Sara Benjamin shares her vision for future expansion as a Leimert Park resident and business owner of Assata’s Bookstore and Boutique an artist and activist rooted in beauty and being of service to children, and community, things learned this year and the importance of consistency and success amidst challenges and changes in 2020.
By LaMar Anderson | December 10, 2020 | 6:00am
Please tell us about yourself and your business.
My name is Sara Benjamin. I am a Leimert Park resident originally from Baltimore, Maryland; my business is Assata’s Bookstore and Boutique. It’s a local pop-up here in Leimert Park on the weekends, especially on Sundays.
How long have you been coming to Leimert Park, and what is your business about?
Actually, the first time I came to Leimert Park was in 2014 to help some political comrades of mine with the $15 minimum wage [campaign], they were just helping to sign people up for the petition, and it ending up passing in a lot of the cities in California. So that was a victory when I visited. It was for a period of about ten days in mid-October. I remember going to the Taste of Soul Festival, and when I came to Leimert Park it was on a Sunday. I’m a lot of things; I’m a woman, I’m an educator, I’m an artist, I’m an activist, and I’m a mom; you feel me. So I have a daughter, and back home, our church was going to the museum. And I haven’t really been to a lot of the museums out here. It’s only been about two years since I’ve been here. Coming here on a Sunday was like my church, my museum with my daughter. It is very spiritual, you know, you have the drums, the drummers and the dancers and artists that have handcrafted everything from skincare to soap to clothing to vegan food and juices. You have the merchants here in the neighborhood. Veterans like Sika and Harun Coffee, Sole Folks, Eso Won Books which is amazing. Queen Amina’s.
My business is actually dedicated to my second born daughter. I am a woman who, unfortunately, is not foreign to grief and pain. My second-born daughter is deceased. I’ve been creating for a long time, writing poetry since I was eleven. I’ve also been drawing for a very long time. I started making jewelry because I didn’t see things that I liked. I was just creating my own thing, and everybody was complimenting me. So one of the first times I started street vending what they call now a pop-up was in Baltimore. I did like Artscape, which is one of the big festivals there on the east coast. I’ve been doing this for a long time, and it has expanded into me selling books. I also have a natural skincare line called Flower Child Skincare. I have a Goddess all over oil. I am all about beautiful things, so my products have things that make you look beautiful on the inside and out. It’s a homage to all the things that I love, like literature. I’ve taught middle school for a minute. I love reading, so I have books, beautiful natural skincare for beautiful skin. I have one of one earrings that I’ve made. It’s a collection of all the beautiful things that I love.
Also, every Sunday, I have children’s storytime and crafts named after my second born daughter Assata’s Storytime and Crafts. This week we read The Hungry Caterpillar, and I love the story because he didn’t get what he needed until he got the right things; sometimes, we want all the stuff. Do you know what I mean? He had a slice of Swiss cheese, an ice cream cone, pear and plums, and all the stuff he didn’t need. But as soon as he ate what was good for him he was able to grow and transform into a butterfly. So I think my whole life is symbolic of constant transformation and being better each day and doing what you need to feel well and confident and worth. That’s what my business is about right now. In my mind, my vision is a multi-million dollar corporation. It’s an industry, a brand, a lifestyle. I am not just out here selling things. I am spreading love and light and want to be of service to the community that I am in.
Where does the idea of being an artist, a teacher, and of service originate? Was it from your family?
Yes, actually, I grew up with a very religious mom who was very into the church. I remember going to all denominations for a while, like Seventh Day Adventist, Jehova’s Witness, Muslim temples, and traditional Christian Baptist church. We were raised mainly Baptist. Seeing her be of service in the church and the community working with children, my grandmother on my mom’s side as well. I grew up in that culture. When I got older, I went to an HBCU – Morgan State University. That was the first time I saw a lot of Black people being authentically and unapologetically themselves, you know. Looking fierce and being educated, intelligent, and showing it off. Also, there were a lot of clubs on campus that were of service, and I used to volunteer and do things. But actually, in high school is where it started, I would say. People like Nipsey Hustle, Malcolm X, and Harriet Tubman have led and been of service. Authoritative positions like a teacher and educator or artist or activist, it’s our responsibility to be honest, and of service.
What are some of your successes as a result or amidst the challenges and changes in 2020?
Some of my successes of this wild 2020 would be just learning to be consistent. As an example of my business, this is the fifth Sunday, I had a vision in my head to start a storytime, and automatically I was focused on what I didn’t have and what I needed. And it was like, man; I have books. There’s children in the Park [Leimert], I have a big ass quilt, haha, let’s do this. I already have experience working with children. I am a mom, let’s do this, you feel me. The fact that I have been consistent even with the barriers that I’ve had. Just learning to be consistent no matter [what] and starting where I am.
In the African dance class today, I am a freestyle dancer but wanted to learn choreography for a long time, so I was afraid to take that step. But I did; it was so exhilarating, and I just felt so alive, and it was wonderful. I actually learned some of the steps, just the act of doing it, and that’s another thing 2020 taught me, is just to do it, you feel me.
Also, to create your own beauty. A lot of time we want or look for certain things like labels and outfits, and of course, you want to look nice at the same time. We have to create our own beauty not just on the outside but within, so that’s joy and peace of mind.
As 2020 comes to an end what can we expect from Sara Benjamin, Assata’s Bookstore and Boutique, and your creativity?
An intermediate goal, I want as a business [owner], a brick and mortar even with the economy and everything being so electronic, the idea of scarcity and business being different now. I visualize a space to continue with my storytime. One of the things I was frustrated with was the school system—the curriculum and how children were disconnected from nature and behind. Even now, disconnected from nature and all their work done on a computer screen, a tablet, or whatever. I want a space for youth because I always work with middle school students, mainly between ages 8-13.
I’m a poet, and in the next couple of months, I am putting together my manuscript, expanding my ideas, and taking it to the next level because I am already amazing.
How can we connect with Sara Benjamin and support Assata’s Bookstore and Boutique?
Sara Benjamin Assata’s Bookstore and Boutique:
IG: @Callmeboatema_ @FlowerChildSkinCare91 @Assatasbookstoreandboutique
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