He was boisterous, then silent; he cursed and begged; he confessed and threatened. He crumpled into a ball, like paper. He marched, cheering: heyheyhey. He snickered while he wept, and joked while he prayed. Spitting, he offered up his soul. Vain, he was humble. Proud, he was ashamed. I sign my petition, he cried, carried quite away, with my thirty million names. And I am lonely among voices, these voices roaring in me. At last his strength began to fail him; he wearied of it all, and finally cared for nothing, went half to sleep. Through his head, to the tunes of children’s songs, his pitiful beliefs, his little sentences of wisdom, danced foolishly as he dozed, the meters they were forced to skip to reducing them to a vulgar gibberish. He tried to rally his thoughts and form them in unassailable squares, but not a line would hold, they broke ahead of any shooting, and the Logos wandered disloyally off, alone, rudely hiccoughing and chewing on pieces of raw potato, looking surly and dangerous. No book but Nature is the word of God. Logos. No ghost. Whirled. Screech. Hisssst.
—William Gass, Omensetter’s Luck
For years, Nkiru Books, an African-American bookstore, at 76 St. Mark’s Avenue between Sixth Avenue and Flatbush Avenue in Park Slope, sat at a diverse crossroads, with a Latino diner and Afric Beaut, a hair salon, which is now a yoga studio, down the block. Talib Kweli grew up nearby and worked at the bookstore before succeeding in the music business. He bought the struggling store in 1998 with Mos Def (who now goes by Yasiin Bey).
Under their ownership, Nkiru hosted hip-hop and poetry open mic nights that were visited by nearby rappers, including Lord Jamar and Dead Prez. The store’s landlord, however, raised the rent beyond what book sales could support. In 2000, the store moved to Washington Avenue in Prospect Heights; it closed in 2002. Its former building in Park Slope is now occupied by Flatbush Farm, a bar and restaurant that emphasizes farm-to-table dining and serves $8 bottles of beer.