How to Support the Black Community in Philadelphia Right Now
From nonprofits and community organizations to restaurants and bookstores.
Jeannine A. Cook, owner of Harriett’s Bookshop, is bringing a unique approach to the protests that have stemmed from the wrongful death of George Floyd. Along with a few rising seniors at the Science Leadership Academy at Beeber, she took to City Hall on Sunday to deliver free copies of Harriet Tubman and Malcolm X biographies.
“I thought the one thing we could do to actually create change at the moment -- as opposed to just holding a sign -- is to provide literature,” she says. “If people want to educate themselves, then I want to fill that gap, making sure they get that information. There’s no greater joy in my life.” And her interns are still out today, promoting those books with the help of donors.
Harriett’s is one of the many Black-owned businesses in Philadelphia that need support right now, but there are so many others as well. From places to donate, to shops where you can use your cash to support local businesses, here are some of the ways you can make a difference right now.
Donate to nonprofits and community organizations
The Philadelphia Bail Fund is a revolving fund that posts bail for people who cannot afford it -- especially people of color. The nonprofit is standing in solidarity with those currently demanding an end to police violence against Black communities, providing direct bail assistance to Philadelphia protesters.
The Philadelphia Black Giving Circle is based on the idea that when you give collectively, your dollars have greater impact. It aims to leverage resources from diverse donors to support Black-led, Black-serving organizations in Philadelphia, like the African Family Health Organization and Mill Creek Farm. The Pennsylvania branch of the ACLU engages in advocacy, education, and litigation to preserve and promote civil liberties, while 100 Black Men Philadelphia is committed to the intellectual development of youth.
Order takeout and delivery from restaurants and bars
Philadelphia boasts a diverse soul food scene, with many restaurants pivoting to focus on takeout and delivery in the era of COVID-19. There’s Warmdaddy’s, SOUTH Kitchen and Jazz Bar, Relish, and if you’re looking for something a little healthier, Green Soul.
Franny Lou’s Porch is a snug cafe with a social message. Named after activist Fanny Lou Hamer and abolitionist Frances E.W. Harper, this spot serves to build community through local, organic food. Items on the menu are vehicles for advocacy, with sandwiches taking on names like “The Anti-Oppression.”
Shop at other Black-owned businesses
“Knowledge, information, understanding -- those are the things that are going to push us through this,” Cook (of Harriett’s Bookshop) says. Get that information at places like Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee and Books, which is owned by Temple University professor and activist, Marc Lamont Hill, and is part living room, part library, and part cafe. Ariell Johnson became the first Black woman to run a comic book store on the East Coast and Amalgam Comics and Coffee House has garnered national media attention for its commitment to representation and inclusion, with Black female heroes at the center of its comics.
The collection at Harriett’s Bookshop celebrates the ideas of female artists and activists who are doing work to increase awareness around social injustice. “A lot of people are buying How to Be an Antiracist, which I’m glad about, but I want people to mix that up with some of the classics,” Cook says. “Harriet Tubman laid the blueprint on how to think about community organizing, and those same skills and strategies from way back when are still relevant today. Malcolm X was going to bring the U.S. to the international court for the same issues, like police brutality. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We just have to pick up where our ancestors left off.”
Similarly, Maryam Pugh and her Philadelphia Printworks has been spreading messages of social justice through printed t-shirts, taking inspiration from the likes of Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, Angela Davis, Ella Baker, James Baldwin, and Fannie Lou Hamer. “I hope that people take away the message that they are not alone and that there are a lot of people who are organizing and working toward equity,” says Pugh. Now through Friday, the brand will be donating 50% of its profits to organizations doing work on the ground in Minneapolis.
Some other businesses worth checking out are Marsh and Mane, which was one of the first boutiques in Philadelphia to sell natural hair products, and Freedom Apothecary, which sought to bring holistic wellness to women of color in Philadelphia.