Sister’s Uptown Bookstore & Cultural Center: My Visit to the First Black-Owned Bookstore in Harlem

I recently read that independently-owned bookstores are flourishing after nearly being ignored into extinction. I think that speaks to the heart, dedication, uniqueness, and passion of the owners who have fought to keep these much-needed parts of communities afloat.

As I do a mini-book tour (the date referenced below has passed) in support of my newest diverse children’s picture book, In The Nick of Time, I had the honor of working with several of these warriors. But one, in particular, has captured my heart.

Sister's Uptown Bookstore in Harlem

Janifer Wilson, owner, and visionary of @sistersuptown books in Manhattan. She didn’t know me, but she KNEW me. This woman has done so much for literacy and a love of reading and she took me in from day 1.

I have watched her as she works in her store and shares her genuine love of books and knowledge with others and I’ve seen how she cared for me just because. Just. Because.

I love this woman.

Sister’s Uptown Bookstore & Cultural Center

Sister’s Uptown Bookstore & Cultural Center

Sister's Uptown Bookstore

A staple in the Harlem community for almost two decades, Sister’s specializes in African-American Authors, art, jewelry, and the wisdom that only many years of living a good life can bring. The bookstore also offers a café stocked with goodies and drinks like vegan cakes, herbal tea, fruit smoothies, and sugarless soft drinks.

“On or about January 1, 2000, I took a leap of faith and brought a positive change to a crumbling community,” Janifer recalled. “I opened Sisters Uptown Bookstore and added our ‘Sister’s Uptown Cultural Center’ in June 2007. We provide resources for members of the community to nurture their minds, hearts, and souls with present and past works of gifted African American authors and other great authors and intellectuals including masters of the spoken word.”

Janifer has created a space with a holistic, sanctuary-like feel where local merchants can their one-of-kind jewelry pieces. This innovative business owner has also opened her heart and doors to support self-published authors. Within the vibrant Sister’s space, authors are encouraged to have book signings so they can make some money from their literary works and spread the word about their missions.

I was pleased and amused when I recently visited and ended up in the middle of a regular talk show, The LMS Show featuring Lenny Matthews, filmed right there in the middle of this cultural oasis. Lenny had his own following and I grew a little envious that I am not in Manhattan to regularly experience the fun this group seems to have every Saturday night!

“We have successfully become a positive staple in the community of Washington Heights and recently celebrated 19 years of community service. We are not just a book store; we are a community resource center for the exchange of information and ideas. Our motto is ‘knowledge is key.’ We provide an educational, emotional, spiritual, and loving environment for our diverse community where all are welcomed.”

When I left Sisters and Janifer, I was filled with a glow of pride and love for our culture, history, and the fact that people like Janifer still play a huge role in cultivating positivity and a sense of community. Janifer does more than run her own shop. She is actively showing the rest of us how to also be a beacon of hope, knowledge, and light in our own communities.

So, if you live in, or near, New York City and you have not stopped by to meet and talk with this woman (and buy a book or two or three) you are missing a treasure right in your own backyard. If you visit New York please stop by this bookstore. There is always something good going on, a story to share, a new book to buy.

Thank you to everyone at Sister’s Uptown Bookstore for making me feel welcome and for treating me just like family. I enjoyed myself and cannot wait to come back. Thank you for the energy you bring. I brought some all the way back to Louisville with me.💛

Sister's Uptown Bookstore & Cultural Center


Some of my favorite stories are when kids come to the rescue and do something miraculous at Christmas time. I could not find a single book where a little brown boy helped Santa save Christmas. Not one.

Toni Morrison said,  “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

So here is my Christmas contribution. Introducing my latest diverse children’s picture book, In The Nick of Time.

In The Nick of Time by Deedee Cummings
In The Nick of Time by Deedee Cummings

About In The Nick of Time

Ten-year-old Nick Saint never thought his name was all that special until one snowy day in December when he accidentally receives a letter meant for Saint Nick. Encouraged by his mom, young Nick opens the letter with the intent to answer it himself. The unexpected message inside ultimately leads him on a journey of understanding poverty, gratitude, and service to others while discovering the real meaning of the holiday spirit. Nick’s actions and kindness are filled with heartwarming results– results that even please Santa Claus himself! An endearing story of a little brown boy who helps Santa save Christmas.

Children of all ages and backgrounds who read In the Nick of Time will understand that sometimes the smallest act of kindness can take up the biggest space in someone else’s heart. 

I know families will fall in love with this book because not only is the overall message amazing, but because it’s also a rare find to locate a picture book about a little brown boy who helps Santa save Christmas.

I really believe my newest diverse children’s picture book, In The Nick of Time, truly might be the first-ever published book where a brown boy helps Santa save Christmas. I have looked and looked and looked and cannot find another. It’s kind of sad, but hopeful because this may be the first of many. I need to get that message out somehow without outright declaring I’m the only one- at any rate- it’s very sad I can’t locate another in 2019.

Black people love Santa and Christmas too.

It is so important for my children to also feel special and wanted and needed, and like Santa could trust or call on them too. This is not a book just for brown kids. Just like I love watching all of these movies and reading all of these stories, so will all other kids from many different backgrounds, but for once a brown child may be able to better dream that Santa may just pick them to call on for help. That they too, can be considered trustworthy, responsible, and caring. They too can be the hero.

This story is beautiful and filled with messages all children need to hear about poverty, gratitude, and service to others. I believe Santa would be so proud. And so am I.

Pick up your copy and some for your friends, family, and community here.

In the Nick of Time by Deedee Cummings

About Deedee Cummings

As a therapist, attorney, author, and CEO of Make A Way Media, Deedee Cummings has a passion for making the world a better place. All 16 of Cummings’ diverse picture, poetry, and workbooks for kids reflect her professional knowledge and love of life. Colorful and vibrant, her children’s books are not only fun for kids and adults to read, they also work to teach coping skills, reinforce the universal message of love, encourage mindfulness, and facilitate inclusion for all. Cummings has spent more than two decades working within the family therapy and support field and much of her writing shares her experiences of working with kids in therapeutic foster care. As a result, her catalogs of published books for kids are filled with positive, hopeful messages. Using therapeutic techniques in her stories to teach coping skills, Cummings also strives to lessen the stigma that some people feel when it comes to receiving mental health assistance.
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