For over 40 years, Black talk radio has played a pivotal role in shaping the dialogue in the African-American community. It has been the eyes, ears and mouthpiece for some of the nation’s most meaningful periods of change — from the civil rights era to the election of the nation’s first African-American president.
Philadelphia — and WURD Radio, LLC specifically — has been at the forefront of creating its own unique imprint on this important medium. In 2002, Walter P. Lomax Jr. M.D. purchased 900AM-WURD, providing the resources that would allow Philadelphia to keep an independent, African American-owned radio station on the airwaves. Since that time, WURD has become, not just the only Black talk radio station in the City of Philadelphia, but the only such entity in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
This year, the station’s line-up was rocked by the death of veteran journalist Fatimah Ali, who hosted the popular mid-morning show, “The Real Deal.” After several weeks of guest hosts, Stephanie Renée (songstress, songwriter and self-described “VibeMistress”) was selected to be a permanent talk show host. Music fans are quite familiar with Renée’s voice, which has been featured on several major label commercial recordings, including “Who Is Jill Scott” and Patti LaBelle’s “When A Woman Loves.” Within the span of two months, “The Mid-Morning Mojo” has launched Renée as a media voice to be reckoned with.
“One of the things that I am very thankful of is being the only female voice that is consistent five days a week in the line-up — I don’t feel any pressure to be anything besides myself,” said Renée during a rare moment of downtime. “There is a certain level of ‘Mama-Bearness’ that I naturally have, and so being able to bring that kind of awareness or sensibility to subjects like education or the problem of violence in our city, to be able to look for stories that appeal to that side of me and to share that with the audience, brings a different kind of voice than we have in any other slot during our line-up during the week. I appreciate the opportunity to be able to bring that consistently to the listeners, and they’ve reacted very positively to it.”
This month, WURD Radio released a free mobile app for both iPhones and Androids so listeners could have easy access to live on-air programming wherever they go. The WURD App screen includes an icon to access the 900AM website, as well as an email icon that links directly to the phone user’s email system to send feedback or troubleshooting issues to the station’s business office. With the recent launch of new programming — including new hosts Renée and Nick Taliaferro — plus the Night Al show, the new app makes it easier to listen to the station on mobile devices across the entire broadcast day.
“The expansion of our ‘On Air, Online and In Community’ presence is further positioning 900AM as the destination station of choice in the tri-state area,” said Sara Lomax Reese, president and general manager, WURD Radio, LLC. “Strengthening our digital assets and presence in the marketplace is an important component of our overall growth strategy.”
Stephanie Renée hosts “The Mid-Morning Mojo” on WURD 900AM, Monday–Friday from 10 a.m. to noon. The WURD app can be downloaded through mobile app store providers.
Sonia Sanchez, long Philadelphia’s unofficial poet laureate, now holds the official title, appointed on Thursday by Mayor Michael Nutter — as the city’s first.
True to her role as well-known peace advocate and her vocation as a teacher, she immediately gave the entire city an assignment.
“My first assignment is for everyone in this room … for one week, do not twist and curl your tongues and say anything negative about anyone,” said Sanchez as she accepted the appointment. “For one week do not say anything negative. It’s hard to do.”
She issued the instruction to everyone in the city as a first step to ending violence.
“We’re taught to destroy people with our tongues,” she said. “When we teach our children to destroy each other with their tongues, then it’s an easy step to destroy them with their hands and guns and knives. We must initiate peace.”
As the city’s poet laureate, Sanchez will take part in Nutter’s inauguration on Monday, but more than that, for the next two years, she will physically represent the city’s commitment to the arts and culture, said the mayor.
“Ms. Sanchez exemplifies the role a great poet can play in helping define a city and helping its citizens discover beauty,” he said.
She will host poetry and spoken word events at City Hall, the Free Library and schools across the city. In addition, she will be instrumental in choosing and mentoring a youth poet laureate.
Nutter decided to make poet laureate an official city post — something he will finalize with an executive order in January — after hearing Sanchez at a spoken word program at the School of the Future last year.
The encounter caused him to reflect on the city’s cultural and artistic history — and decide Philadelphia needed an official ambassador for the arts.
