By Isadora Rangel
Essence of Knowledge, Brevard County’s only bookstore specializing in Black authors and stories, was born out of a market need, a dream and pain.
It began with a trip a decade ago to Barnes & Noble, where co-owner Michelle Davis of Cocoa went searching for a book and found only two shelves dedicated to African American literature.
“I was mad,” Davis said. “I was embarrassed because I felt like they felt Black people do not write. And there’s such a large variety of books from Black authors.”
Around the same time, she got laid off from her state job. She and her husband also lost a son, leaving her paralyzed in grief for a year, searching for something to give her purpose. In the back of her mind there was still that childhood dream of opening a bookstore with her sister.
That dream came true nine years ago, when Essence of Knowledge Urban Book Store, 1229 W. King St., Cocoa, opened for business. The store is located on State Road 520, just west of South Fiske Boulevard.
She did not open the store with her sister, who owns her own bookstore in New Jersey, but with her husband of 44 years, Nathaniel, an Air Force veteran (they met in high school in New Jersey and she knew right away, “That’s my husband,” but that is maybe a topic for another column).
The store was a gift from Nathaniel to Michelle during those trying times. It gave her a reason to leave the house every day. It also created a space for Black authors you normally do not find at mainstream bookstores, including the author Michelle was looking for at Barnes & Noble, Tracy Brown.
At Essence of Knowledge, Brevard’s only self-described “urban” bookstore — by urban, the Davises mean a “neighborhood bookstore” — 90% of authors sold are Black.