Arts & Events

Rebecca’s Books Hosts Benefit Extravaganza

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday December 10, 2009 - 09:38:00 AM

Rebecca’s Books, the warm, homey shop specializing in poetry, but with much more than poetry books inside, will be holding a benefit extravaganza from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. this Saturday at its Adeline Street store—just north of Alcatraz and a few steps from popular destinations like The Vault and Sweet Adeline’s.  

The event will feature Voices of Our Youth, the poets-musicians of the Wordwind Chorus (Lewis Jordan, Brian Auerbach and Q. R. Hand) and more than two dozen poets and writers, including former State of California Poet Laureate Al Young; former San Francisco Laureates devorah major and Jack Hirschman; Alameda city Poet Laureate Mary Rudge; Opal Palmer Adisa; Jack and Adele Foley; Kirk Lumpkin and the Word Music Continuum; Mamacoatl’ Avotcja; Val Serrant; and many more.  

Sam Dyke, co-founder of the neighboring People’s Bazaar in the 1970s, who has chaired the local merchants association and helped in planning the annual Juneteenth celebration, spoke about his neighbor, Mary Ann Braithwaite of Rebecca’s, the significance of her shop in the community, and surviving a difficult economy, difficult even during the holidays. 

“Rebecca’s is such a great addition to the community; there is no other. A small store like this is special, offering its own little niche, worthy of support. It’s important to rally around an outlet like this in tough economic times like these. When the economy has a cold, here we catch pneumonia! But it’s a great shopping district, with many amenities, quite desirable. We won’t go away; we’ll be hanging in there—and then some!” 

“I’m at ‘then some’!” Braithwaite exclaimed. 

“But we want Rebecca’s to flourish,” Dyke went on, “Young people are getting turned on to the spoken word. They need to read poetry for examples of what they can produce, what’s the body to it. Unfortunately, they can’t afford books. But we’re not here to get rich; that’s not what was intended. This is being done with love, with your passion, my passion. Something to help the community.” 

Braithwaite, who opened Rebecca’s (named after her mother; family photos line the walls) in October 2007, said “I know people still read. And they come in here. I understand about Amazon. And about the economy. But I don’t blame everything on that. I need people to come in, to do their Christmas shopping here. It’s not just a poetry store, or a black-owned business. I’m just me. And there’s something for everybody.” 

Besides the unique selection of poetry books, of CDs, cards and artwork, Braithwaite mentioned the Kwanzaa items for sale: Kinaras, candles, posters and mats.  

Famed Oakland artist Woody Johnson brought in some of the artwork when Braithwaite opened. The late poet Reginald Lockett, another old friend, helped her select the handpicked stock of poetry books. 

Rebecca’s has featured an unusual run of events, different from the typical readings on the circuit of chainstores. At 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 17, Maria Espinoza will read from her novel of two women’s voices, mother and daughter, Dying Unfinished. And from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 19, Read To Succeed Literacy Project will present The Night Before Christmas Party, to celebrate the joy of reading, with a Kwanzaa celebration at 1—and Santa reading “The Night Before Christmas” at 1:30. Rebecca’s will offer a 20 percent discount during the celebration. 

Braithwaite was upbeat about the present—and the future. She’d like to expand Polly’s Room, the children’s room named for her mother’s childhood nickname, “but I’m going to need some help, some ideas from people.” 

“I just mean to stay here,” Braithwaite concluded. “I have a wonderful, understanding landlord, Ryan Ripsteen. I can’t see moving anywhere else. I wouldn’t be happy. I like this neighborhood. I feel safe and comfortable here; needed and wanted.”  



3268 Adeline St. 852-4768.  

Admission for the benefit is on a sliding scale, from $3 to $20.