SEATTLE, WA — There’s a new effort underway to resurrect the L.E.M.S. Life Enrichment Bookstore, which was once the only black-owned bookstore in Washington.
L.E.M.S. owner Vickie Williams died on March 3, 2017, and the store had to sell off its inventory to pay down bills. But the store, located along Rainier Avenue in Columbia City, has been operating as a community event space since then.
Edwin Lindo, a University of Washington lecturer and founder of the nonprofit Estelita’s Library, is working with Williams’ godson, Hassan Messiah, to get L.E.M.S. to get back to its book-selling roots — plus add a co-working space and coffee service.
The effort has gone well so far. Lindo started the GoFundMe fundraiser last week and has already raised more than $20,000. The fundraiser has a goal of $75,000, which would allow L.E.M.S. to get a year-long lease and make renovations.
“A lot of people thought this was nearly impossible. Essentially, we threw the Hail Mary to make it into overtime,” Lindo said. “Now we’re in overtime, and hopefully the community can come and support us and help us build on that cushion.”
Williams, who is originally from Indiana, opened L.E.M.S. in the mid-1990s. She moved the store several times, but had operated out of the building at 5023 Rainier Ave. South since 2008. The store was known as an all-purpose community space and for its large annual Kwanzaa festival, which Lindo said went ahead as usual in 2018.
Lindo founded his Estelita’s Library in Beacon Hill in 2018 taking a cue from L.E.M.S. Estelita’s is a community gathering space, but it’s also a library for social justice titles.
If the L.E.M.S. fundraiser hits its goal by next Monday, March 11, it would coincide with Vickie Anne Williams Day in King County.
As of this posting, over 550 people have donated.