Liberation Stationed: How Racism Compelled North Carolina's First Black-Owned Children's Bookstore to Redefine Activism

by Victoria L. Scott-Miller


"You in Klan Country," read one Instagram message. It was a stark reminder that our activism, mission, and family now had a fixed address—something we never had to consider during our five years as a pop-up. 

We were transplants from Memphis. My husband, Duane, and I met during an open mic night in college, bonding over poetry and the movie *American Gangster* starring Denzel Washington. We had been passionate about literature and Black culture since elementary school, and our paths kept crossing serendipitously. We attended the same summer camp at eight and went to the same middle and high schools but didn't meet until 2007, over poetry and a free meal for those brave enough to take the mic. 

Brave and broke, our paths intersected like colliding universes, our words drawing us into love. I always knew we were destined for great and beautiful things. A few years later, my now-husband joined the Navy and became a nuclear engineer on a submarine. We moved from Charleston, S.C., to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to start our journey. Seven years passed, and we now had children whose names we had envisioned long before they were born. As Duane transitioned to civilian life, we faced a decision on where to relocate. 

We closed our eyes, placed our fingers on a map, and collectively chose Raleigh, NC—a place where we had no family, no references, but where we were willing to embrace the same bravery that had once led us to perform spoken word. With our eldest, Langston, and a new addition, Emerson, growing in my belly, we embarked on this new adventure. 

"We gon’ f*#! you up," read another message, reminding us of the challenges ahead. This is what happens when you're the first, and the eyes of a nation are upon you. 

“The pop-up model constantly reminded us of the flexible nature of the military lifestyle," I reflected. Moving frequently and creating a home anywhere felt natural, so deciding to open a brick-and-mortar store was a declaration that our mission and activism deserved a permanent home. However, many challenges blurred our vision. I remember the six-foot dining table where my family and I sat dreaming of our grand opening. We decided on a three-day celebration: Emerson wanted horses, Langston wanted authors, Duane wanted Black fathers to receive flowers on Father’s Day and an ASL storytime, and I wanted children to interact with our Ancestor Collection—67 first-edition, signed copies of literary works from Black authors who have become ancestors, including James Baldwin, Claude McKay, Langston Hughes, Toni Morrison, and bell hooks. 

Somehow, we managed to pull off a robust weekend full of programming and all our dreams, despite the city denying permits ahead of our event. On the first day, we featured a Black bass-baritone from the North Carolina Opera, surrounded by protest artwork from the George Floyd protests hanging in our building. This was followed by The Big Black Book Signing, hosting over 10 award-winning authors and illustrators from across the country. On the second day, we welcomed a historian to share the history of Raleigh and our building, along with an opportunity for White Glove Day to interact with our Frederick Douglass papers and Ancestor Collection. This was also the first time a visually impaired child interacted with our Braille wall made of mustard seed affirmations, which we assembled with tweezers a few nights before opening. On Juneteenth, we welcomed Black equestrians from across NC to participate in our Liberation Walk. Our weekend welcomed over 6,000 people from across the US, with 4,000 beautiful humans sharing space on our first day. The streets were flooded with Black folks and books. 


Liberation Station, Raleigh, NC

Victoria among the shelves of Liberation Station


Liberation Station, Raleigh, NC

photo by Phillip Loken


Liberation Station, Raleigh, NC

photo by Phillip Loken

Just when we thought this would be the height of our success, we received awards, fellowships, and grants, followed by generous donations from organizations like Vision Church RDU, PNC Arena, and Katt Williams. We soon realized that Black liberation would always face opposition. We weren't sure what form this opposition would take until a phone call came in months after our grand opening. 

Langston was approaching a milestone he’d eagerly anticipated—becoming a teenager. Starting Liberation Station when the children were three and nine, it was exciting to now have a space created by and for them. On Saturday mornings, Langston would come in an hour before opening, dust the hand-carved oakwood shelves, light a candle, and organize the shelves. Dressed in his best clothes, he was eager to answer questions and give book recommendations to the customers flooding the store. This was the independence he'd been waiting to explore. 

