Recently, Nzingha Amma Nommo moved her business AfriWare from its longtime location at 948 Lake St. to 266 Lake St., directly across from Dominick’s Foods and closer to Austin. Delores McCain of the Austin Weekly News and Wednesday Journal recently sat down with Nzingha in her new larger quarters for an interview. Her name means Nzingha (quiet storm) Amma (born on Saturday) Nommo (balance).
Room to grow: Oak Park’s AfriWare has moved from its former cramped confines to a larger space at 266 Lake St.
Photo by Delores McCain
Wednesday Journal: Why did you decide to move?
Nzingha: Actually because the building was sold to someone, and they had made it clear they are going to change that building, demolish it, and put up condos. So all of the merchants will have to go at some point, but we decided to move right away because we realize that Oak Park is changing quickly. There are many areas that have already been designated for change like Harrison Street and Chicago Avenue.
After looking around, we found a place still on Lake Street, just further east. And after looking at it and thinking through it, truly it is a blessing in disguise because it’s really the last of the final frontier as far as those locations in Oak Park that haven’t been completely staked out yet. I think it’s on the map, but I should be able to get a couple more years here before moving again.
Now people don’t have to pay for parking, they don’t have to look for parking, the sign is more visible, and we have much more space.
Having a place built to suit is also a blessing. The place that was here before [a dress store] had been here for many years. The owners decided they were going to update it in this historical area and maintain the antique copper on the front and side of the building. They were asking me where I wanted my office, etc. I couldn’t have scripted a better situation to move into, and so we’re happy to be here.
WJ: You also hold various community and cultural events at your store.
Nzingha: The events are really the pride and joy of AfriWare. Some events are the drumming classes held on Saturdays at 10:30 a.m., harmonica players, singers and poets who share their talents. We also have the book club that meets once a month. We read non-fiction, African classical and various literature. We have had many book signings with people such as Dr. Yosef ben Jochannan, one of the greatest African scholars and educators; Purvis Spann; Walter Mosley; Lerone Bennett Jr.; Craig Hodges; Dr. Conrad Worrill; and I often participate with WVON in many of their community events.
WJ:What are your future hopes for AfriWare and what will be your legacy?
Nzingha: My hope for AfriWare is to continue to serve my community. The community has always been there for me, and I want to give back to the community.
My legacy, I would say AfriWare is an institution and will be carried on way beyond my time. The main thing is training our young people and preserving our culture. You know, this is really a community-owned bookstore. The whole move to this new location took place because 10 men showed up, packed up everything, I didn’t have to lift a finger. I was feeling so overwhelmed because I didn’t have the money to pay them, and they did not ask, nor did they want to be paid.
Also, I’m happy to announce that AfriWare has gone high-tech. We will have four Internet Wi-Fi (Wireless Internet Fidelity) locations so that people can bring their laptops, plug them in and get Internet service. Lastly, I must thank our African ancestors for giving AfriWare an opportunity to utilize the cultural treasures and build upon historical legacies. And much love and thanks to my own parents, Irving and Ragina Bunton, for always being there for me and supporting me.