Pioneer Nyshell Lawrence Unveils Bookstore Celebrating Black Women and Black Literature

Nyshell Lawrence is breaking barriers with Socialight Society. Recently, she had her book launch for “i’m praying for you, girl.” Courtesy photos


LANSING, MI – In most bookstores, a vast selection of books on a variety of topics entices shoppers. Despite the ample shelf space for authors, one section often seems neglected: Black female literature. Nyshell Lawrence, owner and creator of Socialight Society, points out this scarcity and asserts that mainstream book marketers fail to prioritize Black female literature. Black women authors are underrepresented, and overshadowed by a publishing industry dominated by white male authors.

Raised in a household that celebrated Black culture, Lawrence has been an avid reader since childhood. In second grade, she checked out “Roots,” and despite teachers telling her it was too advanced, she remained undeterred. Now a mother of four, she decided to address this gap herself.


During a date with her husband Jonathan in 2017, Lawrence visited a local bookstore’s Women of Color section and was disappointed with the limited selection. “It was clear that a woman of color hadn’t been consulted in the curation,” Lawrence remarked. This spurred her into action, aiming to create a space for Black women and their stories.


According to in 2023, the United States boasts approximately 149 Black-owned bookstores. This figure, representing a modest 6% of the 2,500 independent bookstores nationwide, is a testament to resilience and growth. Interestingly, this number marks a significant increase from the 100 Black-owned bookstores reported during the pandemic year, highlighting a resurgence in the sector.


The journey of Black-owned bookstores over the years has been a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Since 2018, there has been an encouraging 30% increase in the number of Black-owned bookstores within the US. However, this growth follows a period of steep decline. In the 2000s and 2010s, the number of African-American bookstores faced a rapid downturn, dropping from more than 250 to just over 70. Peaking at around 200 in the mid-1990s, as noted by the African American Literature Book Club, the number had dwindled to a mere 54 by 2014. This recent upswing in numbers not only represents a revival but also signifies a new chapter in the rich narrative of Black-owned bookstores in America.


In the ever-evolving landscape of American bookstores, a remarkable story is unfolding. Lawrence’s Socialight Society contributes to this resurgence, offering a variety of titles from various publishers and distributors, frequently updating its collection to reflect current topics and support local authors.


“This space was created with Black women in mind, a group that often lacks dedicated spaces,” Lawrence explains.

Nyshell Lawrence (in the middle) owner and creator of Socialight Society has group readings often.

Courtesy photo

The inception of her bookstore came sooner than expected. Initially a dream for her later years, Lawrence was a stay-at-home mother when she decided to pursue it. Encouraged by friends, she entered the “Lansing Built to Last Competition” in 2021, which helped turn her dream into reality.

Despite some negative feedback, Lawrence also received immense community support. Her business began with a successful crowdfunding campaign, and she emphasizes the importance of taking small steps toward achieving one’s dreams.

Lawrence has been passionate about poetry since childhood and published her first poetry book in 2012. Her work, inspired by her experiences and Black womanhood, covers topics like Black culture, mental health, and women’s issues.

The love for books was instilled in Lawrence by her father, an avid reader. She fondly recalls visiting bookstores with him, which played a significant role in her entrepreneurial journey.

Her biggest inspiration is her late maternal grandmother, Bertha Lee Black. Lawrence credits her for instilling confidence and belief in her abilities. Her grandmother’s encouragement was a driving force behind the bookstore’s creation.

Lawrence emphasizes the transformative power of reading and the importance of accessibility to diverse literature. Socialight Society has become a community staple, not only celebrating Black women but also serving as a valuable resource for the community.

Socialight Society Events: Grassroots Giving 

Grassroots Giving announces the launch of its Black Business Directory on Saturday, February 17, 2024, at 5 pm at Socialight Society. The directory aims to empower Black-owned businesses in the Greater Lansing Area, offering a centralized platform for visibility and growth. The launch event will celebrate entrepreneurship and innovation within the Black community.

Ali Bennett of Grassroots Giving expresses excitement about this initiative, which aligns with the mission of promoting equity and economic empowerment for Black entrepreneurs.

For more information about Nyshell Lawrence and Socialight  Society, visit, or visit the bookstore at 5454 W. Saginaw Hwy., Suite 425, Lansing, MI 48917 (Located Inside Lansing Mall). You can also call 517-243-4357 or email