Since 2017, Uncle Bobbie’s in Germantown has been a self-described place for “cool people, dope books and great coffee.”
Since 2017, Uncle Bobbie’s in Germantown has been a self-described place for “cool people, dope books and great coffee.” Founded by scholar and author Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, the officially-titled Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books has also become a place for book signings, community gatherings and thoughtful events about current events, politics and pop culture.
It’s also becoming known for pulling in A-list talent.
On Friday, comedian Leslie Jones, formerly of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” headlined a book signing event hosted by Uncle Bobbie’s at Greene Street Friends School in Germantown. Jones is promoting her new book, “Leslie F*cking Jones: A Memoir,” described as “a love letter to regular people just trying to make it day by day.” She was joined by a former colleague on “Saturday Night Live,” comedian and actor Kenan Thompson, who moderated the event.
And this Saturday, Uncle Bobbie’s will host its “2d Annual bell hooks Symposium. Scheduled participants include Hill, along with activist Tarana Burke who started the MeToo Movement, scholar Eddie Glaude Jr., professor of African-American studies at Princeton University and an MSNBC contributor; writer Kiese Laymon, a professor at Rice University and 2022 MacArthur Fellow; writer and activist Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, a professor at Princeton University, Pulitzer Prize finalist and 2021 MacArthur Fellow, and best-selling author Brittney Cooper, a professor of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies and Africana studies at Rutgers University.
“Marc seems to have this ability to bring people together in this community vibe thing with people who are celebrities, and it's always affordable and accessible,” said Sharyn Flanagan, a former Germantown resident who has attended events at Uncle Bobbie’s. “The coffee may be strong, but Marc’s events are stronger.”
Hill was inspired to start Uncle Bobbie’s by Crimson Moon, a Black-owned coffee house in Center City that closed after being priced out of downtown nearly 20 years ago, according to an interview with Eater Philadelphia, a food and dining website. He named Uncle Bobbie’s in honor of an uncle who inspired his activism, Hill said in the interview. His decision to locate the coffee shop in Germantown was no accident.
“We could have put this in Chestnut Hill. We could have put this downtown,” Hill told Eater Philadelphia. “We could have made it an it-spot for hipsters. But there was an idea here that this community deserves beauty. This community deserves care, and so we put it here so they would get that.”
At Friday’s event, Jones and Thompson did not disappoint.
“Everybody was so excited. We just knew that with both of them on the stage, it was going to be a fun night,” Flanagan said. “It was packed and everybody was so friendly. It was like we were all neighbors. It was a neighbor(hood) vibe sitting in that crowd.”
The mood must have worked, as one audience member took the opportunity to stand up in front of the crowd and propose to their partner. They said yes.
Saturday’s event is scheduled for at 1 p.m. at Greene Street Friends School and will also be live-streamed on the Uncle Bobbie’s YouTube channel.
And on Nov. 11, the coffee shop continues its series of community events with the book launch of “The Upcycled Self : A Memoir on the Art of Becoming Who We Are” with author Tariq Trotter. Trotter, Black Thought from Philadelphia’s Grammy-winning hip hop band The Roots, has written a memoir described as a reflection on “four powerful relationships that shaped him — with community, friends, art, and family — each a complex weave of love, discovery, trauma, and loss.”
That event is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Enon Tabernacle Church (West) in Germantown.
Uncle Bobbie’s is at 5445 Germantown Ave. Greene Street Friends is 20 W. Armat St. Enon Tabernacle (West) is at 230 W. Coulter St. To attend the bell hooks event, which is free, register by visiting unclebobbies.com/events. Tickets for the Tariq Trotter/Black Thought event are $31.50 and include a copy of Trotter’s memoir. Tickets are also available at unclebobbies.com/events.