Lesbian-owned bookstore Charis to open new feminist center

Volunteers are being sought to help make the transition, which includes a $1 million capital campaign. Lesbian philanthropist Edie Cofrin, who gave Linda Bryant the seed money to open Charis 37 years ago, is co-chair of the capital campaign team.

“We’re excited for change and to be in a space that is more accessible to more people,” said Charis Books & More co-owner Angela Gabriel. “We’ve been discussing and dreaming about this for 10 to 15 years and finally we have the right people on board to make that happen.”

Currently, Charis Circle rents space from Charis Books & More to organize and hold programming events. The new center will be owned by the nonprofit Charis Circle and the bookstore, which will remain for-profit, will rent space, explained Angela Brown, the first full-time paid executive director for Charis Circle.

“We’ve wanted to expand and offer more programming, including social justice programming,” Brown said. “We want to connect with the community more in helping build a feminist movement.”

A few details were made available Wednesday. They include:

• Because Charis Circle would own the property, it’s possible someone could donate a space for the center.

• The store in Little Five Points will be put up for sale in the near future and it is likely the new feminist center would be located in Decatur, where many of Charis’ customers live.

• Visions for the new center include housing other nonprofits, such as ZAMI, as well as a coffee shop. The new center will also be MARTA and handicap accessible.

Charis staff and volunteers have also talked with Linda Ellis, executive director of the Atlanta Lesbian Health Initiative, about creating a center similar to the Phillip Rush Center. The Phillip Rush Center houses nonprofits including ALHI, Georgia Equality, Atlanta Pride and MEGA Family Project while also offering meeting and training space for numerous other groups and organizations “whose mission or activities advance LGBT rights and understanding.”

Elizabeth Anderson, program director at Charis, said the possibilities of working in a new space include offering more programming.

“We’re excited about the different kinds of programming in a dynamic space,” Anderson said.

This includes more book and writing groups, children’s groups and a new feminist group the staff is interested in beginning that would work with young men and women to dismantle the gender binary, Anderson said.

Sara Luce Look, co-owner of Charis Books & More, said the feminist center is also a way to ensure the bookstore and its programming are around for many more years to come.

“We are lucky to have so many loyal and dedicated customers. And even if they don’t come regularly, they tell us they want it here for the next generation,” said Look.

In case you missed it, Charis gave out hints on its website leading up to the March 9 major announcement. Here they are:

Hint #1: “I think the key is for women not to set any limits.” Martina Navratilova

Hint #2: “My address is like my shoes. It travels with me…”
Mother Jones

Hint #3: Like at 3543 18th Street

Hint #4: “We try to be a welcoming community for people who are left out in our society.”
Sister Lucy Poulin

Hint #5: “At a time when everything seems so out of control…it fills you with such hope and admiration to even be part…in a community where people have connected to strangers to try to put out a hand.” Susan Sarandon

Hint #6: “We can begin by doing small things…That is how change takes place in living systems, not from above but from within, from many local actions occurring simultaneously.”
Grace Lee Bogs

Hint #7: “We can never get a re-creation of community and heal our society without giving our [feminist] citizens a sense of belonging.”
Patch Adams

Hint #8: “In an age where community involvement and partnerships with civil society are increasingly being recognized as indispensable, there is clearly a growing potential for cooperative development and renewal….” ~ Kofi Anon

Hint #9: A community is a group of people who have come together, and they work and they live to try and improve the standard of living and quality of life – and I don’t mean money. ~ William Baldwin

Hint #10: “We need artists to help us come together and share our voices and build community around powerful issues concerning our roles in the world and our planet’s survival. Compassion must be translated into action.” ~ Natasha Myers

Hint #11: “There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community.” ~ M. Scott Peck

Hint #12: “I’m not a politician. I only want to help relieve the suffering in communities, and I want to help people see their community in each other.” ~ Russell Simmons

Hint #13: “Community means strength that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done. Arms to hold us when we falter. A circle of healing. A circle of friends.” ~ Starhawk

Hint #14: “The challenge of social justice is to evoke a sense of community that we need to make our nation a better place.” ~ Marian Wright Edelman