Out of Office
Photos and text by MEREDITH FORREST KULWICKI
Published June 30, 2023
A UB faculty member is bringing her passion for education justice to a Buffalo neighborhood by opening an independent bookstore.
Corrie Stone-Johnson, associate professor of educational leadership and policy in the Graduate School of Education, opened Black Rock Books in April. The store is located at 43 Hamilton St. in the Black Rock neighborhood of Buffalo.
“I'm really interested in school reform, and what supports and barriers there are to improving schools,” Stone-Johnson says. “The books that I have on this topic are meant to create conversation around these topics on a wider level. It is, for better or worse, in the news a lot more, with a lot of parent groups becoming more involved in schools.”
Although the shop is stocked with contemporary fiction and non-fiction, it’s the section dedicated to books on educational justice that stands out.
“[Researchers] need to publish in scholarly journals that are, by design, almost inaccessible to the general population,” Stone-Johnson explains. “The teachers that I work with can’t even access those journals and they’re written in obfuscating language that is not meant for classroom teachers.
Stone-Johnson hopes the titles in her shop are more accessible to everyday readers and will inspire more people to engage in these discussions within their communities. Her intent, she says, is to bridge research with contemporary texts.
In less than two months, the store has found a strong following.
“What I enjoy the most is feeling part of a community,” Stone-Johnson says. “People have already turned this into something that I dreamed would happen over time and it’s already happened within a few weeks.”
Marsha Huard, who maintains the community garden across the street, has stopped in almost weekly to buy books and gift cards for family. Caitlin Deibel, who lives down the block, uses the bookstore as a quiet place to work. Many afternoons, two young girls stop in for 45 minutes to do their school reading. They’ve bought a few books, and Stone-Johnson says she has started teaching them about things like sales tax as well.
Susan Cholewa, president of the Grant-Amherst Business Association, says the bookstore is a perfect complement to the community garden across the street.
“This is filling the literary fabric of this neighborhood,” Cholewa says. “All neighborhoods should have places like that, for both adults and children to sort of congregate in and read.”
Stone-Johnson is soaking in everything her customers say, ordering their books as well as taking their suggestions. Still, it feels a little surreal to her.
“I never envisioned opening a bookstore,” she admits. “I think COVID made me realize how important it is to find and follow passion.”
Follow Black Rock Books on Instagram to see upcoming events.