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'Read, return, repeat': Celebrate Black stories with The Black Book Exchange Box

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Posted at 4:25 PM, Feb 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-24 18:25:20-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — February may be winding down, but one woman in Grand Rapids has found a way to celebrate Black history and culture all year long.

Aarie Wade founded The Black Book Exchange Box to get Black stories into the hands of more people in Grand Rapids.

"Black Book Exchange Box is on a mission to provide access to books that represent Black people, culture and language, our stories," Wade told FOX 17 News. "The authors are Black authors, the stories are for Black people."

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Wade got the idea for the book exchange system as a way to see more representation in what her kids were reading.

"We had a little free library down the street. My children would go down there, but never were there books that reflected them, their race or their stories," she explained.

Wade got a book house of her own and decided to fill it with books for Black people.

"People were like, 'that's such a dope idea.'"

The response motivated Wade to seek out a Neighborhood Match Fund grant from the city to build five more book houses.

Black Book Exchange Box became a nonprofit in 2019 and currently has nearly a dozen book houses located around the southeast side of Grand Rapids.

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Like the colorful artwork on the outside, you'll find something different in each box.

"You'll always find something really new and sometimes something really old, some classics in there," Wade said. "Visit any book house, take a book or two or three. You read them of course, and then you can bring them back to any book house, they don't have to come back to the same one... read, return, repeat."

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Wade hopes to expand beyond West Michigan and is currently working to bring several Latinx book boxes to the city this year.

"It's important for everybody to learn the stories of Black people, to know how amazing our work is and our stories are, to learn about our culture. And not just Black people need to read Black books, all people need to and should be inspired by the stories that we tell and that we have."

As the FOX 17 and Lake Michigan Credit Union Pay it Forward Person of the Month, Wade is receiving a $550 prize.

To learn more about the Black Book Exchange Box, visit the website or Facebook page.

Know someone who should be featured next month? Nominate them here.

Meet Jaime Blom, our January 2023 Pay it Forward Person of the Month.