Among the sweeping changes 2020 brought was the loss of the brick and mortar location of Third Eye Books, an Afrocentric bookstore owned by Michelle Lewis and Charles Hannah. Striving to maintain Third Eye as a resource for history, culture and knowledge in turbulent times, the entrepreneurs rolled with the punches. They pivoted to online selling and have worked to create a digital space that still fosters the same welcoming environment for Black Portlanders. They’ve even transformed a storage unit into a walk-in store.
When Lewis and Hannah started Third Eye, there weren’t many places like it in Portland. And as Portland wrestles with social injustice, we simply can’t afford to lose this resource. That’s why Third Eye Books is one of the eight Black-owned businesses to receive assistance from Comcast RISE. The technology makeover provided by Comcast will help Third Eye continue to share the power of books through a virtual platform.
While COVID has provided its fair share of challenges, Third Eye Books is resilient. Recently, they’ve helped schools and libraries curate anti-racist libraries.
“The thrill we get out of each order placed is knowing the power books have,” said Hannah. “Reading a book can open people to new ideas and allow them to have important conversations.”
From the classic Black literature like James Baldwin to history from the standpoint of Black Americans, Third Eye provides literature you won’t find other places. They strive to pay homage to the authors and booksellers before them and to create a children’s section that will inspire the generation after them.
“We know the importance of Black and Brown children seeing themselves reflected in the media they consume,” said Hannah. “Me and My wife were raised with books as a resource. It’s critical for children of color to have this access to combat inequity nowadays. When kids don’t hear new words, they don’t grow.”