A symbolic and celebratory service was held at the Greater Faith Baptist Church last Sunday as church members and the community gathered for the “Mortgage Burning Celebratory Service.”
Greater Faith Baptist Church, located at 4031 Baring St., welcomed members from other churches as they joined to celebrate the accomplishment of completing the building’s mortgage payments — six years earlier than expected.
The 4 p.m. service was opened by Greater Faith’s Pastor Larry L. Marcus. Followed by prayers, hymns and praise dances. Greater Faith presented “Greater Faith Baptist Church — Then and Now,” a presentation of photographs from the church’s beginning to the building’s progression over the years. Terry Weaver, chairperson of the Mortgage Burning Committee, was proud to show the progress of the building from when it was first built 14 years ago.
“Our PowerPoint presentation actually showed the building from the ground up,” she said. “Some of the pastors that were in that video are actually here today.”
Weaver has been a member of Greater Faith for 16 years and was delighted to have the support from other community members and pastors who were there from the beginning. One example was the Rev. James S. Allen of Vine Memorial Baptist Church who delivered the sermon as a guest preacher.
Pastor Marcus joined Greater Faith in October of 1994 and four years later they began the construction of the building. On June 6, 1999, the sanctuary was officially open to members and now 14 years later, Greater Faith symbolically closed their service by literally burning a few pages of the mortgage agreement.
“It was a very refreshing and uplifting experience knowing it was through the grace of God that has allowed us to come to this historic moment,” Marcus said. “It lets us know there is still greater works and things we have to do — we are a church that’s not in the community, but a church that’s a part of the community.”
Greater Faith’s mission is, “to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with family, friends and those within the circle of our influence through worship, prayer, praise, proclamation, evangelism, discipleship and fellowship.” This ceremony has allowed them to carry out that mission by inviting community members and reconnecting with old friends to celebrate this occasion.
As papers burned to bring the service to a close, Marcus reflected on the importance of not forgetting friends and supporters who were there from the beginning.
“I don’t believe I could’ve burned the mortgage without the foundational members that passed as well as the existing members. It meant a lot to have a host of friends and family members of deceased persons to be there to witness it. To have a cluster of churches experience the ground breaking in terms of this celebratory experience,” he said. “It’s important to have people that have helped you to get to where you are. You don’t write them off. There are several pastors that stood by our side. You just don’t forget the pastors that were there.”
Marcus believes this accomplishment could not have happened without sacrificial giving of tides and offerings and faithfulness and belief in the ministry and pastor. Greater Faith looks to their next phase of the building and aims to provide after-school care and programs for the youth and a community development center to serve the community.
Rain or shine, a large crowd seems to always gather at the Piazza in Northern Liberties for “Preakness at the Piazza” located at 1050 North Hancock Street.
Although rain showers have been on and off recently, attendees still showed up dressed in traditional horse race gear. The Piazza was packed over the weekend with women in large hats and men in bow ties as the horse race played on the forty-foot screen.
Alexis Burkhardt is an intern for the Piazza and was responsible for making sure everything ran smoothly.
“Right when the race started, it was great,” she said. “Everyone enjoyed it, everyone watched. The weather didn’t hold people back, they still came. It was beautiful, it was fun and it was a really good time.”
Burkhardt, dressed in her large hat, was also impressed by the community’s willingness to dress up in character.
“It was fun to see people actually get into it and dress up and play the part,” she said. “People got really into it, it was great to see all the colors, patterns and everything. This event really opened our eyes to bring a lot more benefits here; the money that was raised was amazing.”
|Kevin Moffitt, vice president of client services and marketing and operations of the National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society, was enthused with the turnout and overall execution of the event. Approximately 800 people were in attendance.
“It’s our first year doing this and we’re very excited,” he said. “We had a great crowd and will have raised $100,000 which is great for people living with MS.”
The proceeds will assist in help for programs and services for people living with MS. The National MS Society provides programs aimed at educating people on how to overcome the physical, social and financial effects of the disease. The proceeds will also contribute to research projects delving into the cause and cure of the disease.
Moffitt felt the idea to reach the young adult crowd was not only a good “selling point” but important since MS is prevalent amongst young adults.
“So many people living with MS are diagnosed in their 20’s and early 30’s so it’s great we have that kind of group coming to this,” he said. “There were a lot of young adults present and we’re just looking forward to next year now.”
