Exploring the heart of Baltimore’s independent bookstores
Baltimore is filled with independent bookstores. Perhaps this is the reason that the literary community in this city is so large. One of the best, most unique, and charismatic bookstores is Red Emma’s, located in Station North.
Red Emma’s is a self-proclaimed radical establishment, and the bookstore echoes Red Emma’s “radical project” ideals. The walls are piled high with shelves of unconventional books, some of which might be incredibly shocking to someone unfamiliar with Red Emma’s ideals. However, there is still something for everyone. There is a section of classics that holds Oscar Wilde and other widely read authors, and right next to it is a table that focuses on raising LGBTQ awareness in young children. The books teach toddlers about sex and young children the importance of learning the difference between Lesbian, Gay, Trans, Crossdresser, etc.
Red Emma’s unique collection ranges from books on South American revolutions, to titles that attempt to explain communism to those with a capitalist perspective. The books found at Red Emma’s echo the establishment’s activism in social justice, particularly in issues pertaining to Baltimore.
Established in 2004, Red Emma’s describes its mission on their website as, “first, to demonstrate, concretely, that it’s possible to build institutions that directly put values like sustainability and democracy to work, and second, in doing so, to build a resource for movements for social justice here in Baltimore.”
“The intention of Red Emma’s has always been to make a space for people to come together, organize, and learn from each other, and learn something about radicalization and revolutions,” boasted two-year bookstore staff member, K. Froome. She wore a bold buzz cut and a muscle tee that showed off a tiger tattoo running down her left bicep.
Red Emma’s acknowledges that Baltimore has its fair share of social justice issues, which nationally exploded during last year’s uprising following the death of Freddie Gray. The shooting of Freddie Gray occurred in April of 2015 and sparked a peaceful, mass protest by students and locals alike throughout the city of Baltimore, as well as discussions on race relations and police brutality.
Red Emma’s opens its doors to explore these issues further. They hold events every week, often every day. In the past they have held many readings, the most recent of which featured slam poetry written by students in local Baltimore high schools. In the upcoming week they are hosting a talk that explores the relationship between art and protest and how both relate to Baltimore.
If you are the kind of person that is interesting in activism, radical politics, and social change, Red Emma’s is a must visit. It provides a space for service and discussion to a community that is mixed on all levels.
Nehal Aggarwal is a voracious coffee drinker from NYC always on the lookout for the next adventure. She can frequently be found in any coffee shop or leafing through books at any bookstore.