Frontline Bookstore Expands to Northside
Your favorite book store has expanded to the northside. Frontline North, 609A Howard Street, is right off the Howard street train station on the border of Evanston and Chicago. After stealing the hearts of Evanston residents, Frontline North is ready to catch a vibe on the northside of town.
“It’s been an overwhelmingly good response mixed in with a lot of curiosity and ones that are maybe a little nervous because they’ve never had this type of African energy on this side. So we give thanks. It’s been good and even when they’re curious some of them will come in and check it out and feel at peace once they come through the door,” said the co-owner, a known reggae singer who goes by Princess Kazayah.
The owners Princess Kazayah and Wadadah are an active portion of our beloved Rastafarian community here in Chicago. They both have been part of the Frontline family for some time and seem to be really excited about the expansion.
They reminisce upon the time Frontline in Hyde Park was under siege by new development. The entire street of Harper barricaded and blocked off making it hard for business. Even operating with no heat at one point.
Although this was a challenging period for Frontline as a business, it was also a monumental moment for Frontline as a family, marking the store a staple in the Hyde Park neighborhood. They explained that it was not just the money alone that kept the store running but the support from their loyal customers reflected the very purpose for the store’s existence. They said the owner Baba Sekou Tefari is all about the unity.
“They fight these types of things. It is on document they fight against these information centers, these culture centers, safe spaces for us. I feel like Frontline as a brand itself was important first and foremost because we’re on the Frontline of the information war. It’s been a great conduit for the black community and African communities across the world to have an outlet to access certain books and information because Frontline is not only a retail bookstore but a wholesale book seller”, said Wadadah.
If you’ve ever shopped at Frontline Bookstore in Hyde Park then you know it is far more than just a bookstore. They sell a variety of African products as well as opening as an event space. Frontline North is coming with the same wave.
They had to do extra work in convincing the Evanston Community board that a store like Frontline would only add value to the constantly developing strip on Howard Street. A lot of Chicago, and it’s neighboring cities, is rich in culture and this culture is often saturated by new development, also known as, gentrification.
“I will say initially in the setting up of our store there was a bit of resistance from a few people within the ranks of those who write the laws for Evanston. But I feel like this is so, nobody has been this pungent with African culture overall and I feel like they were a bit scared of that…” said Wadadah.
Although Frontline North is a unique store on the Howard strip, the owners address that their store is a supported addition to the large Pan-African community that is already and always have been on the north side.
“It’s advised when I was a youth this was a Caribbean strip. Whether you was African, Jamaican, Trinidadian, Haitian or anything this strip from all the way down on Sheridan all the way up to like Ridge and Western; Jamaican shops everywhere,” said Wadadah.
“Dem time made it hott, as in a lot of criminal activity but its not the same and even within that stigma you know within itself we’re trying to change what one see Africa as, what one sees blackness as it’s not something to be ashamed of or scared of,” Kazayah added.
As Frontline continues to spread its knowledge and love for blackness, Kazayah and Waddadah are ready and willing to continue what Baba Sekou Tefari “The Head Man” and owner of the original Frontline Bookstore has started. They are here to move with the growth and development that is happening all around. Don’t just ride the wave, be the wave.