The #BookstoresAgainstBorders fundraiser has raised over $80,000 for refugees and immigrants who are being detained at the U.S.’s Southern border, surpassing the fundraiser’s $50,000 goal.
Gretchen Treu, owner of A Room of One’s Own Bookstore in Madison, Wisconsin, reached out to independent bookstores across the country asking them to donate a percentage of their July 5–7 sales to RAICES, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.
She also encouraged them to spread the word in-person and on social media using the hashtag to inform customers, friends, and others in the book industry about the store’s direct donation fundraiser on Classy.org, or to start their own store fundraiser using the platform’s branding tools. A Room of One’s Own’s Classy.org fundraiser and other donation sources amounted to $81,240 as of Thursday, July 11.
The practice of separating children from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border under the Trump administration was first reported in May 2018, but additional U.S. immigrant detainment practices have been reported in the New York Times and other media outlets in recent weeks, including unsanitary and overcrowded detention centers; lack of food, beds, and personal hygiene supplies; older children being forced to take care of younger children; and poor treatment by Customs and Border Patrol officials.
Through her research, Treu and her co-owners concluded that the money booksellers raised would be most effective going to Texas-based organization RAICES, which provides low- to no-cost legal services to migrants who are being detained at the border. RAICES also has a designated program to provide legal representation to unaccompanied children who arrive at the border.
In her call-to-action e-mail sent out to booksellers nationwide on June 27, Treu asked readers, authors, publishers, industry professionals, and individual booksellers to donate and spread the word, writing, “We are doing this not only to raise more money for this vital organization but to show the country we are more than just places of business, we are members of our communities in ways that go far beyond the transactional.”
In her e-mail, Treu, who bought the store with Wes Lukes and author Patrick Rothfuss last June, emphasized that those in the bookselling community are not as helpless as many may feel, and are an integral part of their local and national communities, which bestows upon them the obligation “to assert what a culture of words and books and imaging has given us — the ability to see and form a better future.”
Treu’s e-mail also recognized the efforts of Denise Chávez of Casa Camino Real Book Store and Art Gallery in Las Cruces, New Mexico, this past winter, who launched the “Libros Para el Viaje” book drive for refugee families at Winter Institute and has been collecting and distributing donated books to refugee hospitality centers ever since. She also encouraged booksellers who could not afford to donate a percentage of their sales to the cause to help promote the campaign online using the campaign’s marketing assets.
“We understand profit margins for small bookstores can be narrow and want owners to choose what percentage of their sales they are able to donate. Our suggestion is 5–15 percent. If any percentage is too dear for your budget (we get it, we really do), we would appreciate your support through sharing our images and hashtag #BookstoresAgainstBorders on your social media,” Treu wrote.
A Room of One’s Own, which donated at least 10 percent of its profits to RAICES during those three days in July, was joined by around 150 other bookstores and publishers that donated their own funds. Several independent bookstores also received local media attention for participating in the fundraiser, including Prairie Lights in Iowa City, Iowa, which, KCRG reported, raised over $1,500 for the cause, and Carmichael’s Bookstore in Louisville, Kentucky, which, WHAS11 reported, joined A Room of One’s Own in donating 10 percent of their profits.
“I think independent bookstores, what makes us special, is that we give back to the community,” Carmichael’s Events and Marketing Manager Bri Esposito told WHAS11. “It’s what we do that larger corporations don’t do. So we always try to have a focus on where we can help and where we can give back where other people are suffering or where they need it.”
In a conversation with Madison365, Treu said she decided to launch the fundraiser after a full-time staff member, Misian Taylor, suggested raising money to address issues at the border via the barista tip jar, which sparked the idea to reach out to the bookselling community. Treu explained to the publication why she and her two co-owners wanted to celebrate the anniversary of buying the store, which has a feminist and activist legacy, in this way.
“We were like, ‘We could throw a party, I guess,’ but we don’t feel very celebratory. We’ve had a great year, we have a wonderful bookstore, our staff is incredible — on a microcosmic scale, things are going well, but just the world right now…it’s nice to have this little bit of power to say, ‘Yes, we can do this, we can put our money where our mouth is, and we can ask others to join us,’” Treu said.