Brooklyn, New York.
Brooklyn, New York. Home of musical icon legends such as Biggie Smalls, and Jay-Z, and filled with the history of Fort Greene Park and the Hoyt & Schermerhorn train station. It’s no secret that Brooklyn is known for producing history, and Crown Heights just added the new addition.
Cafe owner Kalima Desuze debuted Cafe con Libros on December 2, 2017. Nestled cozily on Prospect Place between Rogers Avenue and Nostrand Avenue, the cafe joins the block that is home to neighborhood schools and churches.
“I chose to open the cafe in Crown Heights because it’s where I grew up,” Desuze explained.
Adding a cozy and comfortable atmosphere to the reconstructing neighborhood, Cafe con Libros provides a variety of pastries to keep customers satisfied. With book nooks decorated with classic black and white chevron print pillows and blankets, polished stainless steel appliances, and shelves lined with fun and diverse novels, Cafe con Libros adds the snug feel that Crown Heights has been missing.
“We serve all types of pastries,” Desuze continued. “Croissants, coffee, espresso and occasionally cupcakes. One of our most popular pastries is our mixed berry scone.”
About the Cafe
Desuze’s cafe offers more than just tasty pastries and delicious espresso, however. In addition to food services, Cafe con Libros is also a bookstore and centers around feminism and female support.
“In addition to food services, we are also a bookstore,” Desuze explains passionately. “We also host community programs, book clubs, art exhibits and more. We seek to build and uplift.”
This month’s community pick book is a novel entitled “Lab Girl” by Hope Jahren.
“Every time we finish a book, we dump all the titles of potential books for the next reading into a hat and one is chosen by random,” Desuze explained. “This one was really great because it focused on a young girl experimenting and aiming to become a scientist.”
Many customers support the cause, and with the help of social media, people visit from all around Brooklyn to support the cause.
“I sought this cafe out,” says Melissa Pesantes, a new customer. “It was a really beautiful idea for the person who started this to want to integrate and I thought it was wonderful. I wanted to support my business.”
Photo: Náosha Gregg
Desuze is Panamanian and is one of the first generations of natural citizens. However, Desuze never denies her Afro-Latina heritage, but always embraced it.
“Growing up, I never had to choose,” Desuze reminisces. “I was able to honor my Latin ethnicity while still honoring the fact that I was a Black woman.”
In the past few years, the once culture filled and lively streets of Crown Heights has slowly been deteriorating. Brownstones with stoops that were childhood memories to many turned into bland, stucco apartment buildings, and convenient deli grocery stores started closing by the minute. However, Desuze has a different approach when it comes to the topic of gentrification and black-owned businesses.
“Gentrification goes further than just being owned by a black person,” Desuze cleared. “It’s not only about race. It has to do with an intersection of race and class.”
It is easy for one to be deterred or not understand the meaning of a feminist cafe and bookstore, thankfully Desuze and her team do not carry the negative stereotypes that may come along with feminism.
“The feminist aspect of the cafe came from my growing up,” the 38-year-old explained. “Being a black woman in politics helped develop my identity of Afro-Latin X. The cafe is to help provide a counter-narrative. I feel that some women can become lost in their journey of life and figuring themselves out, so this is a way to gather and remember who you are. Remember yourself.”
With the support of her husband, it is clear that the presence of unity goes a long way.
“My favorite part is knowing that this is her dream, and I’m here helping her fulfill it,” said Ryan Cameron, husband to Desuze.
Photo: Náosha Gregg
The End Result
Desuze hopes for Cafe con Libros to spark more community building as the days go forward.
“I hope for the community to have more difficult conversations around narratives,” she explains. “And to just be authentic.”