So this past Saturday, I’m having one of my “if the cast of Seinfeld were negroes” days, me and my lady roll down to “Jay’s Pots o’ Soul” (on Octavia)…it’s a beautiful day…mind you. Once we got a table…I called my dear friend and lower Haight superstar, B. Love to join us. We enjoy our meal and make further plans.
To make a long story shorter…B. and I end up rolling as a duo (as “the lady” has a smidge of errands/work to do, and will meet up with us later). We visit a friends upcoming restaurant in it’s remodeling phase, and casually chat about the future HQ of melinated S.F. . It’s a beautiful location and we all hope it will become the much needed haven for folks like us.
From there we skate on over to Marcus Books (1712 Fillmore, S.F. CA). One of Marcus Books claims to fame is that it’s the headquarters of ,”books by and about black people everywhere”. Me, a lifelong fan of the “Shrine of the Black Madonna” bookstores back home in Detroit, loves Marcus Books. But Marcus Books has many other claims to fame.
For one, the physical structure was once a jazz club, “Bop City”, in the 1940’s and 50’s. The photograph up above (from l to r: John Handy, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Frank Fisher) was taken inside Bop City/Marcus Books. In the 1940s and 1950s, San Francisco’s Fillmore district was once a thriving African American community,but also the place to be culturally on the west coast, boasting two dozen active nightclubs and music joints within its one square mile. Marcus Books sits one block away from the legendary Fillmore Auditorium. With the exception of Marcus Books, the area now (on the surface) hardly feels like the “legendary” Harlem of the West. Yet, it is easy to see how this area could be a destination of creative giants then and now.
We (“my lady” rejoins the crew) ended up chatting with Karen, the proprietor of the store for at least 2 hours and got a good dose of the warm fuzzy’s. Growing up around a family business myself, I can assure you there is no corporate ideal on this earth that can compete with a with a solid family owned operation in regards to the warmth of energy.
We talked music,history,literature,metaphysics,James Jamerson,politics,blackness and then some…Karen even whipped out 3 handfuls of loose change and walked each of us through an impromptu I Ching divination. Barnes and Noble ain’t got schitt on Marcus Books, nah’mean? This visit was no regular visit…it was a ritual/excercise in divine rhythm. A pow wow of positive melinated energy. As George Clinton says, “WE were on the ONE“.
At this point I can only imagine what San Francisco felt like before the class war came to define the current era. Just a few miles north of Marcus Books is City Lights bookstore…a landmark for lovers of all things beatnik, home to the spirits of Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg and Kerouac. In the independant bookstore world, City Lights is Goliath to Marcus Books-David. In “the Super Black World of…”©, City Lights Goliath is a Goliath of pretension. The humble, steadfast Marcus Books with it’s tangible yet supressed history and spirit make a suitable David for it’s patrons…right down to their motto: “books by and about black people everywhere”.
If you haven’t been to Marcus Books, mark February 25th on your calendars. Karen, the proprietor tells me that on this day Marcus Books will be transformed back into Bop City once again, for a day of live music and living history in celebration of all of it’s rich history. Be there or be square…and dress like it’s 1946 (i.e., pull your pants up hip-hoppers).