‘A place where we can show Black excellence’: Inside Sacramento region’s only Black-owned bookstore
KCRA - February 3, 2003
SACRAMENTO, Calif. —
The Sacramento region’s only Black-owned bookstore can be found in the heart of Oak Park.
Underground Books opened its doors in 2003 to fill a need in its community: There are no public libraries in Sacramento’s Oak Park neighborhood.
“If people don’t benefit, if the community doesn’t benefit, then we’re doing something wrong,” Cassandra Jennings told KCRA 3.
Jennings is the CEO and president of St. Hope, an Oak Park-based nonprofit focused on revitalizing the neighborhood “through education and community economic development.”
The nonprofit owns and runs Underground Books, the Guild Theater next door and the local elementary, middle and high school public charter schools.
It also supports the multiple Black-owned businesses in Oak Park’s “40 Acres” area.
Underground Books has become a hub for learning, education, thought and community in Oak Park.
It provides youth, young adults and families with programming, internships, jobs and reading programs.
While the store has a Black History Month display proudly visible in its front window, the brick and mortar honors Black culture, heroes, history, authors and artists year-round.
“It wasn’t available to me as a child and I would even say as my kids were growing up,” Jennings said. “You didn’t have all these books that showed me, or talked about my hair, or [said] it’s OK [to have] a variety of different skin colors!”
The book-filled shelves show representation matters, especially after an increasingly challenging few years.
“It has been particularly exhausting for people of color, especially Black people,” Jennings explained. “As we were fighting for equity and saw injustices, when COVID-19 hit, it just put a knee on our neck.”
This Black History Month, she wants her community to be reminded of their resiliency.
Underground Books has a variety of free programming for Black History Month including movie viewing at the Guild Theater, children’s reading events, book discussions and more.
To see a full list of the Black History Month events and stay updated, follow Underground Books’ Instagram and Facebook pages.