BackIn February, Making Worlds, a progressive bookstore that amplifies under–represented voices, opened in West Philadelphia.

Today, they’re looking forward toward a possible re–opening post COVID–19.

Located on 45th and Walnut, near Penn’s campus, the store aims to create an empowered community focused on uplifting and affirming worlds crafted by Black and Indigenous voices.

The store itself started back in February by members of a group called the Making Worlds collective. According to collective member Ron Whyte, “The collective is basically a group of people who care very deeply about social justice issues, and we’re all working on various ... projects.” One of the goals of the collective is to “make sure all of our different communities are being represented.”

It was only when collective members started having conversations about storing and selling progressive books that Making Worlds was finally born.

“We thought there was a need for a bookstore in West Philly. Well, not just a bookstore, but a bookstore that is more radically oriented,” Whyte explained.

While there are tons of bookstores in Philadelphia, there aren’t many designed to specifically celebrate minority voices. This is one of the first of its kind in West Philadelphia. It’s meant to serve as a social center and bookseller for anyone interested in reading about diverse perspectives.

Unfortunately, the pandemic hit the bookstore just as hard as it hit many other small businesses. The store was forced to close only a month after its official opening. 

But they aren’t simply letting the space go to waste during this time. “We opened our space to someone from the experimental farm network, which is a seed–selling and seed–cultivating organization based in South Jersey,” Whyte said. “We still want this place to be used by the community.”

Making Worlds is hoping to adapt to the pandemic and re–open soon, so interested buyers can still check out what their offerings. These plans include opening on a limited basis and potentially an online store. 

Photo: Kylie Cooper

The re–opening could not have been planned for a better time. Now, more than ever, Making Worlds is important for the Penn community and beyond. “We’re ... a little bit hopeful because more people are buying books these days because more people are staying home … I think that there’s a need for more booksellers, especially right now ... And on the political front, people are looking for more political and social justice oriented books.”

Beyond that, society has recently become more open to hearing new perspectives. Specifically, with the upcoming election, learning more about diverse populations is necessary for making an informed decision on who to vote for. There is also an emphasis on the need to support local businesses in order to uplift the West Philadelphia community. COVID–19 has hit these businesses hard, and if we want to continue supporting progressive causes, we have to continue to support the businesses that amplify them.

Making Worlds is a safe space within the Philly community for all voices. It can be difficult to find these spaces near or around campus. As Whyte explains, “A lot of people are shut out. So we’re trying to actually create the world we want to see in a microcosm.”