Rohi's Readery Expanding with New Location in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Proposed model for Rohi's new location

Rohi's Readery, West Palm Beach, Fla., which opened in 2021 at CityPlace downtown with a focus on diversity and inclusion, is expanding to a larger location in the Northwest Historic District, a predominantly Black neighborhood in the northwestern side of the downtown area, WLRN reported. 

Owner Pranoo Kumar said that the new, 1,600-square-foot, Rohi's Readery and  Rohi's Liberation Station will be located in Styx Promenade between Rosemary Avenue and Sapodilla Avenue, directly across the street from Heart and Soul Park and the Historic Sunset Lounge, a renovated jazz venue. 

"The two buildings and its two courtyards will serve as a retail space and the other space will serve as a flex space, which will include free educational programming, offering early childhood, adults and financial literacy programs," WLRN noted.

"When I think of Liberation Station, I think of it as a physical space where people can just feel seen, feel valued, but also are able to just breathe and be," she added.

Kumar noted that her "social-justice driven bookstore" is growing as it continues to include books that spotlight historically marginalized communities, untold stories by Black, Hispanic, LGBTQ+, and immigrants. An education consultant who is of Indian descent, she said the bookshop and art workspace is garnering community and fundraising support ahead of its plan to submit a July update to city officials on the new location, which is funded through the Community Redevelopment Agency.

Her work to expand her bookstore comes at a time when Florida continues to lead the effort nationwide to ban books from public school libraries. Kumar is still grappling with those who disapprove of her need to infuse cultural competency in her lessons and shop, experiencing a "fair share of death threats, negative comments, e-mails," she said. "As a human, I would be remiss if I didn't say that it does bring a level of fear. But I also really channel the strength of my ancestors and those who've come before us who have been doing this work so unapologetically and with harsher consequences."

Noting that "the damage is done" because there is a level of fear in the air over the use of words that imply anything to do with race and identity in various educational spaces outside of the school, Kumar said, "We have developed over 175 partnerships in the past three years. Certain partnerships with organizations that now are not allowed to use certain words like 'diversity, equity, inclusion,' anti-racism work, even the word liberation."

Parents often come to her bookstore in search of banned books. "These books are liberatory books. That's what I say when people come in here and they ask, 'can I see what a banned book looks like?' " That "reframes" the conversation to feel more accessible, she noted.

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