Last year taught us that seeing family and friends, going to a grocery store, or a job, are not something we can control. Millions lost their routines as the coronavirus outbreak, and Tomarra Sankara-Kilombo was one of them. 

The Germantown resident says she lost the “absolute best job”—but instead of cursing 2020 as the worst year ever, she looked for the good.

“I was really at a point where I had already made a decision that this time period was going to be reflective for me,” Sankara-Kilombo says, “and I wasn’t going to wallow in sadness because other people told me to because that’s what we’re supposed to do.”

This wasn’t a split second revelation, it took time.

Sankara-Kilombo was an After School Leader (ASL) at the East Oak Lane Library. She helped  students with  homework and introduced them to Black writers such as  Nikki Giovanni and Langston Hughes. 

After a few months working at home, Sankara-Kilombo got the news in July: “That was one of the moments where I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I lost this great job.”

Sankara-Kilombo decided to invest more in her already established business Black Soul Vintage, an online second-hand book shop dedicated to the African-diaspora. She took the little money she had and bought more books. 

Investing in Black Soul aligned with what Sankara-Kilombo calls the ‘Black Buy Movement.’ Last summer, many protests sparked conversations about systemic racism, injustice and police brutality took place in cities and all over the country. . People in Philly began supporting Black businesses like Black Soul.

“I started Black Soul because I wanted to find an outlet where I could express my interest, which is black history and black culture, and I always valued the treasures that you can find,” Sankara-Kilombo says. “I think we were able to benefit so much because of the authenticity of my page [Instagram Shop Page] and what I do.”