[Blackstudies-l] Village Gate Bookstore: a Literary Hub in the African-American Community in Rochester

Maria Lima lima at geneseo.edu
Sun Feb 19 09:16:53 EST 2017

Democrat and Chronicle
02/19/2017 - Page C01

BOOKS Village Gate bookstore is a cultural hub in city



>From the time it opened more than 20 years ago, Mood Makers Books became a
literary hub for Rochester’s African- American community by hosting book
signings, publishing workshops, book clubs, writing groups, poetry
readings, and open mic nights.

Curtis and Marie Rivers opened the bookstore on the third floor of Village
Gate in March 1994. At first, the store only displayed and sold art by
Curtis’s brother, Thurman Rivers. Patrons enjoyed that but they wanted
more, including gifts, cards and books. It wasn’t long before Curtis and
Marie had to expand.

Mood Makers Books still resides in Village Gate, but the bookstore occupies
a much larger first! -floor space.

Annette Ramos, executive director of The Rochester Latino Theater Company,
has known Curtis Rivers for at least 20 years and has been involved in some
of Mood Makers’ events.

She sees the bookstore as an important center of cultural identity and

"Mood Makers definitely cultivates up and coming writers and also exposes
our community to African-American authors," said Ramos. She added that it’s
"an underappreciated cultural icon in our community."

Coming events

Mood Makers also provides a home base for Rochester’s vibrant
African-American theater community. In celebration of Black History Month,
Rivers will once again collaborate with local theater artists to produce
the Bronze Collective Theat! re Fest from Feb. 20 to 26 at the Multi-Use
Community Cultural! Center (MuCCC), located in the Neighborhood of the Arts.
Expect poetry, theater, music and dance over the course of the six-day
festival. The public can purchase tickets at Mood Makers.

The Sankofa Evening of Theatre and Jazz is another Mood Makers festival
that celebrates the African-American theater arts in Rochester. This year’s
program runs Aug. 24-26, and Aug. 31-

See BOOKSTORE, Page *9C*

Curtis Rivers has owned Mood Makers Books for 23 years.




Continued from Page 1C

Sept. 2 at MuCCC.

Rivers developed the annual event to provide a venue for theatrical artists
to network, create, enhance their skills and learn from each other.

Mood Makers is currently accepting submissions of one-act and full-length
plays until March 15. Artists can obtain entry forms and further
information at the store and on its website.

Discussion groups

Involvement in the arts is clearly a high priority here, but patrons beyond
theater artists and writers consider Mood Makers an important meeting
space, too. Cozy couches and a coffee carafe say "sit, stay awhile." And
people do.

Lu Walker and severa! l friends from the Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church, for
example, recently met at the hub with Linda Smith Francis about her
dissertation research.

Francis is a Ph.D. candidate from the Warner Graduate School of Education
at the University of Rochester. She’s conducting research on Alzheimer’s
disease caregiving in the African-American community, particularly among
African-American men.

"I was delighted when the men suggested that we meet at Mood Makers," said
Francis. "We were surrounded by examples of past and current
African-American art and literature that contributes to the diversity and
vibrancy of Rochester’s cultural community."

Many different social, service, and artistic groups meet there, and Rivers
is proud the store has become a place where community members can come and
speak freely, and put on programs.

Goin! g strong

After nearly 23 years in business, the Mood Makers bookstore still offers a
large array of books with the African-American community in mind — and it
includes local authors.

The store stocks children’s materials, women’s studies books, figurines,
stationery, calendars and other gifts.

When Rivers reflects on his work, he says, "I’m glad we’re still here."

Christine Green is the literary arts columnist. Contact her at
christinejgreenwrites at gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter at @christinejgreen
and on Facebook at facebook.com/rochesterbooks.

Mood Makers is a literary hub in the African-American community.


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