Marc Lamont Hill, a noted author, social commentator and professor, opened a coffee shop and bookstore in his uncle’s name in 2017 Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books.
From The Philadelphia Tribune on its opening:
The store serves up LaColombe coffee, coffee drinks, gourmet teas and hot chocolate.
The menu features an array of sandwiches, soups and desserts including bread pudding and sweet potato pies provided by Black vendors.
The business is named in honor of his late uncle, Bobbie Lee Hill, a veteran who fought in World War II. During his youth, Hill visited his uncle’s home in North Philadelphia where he was exposed to books by African-American authors and Black Enterprise and Jet magazines.
His uncle, who died in 1994, would often engage him in conversations on race and offer his keen perspective on issues.
“His house was the first place I went where I heard a critical analysis of the world,” Hill, 38, said as he reflected on visiting his uncle.
“It was the first place that kind of opened up to me the idea of literacy being an expression of who we are as Black people.”
His uncle’s home was a place where Hill was provided with a good meal and was educated, protected and valued. When Hill decided to launch a business, he aspired to create something with a similar vibe.
While his uncle played a key role, Hill also credits Black owned book stores with helping to further his educational horizons. He often shopped at local book stores like Black and Noble in North Philadelphia, Hakim’s Bookstore and Gift Shop in West Philadelphia and the now defunct, Basic Black Books, formerly located in The Gallery Mall.
“Black bookstores were where I developed a sense of identity,” said Hill, who is a professor of media studies and urban education at Temple University.
“It’s where I discovered the world. It’s where I got a different curriculum than what school gave me. So for me, I thought it was important to pay that forward and to build something for the community in the same vain. My life is better because I had those places and I want to create them for the next generation.”
Hill’s slogan for Uncle Bobbie’s is, “Cool people. Dope books. Great coffee.” He said all three of those things come together to make it a truly unique place, a learning experience for black history.
Stop in for some great coffee. Have a bite to eat. Sit back with a good book. It’s all available here.