Soca shines at small bookstore

Harriett’s Bookshop hosted a Soca Sidewalk Sale in Fishtown to celebrate its one year of business.

A dancer from the Universal African Dance and Drum Ensemble performs outside of Harriett’s Bookshop during their Soca Sidewalk Sale on March 14. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

On Saturday, Harriett’s Bookshop hosted the Soca Sidewalk Sale in honor of their one-year anniversary of opening.

From noon to 6 p.m., customers were invited to browse books outdoors alongside Girard Avenue, see performances from artists like the Universal African Dance and Drum Ensemble and violinist Rickey Turner and listen to music from DJ Supa Ting. The sidewalk event featured Soca, a mix of soul and calypso music. 

The Black-owned bookstore opened on Girard Avenue near Marlborough Street in February 2020 with the mission of highlighting female authors.

To navigate indoor capacity limitations due to COVID-19 restrictions, the shop hosts sidewalk sales by moving their bookcases outdoors, said Messiah Toure, 17, an intern at Harriett’s and son of owner Jeannine Cook.

“We had to either fall into our circumstances or figure out a way to move beyond and evolve,” Toure said.

The shop offered various sales on books and apparel throughout the day and had a steady stream of customers from the greater Philadelphia area.

Barbara James, 36, a psychology professor at Swarthmore College, visited the bookshop in person for the first time after ordering from them online.

“Promoting literacy in the community and sharing books that don’t often get a lot of shine and having a space to do that is so important,” James said. “They’re doing such a phenomenal service in the neighborhood.” 

Doreen Allen, 33, a federal contractor from Fishtown, and Idalee Escribano, 30, a school teacher from North Central, attended the event together.

“We are reading a book called ‘Women, Race & Class,’” Escribano said. “And so we were shopping around for our next book to read for our book club.”

Allen said she wanted to get better at supporting small businesses and Black businesses.

“I think that it’s really important to feed money back into our community,” Allen said. “We can get these books anywhere: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, but we specifically choose to come here and support local Black businesses.”

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