School District of Philadelphia honored for having five schools LEED Certified
The United States Green Building Council’s Center for Green Schools released its inaugural Best of Green Schools honoring the School District of Philadelphia for the significant steps made toward the greening of the city’s 291 public schools in 2011.
The inaugural Best of Green Schools 2011 list recognizes school administrators and government leaders in 10 categories for their efforts to create sustainable learning environments.
As the “Best City” honoree, Philadelphia was recognized for making major strides along a path of sustainability with help from the Delaware Valley Green Building Council’s Green Schools Circle this year.
Accomplishments include the District’s commitment that all new construction projects be certified LEED Silver or higher, the creation of a plan to green the city’s existing schools, and the naming of Thurgood Marshall Elementary School as the first existing building that is LEED certified in the state of Pennsylvania.
In addition, Kensington Creative and Performing Arts High School — a Title 1 school where 90 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch — made AYP for the first time after moving into the district’s first LEED Platinum facility.
“The School District of Philadelphia has made green schools a priority, understanding that healthy, high performing schools help develop healthy, high performing students. This recognition represents many years of commitment to building sustainable and supportive learning environments for our students,” Acting Superintendent Dr. Leroy Nunery said.
Delaware Valley Green Building Council Executive Director Janet Milkman shared her reaction to the honor.
“DVGBC has worked with schools on green practices for nearly a decade. The School District of Philadelphia has embraced green building practices more than any other district we work with — they are true leaders. We thank the U.S. Green Building Council for recognizing the School District of Philadelphia's leadership — it is extremely well-deserved,” Milkman said.
According to published reports, green schools save on average $100,000 per year on operating costs — enough to hire two new teachers, buy 200 new computers, or purchase 5,000 textbooks. On average, green schools use 33 percent less energy and 32 percent less water than conventionally constructed schools, and if all new U.S. school construction and renovation went green today, the total energy savings alone would be $20 billion over the next 10 years.
Mayor Michael Nutter commended the School District of Philadelphia’s green efforts.
“It is significant that with all of the demands on this large, challenging district, they saw not just the importance but the efficiency of investing in green schools. The students, teachers and administrators will reap the benefits for many years to come,” Nutter said.
To learn more about the United States Green Building Council’s Center for Green Schools and see the complete list of Best of Green Schools honorees please visit www.centerforgreenschools.org/bestof2011.
It has been 34 years since nine members of the radical group MOVE were convicted for the 1978 murder of Philadelphia police officer James J. Ramp during a police seizure in Powelton Village, and four years since eight members of the original MOVE 9 — Debbie Sims Africa, Janet Hollaway Africa, Janine Philips Africa, Williams Philips Africa, Delbert Orr Africa, Michael Davis Africa, Charles Sims Africa and Edward Goodman Africa — became eligible for parole.
The ninth member, Merle Austin Africa, died in prison in March 1998.
And depending on who is telling the story, the MOVE 9 are either guilty as charged, or a symbol of an oppressive judicial system hell-bent on silencing its critics and stamping out left-wing revolutionaries.
“Charles Africa’s parole hearing is coming up, and Debbie saw the parole board in June and was denied,” said MOVE spokesperson Ramona Africa. “The issue MOVE has is the demand for MOVE people to ‘take responsibility for the crime.’ MOVE people did not kill Ramp; we were in our own home when we were surrounded by thousands of cops. We didn’t go to [former Mayor Frank] Rizzo’s house, and we didn’t go to [former Police Commissioner Joseph F. O’Neill’s] house; they came to our house and attacked us in warlike fashion.”
Ramp was killed by a shot to the back of the head, and all members of the MOVE 9 were convicted of third degree murder.
The August 8, 1978, shooting of Ramp was the culmination of several confrontations MOVE had with the police department, and a chilling precursor to the infamous May 1985 Osage Avenue clash that resulted in a bomb being dropped on MOVE’s Osage Avenue compound, which led to the death of 11 people, including MOVE founder John Africa, and the decimation of several city blocks containing 65 homes.
Ramona Africa contends that “MOVE people didn’t kill anybody,” and believes there are holes in the theory that points to her organization as the culprits.
“If officials really believed MOVE killed Ramp, they wouldn’t have demolished the scene of the crime — but they demolished it within hours,” Africa said. “There should never have even been a trial once [the city] demolished the scene — that’s destroying evidence, leaving MOVE with no way to adequately defend itself.”
Africa contends MOVE 9 opted for a bench trial in front of late trial Judge Edward Malmed because the group didn’t want to appear before a slanted jury. But that decision came at a price.
“The burden was put squarely on the shoulders of Malmed, who is supposed to be learned in the law, objective and sworn to simply follow the legality that dictates procedure,” Africa said. “The judge did not do that, because if he had, he would have dismissed the case because of destruction of evidence.
“After the trial, Malmed convicted nine of my family members of third degree murder and conspiracy,” Africa continued. “And that is a contradiction. If he’s saying they conspired to kill a cop, wouldn’t that be first degree and not third? There are numerous inconsistencies here that clarify that my family was convicted and sentenced to 30 to 100 years, not because they committed any crime or any officials believe they did, but because they are MOVE people and committed revolutionaries.” Africa also contends that MOVE member and current life sentence prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal once asked Malmed to name the person responsible for Ramp’s murder, and Malmed allegedly responded that he hadn’t the faintest idea.
