Black gold: A review of the Community Book Center mural

Community Book Center Mural (photos by: Jasmine Davidson)

Four years ago, Brandan “Bmike” Odums, visual artist and creator of StudioBe, and READ MORE BOOKS, New Orleans-based graffiti writer, worked together to paint a mural on the side of the Community Book Center.[1] Today, the mural continues to stand, effortlessly catching the eyes of visitors and residents alike with its vivid colors and beautiful imagery.

The artists’ choice of the Community Book Center was undeniably purposeful. For generations, the bookstore has been a social hub for the inhabitants of the Seventh Ward—a place where “thousands of people have found their lives enriched by conversations they’ve had at the center.” [2] Likewise, the bookstore has provided a home base for local writers and a “home away from home” for black literary stars across the country. [2]

Community Book Center Mural (photos by: Jasmine Davidson)

But above all else, the Community Book Center has been an educational safe space for the neighborhood’s youth.

In the early 1980s, substitute teacher Vera Warren Williams noticed her Black students struggling to identify with the white heroes and figures portrayed in their textbooks. Heartbroken by this, Williams brought a few of her books to school that featured Black scientists, activists, and pioneers in numerous trades. Naturally, her students were eager to learn about these powerful, intelligent individuals who looked just like them.[2]

The positive response Williams received from her students led to the birth of the Community Book Center. Beginning in her own home, Williams sold books written by and about people of African descent to families in her neighborhood. Eventually, the book store moved to its current location at 2523 Bayou Road, a two-story building where Williams sells art, clothing, fabric, and jewelry alongside her books.[2]

Like Williams, Odums and READ MORE BOOKS recognize the importance of teaching Black youth about African culture and prominent Black figures in American history, and they stress this in their mural.

The right side of the mural features a young, Black child accepting a book titled “Ujamaa” from an outstretched hand. His elated expression coupled with the African symbols and vibrant gold circle around the book stress the impact of educating Black youth about their African ancestry. Likewise, the mural’s left side depicts a Black woman reading an African tale, which seems to come to life as she scans the page.

Community Bookstore Mural by Brandan Odums (Photo by: Jasmine Nicole)

In the United States, many of the diverse, beautiful voices that contributed to our shared history are omitted from the national narrative. Chapters of our textbooks are dedicated to white explorers, poets and scientists, but Black intellectuals are allotted paragraphs. Our country was built on the backs of slaves, yet history’s oppressors are still honored by monuments and museums.


The existence of the Community Book Center highlights a deficiency in our current education system: Black children need to learn where their ancestors came from and what they accomplished. They should be taught in school about African cultures and kingdoms—civilizations that thrived and existed long before colonization—the same way European and American culture is taught.

In conclusion, Odums and READ MORE BOOKS are calling for a change—a change in the education of our youth—that will both uplift and inspire Black children to become the powerful men and women they were born to be.




[1] MacCash, Doug. “Brandan Odums and Read More Books join forces on Bayou Road mural, second-line.” Times-Picayune. November 25, 2015. Accessed February 18, 2019.

[2] Reckdahl, Katy. “Community Book Center, Cultural Hub of Black Community, Fighting to Stay Open.” TheAdvocate. June 10, 2017. Accessed February 18, 2019.



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