Martin Luther King Jr. said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” The Sykes family of Kaila, Raymond and their son Truth Imanu’el live everyday by bringing light, love and literacy to everyone. This family has experienced darkness and hate first hand. When Truth was one they went to a bookstore to purchase books. Kaila and Ray are avid readers and writers who want Truth to experience this love for literacy, so they went to a bookstore.  As Kaila, Ray, and Truth entered the bookstore they were greeted with stares and whispers. When paying for the books they were purchasing the cashier was on the phone telling someone that “they” were leaving.  Kaila and Ray left the store upset, discouraged and frustrated. They prayed to Yoheweh about what to do. The answer was to open Hidden Gems Literary Bookstore. A non-profit bookstore that would give away books for free. A bookstore where all are welcome and treated with love, acceptance, and kindness. I had the honor to interview Kaila about this very special bookstore. 

I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” Angela Davis

Ray and Kaila have always been givers. On Thanksgiving they focus on giving by providing food and meals to those in need.  Every Sunday they help with a non-profit called Tree House Cares who distributes food to people in need. This family believes everyone is the author of their own story and you just need to decide what you are going to write. Hidden Gems Literary Bookstore opened six weeks from the day they left the other bookstore.  

When you give abundantly you receive abundantly.” Kaila Sykes

Kaila and Ray reached out to Above Art Studios, where they had one of their first dates, to see if they knew about any possible space for the bookstore. Above Art Studios reply to offer space for Kaila and Ray to use. The next question About Art Studios asked was when they could open. As people heard about what Kaila and Ray were doing they began to donate books as Hidden Gems only uses donated books to give away. Before they knew it Kaila, Ray, and Truth were transporting over 30,000 books in their car, back and forth from storage, to the new bookstore. They also transported and assembled donated bookshelves, using every extra minute they had to prepare for the grand opening. Being met along the way with miracles, love, and support.

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” Rumi

Hidden Gems Literary Bookstore spreads love through literacy.  Kaila and Ray know reading is a vessel that promote’s cultural diversity. Knowledge is power and everyone should have access to knowledge regardless of income.  The way this bookstore operates is simple and straightforward. Anyone can donate new or gently used books. Anyone can come in and choose any of the new or gently used books to take to read for free. This family wants everyone to fall in love with reading as reading is a vessel that promotes cultural diversity, ignites creative thinking and dreaming. Hidden Gems Literary Bookstore wants all who come to feel welcome and accepted for who they are. When you are done reading your book you can pass it on to someone else to read and enjoy. Kaila says she loves the experience of witnessing someone choose a book that they are excited about. 

For there is always a light, if only we are brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.” Amanda Gorman

It is important to mention that while all of this literary, community building magic is going on Kaila and Ray are working at their jobs as photographers. Part of their income goes to support Hidden Gems.  There is more than books to the Hidden Gems Literary Bookstore. Kaila, Ray, and Truth have embarked on the second annual mega book give away where they are traveling from New Jersey to Florida to give away 1000 books. Making sure there are no barriers to anyone wanting to read. Book Clubs and ESL classes are in the process of being planned. The Hidden Gems Treasure Box is a subscription where you can buy a surprise box filled with a book, art work, poetry, and a postcard.  Kaila and Ray talk with different authors and artists in the Hidden Gems of the World series.  Kaila expressed love and gratitude for the support they have received. The thousands of free books they have given away speaks volumes. From the line of people who wrapped around the block on opening day this special bookstore is motivating knowledge, truth, love and connection for all who come. This family of Rutgers scholars and literary advocates are building community, book by book. Making a difference in the lives of many. What began with darkness and hate has been transformed to light and love.

It is with honor and admiration we shine the Kindness Champions Spotlight on the magnificent Hidden Gems Literary Emporium. We thank you for being you and bringing your awesome to the world.

For more information on the amazing Hidden Gems Literary Emporium here is their information:


Instagram:  @hiddengemsliteraryemporium

Facebook:  @HiddenGemsLiteraryEmporium