“It increasingly did not make sense that this city would not have a poet laureate,” he said.
In an unconventional twist, during the ceremony at City Hall, Sanchez had Nutter put his hand on her heart — while she too put her hand on his chest — in an exercise intended to instill a sense of peace and drive home the humanity of every individual.
Its something she encouraged everyone to do.
“There is no violence in the heartbeat,” she said. “Let us listen to each other’s heartbeats.”
Sanchez is the author of more than 18 books and the recipient of numerous awards including the Langston Hughes Poetry Award in 1999, the Harper Lee Award in 2004 and Pew Fellowship for the Arts in 1992 and 1993. A professor, she has lectured at more than 500 colleges and universities, and is a sponsor of the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom.
Dr. Walter Lomax, founder of The Lomax Companies, is tapping into the casino industry.
The Lomax family has acquired nine percent of PHL Local Gaming, LLC’s total equity. PHL Local Gaming, led by Joseph G. Procacci, is one of six bidders vying for the available casino management license in Philadelphia.
The Lomax family, along with other investors, will have the opportunity to make equity investments in PHL Local Gaming up to a total of $40 million.
“I’ve been told there are three important things when looking at a casino – the operations, the site and the management. This particular operation passed all three of the tests. It’s a platinum location, with platinum management and a platinum operation,” Lomax said during a press conference held Tuesday afternoon.
“We could have been doing a lot of things with our time and our investments, but we look at this as a tremendous opportunity for Philadelphia.”
As a part of the investment, Lomax will become a member of PHL Local Gaming’s board of directors. His children are also investing in the casino project.
“We are very excited to have the Lomax family with us as we move forward to the next level of what’s expected to be a very competitive bidding process,” said Procacci, who heads Procacci Brothers., one of the largest wholesale produce companies in North America.
“They are another business-focused family with strong South Philadelphia roots and they will play an important role. In addition to capital they bring proven business acumen and an exceptional, local and national network of potential supporters. They are a very reputable family and I’m proud to be associated with them.”
If the partners are successful with their bid, the $367 million casino project would sit on 25 acres at Front and Pattison streets in South Philadelphia.
The gaming hall would be called Casino Revolution and feature 2,000 slot machines, 85 table games, a 250-room hotel, restaurants and an entertainment arena. The site is located in close proximity to I-95 and I-76.
“There’s great momentum and upside potential for expansion in the local gaming market and we believe that PHL Local Gaming and Casino Revolution’s concept is novel, it’s special,” said Bennett Lomax, CEO of Lomax Companies.
“We think that our site can expand in ways that our competitors can’t, due to the sheer size of our footprint. We think that the access points are tremendous. We think that we are the least intrusive of all the gaming projects in terms of neighborhood interference.”
PHL Local Gaming tapped Merit Management Group to operate Casino Revolution. CEO Joe Canfora and his leadership team have more than 25 years of creating, opening and managing premier casinos across the U.S.
According to projections, the project could have a significant economic impact. According to PHL Local Gaming officials, the casino is projected to generate $137.7 million in annual city and state taxes and fees and more than 2,000 jobs in Philadelphia. There would be about 950 construction jobs at an average wage of $52,800. The average, full-time casino employee would make an annual salary of $31,800.
PHL Local Gaming officials say they are strongly committed to including minority participation in its opportunities for jobs, vendors and suppliers.
“It’s a commitment that is going to go from the top down and we want our workforce, our supply chain and our construction people to mirror Philadelphia. What sets us apart from other organizations is that we started with ownership,” said John F. O’Riordan, an attorney for PHL Local Gaming.
The business deal between Lomax and Procacci represents a local partnership between two local titans.
Lomax began his medical career as a solo practioner in the same South Philadelphia neighborhood where he lived as a child. He has developed various ventures throughout the years including Lomax Health Systems and Correctional Healthcare Solutions, Inc. and Healthcare Management Alternatives, Inc. Today he serves as chairman of the Lomax Companies, a private investment firm based in Chalfont, Pa, which focuses on venture capital and real estate.
