of signing at numerous Karibu stores when big chains ignored me nd my work. This closing is a crushing blow. The future for midlist authors of color is bleak to begin with, and this doesn't make it any easier. I believe that we shall overcome, but it will take a while to get used to a life without Karibu.


Wendy Coakley-Thompson

Posted by: Wendy Coakley-Thompson | January 24, 2008 12:39 PM

Karibu - means welcome! This news is definitely not welcoming but I'm convinced that somewhere along the line we internalized the contents of the core books; therefore, we will soon build upon this legacy. I thank the owners for their awesome contributions and the on-going possibilities created by their efforts.

"Look for me in the whirlwind or storm..." - Marcus Garvey

Posted by: Kwabena Lumumba (evp) | January 24, 2008 1:07 PM

I was absolutely stunned when I got the email about the store closing. This is a very sad time for our community. I bought books mainly for my grandchildren. I could always depend upon a well read staff member to make excellent suggestions for what to buy depending on age and interest of my grandchildren. What saddens me even more is, to read in today's news, the store is closing due to problems between the owners and not because of financial issues. I'm hopeful and prayerful our community will be blessed with another book store catering to our literary needs. Until that happens, thank you Karibu for all you gave us. You were loved! We will miss you!

Posted by: Cristal | January 24, 2008 1:26 PM

This is devastating news.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 24, 2008 1:28 PM

This is SAD news... sad is putting it lightly...

My mother lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and she would be AMAZED at the books I would buy her from Karibu.... so much so that she would TRAVEL from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to get a piece of the "Karibu experience."

The books that my mother and I purchased over the years are to vast to name... but ALL great...

Karibu was even a regular stop for me whenever I received a babyshower invitation... where else could I find the selection of African American fables and childrens stories featuring beautiful African American images.

Sad, Sad news...

Posted by: Kia | January 24, 2008 1:28 PM

Karibu is already a national chain because tourists coming to the DC area come with a long list of Afro-centric books to buy and come to buy at Karibu. A divorce is no reason to deprive a nation of its culture. Many businesses in America thrive after a marital split because the parties involved act as mature adults, not whining babies. The responsible Karibu image that has been provided over the years was obviously a lie.

I agree that in today's unsettling financial climate expansion is a bad idea. Expansion, even in good times, often goes wrong. But Karibu is the Library of Congress for Blacks in America. To have that taken away from readers is a sin.

Shame on all of you for this childishness. Act responsibly. Take a class on negotiation skills. Don't close the breath of life that Karibu has become.

Posted by: Dierdre | January 24, 2008 1:57 PM

Thank you, Dierdre. Obviously the owners weren't able to see the "big picture" of birthing the African-American Library of Congress for all America to come to and browse and learn... closing this huge landmark because of an inability to resolve a conflict??? And in 3 weeks; have they "taken the money and run"?

I'm so sorry..... I really, really am !!!

Posted by: Eudora | January 24, 2008 2:11 PM

it is just sas sad to see people of color has no logevity in biz. I remember when i moved to the DC area and visit the PG Plaza store...I was very proud......very!

I was wondering if they did not want to be in partnership with the other owners. If they would put the chain up for sale, and keep the name and right to a historic book store chain the reflects the best of people of color. Sad!!!!!!!!
I will try ot get down there and purchase what is left to show my support.
~Simon Baltimore, MD

Posted by: Simon | January 24, 2008 2:58 PM

I am so sorry to hear that you all will close your doors of educating the community through great reading material by GREAT African American authors/writers.

I have strongly supported Karibu and this is heartbreaking that you will no longer be in the community to serve us by enhancing our intellect through words by US for US.

Ironically enough, I am having a party with a friend in February where we are asking each guest to bring an African American Children's book. Our recommendation was for them to get them from your locations and I hate that we cannot make that request now.
You were an excellent example of what it means to support Black Owned Businesses. Your stores represented commendable customer service. I always felt at home in your store; there was a comfort that was indescribable and a sense of African American pride that exceeded human consciousness.

Please do not go; OUR children need you! You will be missed immensely!

Posted by: Pamela L. Johnson | January 24, 2008 3:29 PM

I'm heart-broken to hear that the stores are closing. Karibu is like a teaching community or village in itself. There were so many thoughts and ideas made into books that I hadn't previously considered or been exposed to. Going to the actual store is the journey. You'll be looking for one book and another title will just steal you away. Where else am I going to have that experience?

Posted by: KW - Washington, DC | January 24, 2008 3:57 PM

what am i going to do.. i am a bookie and now i will have to bargain and gamble that i will be able to find fine african american books... why did the store NOT think to ask for ideas.. i am ready... I AM A BOOKIE..............


Posted by: jr | January 24, 2008 4:13 PM

I remember when Karibu was just a hole-in-the-wall in the late 90s at the-then PG Plaza in Hyattsville. Then after a year or so, they relocated to a larger location in the mall.

Karibu was more than a bookstore, it was a cultural asset. Over the years, I've seen many aspiring and established authors, as well as national celebrities do book signings and do some q&a in the store. I realized the appeal the store had when rapper David Banner and his entourage impromptly patronized the store.

