Oakland boasts a colorful assortment of different cultures and communities, including taquerias and bridal shops in the Frutivale District, Chinatown markets ands eateries and boutiques in the Rockridge District.
But according to Isaac Taggart, owner of the newly opened Do 4 Self African Bookstore and Internet Lounge, “What is lacking is the presence of a thriving African-American community.
“Everyone else is displaying their pride,” said Taggart. “But we are not connected to our roots.”
“We’re out of touch with our greatness,” he said. “And we are losing our space. This (store) is a sign that we love who we are and are willing to fight for our existence.”
To make a positive change in this situation, Taggart is collaborating with Crystal L. Bing’s K.E.Y.S. Inc. Youth Learning Center to start the business, which opened three weeks ago.
In the bookstore, tables are lined with African cloth, and walls are covered with iconic images of revolutionaries like Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X and Huey P. Newton. Racks of books are filled with authors like E. Lynn Harris and Toni Morrison.
Upstairs, children’s books sit on shelves, and flags of Historically Black Colleges and Universities decorate the walls.
Taggart’s ambitious plans include an upstairs youth area, spoken word poetry nights, and a film club. He looks forward to working with schools and organizations and building a Do 4 Self bookmobile for festivals and special events.
The bookstore also provides shipping services to prisons.
The bookstore first began in 1993 but closed in 2001. Since then, Taggart says he has learned lessons from the closing of the last endeavor.
He went back to school, earned associate degrees in African-American Studies and Labor Studies at Laney College, while also studying business management at Holy Names University.
He also participated in Operation Hope’s 12-week business program.
Taggart developed his plans to reopen the book story and community center while working as re-entry employment specialist for the City of Oakland
The “Do 4 Self Bookstore and Internet Lounge” is located at 5272 Foothill Blvd. in Oakland. The grand opening is 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25. For information, call (510) 842-8300 or (510) 842-8291.