We had the good fortune of connecting with Chantel Vaultz and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chantel, what inspires you?
There is a quote by one of my favorite authors, Ntozake Shange, where she states: “I write for young girls of color, for girls who don’t even exist yet, so that there is something there for them when they arrive.” This adage speaks to my why: my inspiration. Creating a book club started out as such a private thing. My best friend and I as roommates, swapping books we loved, then fervently discussing them. And starting all over again. We realized this process was as therapeutic as it was fun. We learned so much from the books we read, and then we learned even more from one another. I realized this was an experience we couldn’t simply keep to ourselves. Once Sistahs R.E.A.D. was formed, it took on a life of its own. Creating a safe space for cultivating relationships with other women, welcoming vulnerability, and engaging in fun-filled activities that promote a sense of peace and community. It was in this moment that I realized we had laid the foundation for legacy building. I truly believe that we are a summation of our efforts, our lives, and what we leave behind. What inspires me with Sistahs R.E.A.D. is that what started out as a resource between two friends, has grown into a system of networks across the United States, creating spaces for women to connect and learn from one another. I realize that Sistahs R.E.A.D. will exist beyond the parameters of my life span. This will be something that is here for young women when they arrive, even after I am gone. And that alone keeps me passionate and inspired about this creation. It’s not about me, it’s about the women we serve, the connections made, the learning experiences, and the safe space our club provides . It will be here for when the next generation of black girls arrive.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
There are a few things that sets Sistahs R.E.A.D. apart from other book clubs. One thing that is truly notable is that we have cultivated a space that is predicated on trust and community. Unlike most book clubs, we do not require club members to pay monthly dues. Instead, the commitment to the community of Sistahs ensures that each member invests time, energy, and monetary contributions into their host meeting to ensure that they bring to life the very book they championed for us to read. This is the design I have championed for in each state we have charted a chapter. So in California, Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Oklahoma, the design is the same. Also, in efforts to encourage community uplift and provide support to those in need we organize a program yearly entitled BooksGiving where we donate books to a class or organization based off specific books the students have listed that are of interest to them. We recognize that often our young people do not read, not because they lack interest, but moreover because they may lack the resources and access to the books they want to read. Last year we collected over 200 books and donated them to young people who were eager to delve into the texts we gifted them. Last but definitely not least, our book club differs from most others in our intention. As black women and women of the African Diaspora, we are of one of the most marginalized groups. In that, we were intentional in the creation of a space where black women are of the majority and the priority of our existence. We read books by or about the experience of those who are of the African Diaspora. We discuss our trials, our wins, our eccentricities, our vices, and we bask in the excellence that is the culmination of our wholeness. I truly believe who and how we are has lended us a space where celebrities and authors have been open to visiting with us, communing with us, and being a part of our meetings and our lives. We have hosted Tina Lifford author and actress as well as Isaiah Washington, author, philanthropist, and actor. We have also hosted award winning and critically acclaimed authors such as: Sara Collins and Jamel Brinkley. Sistahs R.E.A.D. is a space where we welcome and encourage vulnerability, we inspire one another to grow, we push past our comfort zones, and we relish in all the complex simplicities of who and how we are. This is how I would like us to be remembered.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
During these Covid times it has become of utmost importance that we prioritize our mental and physical health. One thing that I find to be extremely therapeutic and fun is to find a trail and hike up a mountain. This allows one to be outside, at one with nature, and see some breathtaking sights. One trail that I truly enjoy is Glendale Peak. You can climb up the first 1 and a half miles and take in the views of the greater Los Angeles panoramic sky. Ideally, catching this view at dusk or dawn will truly provide some memorable sights. If you are truly an adventurer, you can take on the remaining miles up to the top of the peak. It’s arduous, but totally worth it. What’s beautiful about Glendale Peak is that because it is a part of Griffith Park, there are plenty of spots where you can sit down on a bench at the base of the path, grab a sack lunch out of your backpack, and eat while you enjoy a read before you go. Super serene and peaceful. Depending on the time of day, once leaving there, you can hit up my favorite ice cream spot, Jeni’s: where vegans and dairy lovers can choose their vice. If a friend will be here for a week, I’d totally encourage them to do some sight seeing. The Hollywood Sign has a hike with a treat at the bottom of the trail in the style of Bronsons Cave. I thank The Noir Nature Guide for that jewel. Visiting a beach or two is also a must. Most visitors go to Venice for the culture or Santa Monica for the Pier, but Rancho Palos Verdes is my coast of choice. And for another sweet treat of a spot, I’d be remiss if I didn’t take my friend to Sweet Red Peach for a strawberry cheesecake red velvet cupcake and a slice of pound cake. Last but definitely not least, I’d have to show my folks some sights in Long Beach. Starting with my Alma Mater Long Beach State. We’d check out the Pyramid and Japanese Garden, leave there and climb up Signal Hill for the sights, and lastly, to make up for all the junk food I’ve fed my friend, we’d stop over at SALUD to get some green juice for balance.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I extend my utmost gratitude to my best friend and co-founder of Sistahs R.E.A.D. Angelina Palma-Williams. Without sharing that summer without cable television and our mutual affinity for books, I know this business never would have existed. I also owe our success to our dedicated members. A book club is an entity based entirely on each members commitment to the club. We read with one another, we commune with one another. Without our collaborative efforts, this system would fail. There is also a level of trust that each and every book club leader has entrusted me with, and I am thankful. So for each and every person who has purchased my book and effectively started a book club or leaned on me for guidance, this is a celebration of them as well.