Starting in a small room that barely fit a few people, the Riot Act Bookstore, located at 127 Main St., has recently expanded its space and added vibrant colors to its walls.
Riot Act Bookstore began in October 2020, with the plans to provide the Binghamton community with affordable and relevant reading that serves to educate and inspire a change in the world. The store’s selections involve anti-capitalist, anti-racist and pro-liberation politics that challenge the status quo. Their store is also anti-profit, meaning all the money from the book sales go into community events, local activism and new books. Riot Act Bookstore also offers ways to give back through its reparations fund, which is a pool of money designated to subsidize purchases for Indigenous people and African Americans.
The store began with a few people, and the Bundy Museum of History and Art gave them a space in the annex to set up shop. Now, after growing into a whole community, they have made the move to their new location —which is on the Bundy Museum campus still — but is the only building there that’s a public storefront. The move was relatively easy, according to volunteer Shams Harper, 30.
“We just basically had to move across a parking lot,” Harper said. “Just over two days our volunteers carried all the books over and shelves.”
Harper said that the new space is a wonderful expansion that fits a lot more people than the previous place.
“It’s awesome,” Harper said. “We were just looking at our old location and being like, ‘Wow we really fit into basically a large storage closet.’ Which is what our former location is now actually.”
The space has opened up more room to walk around and browse, with a reading room that has big windows to let the light shine through. The reading room allows patrons to sit, relax, hang out, read or play board games. Harper said that part of their goal is to have a spot where people can feel comfortable and not pressured to purchase anything.
“We are devoted to anti-capitalist politics, so we never turn away someone who just wants to hang out and ready and not have to buy anything,” Harper said.
According to Harper, both volunteers and customers have come to give congratulations and praise for the new location. Harper himself is impressed with the quirks of the storefront, including the unique and lively color scheme and the store’s temperature.
“We have no control over the temperature, so it’s set at a nice balmy 80 degrees,” Harper said. “So if it’s cold outside people can come in to warm up.”
Harper, along with other volunteers, described a day in the life of their responsibilities, including choosing books to purchase, handling online orders, social media marketing and coordinating with other groups.
Riot Act Bookstore places a lot of importance on their events, such as poetry nights and a casual lecture series called “friend lectures.” Earlier this month, they held an event hosting author Raymond Craib, who discussed his book “Adventure Capitalism: A History of Libertarian Exit, from the Era of Decolonization to the Digital Age.” Coming up in January will be a talk by writer Peter Gelderloos, who focuses on concepts of democracy and anarchy.
With Riot Act Bookstore developing and thriving in their new space, you can visit them during the hours of 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.