The feminist bookstore movement began with people like you gathering in living rooms and on porches and around kitchen tables, deciding that they not only wanted, but needed, to take back the means of cultural production–story, art, song, film-so that the narratives of their lives could be centered and celebrated. In this era of e-books and blogs a feminist writer has more access to the means of production than ever before, but one need only glance at the NY Times bestseller list to see how far we haven’t come in the mainstream. In 1994 there were over 120 feminist bookstores in North America, now there are fewer than 10. Are we lucky because we are still here? Yes, we are lucky to have this space in the heart of the U.S. South where we come together to center voices that would otherwise be silenced. But survival takes work. And truth telling is work, which is why we call the writers and artists and activists who come through our doors and grace us with their gifts cultural workers. Their art is a kind of blood letting, a looking into the sun when everyone else averts their eyes, a journeying to the other side and coming back to tell the tale so that we are all wiser for their troubles.The needs that birthed the feminist bookstore movement are far from resolved; in fact they have merely evolved into new needs.
Together with the Board of Directors, my dream is to build upon the vision Charis co-founder Linda Bryant created in 1974 by nurturing this place for people to come together to talk about the needs of their communities, to learn from books, to support children and their families, to share skills, to teach and to be taught. We plan to cultivate Charis Circle as the feminist and social justice center that we have always been by increasing and diversifying our already vibrant popular education programs in our current space. While programming and events will begin to occupy more Charis space, books will always be the emotional lifeblood: they are the reason to stop in on a rainy day, the catalyst for magical connections and necessary conversations. We are committed to assuring that Charis remains a safe haven for isolated writers and marginalized dreamers, a place where every child finds their face in the picture books, and where new and exciting connections are made.
Our story is far from over. There is more work to be done. There is potential for more daytime programming, to reach wider audiences, to enhance the functionality and beauty of our space, and to rise in prominence as a national resource center. I am excited by the real possibilities and I need your help. Become a Cornerstone Member of Charis Circle today and help Charis amplify the voices of the next generation of cultural workers and truth tellers.
Executive Director, Charis Circle
P.S. I know that for some of you $20 a month is a stretch, I know that for some of you, $50, or $500 a month is comfortable. I ask that you give at a level that feels generous, sustainable, and exciting for you. We appreciate each and every gift in the spirit with which it is given.