SOUTH LOS ANGELES — Like clockwork, since January 1999, the members of Sistahs ‘N Fokahs book club convene for their monthly meeting.
“Thank you all for coming to South Central,” Sandra Jones, 73, said as she opened the June meeting. Angie Williams, 71, interjected, “We may not live here anymore, but girl, you know we all grew up around here.”
The living room erupted in laughter.
This year, the group is celebrating 20 years together.
“We all used to read anyway, then we would all discuss the books, about what we read,” founding member, Gloria Langham, 75, said. “So, I just said, why don’t we just meet together and discuss what we read and have a book club. And that’s kind of how it started. It was bout 10 of us at least.
“We call in Sistahs ‘N Fokahs and I was the one that named it. … The reason why I kind of thought of that is because we all are different ages, different occupations, or statures in life — some are teachers, doctors, you know and different professions. And of course, if you’re doing something, you’ve got to be focused on what you’re doing.
Of the 12 current club members, four are part of the founding group. Members range from 63 to 80 years old.
Brenda Howell, 76, joined two years after the group’s inception.
“At that time, I didn’t want to read,” Howell said. “But now I am truly an avid reader.”
“Chocolate Star,”written by Shelia Copeland, was the first book Sistahs ‘N Fokahs read together, which also happens to be a favorite among the group. In 1999 they set out to promote reading and support African American authors. One hundred and fifty-five books later, they’ve accomplished that goal.
“You are in a room with a lot of strong-willed women,” Jones said. “Very opinionated and strong-willed, but I believe that part of the glue that keeps us together is to recognize what does not exist out in the real world, we create our own environment and it works for us. And if the rest of the world could just model after us, we would be in a much better place as it relates to sisterhood.”
Along the way the club has built morale with one another in a number of ways, from birthday celebrations and volunteer work, to traveling abroad together. They have visited more than 10 different countries together in the last three years.
In 2017 the book club donated to a school in St. Croix after Hurricane Maria damaged the island.
The “sistahs” alternate hosting in their homes. The host is responsible for assigning the book and developing the discussion guide.
Jones hosted the June book club from her living room, adorned with African artifacts, family photos and artwork. Sounds of soft jazz played in the background as the women gathered around on couches, ottomans and dining room chairs to discuss “Let Love Have the Last Word,”a memoir written by Common.
Some of the book club members attended Common’s book signing at Eso Won Books in Leimert Park last month, which inspired the selection.
Sistahs ‘N Fokahs tries to support Eso Won Books before purchasing from major retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
There’s a true sense warmth, love and of sisterhood among the members.
“I don’t have any biological sisters,” Darlene Sampson, 63, said. “These are my sisters, and in the heat of the night and cool of the day, if there’s something going on, they are there.
“I went through something in my personal life a few years ago, and it was these women who got me through and I haven’t looked back.”
By Crystal Milner