Officials with the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole wouldn’t comment further than confirming the hearing dates, and the minimum and maximum time each member must serve. While all remaining MOVE 9 members have been denied parole at their most recent hearing, two were denied parole for curious reasons. Edward Goodman Africa was denied due to a negative recommendation by the Department of Corrections, while Michael Davis Africa was denied due to his “denial of offenses committed,” according to parole board spokesperson Leo Dunn.
“Most people know, if nothing else, that in order to convict someone, whether judge or jury, you have to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Africa, who has been denied visitation rights with her incarcerated family members, despite being out of jail herself for 20 years and has had a clean criminal record since her 1992 release. “Judge Malmed, obviously, was not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt.”
The fallout from the 1985 bombing of MOVE’s compound resulted in former Mayor W. Wilson Goode authorizing a commission to investigate the decision-making of officials involved, and make recommendations on ways to avoid such confrontations in the future.
Africa contends that both the mayor and district attorney’s offices aren’t adhering to the commission’s suggestion of keeping open the lines of communication.
“For a little over a month now, we’ve been trying to get a meeting with [District Attorney] Seth Williams and Mayor Michael Nutter to discuss the issues pertaining to my family,” Africa said. “Nutter is the mayor of this city and needs to know what’s going on. We are not going to allow him to feign ignorance; we want to meet them.
“We want to meet with Williams because as district attorney he has authority over any criminal case, and because he gave a negative recommendation as district attorney to the parole board,” Africa continued. “Seth Williams doesn’t even know my family, as he was just a kid in 1978.
“The thing is that commission Wilson Goode put together said the city made a terrible mistake by not meeting with us and keeping lines of communication open — that it never happens again and to keep lines of communication open. The mayor is not doing that, and the district attorney is not doing that.”
District Attorney Spokesperson Tasha Jamerson draws a stark contradiction to Africa’s claims. While not commenting on the merits of the MOVE 9’s conviction and subsequent parole denials, Jamerson did take issue with Africa’s claim of communication misfires.
“The district attorney gets swamped by piles of mail and requests, and anyone who requests to meet, I go over it with [Williams],” Jamerson said, noting the process calls for anyone wishing to meet with Williams to submit a formal written request — something Jamerson said Africa failed to do. “If Ramona Africa sent any kind of request, I would have asked about it. If she asked for a meeting, I think [Williams] would meet with her, but no letter has come, and no phone call has come.”
Jamerson noted that Williams isn’t ducking any confrontation; rather, he and Africa have been in the same building at the same time on numerous occasions, one being at a recent screening and discussion about Tigre Hill’s controversial film, “The Barrel of A Gun,” and said there was a time when Williams tried to approach Africa — only to be shunned.
“There has been some communication back and forth,” Jamerson said. “But I’d point out that before the election in November, Williams was at an event in Old City and wanted to shake her hand and talk to her a little bit.
“She brushed him aside.”
Mayor Michael Nutter’s spokesperson Mark McDonald confirmed that Nutter will not meet with Africa, as Nutter has no leverage or dealings in the matter.
“Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison handled the matter, and he says, what he learned from Africa is that her fight is with the parole board, and the mayor has no jurisdiction in this matter,” McDonald said. “Having a meeting for meeting’s sake doesn’t make sense. Ramona Africa has been informed of this some time ago. The mayor is polite and respectful of her, but won’t be meeting.”
In terms of release, Africa doubts her compatriots will ever be released before maxing out, meaning all MOVE 9 members are facing the prospect of dying in prison. And Africa doubts any of the incarcerated MOVE 9 members will ever cop a plea to somehow earn an early release.
“Our aim is not simply to get out of prison. Our aim is to expose and eliminate the rotten system that is the root of such injustices, so they will never say they are guilty. We continue to fight because we know our work is the same, whether we’re on the prison block or street block,” Africa said. “Guilt or innocence is not an issue with parole. What is supposed to determine parole is whether or not you’ve completed any designated programs, and my family has — they’ve even taught lessons. They also need an acceptable home and work plan, …
“None of my family members have bad conduct records,” Africa continued, allowing that one or two of her brothers may have had minor skirmishes while locked up. “Most importantly, their parole sheets don’t include any write-ups for misconduct. MOVE people aren’t going to lie, and more importantly, should not have to lie and say we are guilty if we are not.”
Reverend Canon Thomas Wilson Stearly Logan Sr. was the oldest serving African-American priest in the Episcopal Church, USA.
Father Logan died May 2, 2012. He was 100.
He was born in Philadelphia on March 19, 1912. The son of a minister and a teacher, Logan was one of eight siblings to graduate from college. Education and achievement were very important in the Logan family.
