MAY 13, 2014 — “We got a ‘Funky and low-down feeling, but we rock steady,” said Greg Johnson, Marcus Books co-owner addressing a small press gathering at Meadows Livingstone School in San Francisco yesterday.
He was harkening back to the undisputed queen of soul, Aretha Franklin when he described the struggle of Marcus Bookstore in the Fill-no-more district of San Francisco, which is the undisputed vessel of Black history and literature, the original location of New Bop City and is currently fighting to stay alive in San Francisco, which might now be known as the undisputed pinnacle of wealth-hoarding and displacement.
“They locked us out of our home.”
The recent unjust tragedy that inspired the press conference started last Tuesday when my own recently gentrified (out of the Mission) eyes were gazed up at by the tear-filled six-year-old eyes of the grandbaby of the Marcus Books family, who is also a youth skola at POOR’s Family Project, relating the recent injustice of their long-time family store being locked out by the “new owners.”
“They (Sweiss family, owners of Royal Cab, Big Dog Cab & dispatch for City Wide Taxi Co) bought the bookstore for $1.6 million and now want us to buy it back for $2.6 million. We had a little more than one month to raise a million dollars. We were able to raise $250,000 and they locked us out anyway,”
“Contrary to several media reports Marcus Books is not in bankruptcy, it is a thriving business and we have no plans to close our store,” concluded Greg.
“Black history is everyone’s history, said Karen Johnson, the other co-owner of Marcus Books. She then gave the crowd a powerful lesson in African deep structure and the ways in which this sale of this historical landmark is emblematic of the ways in which material values are guiding the world in this terrifying and destructive time of rampant displacement and removal.
Karen’s herstory brought my strong Black/Indian Mama Dee into the small room at the Afro-centered Meadows Livingstone School, she and I learned back so much of our own her story that this white-supremacist ruled world never teaches you from the books and culture at Marcus Books. The values of our indigenity, of our multi-racial, multi-cultural ancestors, buried under so much settler colonial teaching doled out to poor folks like my mama and me, in institutional schools, orphanages, and jails, where so many of us Po’ folks are sent live and breathe in the books and art and voices that have circulated Marcus Books for generations. We often say there would be no POOR Press without Marcus Books.
“My family was displaced from the Fillmore district, and now this City, where my entire family has spent their life, are telling us that they don’t want us here,” said Tony Robles, Board president of Manailatown Heritage Foundation and co-editor of POOR Magazine. Tony went on to propose that the eminent domain concept that allowed the redevelopment agency to steal so many Black families homes in the 60’s & 70’s behind the first wave of “Negro removal” be used to take back the Marcus Books.
“We are asking Mayor Ed Lee to step up and actually do the right thing and save this crucial landmark we all need. The press conference was organized by Grace Martinez of ACCE and also included the powerful voices of Grace Martinez, Gail Meadows and Denise Sullivan.
The family is planning a series of actions to fight this unjust removal — but for now readers can call Royal Cab and tell the Sweiss family to sell Marcus Books back to the Johnson family. To find out about the next actions to Save Marcus Books email firstname.lastname@example.org
Tiny aka Lisa Gray-Garcia, daughter of Dee, is an editor at POOR Magazine and a contributor to 48hills.