THE STORY OF PROMOTING OUR HERITAGE
A message from Garfield
By now you might have figured that POH Books is the first letter of each word; I decided to go for a shorter website name.
Having trained as a teacher and completing my first degree in business, in 2010 on the third attempt, I have written quite a few research papers. However, my desire to become an author became very strong in 2001 when my wife was recruited from Kingston, Jamaica to teach in London, England. As we said our goodbyes to our many relatives, it was one of her aunts who said” You are just like the rest/ Seeking Bread out of Desolate places”. I had planned to write about what life was like in Jamaica and then our new life in England. I remember one day my son at about 6 years said “I don’t like this Jamaica” referring to some uncomfortable situation in England. So, my first book should have been Seeking Bread out of desolate places, but it was not to be, not yet.
So, we got stuck in with work to pay the bills and send something back home for relatives. That was until one of the teachers who had also been recruited felt she was learning the British cultural heritage from her students and wanted to turn thanks with some Miss Lou poetry to give them a taste of her Jamaican culture. I found some Miss Lou and Joan Andrea Hutchinson audio cassettes at the Weekly Gleaner office (left over from the days of being an outlet for Kingston Bookshop in London). I sold some cassettes to the teacher (Dawn Darby) and some to homesick parents/grandparents at school. This was the birth of my bookselling business, Promoting Our Heritage.
Following on from the interest of persons I spoke with, I took a stall at a Black History month event at 336 Brixton Road on the first week of October 2002 (nearly exactly a year after coming to this country). I had jumped around asking questions and putting together a selection of books from Michael at BIS Publications in North London, DVDs from JetStar, and T-shirts from Tyrone at T-shirt printers. We did sell a bit on the day and left there with a list of enquiries on an A4 sheet of paper.
The night before the event I asked my wife what shall we call the business? In fact, what were we going out to do? We agreed on the fact that we were going out to promote our cultural heritage, thus the name Promoting Our Heritage. When we were leaving the venue that night, I said to her, “We are onto something”
Fast forward to a couple more events and my most frequent taxi man saying, Garfield, you can’t take a taxi everywhere, so I saved two pardners draws and he took me to West London to buy a car. He said West London people take good care of their cars. Thank you, Mr. Abraham.
With wheels, I was able to go outside of London with more stock; all over Birmingham, Wales, and Luton to sell books. And boy I love driving, especially outside of London, so it worked.
All this time I was meeting authors. The first author I met at an event in London was Faustin Charles, author of the Selfish Crocodile and I remember the first book launch I went to was in Luton when Myrna Loy launched her book.
So, it’s now 2012 and I am looking for a way to celebrate 10 years of bookselling. So, I decided to write about 10 years of Promoting Our Heritage.
The title Writing a Legacy also came into my thoughts, but it was not until 2014 that I started to get serious and invite authors to send me their bios so I could put something together.
I sat down one night and started to go through my emails trying to put the excel database together to see how many authors I really knew, and if Writing a Legacy as a project could really work. I quickly got to 60, then 100 and after going through some invoices for books I bought and sold, I was at 200.
200 authors and I have their phone numbers and email addresses and we have met. It’s a few years later, actually many few years later, but I now feel like I am making some progress.
I said to myself, let me think about this some more. So, I spoke with a few authors and they asked, how soon do you want it? Then, Covid came and everybody locked up, but we still kept speaking.
I got some inspiration at The Legacy Black Book fair in Birmingham and started realizing that as things got more normal and I went out more, I would meet 2 to 3 authors at every event I went to, even when I was not selling books.
In February 2022 I decided to go for it; to put the better part of 20 years selling books and making many happy readers and yes, many happy authors into a movement. Something that grows to become a movement with its own momentum. The next sentence will read crazy but it’s the truth. Many of us are afraid of the 1st of April, all fools’ days, but frankly, some people are not. The latter believe that that bust well-thinking people who have a good March of 31 days, will be so tired on the 1st of April that they have no time to get up to tricks.
This was the plan; I would start Marching on 1st March 2022 And see how far I could get, to launch Keepers of the Flame, Saluting 100 Black authors to coincide with 20 years of bookselling.
Somehow Writing a Legacy had turned to Keepers of the Flame, but I would be saluting 100 Black Authors by the hook or by the crook.
As the bios and photos started to come in and we gained momentum, I started reflecting. Be careful what you wish for; in my work, for 5 years I spend quite a bit of time working on magazines along with the graphic designer. I said in a joke one day, this is preparing me to be a publisher. Fast forward the bookseller is now an author and publisher and is already lining up some authors to publish.
Along these 20 years' journey, I have learned a lot.
The biggest lesson is that without authors, there would be no books!
We need to salute and celebrate our Black authors because they tell our stories; good and bad and in between.
Our Black authors are The Keepers of the Flame.