Roots: Ramunda Lark Young
Checking in with the former Tulsan, co-founder of Washington D.C.-based MahoganyBooks.
MahoganyBooks co-founders Derrick and Ramunda Young (second and third from left on the back row) with their special events team, Mocha Ochoa of The Oracle Group and (seated) author and talk show host Iyanla Vanzant.
Vital stats: Born in Little Rock, Ark.; moved to Tulsa at age 3; attended Emerson Elementary School, Carver Middle School and Booker T. Washington High School; received a bachelor’s degree in business management from Langston University.
Now: 36; married and mother to daughter Mahogany; co-founder with her husband, Derrick, of Washington, D.C.-based MahoganyBooks, an online bookstore with one of the largest inventories of African-American books online, including a blog encouraging literary discussion and information about community events promoting book drives and literacy.
How does MahoganyBooks fill a niche in the literary world?
It fills a huge niche, and it’s a funny kind of hybrid store that we have because a lot of the traditional bookstores … have closed. Going online was the natural progression of the book business for us. But I say hybrid because even though we’re online, we still have a chance to connect with the community by hosting events throughout the city (Washington, D.C.) and we also do a huge book drive each summer, so we’re still connected in that way. I know we definitely fill a niche for African-American books alone because there are a lot of outlets that don’t carry the number of titles that are available in African-American books.
How has MahoganyBooks grown since its inception three years ago?
There are so many books that come out each year, so just the inventory selection alone grows. As far as exposure to the community, we give book sales for people in California, Mississippi, Africa. … We’re in D.C., but on the other coast, we get interest and people wanting to buy books and place orders, so it’s fun to see that kind of growth and where it’s coming from.
Why do you ask guests at MahoganyBooks events to bring new or gently used books?
It’s part of our Books for the Block initiative. We just started it last year. Our goal is to really eradicate illiteracy, especially in the D.C. area. But our goal was trying to get the whole community involved in collecting gently (used) or new books, and then we would turn around and distribute them to local organizations and give them for free to kids. It’s amazing how many kids don’t have a book of their very own. So our goal is to change that and get books into their hands.
How did Tulsa prepare you for what you’re doing now?
I really think that because of the type of schools I attended, they just allowed me to interact with a diverse community, which is very much a part of the D.C. scene. … My mom and dad and sister and brother live in Tulsa, so my upbringing and a spiritual foundation definitely had me grounded and gave me the confidence to do my own thing.
What are some of your favorite Tulsa memories?
I loved going to Bell’s Amusement Park when I was in Tulsa. … One of my other favorite memories is the Juneteenth celebrations that they would have over at Greenwood. It was just the best. You could hang out during the summertime and listen to great music and have great food and just meet so many people that were from all over the city.
How often do you visit Tulsa?
I try to go back once or twice a year, and then we also do every other Christmas there. This is the year that we do Christmas in Oklahoma, so we’re excited. My little girl is very excited.
What do you miss most about Tulsa?
I loved just going out to Riverside and walking (across) the Pedestrian Bridge. I’ve even got my husband hooked; he’s from D.C. … Just taking walks and looking across the water there is just so refreshing and clears my mind. … I miss Braum’s. I stress my husband every time we go back to Tulsa because I’ve got to get a Braum’s burger. … The biggest, of course, is my family — missing them. … I miss my old high school. It doesn’t look the same anymore, but it’s still there.