The event began at 6 p.m. and concluded approximately around 9 p.m. The organizers, sponsors and representatives from the MS society are excited for the future and future events.
From singing amongst only family and church members to taking the stage with Lady Gaga for a crowd of approximately 30,000, GoGo Morrow has no plans of stopping the pursuit of her dreams.
Born in West Philadelphia, Jasmine Morrow adopted ‘”GoGo” from Quentin Taratino’s Kill Bill: Vol. 1.
In the film, GoGo Yubari was an unexpected assassin, and Morrow felt Yubari’s character reflected a drive and unexpectedness she had within.
It was that drive that led to the Morrow’s unexpected gig of singing back up to Lady Gaga on tour.
Morrow grew up in a musical family singing call and responses around the house with her father, who had a singing group with her uncle called the “Golden Chandeliers.” She was accepted into the Prince Music Theater’s Rainbow Company and a few years later was accepted to the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts.
With her father’s encouragement, Morrow and her five sisters eventually created a singing group. Morrow was 15 at the time and although she was young, she felt that experience opened many doors for her.
“We started doing shows and opening for artists like Lil Wayne, Bobby Brown and Fabolous,” she said. “We did a lot of homecomings for different colleges—that’s where I got my feet wet.”
Influenced by artists she listened to growing up like Brandy and Deborah Cox, Morrow honed in on her music style.
She graduated from Millersville University with a degree in music business. Her college experience left her hungry to get hands-on experience and she landed her first internship with Philadelphia International Records, followed by her internship with Def Jam.
Her internship experiences taught her a lot about the business and in particular she learned at Def Jam—it’s not easy being a woman in the music industry.
“There’s this idea that women have to be cute or pretty and if you are cute and pretty you are less intelligent,” she said. “You see it everywhere but in the music industry it’s multiplied.”
Dispelling those myths, Morrow focused on her career and sought decisions that would make her proud. Like many recent college graduates, she contemplated whether or not to go to graduate school. At a crossroads Morrow had an entertainment law degree from Drexel University one hand and her dream to be on stage on the other. She made the decision to pursue her dream and a week later learned of an audition to sing back up for Kelly Rowland in New York.
Morrow picked up and headed to New York not revealing to anyone what she was going after. After her audition she received a phone call that affected her future greatly. Rowland’s music director offered her the opportunity to go on tour and sing back up for Lady Gaga instead. With no hesitation, Morrow was on a flight to L.A within the week of receiving her exciting offer.
In a flash, Morrow toured around the world for Lady Gaga’s tour, “The Monster Ball Tour.”
“I was in disbelief, I felt like I was in a dream,” she said. “I remember standing there right before the curtains went up and just thinking ‘Oh my God.’ Every time we performed it brought that same feeling.”
The tour ended in May and her last performance with Gaga was in July of 2011. She was determined to focus on her own career. A month later Morrow opened up for Rick Ross in Atlantic City and called on two of her sisters and two friends to dance back up. They are now her permanent dancers, “the Gogettes” and they assist her in creating choreography.
Morrow enjoys writing her own music, performing and working to advance her career. As a Philly native she is inspired by the talent from her home city and feels a responsibility to join the current efforts from many talented people to “put Philly back on the map.”
Morrow’s album is expected to release sometime this year and this summer she will be performing at the Piazza in Northern Liberties July 3.
While focused on her music, Morrow’s main goal is to inspire others. Her experiences have taught her one thing—one should always pursue their dreams.
“I want my story to inspire other people,” she said. “If you fight against your purpose, life will keep showing you that your passion is what you’re supposed to do.”
When it comes to achieving healthy hair as women of color, Gennifer Miller Dornstreich is passionate about providing a good and useful resource for women on their journeys to healthy hair.
Growing up, Dornstreich found her hair to be difficult to manage. From ages 11 to 25, she visited a hair salon on a weekly basis. In many ways, she felt like a prisoner to her hair.
“I was afraid to swim in the pool or ocean, get caught in a rainstorm, or travel because I had no idea how to manage my own hair,” she said. “Because I was so afraid and anxious about my hair, I ended up missing out on a lot of activities, trips and events.”
Dornstreich realized throughout the years that even with her frequent salon visits, her hair was constantly damaged with a lot of hair breakage.
