By MICHELLE JOKISCH POLO • DEC 6, 2019
Aari Wade wants her kids to have access to books with characters that look like them, but as a Black mom raising Black children she was finding it hard to find books for and about Black people.
“So, a lot of the books that they would bring home and the characters would be white, white stories, white culture or more American culture and not Black culture.”
So Wade took maters into her own hands and installed a little wooden book house to be placed in front of her yard and started to fill it with books of stories about Black people.
“Basically they install these houses in front of people’s homes and they fill them up with books, any kind of books, and people in the neighborhood can come and take a book people, and can leave books. But its really like we encourage you to take a book, read it, and bring it back or bring another one back so its exchanging books.”
Fast forward several months later, and Wade decides she wants her entire community to have access to these books…so she applies for a grant through the Grand Rapids Neighborhood Match Fund to start what she calls the Black Book Exchange Box.
“I put in there my plan to build some more houses to create these houses for Black books, not for Black people but for Black books.”
With the $2500 grants Wade received she worked with folks from the Grand Rapids Center for Community Transformation and local artist Ella Luster Weber to create six new book houses that will be placed all over the city of Grand Rapids.
“The one that I really like is looks like a taxi cab box so its yellow with the black and white checkers. There is a black girl with some glasses on and you can just see her top of glasses and her hair and she’s got a book open and it says: “well read Black girl.”
For Wade this project became more than about books, but about being unapologetically Black.
“Black book exchange box was created to be an unapologetic message saying that we do matter and we will represent ourselves if nobody else will.”