I'm sorry to hear that the chain is closing--especially over directional differences (not financial problems, which is usually the case). I was in the Hyattsville store just a week ago. It seems to me that the chain could be sold since I was told by one of the owners (Seni) some years ago that they had an offer to purchase the chain, but turned them down.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 24, 2008 4:18 PM

It's very rare to find a bookstore catering to a black readership and when you do, you go back again and again. This is where I met one of my favorite authors, got her autographs, and took a picture with her. It was a place to relax, a place to find "revolutionary" literature or to find spiritual readings, but overall it was a place to find titles that you'd never find in mainstream bookstores. This chain will be sorely missed.

Posted by: giabianca | January 24, 2008 4:29 PM

It is sad. It is also an opportunity for all of us to get together and try to duplicate and save these books. The future african-americans are relying on you to turn it around. Find someone to fund an new store. Find a way to take the sadness of these big box stores putting out our local book stores and do something!!
Why cant the employees and people who honestly care take it back?

Posted by: mol | January 24, 2008 5:06 PM

This is a true lost, I've grown up in Wshington, DC and followed the trail of this business from the origin. I had shop at Pyramid bookstore for years and when it close I assume Karibu was the deliverer. I myself am in completion of my own book which I had envision on Karibu book shelf one day. I had once gave brother Sana a poem that I wrote for his store titled The Power of Books I never saw it again or herd from him about it. The black community has no role models, no empowering schools and now no bookstore. What in the world is happening to us? How could this happen? This is sad and hurtful and damaging. We can only hold on to God and ask for him to bless us.

Posted by: LeGrand Latney | January 24, 2008 8:41 PM

Just want to add my bit. I live in ATL but come "home" a couple of times a year. My parents live near Hamilton and Queens Chapel so Karibu at P.G. Plaza is usually my first stop after depositing my luggage from the airport. (Second stop is Jerry's.) I usually browse VERY LEISURELY and have found some fantastic books. I sometimes treat myself to a gulty pleasure like zane but almost always come away with a coffee table book or something with lots of historical pictures and stories. I, too, will miss bringing my boys up to see grandparents and shop Karibu. Sad to see it go, especially under these circumstances. Peace, all.

Posted by: 2boyzmom | January 24, 2008 10:31 PM

Sad, heartbroken, etc will not cover the amount of hurt and pain I feel when I finally accepted the fact that they were Closing. How could they destroy the "Library of African American Congress." How could they destroy, "The largest and culturally infused environment of African American Literature" in the world and you got the nerve to close down because you are "mad" at each other. Tell me how to buy the store? I bet I would get millions of people to give and stop this madness!!

Posted by: VaLinda | January 25, 2008 9:15 AM

Karibu book store will be missed at Prince Georges Plaza. I am in that particular book store every other week buying a book. One of my most favorite time was when the author E. Lynn Harris was there for a book signing. That was my first time attending a book signing I meet a lot of good people standing in line waiting to get E. Lynn Harris to sign all of my books.

Posted by: Jeanie Robinson | January 25, 2008 10:16 AM

Karibu book store will be missed at Prince Georges Plaza. I am in that particular book store every other week buying a book. One of my most favorite time was when the author E. Lynn Harris was there for a book signing. That was my first time attending a book signing I meet a lot of good people standing in line waiting to get E. Lynn Harris to sign all of my books.

Posted by: Jeanie Robinson | January 25, 2008 10:16 AM

I am still in shock. I am an avid reader and over the years Karibu provided me with such great material. The joy of reading great books written by great African American authors is indescribable. I had opportunities to meet such luminaries as Mary Morrison, Omar Tyree and E. Lynn Harris. What a loss to the African American community! It is a pity they could not resolve their differences for the benefit of the thousands who supported them over the years especially the younger generation of African American readers. I will remain hopeful that someone will be able to provide this service again. There is a great market out there.

Posted by: Pauline E. Azore | January 26, 2008 7:28 PM

Karibu was a solace for our community after the closing of Sisterspace. With the school system having so many problems we cannot afford to have such an important place for learning and self-awareness close. I love Karibu books. As a faithful shopper I encouraged everyone to shop there for any and all books; buy gift cards and take their children there. I have at least 30 books that were signed at one Karibu or another. What can we do to re-open asap? We need forward action! Is it possible for the owners to work out their differences and take one for the team. Our people need you!

Posted by: Lynette Smith | January 27, 2008 2:07 AM

I will terribly miss Karibu Books. I don't know how and where they found the people who worked at the Prince Georges location, but they made the trip there special. Not overbearing,unpleasant or annoyed when you patronized the establishment, simply great to shop there. I will order my books from
Dar Es Salaam in Mt. Rainier, Maryland.

Posted by: L. Robinson | February 18, 2008 5:23 PM

I am very sorry to hear that Karibu bookstores are closing. Karibu exemplified African-American literature in a way that made many of us very proud. We will miss you, immensely.

Posted by: TC | March 9, 2008 9:52 PM

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