Tag: Yvonne Blake

Last of Philadelphia’s Black-Owned Bookstores Work to Make a Comeback

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Yvonne Blake took over Hakim’s Bookstore from her father Dawud Hakim after he passed away. It is thought to be the oldest surviving black-owned bookstore in the country. (Photo credit: GENEVA HEFFERNAN via philly.com)

by Valerie Russ @ValerieRussDN via philly.com

At Hakim’s Bookstore in West Philadelphia, there are signs of life for what is believed to be the oldest black-owned bookstore in the country. Only a couple of years ago, the store was near death’s door. There is fresh, yellow paint on the walls, brand-new bookshelves, and a newly renovated office space at the back of the store. “I finally got a website about three months ago,” said Yvonne Blake, daughter of Dawud Hakim, who founded the store in 1959.

Two years ago, the landmark at 210 S. 52nd St. was in danger of closing: Competition from internet booksellers and its limited hours — a family member was ill — led many people to falsely believe that Hakim’s was no longer in business, Blake, 66, said. But after attention from a column by Inquirer and Daily News writer Helen Ubiñas, Blake said, “I had a lot of people offer to help.”

She had already launched a GoFundMe campaign (more than $1,140 has been raised), but hearing from people all over the country gave her even more hope — and help. Joel Wilson, the owner of a computer-consulting firm who went to elementary school with her daughter, created the new website and offered a reorganization plan. And Ron Green, founder of a clothing company featuring T-shirts and other apparel aimed at young black activists, paid her a visit.

“I had never heard of Hakim’s,” said Green, CEO of What’s Up African? “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.” And he advised her: “How can we expect the next generation of readers and leaders to access this store if they don’t know you exist?’

Now, some of Green’s T-shirts, items that appeal to a younger generation, are available at the bookstore.

Yvonne Blake holds a photo of her father, Dawud Hakim, in front of the store in the 1970s. (Photo credit:  GENEVA HEFFERNAN via philly.com)

Troy D. Johnson, president and founder of African American Literature Book Club, said only Marcus Books in Oakland, Calif., founded in 1960, has been around as long as Hakim’s.

Johnson also said he was pleased to learn that Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill just opened Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books at 5445 Germantown Ave in Philadelphia.

Hill’s store, “along with the opening of at least seven new black-owned independents this year, is a very positive sign,” Johnson wrote in an email. This is the first year his website added more bookstores than it flagged as having closed. “As Amazon becomes a near-monopoly for online book sales and eBooks, they are certainly having an adverse impact on not just black independents, but all booksellers online and brick-and-mortar,” Johnson wrote.

Joshua Clark Davis, a professor of history at the University of Baltimore who has studied black-owned bookstores in the country, said that the “rise and fall of black radical politics has always had an impact on the popularity of black bookstores.”

The first big boom was during the height of the Black Power movement, from the late 1960s until the mid-’70s.  “Then came a big decline, but another upswing in black bookstores was when Afrocentrism and Malcolm X and black nationalism boom again in the late 1980s and early ’90s,” Davis wrote in an email.
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Hakim’s Bookstore, Philadelphia’s Oldest Black Bookstore, Garners Support to Stay Open

Yvonne Blake, current owner of Hakim's Bookstore (photo via philly.com)
Yvonne Blake, Hakim’s daughter and current owner of Hakim’s Bookstore (photo via philly.com)

Hakim’s Bookstore, the oldest African-American bookstore, is getting some much-needed help from the Philadelphia community.

According to owner Yvonne Blake, people who heard the news that the store, which has been family-owned-and-operated since 1959, was struggling were quick to respond. Blake said that she has been overwhelmed by all the support she received, reports Philly.com.

Blake’s story, and her store, have been pasted all over social media by everyone from locals to even Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter of the Roots, with many using the hashtag #BlackBooksMatter. But Blake said that the most important thing she has seen people do is shop at the store. Their business helps keep the store afloat.

The Early Birds, an online community dedicated to helping support black-owned business, also held a cash mob, in which they encouraged their followers to go to Blake’s store and spend at least $20.

Other people have also volunteered to help Blake run the store, since Blake is also caring for her ailing mother, and people like Temple University student Ebonee Johnson have volunteered their time to keep the doors open.

The support has been overwhelming to Blake, and she hopes it will continue past the holiday season.

“It’s like a dream I don’t want to fully embrace because I don’t want it to end,” she told Philly.com. “It’s been an eye-opener because I thought we were dead and irrelevant. I really thought our time had passed, but I realized that I was living in the past and we have to do things differently if we want to stay around.”

To help out, if you’re in the area, Hakim’s Bookstore is located at 210 S. 52nd St. Visit or call: 215-474-9495.  Check them out on Facebook. They also have a GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/HakimsBookstore

article via thegrio.com