For 30 years, Emma Rodgers co-owned and ran Black Images Book Bazaar — the area’s oldest African-American bookstore — until she closed it in 2006. She was a testament to what a bookseller could mean to a community, making her store a real arts-and-literature center. She helped launch writing careers (J. California Cooper, the late E. Lynn Harris), promoted literacy for schoolkids, turned over her store to book clubs and speaking groups. As the book critic at the Dallas Morning News, I particularly appreciated the fact that she often brought in national authors the chains neglected. It wasn’t surprising that Emma wound up on the board of the American Booksellers Assocation, the country’s largest (and most influential) bookstore group.
Now, TeCo Theatrical Productions is giving back a little of the love, while also helping efforts that Emma supports. On Step. 19 at the Bishop Arts Theater Center, TeCo will present Emma @ 65, a benefit and fundraiser for TeCo’s arts education programs. Produced and directed by novelist-poet-singer Camika Spencer, the evening will include a reception, spoken-word and dramatic performances by Irma P. Hall and novelist Francis Ray, and it will be hosted by KKDA’s Willis Johnson.