I am an avid reader of books — so much so, that I was reading fluently at the age of 3. There was no book that I didn’t get my hands on with glee and in anticipation of what was within those covers.
So, when I learned that professor, author and expert commentator Marc Lamont Hill was opening a new bookstore and coffee shop for us and by us called Uncle Bobbie’s in the Germantown section of Philadelphia with his hard earned money, I kindly packed myself up on the morning of November 28, 2017 at 8 a.m., to go and witness what would be history in the making.
The vibration that I walked into on that fateful morning kept me there for over 12 hours! You read right — I stayed there the entire day talking to people from across the country who came to witness the same thing that I did.
I met Marc’s mother and his aunts, freedom fighters, and I even met a woman who was a part of the Black Panther Party as a child with her parents! Did I say that the books offered in the store were amazing? I was buying an average of two to three books every single week. I’ve spent so much time there that it was officially called my “third office,” with my seat in the corner right by the children’s books. You had to see the faces of said children, who came in dragging their parents and begging for books with pictures that looked just like them! Some threw full tantrums, until patrons would buy the book that the child wanted to alleviate the frustration from their parents faces! It was so worth it to watch the child sit on the floor and read that book with such joy!
What Hill had essentially created was a safe space for Black people to gather — like a modern day village of Elders and young ones — all coming together to learn, laugh, soak up wisdom, and just nod at each other in appreciation.
Hill also created employment for people in the community. Those employees knew the names of the regulars who were always in the coffee shop. They knew me so well that they knew exactly what I wanted to order before I ordered it. Talk about service with a smile! I would be remiss if I did not discuss that sweet potato pie, which tasted like a 90-year-old woman perfected a recipe that tantalized every taste bud on our tongues.
It went without saying that Uncle Bobbie’s became a landmark in the almost three years that it has been opened, so much so that when COVID-19 hit and the store had to be closed temporarily in March 2020, we all pitched in on a GoFundMe platform so that Hill could continue to take care of his employees.
Marc Lamont Hill’s heart for us and our needs in the Philadelphia community and beyond, dictated that we should return the favor because that is what decent and kind people do, right?
We should protect this landmark with every fiber of our being, right? We should support the store by buying from Black people and keeping Black folks employed, right?
So, tell me why Marc Lamont Hill had to post on social media that in the early morning of July 26, someone had broken into his store and left it damaged?
We all froze in disbelief and horror that anyone would see fit to do such a thing! Not Uncle Bobbie’s! Can we have anything that is decent and kind in our community? Even if you lived under a rock, everyone knew about Uncle Bobbie’s, and one would think that it would be off-limits.
I can only take a guess and say this was someone who just lost their natural mind as that store was left unscathed in the middle of recent unrest in the city, because everybody knew not to touch Uncle Bobbie’s. No matter what.
This brand new landmark is a place that we must all take pride in and take care of. We are in a time where so much is uncertain, so that which we can control, we must.
To the person or persons that did this — I hope you found what you were looking for, and I also hope you saw that the community stepped up and stepped in to not only help Marc clean up that store, but that we all began donating again to be certain that things are placed back where they belong. Because what you will not do is destroy what belongs to us. I have no idea what your motive was, but as you can see, we refuse to let the store die a swift death because of your selfishness and greed.
Hill, while upset, was gracious and kind in the face of it all, as he saw people pulling over in their cars to help with the cleanup, a reminder of the decency that exists in the human spirit, despite this glitch he is now facing.
As of press time, I learned that Uncle Bobbie’s was again vandalized. Nothing was taken this time, but the message is clear. We must and will continue to support, protect, and defend our community landmarks that represent who we are.
We will NOT let whoever is responsible for this heinous act succeed in destroying our right to have and keep a decent place in our neighborhood where we can learn and fellowship.
That is Uncle Bobbie’s!
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