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Ayanna Wilks wanted a safe space as a reprieve to the harsh realities of what’s happening in society — through discussions over books with her friends.
A PR director at Wilhemena by day, Wilks launched her own book club called TheBrowniesPresent: Book Club in 2016 with friend and business partner, Brianna Agyemang. It started as a way to get together in a unique way, with some of her closest girlfriends in New York City.
Since its founding, #TheBrowniesPresent: Book Club has become a place for black women to support other black women. Each month, they select from a range of black authors, including James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Luvvie Ajayi, Roxane Gay and Marc Lamont Hill.
"I started researching book clubs because I was interested in joining one since I had a bit of free time over the winter break," said Wilks. "Unfortunately I didn’t find any local chapters that were appealing or taking new members so I decided to create a new club. When my business partner, Brianna Agyemang and I started curating events under our ‘Brownie Agency’ platform, it only made sense to relaunch the book club under the umbrella of our LLC. Thus became 'TheBrowniesPresent: Book Club.' It’s synonymous with what we stand for which is basically providing culture, good vibes, and #BlackGirlMagic."
That first meeting was transformative for Wilks and the other women in attendance. Over time, it became a form of self-care — a necessity in order to survive the daily grind of New York City life. She shares, “What’s great about book club is that we all hold each other accountable.”
The book club sisterhood circle was formed.
“It’s hard sometimes to keep up with meetings because we all have busy schedules, but it’s a beautiful thing that everyone is so engaged. There were so many people who stayed on top of me to make sure we kept it going. The support from each other is the heart of our club. We all take turns hosting meetings because it really is a group effort.”
Having a book club specifically for black women creates not just community but a chance to discuss literature from that perspective and lived experience. The ‘Brownies’ book club has provided each of the ladies with an opportunity to not just discuss the complexities of being a black woman in America, but also as a forum for open-hearted discussions on everything from relationships to career.
“We talk about so many different things in a book club,” Wilks explains. “Relevant to the literature and outside of it. It’s nice to have a safe space to discuss real issues we are all going through but also to encourage each other. At the last meeting, we all shared our own personal affirmations and that was great to hear what helps motivate each individual person.”
Over a dozen women gather together each month, often rotating homes, in order to discuss the book pick.
“It’s a great way for everyone to connect in one place outside of the workplace,” says Wilks. “I work in the entertainment and fashion industries so I have a lot of relationships in all areas and I love connecting people. I think it’s great for everyone to mix and mingle whether they know each other or not.”
As the saying goes, your vibe attracts your tribe. And for Wilks, she’s attracted an extremely dope tribe of women all ranging from a variety of industries: from entertainment to fashion, to radio and more. “As Black women, I think it’s so important to have a power circle,” says Wilks. “You never know what can come of it and there’s room for all of us to collaborate and grow.”