By Xavier James
Norfolk, Va. - People are now coming forward revealing damaging information about a popular black militant hangout called “The House of Consciousness” in Norfolk, Virginia. The venue is a bookstore turned ‘bully pulpit’ were black separatists gather to plan and discuss black history and how to defeat white supremacy. The owner, Andrea “Drea” Winstead is being accused of everything from drug dealing to bootlegging the very lectures of the guests who currently visit her store.
Bold allegations of lies, greed and betrayal are being launched by former friends and business associates of Winstead. “We started the House of Consciousness together,” said one former business partner who we’ll call ‘Gwen.’ “I even quit my job and invested everything I had. But she forced me out by putting everything in her name. Drea is very deceitful and she will say or do anything to get money out of you.”
“She’s been getting away with dirt for so many years it’s just an everyday thing to her,” recalled the woman who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. “She’s been ‘bootlegging’ other peoples work and products for years. But to bootleg the very people who give speaking engagements at her store is just low-down. If Ashra Kwesi and Irritated Genie come to The House of Consciousness to speak, as soon as they walk out the door, Angie turns her DVD burner on and goes to work duplicating their stuff and keeping the money.”
No stranger to controversy, Andrea Winstead, who has also used the names Andrea Winston, Andrea Wilson and now ‘Andrea Walker’, had two prior businesses that were caught up in drug busts and subsequently shut down- in Virginia Beach and Norfolk’s Military Highway area. A few years ago, when Bill’s Flea Market was raided by federal agents, Winstead’s boyfriend, Victor, (pictured below) strolled into the building carrying a brief case with marijuana and cocaine inside. He was immediately arrested. “He did the time for her,” Gwen shrugged.
“That stupid S.O.B. walked right inside the building while the police were tossing up everybody’s store and had their dope with him. Now, how stupid was that…” recalled a white vendor whose shop was set up right next to Victor and Winstead’s. “They never got along with anybody in the building. They created a very hostile climate.”
Over the past few years, several well known speakers visited the bookstore to give lectures, speeches and advice to local patrons. Paid engagements and book signings are common occurrences. Unfortunately, most speakers don’t know or don’t care about the authenticity of the cause or the background of the owner. They’re simply there to get paid.
“I can’t say whether or not Ashra Kwesi or the Irritated Genie knew that Norfolk’s House of Consciousness was a predatory business, but they should have done their homework. All money ain’t good money. But I know that a lot of people stopped going there because they felt Angie was a phony and that she’d screwed a lot of people out of money over the years,” said another former friend who was once in Winstead’s inner circle.
One well known local activist told me, ‘snitching’ is frowned upon within the conscious community even more harshly then the black community as a whole. This atmosphere allows parasites and bottom feeders like Winstead to take advantage of people of color who come to her doorstep seeking knowledge.
“I’ve known Angie for years,” said a former associate with close ties to the conscious community. He wasn’t shy about his feelings for Andrea Winstead and the House of Consciousness. “I could tell you a thousand stories about her. Did you know that she had somebody rob her own ex- boyfriend for a pound of weed? Swear to God! And they pistol whipped him, too. A brother named ‘Twin,’ ask her about that! Hell, he probably doesn’t even know it was her that set him up. Another ex named Brad said she started stalking him and put tape recorders around his house. Three months later the feds raided his store and he ended up doing 4 years. One former business partner named Julius got locked up after she had one of her girlfriends file false assault and battery charges against him. While he was gone, she changed the locks to their store and told the white man who owned the building not to let him on the premises because he was dangerous. So, she works with them devils to help screw black folks over. I’m telling you, she’s really dirty.”
The original proprietor George Welch, affectionately known as “brother George” to the community, started the downtown bookstore over 30 years ago. ‘The Self Improvement Center’ as it was called, was one of the few places African-Americans could go to purchase books by black authors, as well as herbs and dietary supplements. Several years ago medical issues forced “bro George” to sell the business to Winstead and her associates.
Welch died a short time later believing his legacy was in good hands.
Winstead renamed the store ‘House of Consciousness’ after a popular activist’s store in New York, hoping that people would think the two were linked. But Saa-Neter, the entrepmanuer and proprietor of the New York establishment said “they are not in business together.”
When asked if the above allegations were merely jealousy or hate, Gwen said she and the others felt that the black community had a right to know who they were dealing with. “The people we told you about can be easily located. Sure, I lost a lot of money but I’ll let God deal with Drea. I’ve moved on. I’ve got my own store now.”
House of Consciousness or A Den of Thieves?
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