Mary Hardy, Owner, The Book Gallery, Only Black Owned Independent Bookstore in the Mississippi Delta
Dear RDLN Network Members;
Congratulations to RDLN graduate Meredith Coleman McGee (Group 7), who since 2016 has been leading a drive for literacy in Jackson, Mississippi. Because local public libraries — even those named for African-Americans – have few books on their shelves and discourage participation in children’s programs by African-Americans, she and seven other women launched the Community Library Initiative with a long-term goal of opening their own library in Jackson. They developed My First Book Series, which included six primer books for beginning readers My First Book Series. She and other volunteers coordinated the Spring Break Reading Fair in March 2017. During that week, reading coaches and youth participants formed the Learning Tree Book Club, a reading group for young and adult readers (See photo at bottom).
Meredith (c) with Fran Wade Camper and Lena Barnes at Jackson Book Festival
Meredith and other authors had encountered barriers to entering their local marketplace. They could not sell books in the Jackson Hinds Library System. The books of several authors were rejected by the Mississippi Museum Book Store and several large book retailers. The Mississippi Library Commission refused to list their titles in the state’s database. The authors formed the “Book Toasters” a social club for authors andthey organized the first Jackson Book Festival. It took place at the Jackson Medical Mall on February 8. Meredith was the mistress of ceremony. “There was a great turnout with over 20 author and art vendors,” she said. Student volunteers from Hinds Community College supported the event. Four adults won the poetry contest. Local businesses donated gift bags consisting of books, children’s dictionaries, gift cards, and art. Meredith proclaimed, “This is an intellectual revolution!” and she added that “We plan to organize an event annually.”
In comparing the Jackson Book Festival, described above, to the traditional book festival in the state, she said, “I attended the Mississippi Book Festival, which is held at the Mississippi State Capitol every August, three times. Even though several authors split the cost of a table, we barely broke even each year. During our Jackson Book Festival, authors were given the opportunity to present six-minute book talks, and the cost of table space was only $20, which increased the opportunity for profit. Meredith has just released the second (paperback) edition of her biography James Meredith: Warrior and the America that created him through her small press Meredith Etc. She will speak at the J.D. Williams Library at the University of Mississippi, Oxford campus, on Thursday, March 7. She has also released the second edition of her book Odyssey, a collection of her poems and other writings from 1993 to 2018. Meredith is an entrepreneur, author, and publisher. She earned her master’s degree from Antioch University through the Rural Development Leadership Network.
Meredith standing defines a term for a new reader, who came to the Learning TreeBook Club with his mentors. Ty’Leeann, right, was a founding member of the club, which was formed at Pearl Street AME Church during the Spring Break Reading Fair.
Starry Krueger, Rural Development Leadership Network, P.O. Box 98 Prince St. Station, New York, NY 10012, (212)777-9137 (212)477-0367 (Fax) email@example.com