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After a steep decline of Black-owned bookstores in the United States, book lovers have witnessed a resurgence since the murder of George Floyd and the systemic racial equity protests that followed.
In 1999, the number of Black-owned bookstores in the U.S was more than 325. By 2014, that number had dwindled to 54, a decline of 83 percent. By 2020, the country saw a resurgence of Black-owned books stores and educational exposure to anti-racist literature and diverse storytelling. According to recent reports, there are now more than 124 Black-owned establishments in the country comprising just 6 percent of indie bookselling companies in the U.S.
Urban fiction, or street lit, is a literary genre with a growing audience for Black-led characterization and storylines.
Typically set in an inner city landscape, urban fiction focuses on storylines with African American characters and strong themes on the life experiences of Black people.
Michel Moore is a multi-title Essence Magazine bestselling author and lead organizer of the Hustle & Grind Urban Literature Convention (ULC) in Detroit.
“I write urban fiction and I live in the middle of urban fiction every day,” said Moore, a lifelong Detroiter. “What I write is gritty and drawn from my neighborhood and city experiences. A lot of things I write, people don’t believe it actually happens but what I see is different characters and grit in everyday life here in Detroit that I loosely base my characters and plot on, so we can see ourselves in what we read.”
She began writing in early 2004 and has since produced more than 30 books. They cover a wide range of categories, such as Religious, Young Adult, Urban Fiction, and Non-Fiction. She has made her imprint and established her reputation in the industry with the hard-hitting titles, including “Coldhearted and Insane,” “Young & Hungry,” “Homeless,” “Testify,” “Kingpins: Detroit,” and “Married to The Shooter” released by Urban Books (Carl Weber). She is the sole founder of Say U Promise Publications.
“I’ve always loved books and when I was a kid Detroit was changing and a lot of people moved away so I didn’t have many friends,” said Moore. “I began to write and those characters became my friends and they stayed with me. Since then, I’ve been hustling to get my work out there, traveling to and from New York City to sell my books because street vendors are more common there and coming back home to support more of a space where we can have that kind of culture here.”
With a strong commitment to preserving the rapidly disappearing “brick and mortar” conventional bookshops, Moore took a risk and opened Hood Book Headquarters on 2407 East Seven Mile Road in 2006. The storefront remained open for 13 years before closing its doors due to COVID-related hardship.
Moore established the now renowned Detroit Hustle & Grind Urban Literature Conference in 2018, which features some of the most well-known authors in the book industry. Her book group, The Hood Book Advocates, is a co-host of that event.
Her daughter, author T.C. Littles, also holds the prestigious distinction of being an Essence Magazine bestseller.
“I feel like literacy is at an all-time low in metropolitan Detroit, with Detroit being ground zero,” said Moore. “That’s why my urban literary convention’s main emphasis is on literacy. A lot of kids growing up these days are quick to enter TikTok or social media and my hope is that with events like this [they] can begin to see the importance of reading. These books have characters that look like them and life situations that may be familiar.
“I think books are the gateway to everything and a way to slowly introduce what others would call fine literature or something from the Urban Renaissance, such as Langston Hughes and such. African American bookstores create those kinds of spaces and while I still plan to reopen a brick and mortar, we must support the ones we still have to keep going for us all.”
The fifth Hustle & Grind Urban Literary Convention will take place on June 10 from 12pm-6pm at 1440 E. Franklin St., Detroit, MI 48207. Visitors will have an opportunity to meet over 100 authors, publishers, literary influencers, screen writers and other creatives.
The Detroit Police Department will be distributing gun safety locks and Child Identification Kits. The Detroit Fire Dept will be on hand distributing smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to city residents, as well as speaking about Fire Safety Prevention.
Children can enjoy the Children’s Books Pavilion and have a chance to register for opportunities with Detroit Film Kids.
To learn more, visit hustleandgrindulc.com or get in touch with Moore through social media, such as Facebook: MSMICHEL MOORE.