Procacci, a native of Camden, N.J., and his brother, Michael, established Procacci Brothers Sales Corp. in 1948 as a tomato repacking and wholesale businesses. Today the company is one the largest wholesale produce companies in North America, operating seven buildings, 640,000 square feet of refrigeration on 32 acres in South Philadelphia.
Last November, the six bidders submitted their proposals to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. The extensive vetting process will take nine to 12 months before a licensing decision is made.
“We’ll be spending months doing background checks, collecting input and evidence before the board’s even in a position to render a position,” said Doug Harbach, spokesperson for the PGCB.
The PGCB will hold a public meeting February 12 at 9 a.m. at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. During the meeting, the six bidders will make public presentations about the respective proposals.
Gambling center proposal includes hotel, restaurant
PHL Local Gaming LLC will hold a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 29 to announce details of a significant investment by Dr. Walter Lomax and family.
PHL Local Gaming is one of six bidders for the available casino license in Philadelphia. Last November, the group proposed a $367 million casino and hotel on 23 acres on either side of the 3300 block of South Front Street.
Lomax is the founder of the Lomax Companies, a private investment firm based in Chalfont, Pa, which focuses on venture capital and real estate.
PHL Local Gaming represents the interests of Joseph Procacci, founder and chief executive of Procacci Brothers Sales Corp., a large tomato supplier.
Details of the Lomax family investment will be made during a press conference held at 12:30 p.m. today at Procacci Brothers Sales Corp, 3333 South Front Street.
The proposed casino would extend from Front to Third streets on Pattison Avenue.
The gaming hall would be called Casino Revolution and feature 2,000 slot machines, 85 table games, a 250-room hotel, restaurants and an entertainment arena.
In addition to the three sites in South Philadelphia, the six groups are bidding for the city’s second casino license including two sites in Center City and one on the Delaware River waterfront.
PHL Local Gaming, LLC, one of six bidders for the available casino license in the city, has announced that it is funding a special services district in South Philadelphia.
The proposed district would service an area that would extend north to Synder Avenue, south to Pattison Avenue, east to Seventh Street and West to I-95. PHL Local Gaming’s proposed gaming facility, Casino Revolution, would be situated within the district, at Front and Pattison Streets.
PHL Local Gaming has begun the application process for establishing the district by reaching out to the Philadelphia Commerce Department and to its district Councilman Kenyatta Johnson.
The company has also conducted meetings with members of the South Philadelphia-based Whitman Council and with members of the adjacent Stadium Special Services District.
As a part of the process, PHL would convene businesses and residents to support the initiative, with the objective of launching the new district over the next several months, prior to any licensing decision by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
“In many cases, after winning licensing bids, casino ownership groups have established plans to assist their surrounding communities. Under Joe Procacci and Walter Lomax, two owners with South Philadelphia roots, we at PHL Local Gaming have decided that, even before any decision is made by the Gaming Board, we would help to initiate an effort to assist our neighbors in identifying their most urgent community needs and would work together with them and other businesses, to achieve enhanced economic growth and transformative improvements,” John O’ Riordan, vice president, Community Relations, PHL Local Gaming said in a press release.
PHL Local Gaming’s announcement took place Tuesday at the Burke Playground, where PHL officials were joined by community residents in planting a dozen evergreens.
“We’re looking forward to working with the people at PHL Local Gaming and with other business and community leaders in this area to establish the new Special Services District,” said Rich Lazer, longtime South Philadelphia resident and Burke Playground member.
“It’s long overdue for this community to have its own citywide identity and to establish its own goals for neighborhood improvement, economic opportunties and quality of life.”
If it wins the available casino management license, PHL Local Gaming plans to open a $428 million 250-room and gaming facility. Casino Revolution would offer 2,400 slots, a steak house, a coffee/espresso bar, an Italian restaurant, 300-seat buffet, a 156-seat cafe and a covered 1,600 car garage.
PHL Local Gaming officials said it has the ability to open a casino six months prior to any of the other six bidders due to the proposed facility’s location as part of the 25-acre Procacci Brothers Sales complex.
The proposed casino would generate 600 early jobs and $51.9 million in city and state revenues in the process.