West Philly woman keeps father's legacy alive at bookstore specializing in African American history

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Thursday, June 17, 2021
West Philly bookstore specializes in African American history
As Philadelphia and the nation celebrate Juneteenth, if you're looking to learn more about the African-American experience and history, there's a bookstore in West Philadelphia that can help you do just that.

WEST PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Ever since Yvonne Blake retired in 2013, she has been devoted to continuing her father's legacy by working at Hakim's Bookstore in West Philadelphia.

"It was opened by my father in 1959," said Blake, who is the current owner of Hakim's Bookstore. "We specialize in African American history."

Blake says her father, Dawud Hakim, opened the bookstore after reading some books by the noted historian J. A. Rogers.

"He became aware of the fact that what he was taught in school was not the true history of African Americans and he wanted to share his knowledge with everyone else, so that we could elevate ourselves in life," she said.

Hakim's was the first and is now the oldest African American Bookstore in Philadelphia.

Blake says it's also the oldest African American Bookstore on the East Coast, as far as she knows.

"My father was an independent thinker and he wanted other people to realize their self-worth," said Blake.

Besides history, Blake carries books on health, religion, economics and race, because she says, "we have to have the uncomfortable conversations."

And she has expanded the children's section. Blake says she felt this was important, "because it's very frustrating to not see books with anybody in them that looks like you."

Blake says keeping an independent, niche bookstore afloat was challenging until last year and the murder of George Floyd.

She says books like, "So You Want to Talk About Race," were difficult to keep in stock.

"It kind of was a turning point for us, because people suddenly wanted to read books. People were suddenly realizing that we had some real racial problems going on here and that they needed to be addressed," said Blake. "Not just African Americans are reading these books, everybody's reading these."

Blake's grandkids, Alana Ramberan and Maurice Davis, also help at the store, marking the fourth generation to share her dad's passion.

"I just have so many memories coming in here," said Ramberan. "I just want to keep it going."

"I would like that," said Davis. "So the next generation can know about their history."

Blake says she wishes her father were still here to see all his hard work at the bookstore pan out, since he opened the store over 60 years ago.

"My father made such an impact on the community," she said. "People are now eager to learn."

Blake says her father just wanted people to understand and acknowledge, "that we are not less than, that we are just as important as."

For more information, visit: Hakim's Bookstore online