5 Star Stories: The African Place

Published: Feb. 21, 2023 at 10:41 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The distance between Memphis and Africa is well over 7,000 miles, but you don’t have to go that far to get a heaping taste of what many call the Cradle of Civilization.

As we commemorate Black History Month and celebrate the people, places and things that make us proud to call the Mid-South home, take this journey with us through the African Place--the largest African American imports retailer in the Tri-state area.

The African Place resides in two nondescript houses on North Street in Uptown Memphis. But once inside, you’re instantly transported.

According to manager Darrius Stafford, “It’s a love space. It’s a safe space.”

The African Place was created in 1999 by Trina Clemmons, also known as Kikelomo.

“So that we can be in touch with our history. She majored in African American Studies and Accounting at LeMoyne Owen College; this was her baby. This is her love token back to the community,” Stafford described.

Stafford is Kikelomo’s cousin, who began managing the business more than a year ago when she retired. You’ll actually see Kikelomo’s love token in the many all-natural hair, beauty and medicinal products on the store shelves.

“Because natural is the way to go,” Stafford expressed.

The African Place in Memphis
The African Place in Memphis(Action News 5)

And there’s no shortage of love for consciousness in the African Place bookstore, one of only two Black-owned stores in Tennessee listed by Oprah Daily for amplifying “the best in literature.”

As Stafford reminds us, “Knowledge is power. Things are going on in the world. Things are being erased. Stories aren’t being told, so it’s important to have that space available for African Americans or anyone who wants to know more about the history of us.”

But we’ve only scratched the surface of what you’ll find inside the African Place, like African and Rasta cultural wear.

“We import from all over to try to have something for everyone here,” boasted Stafford.

There’s also aroma therapy and incense, music, fabric, musical instruments, crystals and stones, jewelry, furniture and enough artifacts to fill a store of their own. But most importantly is the vibe inside.

“We just hope that they feel the love, that they feel the connection and the energy because that’s what this whole store is about: love, energy, family. So we just hope they feel like a family member when they leave out and want to come back,” explained Stafford. “You don’t have to shop, you know, you don’t have to spend money with us. You can just come in just to breathe in the space, be in the space.”

The African Place takes visitors on a journey through the Mother Continent from a city we’re proud to call home.

The African Place also has an event space called the Lion’s Den that Stafford says hosts open mic and reggae nights, weddings, even bar mitzvahs. For more information on renting that space or the African Place, click here.

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