The Ypsilanti Freighthouse hosted the first annual Booksilanti Readers’ Fair on Saturday. The day-long fair featured book swaps, a market for local book shops and authors and child-friendly activities like story times and a bookmark-making station. 

Black Stone Bookstore & Culture Center, located in downtown Ypsilanti, was one of the vendors at the event. As an African-American bookstore and cultural center, Black Stone sells books about African-American diaspora. The store also houses Black Men Read, a literacy program that works to normalize Blackness and highlight the cultural contributions of Black people through literature. Owner Kip Johnson said as an Ypsilanti native, he was thrilled at the chance to be a part of Booksilanti.

“How could I not be a vendor?” Johnson said. “Anything that’s dealing with literacy programs, dealing with Ypsilanti, you’ve got to come and support.”

Jessica Tapley, an attendee of the fair and self-proclaimed book lover, said she came to see the bookstores and artists and support vendors. She echoed Johnson’s sentiments about the fair being a space that highlights Ypsilanti’s community and culture.

“I thought it was really cool,” Tapley said. “I just like seeing the community of book lovers in Ypsi.”

According to Julie Palmer, the assistant events manager at the Ypsilanti Freighthouse and School of Literature, the event was meant to evoke the sense of community Johnson and Tapley both felt. Palmer, a University of Michigan alum, explained while a love of literature underlines Booksilanti, she wanted the event to reflect the diversity in Ypsilanti’s communities. 

“In true, unique Ypsi style, we wanted to highlight the best and brightest from our own community,” Palmer said. “There began some fun brainstorming and just new ideas about how we could celebrate many aspects that are tied to a love of books, whether it’s reading books, buying books… All of that was what we wanted to bring here.”

Palmer also hopes Booksilanti will help draw the already close-knit Ypsilanti community together.

“My personal hope is that they experience joy, community, connection, and that we continue to fuel their love of reading, their love of books,” Palmer said.

Palmer said the organizers have already decided to plan another Booksilanti Readers’ Fair for next year. 

“It will absolutely be an annual event,” Palmer said. “It’s just continuing creating something for the community to come together for free so it’s easy for everyone to say yes to. We don’t create barriers in any way. And we also get to be consistent with … our own core values of being a community where everyone knows that they matter, where everyone is welcome and everyone is loved.”

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