Tag Archives: Social Change
The Ferguson grand jury is still deliberating on whether to charge Police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown or send him on his merry way.
When the verdict is announced, groups will hit the street with all deliberate speed. The Ferguson National Response Network is curating after-the-verdict events nationwide. The FBI, National Guard and police departments across the country are getting ready. So are social justice activists.
The interactive training raised awareness of what to do if stopped by the police, including the right to film police activity.
You can download all the “Stop Snitching on Yourself” infographics. The training session is available on YouTube.
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. Black business owners were advised to leave South Philly because an expressway was going to be built. It wasn’t. The neighborhood was once chock-a-block with black-owned jazz spots and small businesses. Dubbed the “Harlem Quarter,” it now looks like its namesake. African Americans are no longer the majority in Harlem.
On the heels of the destruction of the 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, Mrs. Smith died in January 2013. Her family and neighbors are outraged that PHA is doing nothing to preserve the mural. Their outrage is shared by the community at large.
If we are not vigilant, gentrification will erase black Philadelphians’ political, civic, educational and cultural heritage. 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.
We will explore our options under the Visual Artists Rights Act which protects artistic work of “recognized stature.” The Women of Jazz mural is included in the Mural Arts Program African American Iconic Images Collection. We want to know whether the artist and “creators of joint works” were given notice before Philadelphia Housing Authority made the decision to destroy their artistic work.
Let me be clear: The fight is not over brick and mortar. The fight is over preserving our heritage and avenging the ancestors.
To get involved, call (215) 552-8751.
For most folks, Philadelphia’s jazz heritage begins and ends with John Coltrane. To be sure, Coltrane is a giant part of the story. But as James G. Spady wrote in “Lost Jazz Shrines”:
Conversations with pioneers of the jazz community in Philadelphia reveal the city’s illustrious yet largely undocumented jazz history.
We’re working on an app for that. All That Philly Jazz is mapping Philly’s jazz heritage from bebop to hip-hop.
From Dizzy Gillespie at the Downbeat to The Roots mural on South Street, we are breathing life into legendary jazz spots like Union Local 274 (Clef Club), Pep’s, Showboat, Aqua Lounge, Watts Zanzibar, Café Holiday, Geno’s Empty Foxhole and the Red Rooster.
Sadly, few physical assets remain. Jazz spots fell victim to race riots and urban renewal. As a result, the history largely resides in the memories of those who were there. So to preserve the legacy for future generations, All That Philly Jazz is crowdsourced. As we build out the interactive map, we have created a placeholder website where community members and folks anywhere in the world can share their stories, photos and videos of the jazz scene back in the day.
I’m making a presentation on this citizen-led project at the third annual Fast Forward Philly, a DesignPhiladelphia festival event. DesignPhiladelphia is the oldest and largest design festival in the country.
I will answer the question: What’s next for Philly? To get involved with All That Philly Jazz, contact us.
Two weeks from today, the Philadelphia School District will open the doors to buildings that are schools in name only. Traditional public schools increasingly are joyless places where children are warehoused and opportunities for learning are elusive.
Superintendent William R. Hite recently announced that schools will open on time with another $31 million in cuts:
Today, just three weeks from school opening, we once again find ourselves having to make unbelievably tough choices. As we announced more than a month ago, we have an $81 million shortfall in our current year budget, which must be closed through additional revenues or cost reductions.
For the sake of minimizing disruptions for families and for the sake of educating children, we have made the decision to make a series of additional difficult – and, hopefully, temporary – cuts in order to open schools on time.
The “temporary” cuts include:
- Fewer school police officers
- Less frequent cleaning of schools
- Fewer cleaning supplies
- Delayed repairs at schools
Hite said he hoped to “realize significant revenues from additional building sales.”
On Friday, the William Penn Development Coalition withdrew its legal action that had effectively blocked the sale of William Penn High School to Temple University. William Penn was temporarily closed in 2009. (Full disclosure: I am a member of the WPDC Executive Board.)