After graduating from Central High School for Boys, he attended Johnson C. Smith University and later graduated from Lincoln University in 1935 with a bachelor’s degree. Three years later, he earned a bachelor of sacred theology from General Theological Seminary in New York City, and in 1941 received a master of scared theology from Philadelphia Divinity School (now Episcopal School). Over the years, Logan also received five honorary doctorates from Lincoln University, Hampton University and St. Augustine’s College.
In 1938, he married Hermione Hill at St. Simon of Cyrenian Church in South Philadelphia. The ceremony was officiated by his father, Rev. John R. Logan Sr., and his brother, Rev. John R. Logan Jr.
From this union one son was born, Rev. Father Thomas W.S. Logan Jr., who died in 2011.
“They are certainly the couple of longevity,” Michael Nutter said as he reflected on the Logans during a birthday celebration held for Hermione Hill Logan in March 2011 at City Council chambers.
“Father Logan is the oldest African-American priest in the country. His service has been quite incredible and Mrs. Logan has been with him every step along the way. They really are quite an incomparable pair, but their service to the community, to the nation, and I would suggest to the world, has really been something to admire. Any one of us should hope to do so much, and live so long.”
Logan devoted more than 73 years of his life to the Episcopal Church. He spent his dedicated ministry serving on commissions and community groups as well as in parochial leadership. He was ordained as a deacon in June 1938 in the Diocese of Pennsylvania at Holy Apostles Church. The following year, he advanced to the priesthood at St. Peter’s Church in Philadelphia. He served as curate at St. Phillips Church in New York City from 1938 to 1939; vicar at St. Augustine’s Chapel in Yonkers from 1938 to 1939; and vicar and rector at St. Michael’s and All Angels Church in Philadelphia from 1940 to 1945. At St. Michael’s, Logan worked successfully to eliminate the church’s debt during his first 12 months there. As its first rector, Logan helped quadruple the church’s membership in less than five years.
In 1945, Logan helped merge Calvary Monumental Church with St. Michael’s Church, creating one of Philadelphia’s first interracial congregations. He was elevated to rector at Calvary Church Northern Liberties in Philadelphia, where he served until his retirement in 1984, when he was bestowed the title of rector emeritus at Calvary Church.
He also served as interim priest for five Philadelphia parishes, associate priest at the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, and chaplain of Philadelphia’s Presbyterian and Misericordia
hospitals and the Philadelphia Police Department.
Logan has also served the church in a number of other leadership roles, including delegate to the Anglican Conference in Cape Town, South Africa; member of the Restitution Fund Commission; past president of the Homeless Fund; member of the Diocesan Council; a founder of the National Conference of Black Episcopalians; past president of the National Workers Conference USA; member of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew and life member of the Union of Black Episcopalians.
Logan has been a visionary leader in various fraternal and civic organizations locally and nationally. He is a past Most Worshipful Grandmaster of the Prince Hall Masonry of Pennsylvania; Imperial Chaplain of the Shrine of North America; former president of the Hampton University Ministries Conference; Exalted Ruler of the Improved Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks of the World and international chaplain, Frontiers International.
He was a member of Sigma Pi Phi (Boule.) He was also celebrated as the longest serving and oldest living member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., becoming a member in 1933.
His extraordinary contributions to the City of Philadelphia and region go far beyond that of a parish rector. He is past president of the Tribune and Rafters’ Charities and was one of the founders of the African American Museum in Philadelphia.
Committed to equity, opportunity and active in the local and national work for social and economic justice, Logan was a life member of the NAACP, and former board member of branches in Philadelphia and Darby, Pa. In the early 1960s, he was active with the National Baptist Convention and collaborated with Martin Luther King Jr. in organizational and fundraising efforts in Philadelphia to support civil rights strategies.
Logan’s service to humanity and community leadership has been recognized by countless awards and citations from church, education, fraternal and community organizations nationwide.
His family said he has served God, church and community with conviction, valor, dignity, unwavering faith and unparalleled commitment.
He is survived by his wife, Hermione Hill Logan; brother, Leonard Logan; sister, Phyllis Logan Simms; grandchildren, Lisa Logan Leach, Thomas W.S. Logan III, Jina Simmons, Kaia Jacobi and Sherry Logan; great-grandchildren, Lionel Anthony Leach III, Angel Fowlkes, Zoey Simmons, Naiomi Fowlkes; daughters-in-law, Brenda Moore Logan and Karol Logan; and other relatives and friends.
The first viewing will be held May 11 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, 6361 Lancaster Avenue. The second viewing will be held May 12 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, 3723 Chestnut Street. Mass will follow at 11. Burial will be in Eden Cemetery, Collingdale, Pa.
Wood Funeral Home handled the arrangements.
Former Mayor W. Wilson Goode Sr., head of Amachi, to be co-chair
Mobilizing the entire city government and allies across the city, Mayor Michael Nutter has re-established the Mayor’s Commission on African-American Males.
“The City of Philadelphia is eager to help,” the mayor said in announcing the new commission. “The entire city government, everyone in city government and all of our related agencies will have a role to play, will be tasked to support the efforts of the mayor’s commission.
The group will eventually be composed of about 30 volunteer members tasked with addressing unemployment, incarceration, a lack of education and health among Black men. They will issue an annual report on the state of African-American men in Philadelphia, along with recommendations for action.
