Mastermind Connect x Flowered Concrete Present: Voices from the Diaspora

 Pictured L to R: Ramunda, Mahogany, and Derrick Young

Pictured L to R: Ramunda, Mahogany, and Derrick Young

There is something to be said about the importance of community book stores.  There are the obvious details such as being a space for literary works and idea sharing.  Dig a bit deeper below the surface however, and you’ll find hidden gems in the form of the people inside it.

As fate would have it, Derrick and Ramunda Young are indicative of such gems.  A dynamic husband and wife duo who created an online bookstore to demonstrate their love for literature and their desire to see it empower others as it has empowered them. With over 20 years of combined experience in the retail book industry, they have witnessed its high's and low's. That practical knowledge has given them the insight needed to develop a new bookstore model that capitalizes on today's technology while staying true to the independent community bookstore roots that define the core values of Mahogany Books.  Beyond literature, Mahogany Books is an online bookstore that believes in social entrepreneurship.

“We take a leadership role in the African American community promoting reading, writing, and cultural awareness as tools to improve communities as well as enrich the lives of motivated individuals.”

Enter: Tai Allen and Dasan Ahanu

 Tai Allen dropping gems (No Jewels)

Tai Allen dropping gems (No Jewels)

Native Sons of the diaspora (Tai is a Harlemnite of Caribbean descent, Dasan hails from the Carolinas), they graced the stage to promote their own recent literary works, and share their gifts with those in attendance with a series of tandem spoken word performances, followed by a Q&A discussion moderated by Mastermind Connect’s very own J.D. Weatherspoon. Tai’s book ‘No Jewels’ serves as a poetic compilation of personal stories, and those of various men he interviewed about the types of abuses they encountered. Tai’s focus with this project was to provide an insider's perspective on abuse from someone who managed to overcome their pain, while still being candid about the impact his experiences had on him. Dasan’s work, titled ‘Everything Worth Fighting For: An Exploration of Being Black in America’ focuses on themes from fatherhood to discrimination to police violence. Their collective energies provided a balance often not associated with artistic types; Dasan made it a point to mention feeling as a key ingredient to his pieces, while Tai values discipline and numbers above all else when creating a piece. Tai jokingly compared Dasan’s chaotic method as indicative of Marvel’s Tony Stark, while he modeled the hard logic of David Banner.  

 Dasan Ahanu shares an excerpt from his poem titled "Body Language"

Dasan Ahanu shares an excerpt from his poem titled "Body Language"

The true synchronicity between the two is in their shared reverence for a detailed creative process, and mutual respect for the necessariness of an artistic presence in all things-up to, and including business affairs. As you can imagine, this made for stimulating conversation that went well with the Miolo Champagne served at Bin 1301 after the event let-out. We highly recommend it as a spot if you find yourself in the U street corridor with an empty stomach, or a dry palette; they even have vegetarian options for the health conscious.

 Interior bar & dining area @ Bin 1301

Interior bar & dining area @ Bin 1301

To stay abreast of quality events such as these in both Washington DC and New York City, be sure to check out the events page at the Mastermind Connect website. There’s plenty more gold where that came from-won’t find ’No Jewels’ though.