How to Support the Black Community in Philly Right Now
From nonprofits and community organizations to restaurants and bookstores.
Philly would be nothing without its local boutiques, restaurants, arts organizations, and cultural hotspots—and, of course, Black-owned businesses are essential to this diverse social fabric. As the city and country come face-to-face with racial bias and injustice, it’s important to let that momentum propel us through 2021 and beyond.
“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,” says Jeannine A. Cook, owner of Fishtown bookstore Harriett’s Bookshop, which celebrates female artists and activists doing work to promote social injustice. “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.”
From bookstores to wellness boutiques, here are the Black-owned Philly businesses worthy of your hard-earned dollars.
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. Similarly, the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund, a sibling of the Philadelphia Bail Fund, is another community organization that posts bail for Philadelphians in need. Other organizations that provide legal aid like Up Against The Law Legal Collective and the Amistad Law Project are worthy causes for your donations.
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.
The 52nd Street Commercial Corridor, a historically Black-owned business district where much of the civil unrest has occurred, is in need of support. The Enterprise Center, an organization supporting minority entrepreneurs, will work with community members and local advocates on cleanup and business revitalization efforts. You can sign up for community cleanups, rebuilding projects, to offer help with marketing or design, and provide monetary donations. Follow them on social platforms for updates on community events.
Order takeout and delivery from restaurants and bars
Philadelphia boasts a diverse food scene, with many Black-owned restaurants to support. There’s soul food offerings at SOUTH Kitchen and Jazz Bar, Tasties Soul Food, and JD’s Soul Food Kitchen. Saba Tedla’s Booker’s Restaurant and Bar serves classic American fare with Southern influences, while her other restaurant, Aksum draws inspiration from Mediterranean cuisine. For unparalleled Ethiopian, you must try Abyssnia, Gojjo, and Era Bar and Restaurant, all available for takeout or outdoor dining. And for plant-based fare don’t miss Veganish, Nourish, Callowhill Greens Coffee Bar, and Night Owl Vegan.
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.”
If cold weather has you thinking about the Caribbean, dig into the jerk chicken and oxtails at Reggae Reggae Vibes on Girard Avenue. For curried goat and Jamaican beef patties, look no further than 48th Street Grille. Get all your favorite dishes delivered right to your door through local delivery service Black and Mobile, the first Black-owned food delivery service in the country to exclusively deliver for Black-owned restaurants.
Feed your curiosity through literature
“Knowledge, information, understanding -- those are the things that are going to push us through this,” says Jeannine A. Cook, owner of Harriet’s Bookshop, a Fishtown bookstore which celebrates women authors, artists, and activists. During the pandemic, Harriet’s is hosting sidewalk shops starting at noon Thursdays through Sundays. During the protests following the death of George Floyd, Cook and some students took to City Hall to deliver free copies of Harriett 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,” Cook says. “If people want to educate themselves, then I want to fill that gap, making sure they get that information. There is not greater joy in my life.”
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.
Outfit your body and your space
In addition to Pugh’s Philadelphia Printworks, shop for one-of-a-kind apparel from 52nd Street boutiques Banni Peru and Love Yourself by Shea Elizabeth (available both in-store and online). The Sable Collective, available for in-person shopping in the Fashion District and online, focuses on jewelry, accessories, and wellness items sourced from BIPOC and women artisans and entrepreneurs. For sneakers and streetwear, you’d be remiss if you didn’t check out Midtown Village’s Common Ground.
For one-of-a-kind ceramics, prints, planters, and more, high-end gift shop Yowie is sure to please. With a wide assortment of goods, including jewelry and beauty goods, NoLibs shop Trunc is open for shopping on weekends.
The October Gallery in Germantown highlights contemporary Black artists; Urban Art Gallery on 52nd Street shows work by emerging artists as well as provides free art, music, and chess programs; One Art Community Center fosters creativity through a bevy of artistic pursuits; and the Paul Robeson House hosts tours and other cultural events to educate the community.
If you’re in need of a little self care, check out 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. And for more pampering, make an appointment at one of The Naked Peach’s three local salons for waxes, facials, and lashes.