By Dennis J. Freeman
Last year, African Americans spent $321 million buying books. According to Target Market News, a black consumer guide, buying books was the lowest priority for African Americans, ranking at the bottom of categories in their annual list of black spending power.
In comparison, African Americans spent $29.3 billion in clothes, $29.1 billion purchasing vehicles and $65 billion in buying food. Even toys, games and owning a pet ($3.5 billion) have a higher value than buying a book and reading. But there are still folks around who still believe in the power of acquiring knowledge.
A recent book fair in South Los Angeles gave optimism that books still matter. Several thousand people came out to the daylong event to celebrate authors that cater stories about the African American experience.
Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Isabel Wilkerson (The Warmth of Other Suns), along with Pulitzer Prize author Douglas A. Blackmon (Slavery by Another Name), joined literary newcomers in actors Todd Bridges (Killing Willis) and Isaiah Washington (A Man From Another Land: How Finding My Roots Changed My Life) at the Leimert Park Book Fair to tout their books and promote reading.
Nationally known economist Dr. Julianne Malveaux (Surviving and Thriving: 365 Facts in Black Economic History) and actress Karyn Parsons (co-star on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) added firepower to the event. While she is not yet a literary heavyweight, author Sarah Culberson (A Princess Found) is certainly on her way up the ladder.
Culberson’s life story of growing up adopted by two white parents and then discovering she is an direct heir to an African village in Sierra Leone after searching for her biological parents, has been an international fairy tale.
Since her story has begun to make national and international media headlines, Culberson, who also attended the book fair, has seen her life transcend what she originally planned for her life. Pepperdine University is using “A Princess Found” in one of their ethnic courses, and Culberson now speaks at high schools and colleges about her life as a real-life princess.
“This is not something I’d be doing in this lifetime-writing a book, working on a foundation and doing work in Sierra Leone,” Culberson. “The book is a great opportunity for people to hear about this story and also learn about Sierra Leone, and learn about adoption. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to be able to do this.
“I’ve just been guided in finding my purpose. In finding my family, it opened up all of these different opportunities and connections for other people to connect. Life is so exciting.”