If you have ever walked down Spruce Street in Center City, you may have noticed the ever changing one-of-a-kind treasures neatly organized on the sidewalk outside a small storefront. Nestled between 13th and Camac streets, Uhuru Furniture and Collectibles provides alternative methods for Philadelphia residents looking to be environmentally friendly and support community building through buying or recycling furniture and other goods.
Uhuru Furniture and Collectibles is a non-profit economic development project in partnership with the African People’s Education and Defense Fund. Everything in the store is donated and all of the proceeds from the items sold go to support the African community.
The Center City shop is part of the larger Uhuru Movement, an organization that is building both nationally and internationally to develop and institutionalize programs to defend the human and civil rights of the African community. It also seeks to bring attention to and end the grave disparities in education, health and economic development targeted towards the black community.
“The money doesn’t just go into somebody’s pocket. It’s supporting programs that are all African community led for health, healthcare, human rights, economic development and supporting self determination in the African community,” said Uhuru’s Promotions Coordinator Ruby Gittelsohn.
Six days a week Uhuru will send out a truck and movers to pick up donations from locations throughout the city. While most donations come from people’s homes, Gittelsohn mentioned that Uhuru will take in donated furniture from businesses as well. Items deemed sellable are first cleaned and priced before they are sold.
Not only does Uhuru Furniture provide great finds at low prices, but the store also promotes environmentally friendly lifestyles through the recycling of unwanted goods and the idea that one man’s trash is another one’s treasure. Last August, The African People’s Education and Defense Fund was named a “Green Business Allie” by the national nonprofit consumer organization, Green America, who as part of their mission aims to build sustainable green communities in the U.S. and abroad.
“We have a super, super high turnover. I would say we turn over about 30 percent per day. If you see something you like, it is good to jump on it because it’s not going to be here much longer and we don’t want you coming back disappointed,” Gittelsohn said.
A Uhuru regular, Thelma Peak, buys her furniture from Uhuru and said one time she unexpectedly found pots and pans from Uhuru. She always recommends the local furniture shop to her friends and enjoys knowing that her money spent Uhuru is going to support the African People’s Education and Defense Fund.
Gittelsohn described the donor and shopping base as “ever expanding” and said that Uhuru has a fantastic number of friends and support throughout the local community.
Among those friends, Gittelsohn mentioned the importance of volunteers within the project, and appreciatively referred to them as the “backbone” of the movement. The volunteers, or as Gittelsohn called them, “the grassroots marketing team,” are the driving force behind Uhuru’s outreach into the community. They work to create posters, hand out flyers, move furniture, help at festivals, and keep the store’s blog up to date with newly donated furniture. Gittelsohn notes that while the blog is a helpful resource to see what Uhuru has to offer, items move so quickly in and out of the store that it is well worth stopping in to take a look.
Those interested in getting involved with Uhuru or taking part in February’s Black History Month can do so as early as this week for Uhuru’s kickoff event for Ongoing Black Community Health Programs in Philadelphia. The event is called Stop the Hemorrhaging and is a fundraiser benefit to help support and provide resources to a birthing clinic in Sierra Leone, West Africa, an area with the highest rate of maternal mortality in the world.
Also as part of the event, Gittelsohn reveals that there will be discussion of new initiative programs from Uhuru Furniture dealing with issues taking place in the United States on making “information available for lifestyle changes like diet and exercise to combat stuff like diabetes, heart attack, strokes and cancer that disproportionally affect African communities.”
The Stop the Hemorrhaging event will take place at the William Way Community Center at 1315 Spruce St. on Feb. 24 from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Guest speakers include nurse-midwife Mary Koroma and Director of the All African People’s Development and Empowerment Project, Dr. Aisha Fields.
Uhuru Furniture will also continue to take part in the Flea Markets at Clark Park, which begin on Philadelphia’s Third Annual Earth Day Festival on April 16 and continue through October.
Gittelsohn hopes that these events and other new ongoing initiatives from Uhuru will make important information more readily available and in the hand’s of the African community.