In partnership with Bull City Griot, Paul Scott is on a book giveaway mission


In 1969, my parents bought a set world book Encyclopedias including dictionaries and “Year in Review”.

Not only is it like the World Wide Web, it used to be The World Wide Web, for a young black boy growing up in a working-class family, revealed a world I didn’t even know existed. I spent hours researching the subject—primarily sports at first, especially the entry on the black athletes who boycotted the 1968 Olympics.Some days a friend of mine will come over and we’ll spend an afternoon looking at colorful pictures of snakes small encyclopedia.

My buddy is supposed to be a herpetologist, and his discoveries lead to scientific breakthroughs. Instead, he went to jail before we graduated high school.

After talking to Paul Scott last month, I thought again about how a young man can travel the world by opening a book and reading – and my friend whose life has been devastated by prison.

For nearly two decades, Scott posted on the sidewalks of Durham’s West End on Sunday afternoons, giving away books on African-American and African history. Books are a hopeful antidote to the community’s deadly teenage gun tragedies that have devastated the lives of countless families.

“We don’t drive with guns, we drive with books,” Scott said. “We don’t want to flood the streets with drugs, we want to flood the streets with knowledge.”

In late September, America’s annual Banned Books Week, despite undue criticism of critical race theory​​​, Scott said most books dealing with the black experience have been banned. But Scott started a new chapter this summer: He started Bull City Griot, a mobile bookstore that spreads across the city, giving away books to young people and adults alike.

“I turned my car into a virtual library,” Scott told indy“I go to the parking lot, the store. Last weekend, I went to Centerfest and Beats n Bars at American Tobacco. Sometimes I go to Northgate Park and various places in Durham.”

One of Scott’s primary positions was at the Durham Marble Factory in the 1500 block of Morehead Avenue, West Durham. For tracking his donations or visiting purposes, his Facebook and Twitter are the best options.

At a time when too many young black men are both victims and perpetrators of gun violence, Scott said he wanted to help create a cultural shift.

“We wanted to make black reading a narrative, just like pop culture made a black man with a gun and pants sag in the narrative,” he said. Thinking back to the days of rappers carrying backpacks, Scott said he’s ready to implement “the next phase of the movement: backpack griots.”

“Let’s make it cool to carry a backpack full of books once again,” he said.

Scott grew up in Halifax County and attended North Carolina Central University in 1985. After graduation, he briefly left the Bulls before returning in 1990; he later turned to activism, thanks in large part to frequenting the former Know Book Store on Fayetteville Street. It was while patronizing Know that he discovered that it was illegal for enslaved people to learn to read.

“You could be killed for being able to read,” he said. “I want to give black people in the community the confidence to pick up a book. Like George Clinton said, ‘Think about it. It’s not illegal.'”

In 1998, Scott became a pastor of the Baptist Church and a member of the Gethsemane Baptist Church of South Roxborough Street. In 2002, he left the church and later founded the Black Messianic Movement, which combined black liberation theology with community activism.

“I took to the streets and never looked back,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to bring knowledge to the streets.”

Running a bookstore, or even a mobile bookstore that offers literature, can be a challenge. Also, at a time when retail giants like Amazon and Barnes & Noble are dominating book sales, independently owned bookstores are doubling down on their efforts just to stay open.

The pandemic didn’t help. For black-owned bookstores, it’s a double challenge. Last year, Alaina Lavoie, a writer for the nonprofit We Need Diverse Books, reported that of the roughly 10,800 independently owned bookstores in the United States, only 6 percent of them are black-owned.

One of them is Rofhiwa Book Café in East Durham. Co-owners Naledi Yaziyo and Bev Makhubele first opened the doors to Rofhiwa on May 15 last year.

Achilles told indy The bookstore focuses on many of the same elements Scott advocated on the streets: curating local and black authors, promoting other black-owned businesses, and fostering a sense of community.

Part of Yaziyo’s definition of “curation” is “active and responsive in real time.”

Following the excitement of the remake starring pop star Halle Bailey little mermaidFor example, the bookstore introduced its young customers to images of the black mermaid in Tracey Baptiste The rise of Jumbies.

Book donations began pouring in shortly after Scott announced plans to open a mobile bookstore.

“A sister donated two large boxes of classic black books,” he said. “More people are starting to donate books after cleaning out their garage or cleaning out their office.”

Those classic titles include black soul Via WEB Dubois, rise from slavery by Booker T. Washington and 1619 plan. Scott said a retired college professor donated four bags of books, including three earlier editions things fall apart Written by Chinua Achebe.

Scott said he even received out-of-state donations, including “black dolls for little girls” and children’s books such as A Picture Book for African American Boys: Positive Affirmations and Nina: Jazz legend and civil rights activist Nina Simon Alice Brielle-Hake.

Scott said he has always enjoyed reading, but was once ashamed of it.

“I hid it for years,” he said, “until I came to Know Book Store. I swore never to let this happen to another kid who felt like they had to be speechless. This is me mantra, I will live and die for it.”


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Follow Durham contributing writer Thomasi McDonald Twitter or send an email to tmcdonald@indyweek.com.

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