“We must all look at the big picture,” Nutter said. “If a man is uneducated … if they are unemployed, if they are unhealthy, we pretty much know what their life path will be. But, if they are educated, employed and healthy they are a lot less likely to be part of the criminal justice system.”
Nutter signed an executive order creating the commission at a special ceremony Thursday afternoon at City Hall.
He also named its three co-chairs: former Mayor W. Wilson Goode Sr., who first created the commission in 1991 and now heads Amachi, an education non-profit; Bilal Qayyum, president of the Father’s Day Rally Committee Inc. and Jamar Izzard, a radio host at 107.9.
“The plight of the African-American male is a crisis,” Goode said. “Unless something is done, then the future of African-American males looks very, very bleak.”
Goode first created the commission because he had concerns similar to Nutter’s.
“There are ways we can begin to deal with this problem if we show it attention,” he said, adding that if Nutter hadn’t asked him to be a part of the commission he would have begged to be appointed. “For me, this is my life’s work.”
Qayyum and Izzard echoed Goode.
“We have to challenge ourselves and all the others around us to change their attitude and their behavior,” Qayyum said. “We’re going to make some changes in this city to let folks know that there are more positive Black men in the city doing positive things than there are doing negative things.”
“I’m going to give it everything I have,” added Izzard.
On April 17, with outrage over the shooting death of Trayvon Martin resounding across the nation, a Senate Judiciary subcommittee was convened to discuss what role, if any, the federal government should have in putting an end, once and for all, to racial profiling by law enforcement officials.
The Senators could not have chosen a more poignant time to engage in a public dialogue on the topic.
Less than a week earlier, Florida Special Prosecutor Angela Corey issued a probable-cause affidavit stating that Martin — who was killed on Feb. 26 while walking home from a convenience store in Sanford, Fla. — was “profiled” by his assailant George Zimmerman. The 17-year-old was being followed by Zimmerman — a neighborhood watch captain — on the grounds that he looked “like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something.”
The day before the hearing, four Associated Press reporters were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting in recognition of their exhaustive exposé on the New York City Police Department’s controversial practice of targeted investigations of Muslim communities. The initiative — which has been operational since 2002 — included surveillance of student groups at Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers and 13 other universities in the Northeast — based on no other factors than that their members happen to be Muslim.
And at the end of April, the Supreme Court heard a challenge to the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act” — an Arizona law that obligates police officers to determine an individual’s immigration status during arrests and routine traffic stops when there is “reasonable suspicion” that the suspect is an illegal immigrant. For all intents and purposes, the law requires law enforcement in the state to profile citizens of Latino heritage. A decision on the case is expected in June.
The subject of discussion on Capitol Hill was a measure introduced in October by Senator Ben Cardin, D-Md., that would prohibit law enforcement from using race or ethnicity to justify “spontaneous investigatory activities” — including random stops of motorists and pedestrians — and require police to undergo training about profiling.
Cardin calls profiling “sloppy police work” and says it not only infringes on the rights of individuals and makes communities unwilling to cooperate with cops, but it places unnecessary burdens on police departments, as well.
“Racial profiling is bad policy, but given the state of our budgets, it also diverts scarce resources from real law enforcement,” he said. “The more resources spent investigating individuals solely because of their race or religion, the fewer resources directed at suspects who are actually demonstrating illegal behavior.”
The bill defines profiling as “relying, to any degree, on race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin” in deciding who to search or investigate, except when there is “trustworthy information” that a person fitting the description committed a crime. In other words, it’s all right to randomly stop a young Black male if a person fitting that description just robbed a bank in the area, but it’s not OK to target the same person leaving a known drug area on the assumption he might be a drug dealer.
In a departure from existing federal investigatory guidelines, the law would also apply to travelers entering the United States, and would prohibit ethnically motivated immigration-related workplace investigations.
Class action suit
Though technically unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Bill of Rights, the use of racial and/or ethnic characteristics to initiate random investigations of citizens is standard operating procedure in many police jurisdictions across the country, and is well documented in most metropolitan areas.
Philadelphia has had its own problems with racial profiling under its controversial stop-and-frisk policy. In November 2010, the ACLU joined a local law firm to file suit on behalf of eight plaintiffs, all men of color, who say the Philadelphia Police Department misused the policy to conduct racially motivated stops of Black and Latino men in the city.
The plaintiffs included an attorney named Mahari Bailey, who says he was stopped and searched by police on four occasions between 2008 and 2010 for driving with tinted windows — a summary traffic offense. A Pennsylvania state representative who was handcuffed and detained for questioning the allegedly illegal stop of two of his elderly constituents was also part of the suit.
As part of a city settlement with the plaintiffs, last June Mayor Michael Nutter signed an executive order that requires all police officers to carry “definition cards,” explaining when and under what circumstances random stops are legal, and set a January 1, 2012 deadline for the establishment of an electronic database of Department Pedestrian Investigation Reports that outline random stops and the reasons for them.
According to Mark McDonald, the mayor’s press secretary, that database is now up and running, and the city will be making available, on a monthly basis, electronic copies of reports on every single pedestrian or vehicle stop conducted by police — which he says average 5,000 a week.
