Rule No. 1: STFU.
Archive | Civic App RSS feed for this section
This month marks the 50th anniversary of John Coltrane’s 1964 masterpiece “A Love Supreme.”
From Boston to San Francisco, Americans are celebrating what many consider the greatest spiritual jazz composition of all time. Sadly, we in Philadelphia are marking the occasion with a commitment to fight to preserve Coltrane’s presence in the city that nurtured and shaped him.
As I previously wrote, the Pennrose Company demolished the “Tribute to John Coltrane” mural.
The company did it with no input from the community and no plan to preserve the presence of an American cultural icon. The loss sparked an outrage on social media. Tweet after tweet asked the same question: WTF?!
Through public subsidies and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, Pennrose has gotten rich building properties for the poor. The politically-connected company has been sucking on the public teat for more than 20 years. Indeed, it is one of the nation’s top 10 affordable housing developers.
While Pennrose can afford hundreds of thousands in political contributions, primarily to Republicans, it has contributed nothing to replace the tribute to the man that put Philly jazz on the map.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The City of Philadelphia’s campaign finance database is a hot mess.
In any case, social media provides a platform to raise awareness of an issue. But to make something happen, one has to agitate offline. So the Avenging The Ancestors Coalition has organized an Arts and Culture Committee, which I chair. Our mission is to preserve African Americans’ cultural heritage – and presence – in Philadelphia by any means necessary (BAMN).
To get involved, come to the next monthly meeting of ATAC, which will be held on Monday, December 15, 2014, at 7:00 p.m. at Zion Baptist Church, Broad and Venango Streets. For more information, call (215) 552-8751.
I respect and honor the brave men and women who have served in the military. But like Edwin Starr I despise war.
- Categories Civic App
Tuesday is Election Day. You know the mantra: Our ancestors died for the right to die. It’s your civic responsibility. It could be a lot worse. Vote for the lesser of two evils. This is the most important election since [fill in the blank].
If you’re unsure of the location of your polling place, hours of operation or who’s on the ballot, there’s an app for that — Get to the Polls.
While I’m a voting rights activist, I understand why many are skeptical about the efficacy of voting. It seems like little ever changes for the better. Yes, your vote is your voice. But the change you want doesn’t just happen. You have to make it happen.
Turning out to vote is the first step. But civic engagement is a process, not an event. Truth be told, elected officials want you to go away after you vote for them. To make a difference, you must stay engaged after Election Day.
You also must hold those for whom you vote accountable. No elected official should be given a pass simply because he or she looks like you.
Still wondering #TurnOutforWhat?
The Mural Arts Program began in 1984 as the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network. Thirty years and more than 3,600 murals later, Philly has become the “City of Murals.”
The murals tell the story of Philadelphia, a city of neighborhoods:
But as stunning as the murals are themselves, they are, most importantly, the visual products of a powerful and collaborative grassroots process in communities. The mural-making process gives neighborhood residents a voice to tell their individual and collective stories, a way to pass on culture and tradition, and a vehicle to develop and empower local leaders.
Indeed, the murals tell the stories of those whom W.E.B. DuBois called “The Philadelphia Negro.”
Murals reflect the character, history, activism and people specific to that location. The faces on the wall are family members and neighbors. Understandably, folks are outraged when a mural is torn down or covered up.
If you see a good fight, get in it.
Don’t just complain how gentrification. Get in this good fight. Our fight is not to save brick-and-mortar structures. Rather, we want to preserve African Americans’ cultural, civic and educational heritage in Philadelphia.
To get involved, call Avenging the Ancestors Coalition Arts and Culture Committee at (215) 552-8751. With technology, we can recreate better murals. We can make walls talk.
In 2015, Philadelphia will launch the country’s largest land bank. Last week I testified before the Philadelphia Land Bank public hearing on their draft Year One Strategic Plan.
Philadelphia is changing. From the “Lost Our Lease” signs on Market Street to the “For Sale” or “For Rent” signs in gentrifying neighborhoods, the signs of change are everywhere. There is growing concern that gentrification will displace longtime residents.