“Since I had depended on salons and stylists to care for my hair for over 14 years, I had no idea how to fix its damaged condition,” she said. “I realized that for most of my life, I had abdicated the care of my hair to other people. It was to the point where I had not touched my own wet hair in decades.”
Motivated by the revelation that she could not take care of her own hair, Dornstreich started a site to track her progress in achieving healthy hair—by herself.
She began researching and interviewing individuals knowledgeable of healthy hair care regimens. She learned how to make her own homemade treatments and eventually found solutions to combat her dry hair and breakage problems.
Healthytextures.com is Dornstreich’s site that provides an array of services to women looking to master healthy hair at home. The site offers membership plans, which allows the consumer access to hair courses, healthy hair care regimen information, coaching and an array of resources for styling, maintenance and products.
Whether your hair is chemically processed, “relaxed” or natural, www.Healthytextures.com offers advice on best hair care routines.
“I think a lot of people assume that relaxed hair can’t be healthy. I believe that one can have healthy relaxed hair but it requires maintenance,” she said.
Dornstreich receives a lot of questions and inquiries regarding hair care and of those, she’s found two of the most common misconceptions women have when it comes to their hair.
“One is they think they can’t grow long healthy hair and it’s just not in their ‘genes,’ and two is they think because their hair is coarse, it can’t be ‘pretty’ or make them feel beautiful,” Dornstreich said.
Those are a few of the myths www.Healthytextures.com works to dispel by providing information that proves otherwise.
Dornstreich is currently writing a book on healthy hair and working on a DVD and other products and services. For the past four months she has been working with a group of five bloggers on a site called “She Thrives.”
The site launched May 11 and is focused on beauty, empowerment, wellness and relationships.
With the mission to be the “ultimate healthy hair resource for women of color,” Dornstreich is passionate to continue her work in providing women resources to achieving and maintaining healthy hair.
“I think we are the voice of the consumer,” she said. “As a result, this industry is now exploding with innovation and new, exciting resources for women of color. I find that incredibly exciting.”
Profound, meaningful words coming from young and energetic poets, reached the audience as the youth from the Philly Youth Poetry Movement (PYPM) performed at the Rotunda located at 4014 Walnut St. on Saturday.
PYPM is a non-profit organization that serves Philadelphia teens and provides literary arts education programs, mentoring and gives teens the opportunity to hone in on their spoken word and literary expression skills.
The PYPM community allows teens to feel safe and be as vulnerable as they desire through poetry. They did just that at their monthly open mic poetry slam where they hosted two rounds of performances. PYPM founder and executive director, Gregory Corbin, continues to be proud of the teens who pour their hearts on stage.
“We watch young people come up the stage and they’re very supportive of each other—those kids have their own space,” he said. “We want adults to come and see what they’re doing, to see the power of love that comes with them.”
Corbin is impressed with the teens’ ability to support each other and provide constructive criticism.
“They were all helping each other and doing group critiques. We need more of that,” he said. “It’s very powerful hearing them actually give feedback and help someone else grow. It teaches them communication skills they may not ever learn in school.”
The poetry mic slam consisted of snaps, claps and cheers as the audience enthusiastically received the various messages that were poetically relayed by each artist that took the stage.
The poets addressed topics like self esteem, aging, history, race, religion and love and the final round left the crowd in awe as the poets theatrically delivered their pieces. Northeast High School student, Sabrina Slipchenko, 16, was named the winner.
“It feels awesome, they’re giving us so many opportunities,” she said. “I’ve been at PYPM for a couple of months and they really push you forward.”
Slipchenko performed two pieces, “48” and “Utah.”
As teens rushed the stage to congratulate Slipchenko and the other contestants, the PYPM group gathered on stage and ended the night with a PYPM chant.
The PYPM community is tight and determined to watch their organization continue to grow. They are gearing up for the 2013 Brave New Voices International Teen Poetry Festival and Slam in Chicago this summer, Aug. 7-11. They are putting together this year’s team of six to represent Philadelphia with an additional team of six. The teens will attend world-class workshops and performances by renowned poets, writers and musicians.
“We are fundraising to match funds from the Knight grants to take people to Chicago,” Corbin said.”Last year we finished second in the world and in 2011 we won the whole thing—number one in the world.”
PYPM also offers free writing workshops every Saturday. For information on PYPM workshops or to contribute visit pypm215.org.