Not every kid in Africa has a business named after them! My name is Alpha Faye and my mother’s passion for books along with her commitment to provide children diverse and balanced images, a love of The Diaspora, and respect for Pan-Africanism led her to create Chez Alpha Books an English bookstore in Dakar, Senegal.
As the Alpha of Chez Alpha Books, for many years, I have been her test market, advert design assistant, price review person, and more. I am not complaining because what she is doing, or should I say WE, is to provide the reading community in Senegal ready access to a diverse range of books by African writers, along with fiction and non-fiction books that take place in Africa and a big selection of world literature.
In the beginning, people really laughed at Chez Alpha since my mother was committed to selling books in English in a Francophone country. She did not select English in terms of one language being more important than another, but based on providing an option as there are many book stores in Dakar, with books in French. In addition, she wanted access to the largest possible range of diverse literature.
“What do you think about this?” or “Would you like to read this?” are her question for the day. We spend a lot of time sourcing the best titles at the best prices. Most important is her belief that books should be accessible to all and this is when she came up with the idea to not only sell new books but to also have a lending library on site. Once she saw that there were people in the community that wanted to read but could not always afford a new book she added the lending library. We accept donations to this program, and now with more than 2000 books there is a large membership of students and families who borrow books on a regular basis.
Chez Alpha has emerged as a community leader in terms of supporting issues related to the importance of reading, literacy and entrepreneurship. We are often connected by new writers who ask that we carry their book and other entrepreneurs with related products to sell. Chez Alpha creates their own Top Ten selling book list and is not dependent on what sells in the West only. In addition, Chez Alpha offers English language training, professional development programs and objective and experienced assistance to students seeking university admissions assistance. With a strong social media presence, Chez Alpha works to connect with people worldwide and drop knowledge about great book suggestions.
While our staff is small, the reality is that my mother is committed to training and empowerment. As Africa is Rising, we need to know our history and contributions to the continent and the world in general. We need to have easy access to read about our heroes, she-roes, and freedom fighters. Most important children need to be able to see themselves inside Africa in images that are balanced and reflect a variety of positive images. When I was younger, we spent a lot of time looking for books that had images of black children who were not starving, sick or living in poverty. My mother would say that she needed balance and I needed to see my face in those books. I did not understand then but I understand now. If you never see yourself on the page, you can start to believe that you have nothing to say or that people who look like you have not made significant contributions to the world.
From workshops related to Health Discussions for African women, monthly story hour programs, sponsoring community events, organizing book clubs, etc. Chez Alpha is working hard to lead the present and future generations to a new awareness and level of sustainability.
I have always been told that we can’t go forward without knowing our history, and it will be hard to ascend as leaders if we don’t believe that we have what it takes to be there. Chez Alpha Books is about preparing leaders and making sure that we know our history and contributions to the world and with this information Africa Can Rise!