PRINT AINT DEAD: Upham’s Corner’s Innovative Pop-Up Bookstore

In Upham’s Corner in Dorchester, Boston, Arielle Gray and Cierra M. Peters created PRINT AINT DEAD out of a shared dream. Through this pop-up bookstore, they celebrate and promote the literature of authors of color, especially among readers of color. With a grant from the Design Studio for Social Intervention (DS4SI), an artistic research and development outfit, to activate Upham’s Corner, they bought books to resell to the public at prices accessible to a larger socioeconomic bracket — books sell from two to five dollars.

“Essentially, it’s crowdfunding through literature for writers of color while still providing people with accessible books,” Grays said.

The idea originated on a trip Peters took to Philadelphia earlier this summer, where there were smaller boutiques and independent and specialized bookstores, such as one called Ulises. She felt Boston was lacking in similar businesses due to the financialization and gentrification happening in the area. “I was really inspired by the underground culture there, and how adaptive and emergent their culture is,” Peters said.

Dorchester has a racially diverse community, which is 44 percent Black, 10 percent Asian, 17 percent Hispanic/Latinx, and 22 percent White, according to the American Community Survey, yet those of lower socioeconomic status and who come from underprivileged racial backgrounds have nonoptimal access to media and literature, especially that made by people of color. Nonprofit organizations, such as DS4SI and Fairmount Innovation Lab, located within the Pierce Building and the host of the pop-ups, as well as entrepreneurs like Gray and Peters, reverse those impediments by fostering arts and literature and access thereof. PRINT AINT DEAD is in fact part of DS4SI and the Fairmount Cultural Corridor’s larger, recently initiated pop-up community art series called Destination Upham’s, which also includes jazz series, storytelling, and speakers.

PRINT AINT DEAD’s reception featured a small selection of the bookstore’s overall collection, including books by authors Haruki Murakami, Malcolm Gladwell, Sandra Cisneros, and Cornel West. Both creators felt that too much of their wallets were wasted on books, which are often priced unreasonably high. For people who can’t afford to buy books, the alternatives are public libraries, online PDFs, e-books, or simply not reading — but that isn’t quite the same as owning your own copy. PRINT is central to the experience.


“There’s something different about having a book in your hand and being able to draw in it, and that’s the other reason we said PRINT AINT DEAD, because it really isn’t,” Gray said.

The opening reception achieved of some of the creators’ goals: It hosted mainly people of color and most books had been sold an hour into the event. Frequenters socialized among themselves and could meet the bookstore’s creators while having hors d’oeuvres and wine. The general sentiment was that the bookstore is an admirable endeavor in the community.

“I think it’s really great that they’re doing this and holding this space to sell books by people of color — activists, poets, and artists — and basically selling it at more affordable prices, which is nice. I think the marketing was great, ‘PRINT AINT DEAD.’ Encouraging people to read is really beautiful,” visitor Samantha Casseus said.

PRINT AINT DEAD’s three following events, two pop-up bookstore and closing reception feature performers including Porsha Rashidaat J. Olayiwola and Chloe Wong. Gray and Peters noted that 90 percent of proceeds from book sales go to the artists, and the remaining 10 percent goes towards restocking their inventory to keep the cycle of sales going. Beyond PRINT AINT DEAD, the two creators aspire to keep having pop-ups or continue showcasing books at events at similarly reasonable and accessible prices, as they believe having the means to appreciate the arts should not be a privilege


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