A new bookstore in downtown Lansing wants the literature it sells to spur change on the streets.
The Resistance Bookstore is the brainchild of activists Fae Mitchell and Emily Dievendorf, who met at a May 2020 Black Lives Matter protest in Lansing. They continued to collaborate, working on a BLM mural on Capital Avenue later that summer.
They started looking for a space where the community could gain knowledge to put into action.
“We can be on the streets protesting or I can create art that is discordant and enlightening,” said Mitchell, an artist who also coaches youth basketball. “But if people don’t have the context and the knowledge of what it is – where it came from, the historical context, the statistics and the facts – it’s just people shouting in the streets and being considered. like angry.”
Step into The Resistance bookstore, which opens February 28 at 515 W. Ionia St.
Dievendorf, a political consultant and organizer, said the driving force behind the bookstore is creating a means to an end, whether it’s self-care, politics or reinventing a broken system.
She rented the space last April after renovations to two downtown buildings, which once housed Belen’s Flowers and the Rosary Book and Gift Shoppe. The buildings have been refurbished with commercial spaces on the ground floor and apartments on the top.
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Mitchell and Dievendorf filled the store with personal favorites and popular titles. They aimed to represent books not always found in department stores, including those by Native American, black, and transgender authors. Mitchell and Dievendorf are themselves non-binary.
The Resistance isn’t Lansing’s only new bookstore aimed at raising marginalized voices.
Ten minutes away in the Lansing Mall is Socialight Society, where Nyshell Lawrence spotlights books by black women. Mitchell attended the same church as Lawrence growing up.
Mitchell and Dievendorf consulted Lawrence for advice and to avoid overlap between their stores.
“The goal of both bookstores is to put as many books in the hands of people in our community that are typically underrepresented in traditional bookstores,” Lawrence said. “More the merrier, the merrier.”
Lawrence added that independent bookstores serve as cultural centers for the people they represent. Her own boutique is a gathering place for black women. La Résistance hopes the same will be true for people in the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities; the owners have tried to accommodate the latter group by installing wide doorways and tables low enough for shoppers who use wheelchairs or scooters.
“We’re here to represent multiple communities, and it recognizes the different identities that we all have this cross,” Mitchell said.
The duo puts the finishing touches on the space. Mitchell designed both the front panel and a mural inside that references different social movements. They also hope to partner with local artists to sell merchandise in the store.
The duo want to start a community council and also seek non-profit status in order to receive donations. The council will include local chapters from various advocacy organizations.
Lawrence is happy to see another independent bookstore join the ranks in Lansing.
“Independent bookstores are here to stay,” she said. “So looking 10 years from now, I still see it growing and getting bigger.”
La Résistance is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. from Tuesday to Friday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday; and from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Sundays. Readers can also shop at TheResistanceReads.com.
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