Dean JoAnne Epps of Temple University’s Beasley School of Law — who was appointed by the city to independently monitor the program’s progress — confirmed that she has been told a quarterly report is “forthcoming.”
An inefficient strategy
Law enforcement officials claim that spontaneous stop-and-frisk is a vital tool in community policing, without which more criminals would walk the streets and more crimes would go unsolved.
The problem with that assertion is that statistics simply don’t back it up. In 2011, for instance, the New York division of the American Civil Liberties Union documented 685,724 incidences of stop-and-frisk, 87 percent of them targeted against Blacks or Latinos. With numbers like that, you’d expect a lot of criminals to be behind bars. But the data shows that nearly nine out of ten of those stopped were never convicted of a crime. And that doesn’t even take into account the NYPD’s long-standing practice of targeting Muslims.
In Philadelphia, a survey of 253,333 stops conducted under stop-and-frisk in 2009 revealed that roughly 183,000, or 72.2 percent, were of African Americans. Only 8.4 percent of those stops led to an arrest.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law, numerous studies have shown that using race or ethnicity as a proxy for criminality is ineffective, and the likelihood of finding contraband is roughly equal — regardless of whether a suspect is Black or white. In fact, data suggests that using factors like race or ethnicity to initiate investigations actually produces fewer results. For instance, when the United States Customs Service changed its stop and search procedures to focus on race-neutral behavioral indicators, the Center noted, it conducted two-thirds fewer searches, but tripled its “hit rate.”
East Palo Alto Police Chief Ronald Davis, who testified at the Senate hearing, says that in his experience, profiling based on race or ethnicity is counter productive, because it draws attention away from legitimate investigatory practices.
“I cannot think of any context in which race is appropriate, other than when you’re describing someone that’s committed a crime, and in fact ... I would say that, what race ends up doing is being a huge distracter,” he said.
Davis says there are much better ways to determine if someone is committing a crime than the color of their skin.
“To know whether a particular vehicle traveling down an interstate highway might be carrying a load of illegal drugs, the most important thing a police officer can do is to observe the behavior of the driver and any passengers,” he said. “Behavior can be used to successfully predict other behavior. Appearance does not predict behavior, except in the most misleading ways. To use the old baseball cliché, using racial or ethnic appearance as a factor in deciding who to stop or search takes one’s eyes off the ball.”
Effectiveness aside, not everyone thinks federal legislation is the right course of action. In testimony, Frank Gale — the national second vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police — called the bill’s language over-broad and insisted that racial profiling is “hyped by activists, media and others with political agendas.”
Gale, who is Black, said the legislation would inhibit even the most basic discretionary policing, leaving beat cops hamstrung without the presence of an eyewitness to point out crimes in the act.
“No one ought to be stopped solely on the basis of their race,” Gale told the subcommittee. “But to contend that the successful practice of profiling — which does not consider race exclusively — be abandoned when it has proved to be a successful tool to prevent crime and catch criminals is not the answer.”
A decade-long effort
This isn’t the first time Congress has attempted to legislate racial profiling at the federal level. Identical bills have been introduced in every session of Congress since 2001. In February of that year, in his first Joint Address to Congress, President George W. Bush said that racial profiling is “wrong and we will end it in America.”
Then came 9/11, and fear of a terrorist attack made the idea of a law prohibiting racial and ethnic profiling seem like a quaint holdover from less dangerous times. In the meantime, racially motivated arrest, prosecution and incarceration have been dubbed the “New Jim Crow” by advocates for criminal justice reform, while targeted investigations of Muslims and persons of Middle Eastern descent have drawn a strong backlash from civil libertarians and constitutional rights experts.
It remains to be seen if this latest attempt to bring an end to racial profiling will fare any better than those before it.
It’s been a long time since politicians and educators in this city have found occasion to stand together smiling. However, this was exactly the case on Tuesday at the new West Philadelphia High School.
Mayor Michael Nutter, acting Superintendent Leroy Nunery and School Reform Commission boss Robert L. Archie — for the last two months major players in the soap opera-like ending to the tenure of former superintendent Arlene Ackerman — were all in attendance for the ribbon cutting at the brand new West Philadelphia High School to kick off the beginning of the 2011–2012 academic year for the School District.
The $66 million building, home to 800 students, is a glistening structure that stands in stark contrast to the old building — West Catholic High School for Boys — that once stood at 49th and Chestnut streets.
“Yes, there have been challenges, and yes, quite frankly, there has been drama. A little too much drama,” Nutter said. “But if you want drama, watch TNT!”
The old West Philadelphia High School building, located on Walnut Street between 47th and 48th streets, opened its doors in 1912 as the first high school in the city built west of the Schuylkill River. In 2003, it was targeted by then-superintendent Paul Vallas as one of 17 proposed new school buildings — part of a $1.5 billion construction initiative.
In the time since then, it seemed as if the school might never be built. West Philly became a fixture on the list of state schools deemed persistently violent. There has been almost complete staff turnover, and at one point the school went through three different principals in the span of a month.
