From inception to first day of business, Knowledge Bookstore was three years in the making. Co-owner Sean Liburd, along with his sister, conceived and researched the idea for a black bookstore in Brampton in the 1980s, a time when the African-Canadian population in the city was quite low. Informal market surveys among this target customer base, as well as the opinion of bank loan officers, forecasted poor reception for such a business. Due to his love of reading and dearth of jobs amidst the recession, Sean went ahead and opened the store. Sixteen years later, his conviction that this niche market would eventually come to life was justified and today Knowledge continues to thrive as a business that reflects Brampton’s black community back to itself not only through literature but through lifestyle items designed in the black image.
Self-awareness and education are the driving mandates of Knowledge. Sean hopes that, unlike him, young black people will be exposed to black literature earlier in life. It was not until grade 13 that Sean came to know of the quantity and quality of available books by blacks about blacks, the likes of Langston Hughes, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison and James Baldwin, ultimately choosing Langston Hughes for an independent study project. This is also the reason behind the naming of the store; a desire for it be a place where knowledge is imparted and exchanged, and where black people’s history is perceived as part of a wider system of knowledge.
Having Sister Souljah do a reading and signing at Knowledge has been one of the definite highlights of the business. Although her publicist had refused to have her appear at Knowledge, preferring to limit her to the local Chapters, the writer herself proved willing when contacted by Sean.
Knowledge recently relocated to a venue that is a few blocks removed from downtown Brampton, but had ample parking and event space. This has allowed for an enhanced continuation of their support of local word artists, such as Angelot Ndongmo, a long-time customer who, on Sean’s encouragement, produced Loving Me and Boy, I’m Loving Me, best-selling children’s books about self-esteem. There is also an emphasis on educating self-published Canadian authors about the importance of learning how to market their works and developing personal connections with readers by doing readings and signings, thereby increasing the likelihood of sales and saving their book from the fate of being just one among hundreds on a shelf.