Black Philadelphians have seen this movie before. African Americans were pushed out of Society Hill. South Street was once chock-a-block with black-owned jazz spots and small businesses. Black business owners were advised to leave because an expressway was going to be built. It wasn’t.
The legendary Gert’s Lounge on South Street was managed by Dorothy “Dottie” Smith.
On the heels of the loss of the “Tribute to John Coltrane” mural, another iconic African American mural is on the chopping block. The Philadelphia Housing Authority plans to tear down the “Women of Jazz” mural in Strawberry Mansion.
The blonde next to Nina Simone is Dorothy “Dottie” Smith. A longtime resident of Strawberry Mansion, Miss Dot died in January 2013. Her family and neighbors are outraged that PHA is doing nothing to preserve the legacy of these jazz divas. Their outrage is shared by the community at large.
If we are not vigilant, gentrification will erase black Philadelphians’ political, civic, educational and cultural presence. A mural could be demolished – or painted over under the cover of darkness.
If walls could talk, our ancestors would say:
Really? What are you doing to preserve your heritage? We did our part. It’s now up to you.
Indeed, Attorney Michael Coard constantly reminds us that if we don’t tell our story, it won’t be told. Coard spearheads the Avenging The Ancestors Coalition (ATAC), which successfully fought to tell the untold story of our ancestors who were enslaved by President George Washington.
When I brought the destruction of the murals to his attention, Michael jumped on it. I will update the community tonight at the monthly meeting of ATAC, which starts at 7:00 p.m. at Zion Baptist Church, located at Broad and Venango Streets.
Let me be clear: The fight is not over brick-and-mortar structures. The fight is over preserving our heritage and avenging the ancestors.
To get involved, call (215) 552-8751.
On Saturday, I walked the back streets of Philadelphia and cried.
No, I wasn’t crying over a lost love. With no notice to the Strawberry Mansion community, Pennrose, a multifamily development and residential property management company, took the wrecking ball to the “Tribute to John Coltrane” mural at Diamond and 32nd Streets.
All that’s left is the presence of absence.
William Brothers, a block captain, told me:
My understanding is that they’re supposed to be replacing that mural. How they’re supposed to do it, I don’t know. I’m just waiting to see.
I’m not one to wait. On their “About Us” page, Pennrose says “(f)rom new construction to historic preservation, we maximize value and provide outstanding quality. I will contact the company to find out what they did to preserve the mural. What is their plan to replace a mural that was valued by Strawberry Mansion residents and the Philadelphia jazz community?
One of the goals of All That Philly Jazz is to transform vacant spaces into vibrant places. Pennrose has transformed a vibrant space into what looks like a freshly dug grave.
In my presentation at Fast Forward Philly’s DesignPhiladelphia event, I said what’s next for Philly is to move beyond Ben Franklin’s Philadelphia to John Coltrane’s Philadelphia. “John Coltrane” is a metaphor for an innovative city where people want to live, visit, invest and long-time residents have more pride.
The destruction of the Coltrane mural undermines neighborhood pride, as well as Strawberry Mansion residents’ sense of ownership of their community.
- .@PPDCommish 21st century #myNYPD-style #accounability #FilmthePolice #BlackLivesMatter nydn.us/1GxvhPd 4 hours ago
- #DieIn SATURDAY 5:00pm @KoP_Mall #ICantBreathe #BlackLivesMatter @ATAC2010 http://t.co/n8QY1sG42a 6 hours ago
- .@PPDCommish #myNYPD repeatedly punch 12-year-old Black child while he's in handcuffs #accountability rollingout.com/criminal-behav… 6 hours ago
- SMH RT @MuseumofLitter: It certainly is a puzzle why #smokers think it's okay to #litter #cigarette butts. http://t.co/E3QWHO2Vnt 6 hours ago
- RT @WURD_SRenee: My @900amWURD interview with the awesome @AVAETC during her Philly visit. youtu.be/KWLL8I4gVqg @SelmaMovie @AFFRM #onWURD 6 hours ago