However, on Tuesday all of these things were forgotten, replaced instead by celebratory smiles on the faces off all who entered the building. A DJ was on hand playing music, and in general it really didn’t feel anything like the traditional first day of school.
“This is what I’m talking about!” said a smiling Sen. Vincent Hughes, straining to be heard over music blaring from the speakers. “Here we are about getting an education. This is a fresh start. All the old stuff is over and it’s about moving forward.”
Look in your wallet or peek in your fridge, and ask yourself, “Can I feed my family on $5 day, or just $35 per week?” It may seem absurd on its face, but according to area politicians taking part in the weeklong “Food Stamp Challenge,” that hypothetical is the reality for thousands of Philadelphians who may be impacted when the state implements the so-called asset test for individuals and families who receive food stamps — or SNAP — benefits.
Congressman Bob Brady and Mayor Michael Nutter joined state Representative Tony Payton Jr., Senator Vincent Hughes and other elected officials at the Parkside ShopRite on 52nd Street near Parkside Avenue in West Philadelphia to bring attention to the plight of SNAP recipients and to implore leaders in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C., to repeal the asset test.
“This is a bit redundant, because we only have to do this for a week,” Brady said, “but there are families who have to do this for much longer than a week. There is also the nutrition factor, with our kids getting sick,” by not eating properly due to SNAP cuts already in place. “I want to demonstrate just how hard it is for struggling families to feed their families day after day. I know that $5 a day isn’t enough for three square meals. I don’t think $35 will be enough for a week’s worth of meals that are healthy, nutritious and not just filling.
“I’d like to take this to Washington, to have some of my fellow colleagues take this test.”
The officials present were in unison, deriding Governor Tom Corbett’s measures as cruel.
“It’s just mean-spirited to attack children, to attack those with low income. Why would we cut the benefits to the most needy?” asked Nutter, who arrived at the ShopRite with an itemized list of groceries totaling a little over $34. “SNAP is real important to Philadelphians, and no one should ever be hungry or without food.”
Hughes was disgusted by the very notion of properly feeding a family on $35 in benefits.
“It’s an impossibility to put together a week of nutritious meals on $35; why would we even be considering this in Harrisburg?” Hughes said. “[Corbett] doesn’t have to do this. We can change the policy in May, because this is the wrong thing to do.”
Earlier in the year, Corbett announced the asset test for those receiving SNAP benefits statewide. The asset test is basically an audit of all the possessions of someone receiving SNAP, in order reevaluate his or her worth. The plan, if followed through, will cause a flag to be raised on the SNAP applications of persons with more than $2,500 in savings.
Former governor Ed Rendell stopped the state test in 2008, but Corbett has since decided to reinstate it. Critics have railed against that particular measure, believing that people will spend what little savings they have to get fit SNAP’s new guidelines, and that act alone will force people to be even more dependent on the state for assistance.
Buying groceries on $35 for one week alone won’t draw much interest, as the challenge participants fully understood that they aren’t really in the shoes of those needing benefits; but a few, like Payton, aren’t too far removed from a similar existence.
“This really illuminates the plight of poor people, and those who have their foot on the necks of poor people,” said Payton, who has dozens of folks stop by his office on a weekly basis, looking for foodstuffs and information on food pantries. “People are hurting. They need to stop these foolish policies.
“This is really a wakeup call to pay attention,” Payton continued, citing Corbett’s recent cuts to education and housing. “There are people making decisions that will impact your life and victimize the poor.”
A major tradeshow was highlighted during the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau annual luncheon.
Mayor Michael A. Nutter announced that LIGHTFAIR International (LFI), the world’s largest annual architectural and commercial lighting tradeshow and conference, will return to Philadelphia on April 23–25, 2013.
LFI’s decision to return to Philadelphia follows a record-breaking 2011 performance marked by the highest attendee satisfaction scores in the show’s 22-year history. More than 23,000 registered attendees turned out for the conference.
“With customer satisfaction levels reaching historic highs in the record-breaking 2011 showing, LIGHTFAIR’s 2013 return to Philadelphia sets a new stage for continued growth,” said Jeffrey L. Portman Sr., president and chief operating officer of LFI managing partner AMC, Inc.
“It’s a natural response to preferences clearly voiced by LFI attendees and offers LFI exhibitors a staging venue unmatched in size, scale and potential.”
Nutter stressed the importance of the city’s hospitality sector as he addressed 1,200 business and hospitality leaders and elected officials who attended the PCVB luncheon at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
“A strong hospitality sector is critical to Philadelphia so that we can host world-class trade shows and to be a destination for businesses,” said Nutter. “We have great restaurants, hotels, shopping and cultural amenities that appeal to everyone. These assets help our city attract businesses to the city, and new residents.”
The focus on strengthening the city’s hospitality sector comes at time when there are 55,900 hospitality-related jobs in Philadelphia, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The luncheon served as an occasion to highlight PCVB’s marketing efforts. The bureau has booked more than $2.8 billion convention center expansion-related business.
The PCVB is working to position Philadelphia as a top international destination.
