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world superstar returns home to Philly to launch international tour for her first book | Local News

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Today, global superstar Will Smith launched an international book tour to a small black-owned bookstore in his hometown.

The brief is called “Will,” and the very first stop was a little bookstore on Girard Avenue in Fishtown: Harriett’s. About a hundred people were waiting for his arrival, listening to a DJ spinning old school hip-hop on the sidewalk.

“It’s amazing to be here, where he grew up in his hometown. It’s just to do it like that, ”said Joshua Rodriguez, who came from New York for the opportunity to see one of his idols.

He dressed up for the role, as if he’d stepped out of the set for Smith’s 1990s sitcom “The Prince of Bel Air”: a neon pink baseball cap slanted to the side, mismatched Air Jordan shoes, and a tie over one. t-shirt with a cartoon of Will Smith playing basketball.

“I’m very excited, you just don’t know,” he said. “The adrenaline rush right now.”

Rodriguez had a ticket to the Met on North Broad Street later that night, where Smith joined fellow rapper-turned-actor Queen Latifah for an onstage interview, “Will Smith: an Evening of Stories and Friends.” He got off early, in order to be at Harriett’s house and to maximize his visit to Philly.

Harriett’s is a black-owned store specializing in books written by and about black women, but for next week the store will only carry one book.

“The only book for sale in our store for the next few days is Will’s book,” said owner Jeannine A. Cook. “Our bookstore was only six weeks old when the pandemic hit. Law? For someone like that to come and make sure that a bookstore owned by a black woman is doing well and thriving, that means a lot to us.

An entourage of five black SUVs pulled up in front of the store. As everyone’s attention turned to the street, security guards opened the door for Smith who walked through the crowd, dutifully taking selfies with fans and signing vinyl records, CD cases and the like. merchandise related to his 35-year career in music, television and films.

Once inside Harriett’s, with the crowd staying outside, he got to work signing copies of his book while broadcasting an interview on Instagram Live.

Cook gave him a brick as a gift.

“Does this bring back any memories?” ” she asked.

In his memoir, Smith recounts an incident when he was about 11 years old when his father had him and his younger brother build a brick wall without help. They had to mix their own mortar and lay their own bricks to build what he remembered as a 16 foot high wall.

He said the project took about a year and was overwhelming.

“It was one of the lessons,” he said. “He said, ‘Don’t focus on the wall. Just focus on this brick. Just lay a perfect brick. There is no wall.

In addition to his memoirs, Smith has started a series of videos on YouTube where he tries to get “in the best shape of my life”, both physically (he reveals how his physique has deteriorated dramatically since his days ” iRobot “boosted) and mentally.

Smith’s willingness to show his flaws and shortcomings made him endearing to Nyria Stuart-Thompson of West Philadelphia, who came to the bookstore less to see Smith in person than to get a copy of her book.

“Will is really vulnerable right now, with the book, with the YouTube channel, his social media, everything,” she said. “Will is a big star, and he comes home to him and me inches away from him: Wow, whatever.” I have the book, all of you. I have the book. This is what really mattered. I have the book.

The crowd had dissipated a bit when Smith reappeared from the bookstore, but the crush of fans wanting selfies and autographs had not abated. Back in his black SUV, he drove off into the night.

The entire event, lasting about two hours, was presented as a protest by the owner, Cook. She put some of her employees on the streets with signs among Smith fans: “This is a protest. “

“The word protest has been played down. He lost a way. A protest can be a lot of things, ”she said. “Why can’t a book launch be a demonstration? Why can’t I tell my story as a protest? This is truly a one-man protest: me walking my walk and doing things the way I feel called to do them is my personal protest. That’s what Will did with the book.

This article first appeared on WHYY.org.

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