(The stores are listed
above. You can call Paul Cobb at the Oakland Post Newspaper.
If you know San Francisco, get ready to mourn (or buy SOMEthing great--fast!)
Posted January 6th, 2010 by
The Rise and Fall of Marcus Books
Marcus Books is in foreclosure, the victim of a sub-prime
loan scam and ponzi scheme. An auction is scheduled to take place next week,
unless lawyers delay matters. It is $900,000 in debt on their mortgage.
Because of hubris, the family did not disclose their situation to the pubic
or more specifically to the black community until the eleventh hour. Several
options are being attempted as we write, including having their property in
San Francisco declared a historical monument, since Marcus is no doubt the
oldest black book store in America.
Paul Cobb, publisher of the Oakland Post, is leading the
charge to save Marcus Books. No matter the cause, the primary objective is to
save this historical black business that has meant so much to Bay Area black
consciousness. Thanks to Marcus, the little light of blackness is still
shining in the Bay. So we want to save Marcus at all costs, even if 100 black
writers must post themselves in front of the property on auction day, even if
we go to jail.
I want to save Marcus in spite of my personal relationship
with the family which has been shakey from time to time, but Julian
Richardson was my mentor, so I will fight to save it because of his
contribution to black liberation in the Bay and throughout America, since
writers, artists and activists from around the world came through Marcus
Books, either in person or with their books, and shed light on a people who
walked in darkness.
If you want to help, I suggest you call Paul Cobb at the
Oakland Post Newspaper. 510-287-2800.
I first came to Marcus Books (Success Books at the time)
around 1964, when I transferred from Oakland's Merritt College to San
Francisco State College/now University. The store was located on Leavenworth
Street in the Tenderloin. Julian Richardson was the printer for our magazine,
Black Dialogue and later the Journal of Black Poetry. Black Power had not
arrived, so Raye and Julian Richardson were into Civil Rights or
integration. One of the frequent visitors to their store was theologian Howard
Thurman. His books were posted in the store window. He was a very quiet man,
so I never bothered to converse with him, but he used to hold long
conversations with Raye and Julian. I did not know then he was Martin Luther
King, Jr.'s teacher and mentor at Boston Seminary. Be careful who you're
around in life, people you think are nothing can be very special. In Oakland,
I was around another great man named Harry Hayward, a black communist, I'd
the Soulbook magazine brothers and sisters, Mamadou and Carol Freeman, Bobby
Seale, Ernie Allen and others. But Marcus Books would turn out to be the
meeting place of the Bay Area black liberation movement, even the white
revolution for that matter, as their association in the civil rights movement
made their space available to all.
When Black Power finally arrived and the
Richardson's declared themselves black nationalist, we found ourselves
under the tutatege of Julian. He was our mentor who constantly gave us wisdom
and direction on the course our revolution should take. We listened as much
as youth listen to adults, especially youth being edumaked at the white man's
Success Books became Marcus Books when everything turned
into blackness as in black power. But the store and print shop endured some
hard times. I remember when the IRS put a chain on the door of their
business. And I think this happened more than once.
Things changed when Raye Richardson started teaching black
studies at San Francisco State. The family business started thriving from the
black revolution in general and the sudden need for black consciousness
literature on the campus. Students bought books through Marcus Books.
We saw the Richardson children grow up, Blanche, Karen,
Mack, and Billy are the ones I remember. The Richardson were a model
family, although Raye used to cut down Julian pretty bad when we entered to
see him in the printshop. We had to get past Raye to get to Julian, and Raye
being a great talker herself (she ran neck to neck with her husband), would
hold us up in the front, and sometimes we thought she was stalling so Rich
could finish our printing that would often not be really after many promises.
The delay could have been due to many reasons, usually due to press breakdowns
or other priorities since our budget was slim if we had one at hall--remember
we were students at San Francisco State who sometimes survived on popcorn. No
white printer would have tolerated us coming with little or no money. In
short, Richardson became the printer of the the Black Revolution in the Bay
Area. He must be eternally honored for his role because there can be no
revolution without the printer to produce the propaganda.
The Richardsons prospered, eventually opening a store in
Oakland, along with the one in San Francisco. Rich published, among other
titles, an edition of Stolen Legacy by George M. James who taught us the
African origin of Greek philosophy. He printed several poetry volumes by
revolutionary poets, from Janice Cobb, Marvin X, Larry Neal, Jon Echols,
Dust, et al, and also Black Dialogue and the Journal of Black Poetry, two of
the classic organ of the Black Arts Movement.