A few hours into his shift, the phone rang. "Hello, Liberation Station Bookstore," I answered, and the caller described our son’s hoodie and jogger pants and hung up—details only someone who had seen us walk in would know. We immediately rushed to the store to get Langston and shut down for the day. This practice, developed in response to Instagram threats, created an infrequent schedule to ensure safety. As a business focused on children, safety was always a priority. The eyes of the nation were upon us, and we were a leading example of Black excellence. We constantly weighed the economic and social impact of publicly disclosing the threats in an already fractured downtown Raleigh. 

In hindsight, I think of our publicist advising us that we didn't owe the public an explanation for our relocation. We could walk away, say we were expanding, and give people hope. But as the months to our departure from our location on Fayetteville St. came to a close, I couldn’t help but reflect on our brand's essence—truth tellers rooted in authenticity. Growing up in Memphis, the phrase was “call a spade a spade.” 

We could no longer afford to stay silent, so we unleashed our truth. With a black background and red and green words across a social media screen, we boldly declared why we were choosing not to renew our lease. The unresponsiveness of our landlord when we disclosed our safety concerns, and the silence of our leaders—both law enforcement and government officials—said everything that needed to be said. Yes, you can be a Black-owned business that thrives in downtown Raleigh, but you cannot be a Black-owned business that centers Black people and thrive downtown. You are not welcomed here. 

The bubble burst. If Black excellence meant being Black and silent, Black and tired, or Black and unsafe, we no longer wanted it. We wanted our community to know the dangers and experiences of those living and creating in an America that has given permission for this type of hatred to exist. Over the past month, we've had to consider what our future looks like and whether we can dream as intricately as we did before. We have chosen to remain in the presence and power of God, and that is something we should all be excited about. 

God often moves us from our pots when we've outgrown them, as our roots need more room than what our previous homes could provide. As a favored people, we believe we will be transplanted to a place where we can flourish without limits. Black liberation will always face opposition, but even now, in our responses and intentions, we will continue centering Black children, Black joy, and stories by Black authors and illustrators. 

While many have said there is no market for exclusively carrying the stories of Black children, know that there is a market built on excluding them. We are not only the first Black-owned children's bookstore in North Carolina but also a family-owned business. The vision of Liberation Station is shared with my husband, Duane, our sons Emerson and Langston, and all of you, which is why we invite our community to boldly transition with us. 

We have three pillars at the heart of our transition: REST | ACTIVATION | SUPPORT 

Our first foundational pillar is Rest. As a family, we are prioritizing the practice of radical rest, which provides us the chance to heal and regulate our nervous systems as we process the traumatic effects and systemic nature of racism in this country, including the environments that allow it to proliferate and remain hidden. During this period of rest, we are discovering who we are beyond our work and what collective grieving entails. This encompasses mourning the loss of what was expected, the difficulties of relocating, the silence of our leaders, and recognizing how grief manifests in our bodies. In *Rest is Resistance: A Manifesto*, Tricia Hersey says, “You were not just born to center your entire existence on work and labor. You were born to heal, to grow, to be of service to yourself and community, to practice, to experiment, to create, to have space, to dream, and to connect.” And this is what we intend to do. 

Our second foundational pillar is Activism Activations. In this pillar, we have organized a Liberation Station Read-In commencing on June 19th, 2025, at various locations throughout the city and will partner with several national organizations for this initiative to be facilitated nationwide. We are also developing a framework for what it means to own spaces of liberation. This involves community conversations exploring the ownership of buildings, storefronts, and land, and engaging in discussions about economic freedom in creation. 

Our third foundational pillar is Support. We have been asked how you can support us, and we now offer several ways: 

1. Donations to our PayPal. 

2. Bulk orders: For schools, organizations, or conferences, bulk purchasing is a significant form of support. We can ship nationwide

3. Purchase online from Liberation Station: We have an online storefront on Bookshop with curated booklists and over 500,000 titles. We receive a percentage of all sales. 

4. Lastly, sign up for our newsletter for updates at

We hope you’ll continue to support Liberation Station Bookstore and collectively create new dreams for the future of Black Liberation.