There seems to be a resurgence of Black-owned bookstores in the City of Brotherly Love. Just weeks after academic and journalist Marc Lamont Hill opened a new bookstore and coffee shop dubbed Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books in Philadelphia, one of the city’s last African American-owned bookstores has been renovated and is looking to bounce back after nearly being shuttered a few years ago, the Philly Inquirer reported.
Hakim’s Bookstore—which is based in West Philadelphia—is the oldest Black-owned bookstore in America, the news outlet writes. It was founded 58 years ago by entrepreneur Dawud Hakim. Despite the bookstore having landmark status, the business almost closed down in 2015 because it couldn’t compete in a digital age. A column that was featured about the store’s legacy and their unfortunate predicament prompted individuals to step up and help save the store.
Yvonne Blake, the 66-year-old daughter of founder Dawud Hakim, started a GoFundMe campaign for the bookstore. Joel Wilson, who owns a computing firm and has ties to Blake’s family, offered to help cultivate the store’s online presence by building a new website. Ron Green, the creator of the apparel line What’s Up African? which features clothes that have imagery and words related to social activism, has made some of his pieces available at Hakim’s Bookstore.
Both men have advised Blake on the steps that she needs to take to keep the business alive. “I told her, you don’t have social media. You’re not online. You have to go to festivals and events. You have to be visible,” Green told the news outlet. “’How can we expect the next generation of readers and leaders to access this store if they don’t know you exist?’”
According to Joshua Clark Davis, who teaches history at the University of Baltimore, the cause of Hakim’s Bookstore’s decline went beyond not having a digital presence. He told the news outlet that the success of Black-owned bookstores has often been reliant on Black radical politics. Davis noted that Black bookstores saw a rise in popularity during the peak of the Black Power movement in the 1960s and ‘70s and saw another upturn in the ‘80s and ‘90s with the rise Afrocentrism, the source writes.
Blake has not only created a digital presence for the store, she has given it a physical facelift with a new paint job and bookshelves. Troy D. Johnson, president and founder of the African American Literature Book Club, told the Philly Inquirer that it is promising to see stores like Hakim’s Bookstore gain their footing especially in the age of Amazon.
Although there are only 70 Black-owned bookstores across the country, they are beginning to become more common. In November, an African American couple opened up the first bookstore that a predominately Black neighborhood had seen in 20 years.
SOURCE: Philly Inquirer