HARLEM — The hammer and sickle have joined forces with paper and ink.
Revolution Books, which calls itself “the center of a movement for revolution,” has swapped its Chelsea digs for Lenox Avenue because of escalating rent. The communist bookstore is currently renovating a beauty parlor on 347 Lenox Ave. and hopes to open by late September.
“This is a place where people can come and find out why the world is the way it is and how they can radically transform it,” said spokesperson Andy Zee.
The store, which had been downtown since 1978, frequently hosts book clubs, lectures, poetry nights, film screening and various community events. Its books expose the inequalities of the world and shed light on what can be done to overcome them, he added.
In Harlem, the store has already started a Monday book club at Harlem YMCA, a Wednesday book table at Harlem Hospital and Friday meet-and-greet nights at Astor Row Cafe.
Last month, during the Harlem Book Fair, it hosted a panel about the store and drummed up support to raise funds for the renovation.
“This is just so important in terms of adding, what I think is a necessary filling a void,” said Herb Boyd, activist, journalist and author of "Baldwin’s Harlem."
“There will come a time, you know, when this will be added to the Schomburg, added to the Abyssinian, added to the Studio Museum as an incredible part of the whole Harlem infrastructure.”
The store will carry a diverse collection of books from international authors covering topics ranging from history, politics, revolutionary theory, science, poetry, and children’s books. It also plans to have a large section of Spanish-language literature, Zee said.
Residents seemed to welcome the idea of a new book store to the neighborhood, especially since Hue Man bookstore closed in 2012 near 125th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard. That storefront is currently being renovated into a Buffalo Wild Wings.
“I think that’s wonderful, the neighborhood needs a book store,” said Cynthia Williams, who lives on the same block as the new Revolution Books location. “It is going to be great for all of the readers in the area.”
Part of the reason Revolution Books chose to relocate to Harlem is because a lot of today’s struggles are being played out in the neighborhood on a daily basis. Wealthy developers are investing in property while people live in “prison-like” conditions in public housing projects, Zee said.
“Harlem is where Revolution Books should be,” he said in a statement on the group's fundraising page. “With its rich history of political struggle and intellectual and cultural ferment. Harlem is also a concentration of the oppression for black and Latino people, with housing projects run like prisons and police terrorizing youth.”
The store promotes the principles of political activist and chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, Bob Avakian. He came up with a “viable vision and strategy for a radically new and much better society,” by studying the positive and negatives of communist revolutions of the past, Zee said.
Currently Revolution Books is the start of a movement for revolution, which will come in intellectual, social and political forms. A military revolution during out lifetime has not been ruled out, he added.