Jeremy Shaw’s favorite pastime is reading. The 26-year-old Florida State grad prefers revolutionary authors, like James Baldwin and Stokely Carmichael, who write about black history and civil rights. But he frequently had to wait days to order their books online. Barnes & Noble didn’t carry many of their titles. He dreamed of opening a bookstore that did.
“There aren’t spaces where the black community can gather and talk about these types of work and issues,” Shaw says. “I figured I’d create that.”
This fall, Shaw launched his business — an online and pop-up store called Aphrodust
“It’s hinting at African futurism,” Shaw explains. “In the media, African people have a primitive feel about them. I’m trying to reimagine what African people will look like in the future, empowered through knowledge.”
Aphrodust’s soft opening was at the LadyFest Miami festival in Wynwood in September. Shaw laid out a table with his books while passersby stopped to flip through the pages and make purchases.
The launch took two years of planning, Shaw says. His favorite part was curating a list of authors and books — from feminist authors like bell hooks and Toni Morrison to literary heroes like Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou to more revolutionary types like Karl Marx and Frederick Douglass. “I have a vision to teach people proper history of the world and have people understand the history they haven’t been taught — especially African history,” Shaw says.
Shaw first became enlightened about African-American history during the time he was in college, when he started asking his grandparents about their past and how they arrived in Broward County. He learned about their roots in Georgia and subsequent move to New York. He began reading radical historical literature to learn more about his African ancestors.
“I started reading to figure out my place in the world,” he says. “Reading opened my eyes. I found out so many people have been oppressed, and I’m empathetic. History has put them there.”
This month, Shaw launched his online store at Roots Collective, a web-based marketplace that sells products promoting black liberation. It was created by Shaw’s friends, who are active with the group Dream Defenders and who focus on addressing issues within South Florida’s black communities.
Shaw is currently stopping by barbershops in Broward’s black communities and introducing his store and its mission. He plans to set up his pop-up shop at events like the Black Friday Marketplace in Miami Gardens. On November 27, local black business owners are coming together there to lure shoppers away from big chain stores like Walmart on the biggest shopping day of the year.
Eventually, Shaw would like to open a brick-and-mortar store. But so far, funding has been his biggest hurdle. He recently presented his ideas at the Sistrunk Soup, where community members pool money and vote on various projects. The project with the most votes wins the funds. His did, and Shaw secured a $350 microgrant. He says the money will go to purchase more books.
“It was a good amount of money,” Shaw says. “It’s been a great springboard and helped blast us off.”