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Bookstore owner seeks to provide truth, accurate Black history

Willa's Books and Vinyl.jpg
Posted at 5:37 AM, Feb 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-11 08:00:41-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When Willa Robinson first opened her bookstore, she said it was a new way to channel her hobby of book collecting, but more than 10 years later, it's now the only Black-owned brick-and-mortar bookstore in Kansas City.

"I had books all over the house and my husband said, 'We've got to do something,' so I decided I was going to sell," Robinson said.

Willa's Books and Vinyl is packed with hundreds of books, magazines and records from wall-to-wall and ceiling to floor. Readers can find everything from 30-year-old Ebony Magazines to A Promised Land, a memoir by former president Barack Obama.

Robinson said it started with her interest in Christianity and books by Black authors, but in the wake of the death of George Floyd, she's now also putting an emphasis on race and politics.

She said while her store is a resource for white and Black people, she hopes to draw more young Black kids.

"I want them to know our history. Our young Black men wouldn't be killing each other if they knew who they were and if they knew where they come from," Robinson said. "What we have listened to is what whites have told us we are, but you need to know what you are. We are a smart, genius type of people or else we would not have survived and they need to know that."

It's that commitment and passion for the community that encourages her to keep the doors open, even when the store isn't making a profit.

Robinson retired as a postal worker in the 1980s and says when the store doesn't pay for itself, she has to dip into her own funds.

Despite the slow days, she continues the mission but acknowledges that books can only do so much.

"I want them to know that you can't get everything out of a book. Your family has to put that stuff in you," Robinson said. "People have to care about you to teach you. They have to love you."

While getting the information is the first step, Robinson said action is next. She believes some people don't want to know Black history because it "causes you to have to do something and change your way of thinking."

You can visit Willa's Books and Vinyl inside the office building at 1734 E. 63rd St. The store is open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m.