The decision to withdraw its lis pendens was in recognition that WPDC had exhausted that legal remedy. WPDC President Inez Henderson-Purnell said in a statement:
We fought the good fight. With this action, the sale of William Penn to Temple University will go forward. But the fight to save William Penn is broader than one school. William Penn has become a metaphor in the struggle to ensure our children have access to high quality traditional public schools.
Sadly, we are witnessing death by a thousand cuts.
In the late ‘90s, my mentor Milton Bins took me on a site visit to William Penn. Now deceased, Milton was a longtime advocate for public education with the Council of the Great City Schools.
Back in the day, William Penn was a highly successful school. Its death is an object lesson on what happens when a school is systematically and deliberately stripped of resources. The building becomes a shadow of its former glory. WPDC Treasurer Priscilla Woods observed:
William Penn is a cautionary tale about what happens when a school is deprived of resources. The School District of Philadelphia’s disinvestment led to the death of the 1st Governor’s School of Excellence at William Penn, which was the best equipped educational facility of its day with five academic academies.
We now see this happening districtwide. In September, schools will open with even fewer resources than “the inadequate and insufficient resources schools had last year.”
Woods’ concerns were underscored by state Sen. Vincent Hughes who last week released a report on conditions in Philadelphia public schools. In a statement, Hughes said:
While I am grateful that students and parents will not have to deal with the disruption of our public schools opening late, I am deeply concerned that the continued lack of adequate funding will further erode conditions in our classrooms. The cuts that were announced today, as well as the ongoing insecurity given the lack of additional funds from Harrisburg, are simply unacceptable. The lack of commitment to our public schools in Philadelphia and across the Commonwealth has become a national embarrassment.
We already know that current funding levels are not enough to create an environment to prepare our students for the challenges of the 21st Century. Conditions in our public schools were deplorable last year and now the system is gearing up for a repeat at best, with likely even less funding and more cuts to vital programs. We cannot expect our children to shine academically while providing them with such woefully inadequate resources.
Had enough? If you care about our children, bear witness to what’s happening in your school. Let your voices be heard.
For more info about the town hall meeting, go here.
A month ago, Eric Garner was killed by a police officer who had put him in an illegal chokehold. The New York City medical examiner ruled the death was a homicide.
Garner’s crime? Selling loosies.
Garner’s death and the police use of chokeholds have sparked outrage across the country. On Saturday, August 23rd, the National Action Network will lead a justice caravan and march to protest police brutality and the use of excessive force.
The justice caravan will travel across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in a dedicated lane on their way to Staten Island. The activists will rally at the spot where Garner was choked to death by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo. They will then march to the office of the Staten Island District Attorney and demand that charges be brought against the cop.
Rev. Al Sharpton said:
If you want to stop chokeholds, get on the bus.
Don’t think marching matters? Think again. NAN Acting Executive Director Janaye Ingram recently wrote:
Well, I understand that the end game is not the march itself. Marching in and of itself never solved anything. Marching is a public display of solidarity around a particular issue. It’s one part of mass action that people can do to show that they are united around a specific cause.
On August 23, we will march in New York to call for action in the case of Eric Garner, the man who was killed by police after breaking up a fight.
Police officers put him in an illegal chokehold and he stopped breathing while cops and EMTs looked on without helping. It’s not the first case of overly excessive force being used by police, but we have to make it one of the last.
So we march.
We show that this is an issue that we won’t let pass by without action. We won’t just be social media activists, posting our thoughts and feelings today and then tomorrow talking about who wore it best. We have a responsibility and a role. That role is to stand united with our brothers and sisters who want to see justice served, and the more people that come, the more that people in positions of power will recognize that they need to pay attention.
Sharing “hands up” photos on social media is cathartic. But we must move beyond hashtag activism. It’s what you do offline that will bring about change.
To find a bus stop near you, go here.
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