“We’ve been studying travel patterns and are now marketing Philadelphia in the emerging markets of China, India, Brazil and Russia in addition to the steadfast Western European markets where we have seen so much success within the past 10 years,” said PCVB President and CEO Jack Ferguson.
“As the international tourism arm for the city of Philadelphia, we’re letting our new customers around the globe know why Philadelphia is the city that they should choose to visit for leisure and for business. We continue to study convention trends, our competition and talk to our customers to ensure that we deliver the best customer service — the complete package, to them and their attendees.”
The PCVB recently led representatives from the Philadelphia Museum of Art and The Barnes Foundation on a mission to Paris and London for a series of press announcements to promote Philadelphia as a global arts destination.
Since the bureau’s international marketing efforts began in 2000, Philadelphia has moved from the 21st to the 13th most visited American city.
During the event, PCVB unveiled its “Completely Philadelphia” video which highlights everything from Philadelphia’s university and life sciences community to its sports teams, shopping and dining destinations. The new video www.philadelphiausa.travel/phillyvideo, joins a full suite of tools that makes information about the city more accessible.
More than 1,000 members of Jack and Jill of America Inc. are slated to convene in Philadelphia for the organization’s 40th national convention this week.
It will be held under the theme “Living the Legacy: Honoring Our Past, Celebrating Our Present, Securing Our Future” July 24–29 at Philadelphia Marriott Downtown.
The event, which marks the organization’s 75th anniversary, is expected to draw 1,500 attendees and have an economic impact of $3.2 million.
National Jack and Jill President Tara Joseph-Labrie will preside over the convention, which will include the election of national officers and leadership development.
“This is the largest-attended convention that we’ve had in Jack and Jill’s history, and I’m just delighted to be the national president and be the host and serve as the chair,” said Joseph-Labrie.
“This convention will highlight our history, our members, our achievements and the partnerships we have forged over the years. We look forward to sharing our extraordinary history and allowing everyone throughout the Greater Philadelphia region to have an opportunity to learn about our impact as we gather in Philadelphia for this milestone event.”
Jack and Jill will host a teen summit titled “Aim to Live, Lead and Succeed” on July 24 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Children from the Philadelphia Boys and Girls Club have been invited to attend the summit, which will feature a keynote address by Marlon Smith, founder of Street Academics, a high school youth mentoring program.
A convention highlight includes a public meeting July 25 from 5:45 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown’s Grand Ballroom. Valerie B. Jarrett, senior adviser to President Barack Obama will be the featured speaker. Lifetime achievement awards will be presented to poet Sonia Sanchez and music legends Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. Mayor Michael Nutter and representatives from the region’s National Pan-Hellenic Council’s fraternities and sororities are expected to attend.
Joseph-Labrie says community service projects are an important aspect of this year’s convention.
“I am a true believer that Jack and Jill was founded not only for the principle of the social and educational activities, but more importantly for the philanthropy, and to ensure that our children truly understand the importance of giving back,” she said.
With that in mind, members of Jack and Jill will renovate a local elementary school library during the convention.
Members from Jack and Jill chapters in southeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware have led the convention steering committee.
“It is with enormous pride that we welcome our members and their families to Philadelphia. This committee has worked extremely hard to ensure that everyone has an interactive and educational experience during their stay in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection,” said Henri G. Moore, chair of the steering committee.
“We look forward to our members having an enjoyable time while they carry out the business of Jack and Jill, and are empowered to return to their communities ready to make a positive and lasting impact,” said Moore.
In addition to attending meetings and participating in community service projects, convention attendees will visit regional attractions such as the Franklin Institute and the New Jersey State Aquarium.
Members of Jack and Jill say the organization has enabled their children to form longstanding friendships and prepares them for the future.
Steering committee co-chair Shelly Pullian appreciates how it is helping to prepare her children for future leadership roles.
“We are training leaders of tomorrow. Once our children become teens they actually learn how to become leaders of the organization. We do a lot of leadership building. We do a lot of financial awareness building so that our children are prepared to enter the world and be active members of society,” said Pullian.
Sandy Booth, a former president of the Jack and Jill Philadelphia chapter, joined the organization three years ago. Her daughter and stepson have participated in activities such as holiday brunches and ski trips.
“My family has really enjoyed our association. My daughter has made some of her best friends in Jack and Jill,” said Booth.
“It not only gives opportunities for our kids to be involved, but for mothers to be involved in governance of the organization and steering the direction of the group.”
Jack and Jill was founded in Philadelphia on Jan. 24, 1938, by 20 African-American mothers who wanted their children to have cultural opportunities, develop leadership skills and form social networks.
Today the organization has more than 220 chapters whose families represent 30,000 family members. Membership is by invitation only and is open to mothers of children between the ages of 2 and 19.
The organization’s national programming thrust, AIM for Healthy Living, is designed to engage and encourage children to live healthy lifestyles through chapter programming and decrease the risk of preventable diseases that disproportionately impact the African-American community.
Chapters hold cultural activities, leadership training and legislative and social events for their children, while hosting fundraisers to support the Jack and Jill of America Foundation, the organization’s philanthropic arm that has distributed millions of dollars to communities across the country since its inception in 1968.
Notable Jack and Jill alumnae include actresses Phylicia Rashad and Debbie Allen, Betty Shabazz and Dr. Lilia Abron, the first African-American woman to receive a doctorate in chemical engineering.
From one end of Philadelphia to the other, virtually no neighborhood — from Society Hill to Grays Ferry and from University City to Strawberry Mansion — is exempt from the senseless violence that seems to have a vice-like grip on Philadelphia.
According to law enforcement experts, among the top ten cities in the nation, Philadelphia’s homicide rate remains among the worst, with young Black males between the ages of 17 to 25 consistently being the majority of the victims and perpetrators. After a 20 percent decline in homicide over the last three years, the numbers are starting to inch up again. To put the figures in context, there have been 183 murders in Philadelphia as of Tribune press time. By contrast, one U.S. serviceman was killed in Iraq in 2012. In 2011, there were 324 murder victims in Philadelphia, again, mostly Black males. In Iraq for that same year, 54 U.S. servicemen were killed.
The numbers illustrate the glaring and frightening reality that a young Black man is safer in Iraq fighting insurgents than he is walking around the streets of Philadelphia’s African American neighborhoods.
The contributing causes of what drives the senseless violence in Philadelphia seem to defy the best efforts of lawmakers, community leaders and anti-violence advocates to curtail it. Mentoring has been shown to work, but is there enough funding to sustain a major effort to reach the at-risk population? The at-risk population needs living wage jobs, but statistics show that most of the perpetrators of the violence are high school, or even junior high school dropouts with long records of arrests and incarcerations. Then there are the illegal guns. The Gun Violence Task Force has confiscated thousands of illegal weapons since its inception, and still the violence continues. Over and over the refrain is heard from residents and government representatives alike – “We must do something about the violence in our neighborhoods.”
The question is what?
At the ninth Annual Summit on Race, Culture and Human Relation, Mayor Michael Nutter put the issue in context when he compared the country’s reaction to Black on Black crime and its response to terrorism.
“Black men are becoming an endangered species in America — locked up or dead,” Nutter said. “Crime also breeds upon itself. After serving their time, many of the individuals who are released from our prisons cannot find work, and do not have the training or literacy skills to keep a job. In the United States today, one in three African American men will have contact with the criminal justice system at some point during their lives. Of the 316 people who were murdered in Philadelphia last year, nearly 75 percent of those killed were Black men. Around 80 percent of those doing the killing are Black men. Black on Black crime is not an isolated problem. It affects every member of every community. This is a national problem with national implications, and there needs to be a national conversation.”
In 2004, on the morning of Feb. 11, 10-year old Faheem Thomas-Childs was caught in the crossfire of a gunfight at the T.M. Peirce Elementary School in North Philadelphia. The killing of Thomas-Childs touched off citywide outrage - and he was only one of 330 people killed that year in the city.
During military operations in Iraq from 2007 to 2012, 1,482 American service members were killed. In Philadelphia for the same years, 1,654 people were killed — mostly Black males. To color that number even more, according to Philadelphia Police Department figures, 645 Black males between the ages of 17 and 25 were murdered in Philadelphia during those years. By contrast, 27 Black males between the same ages were fatally shot by police officers in the commission of their duties.
“There are combinations of different causes behind this senseless bloodshed,” said Philadelphia City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson. “Many times these are petty disputes that rise to the level of violence. Some of the reports I’ve seen indicate drug turf wars in some instances, but all of it has a negative impact on the community, and most of the victims are young Black males. The reality is that we cannot give up and just sit on the sidelines; we have to keep working aggressively to change the mindset of these young men.”
Chad Lassiter, president of Black Men at Penn, said a major part of the problem lies in young Black men returning to their communities from prison and finding limited or no resources in helping them secure living wage jobs.
“We’re not doing nearly enough from an economic standpoint, and we have to truly level the economic and educational playing fields. In both areas, we see what we can almost define as a kind of apartheid,” Lassiter said. “We have major corporations here and major sports franchises - but no training programs to move workers into employment within them. Also, there’s not enough being done in the construction industry in terms of apprenticeships. Are there mentoring programs? Attorney General Eric Holder giving $3 million to hire twenty five police officers doesn’t excite me. I’d like to see that money used to target and prosecute the traffickers of illegal guns.”
Bilal Qayyum, Executive Director of the Father’s Day Rally Committee, Inc., said his organization is in the planning stages of setting up a national level conference on Black on Black crime. Call to Action: Black on Black Violence Conference will be hosted by St. Joseph’s University and will take place from August 10 through August 13. The purpose is to bring African American leaders together from across the country to see what works and what doesn’t, and how to apply successful anti-violence approaches in their cities and communities.
“What works in Baltimore might not work in Philadelphia. What works in Philadelphia may not work in Newark. We are 13 percent of the population of America, but cause 50 percent of the homicides - and we’ve been trying to get a hold on this for years. It requires a response on the national level. What we hope to achieve with the conference is create a national movement to help end the violence. We need to look at fresh models and create a national network of groups to work on the problem,” Qayyum said.