Ground has been broken for a new corridor connecting the historic Krauth Memorial Library of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia to its state-of-the-art Brossman Center in Mount Airy.
State Rep. Cherelle Parker was on hand for the groundbreaking ceremony. Though she donned a white hard hat and stood in her floral high heeled pumps with a shiny shovel in hand, she also spoke of the journey in securing state funds for the initiative.
Those at LTSP lauded the state lawmaker for her contributions in securing the commonwealth’s half million in funding for the entire construction project.
“I believe that the first question you should ask your elected officials before you cast your vote is whether their politics will translate into something for the community,” Parker said. “If politics doesn’t translate into something tangible then what good is it? I am a visual person so I like to see when things come (to fruition). I like to see things that benefit our community.”
Among those who were pleased with Parker’s contribution to the project was Dr. Gladys Willis, a retired dean and English professor from Lincoln University. Parker readily admitted that when she was a student at the historically African-American institution, she took Shakespeare courses with Willis. She attributed her ability to hold persuasive arguments on the Pennsylvania House floor, in part, to the tutelage she received in Willis’ classes.
“The Honorable Dr. Parker was an outstanding student,” Willis said in her remarks. “I want to honor you. I just retired from Lincoln in June 2011. I can see that you are the voice in your community. I am proud of you. Standing here I can say it was a pleasure and honor to have one of my students moving forward.”
Perhaps no one was more enthusiastic about the new project was those who are part of the LTSP family. LTSP president Philip Krey also put a shovel in the ground after giving a brief history of the project. He also introduced the crowd gathered outside to Dr. Katie Day, the LTSP professor of church and society.
Day called the library connector something that would be “aesthetical and enjoyable” for the campus and the community. She said like the connector the project is “like a bridge” in that it connects government, the seminary and “a plethora of partners” to realize the construction.
The connector between the library and the center will provide handicapped access to the buildings for faculty, students and the community. Parker played an instrumental role in providing $500,000 in state capital assistance for the redevelopment at LTSP. The March 22 groundbreaking ceremony was followed by a Celebration Luncheon. For more information about events at LTSP, including the Brossman Center and Krauth Memorial Library, visit ltsp.edu.
The Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III easily drew a standing ovation from the Northwest Philadelphia crowd at the culmination of his sermon recently. This was the second in the Urban Theological Institute’s annual “Preaching with Power” series. It drew hundreds to the sanctuary of the Grace Baptist Church that sits on the Germantown and Mount Airy border in the heart of Northwest Philadelphia.
Moss took the audience through a bit of maritime history. In “Ships That Never Sail” he shared his conversations with sailors about how they can predict that a boat won’t sail or will sink. They listed lacking “a tight tabernacle to hold the mass,” pirates who plundered the ship, and an inexperienced crew. His sermon came from 1 Kings 22:48.
“Jehoshaphat came into power cleaning up a mess of a previous administration,” Moss said. “You need to read the text to see that when he inherited this problem the kingdom was divided between the north and south. He had to take a stand to turn everything around and some tried to blame him for the economic mess of the previous administration.
The guest preacher then went on to explain that some wanted to get rid of Jehoshaphat even though he was putting into place things to return the economy to viability. He said they were intent on even “sinking the ship” if to insure that Jehoshaphat did not receive the credit for the economic recovery.
“So there is another reason ships can sink. This is because of sabotage,” Moss said. He said that every sailor is aware that sabotage is always possible. Yet when the ship is sunk they also know that they can salvage parts of the old ship and build a new one. These are the “redeemer” ships because they carry salvaged portions. “Salvation and salvage has the same root word, so a saved ship is called redeemed.”
Moss culminated his sermon by pointing out that while pirates will sometimes be successful in sinking a ship, they cannot stop those who salvage them. He said the broken piece of the redeemer ship is a testimony that it was once broken and had been renewed. “Don’t try to cover up or stuff because you have been redeemed,” Moss said.
“Dr. Moss was right on time,” said Brenda Jones of Mount Airy. “I feel redeemed for real. He could not have said it better. This is the first time I heard him speak, though I’ve heard of him. Originally I was disappointed Rev. Jeremiah Wright wasn’t going to be at Grace again. But, I can see why Dr. Moss replaced him at Trinity Church in Chicago because he’s on point about the politics of today.”
William Robinson of Germantown agreed. He said he planned to attend a few of this year’s UTI “Preaching with Power” programs sponsored by the Lutheran Seminary in Philadelphia. “I think that his sermon was a wake up call for Northwest Philadelphia for 2012. It’s a call to action, a call to vote, and a call to get off sinking ships or salvage the ship you’re in. It’s time to stand up even when obstacles like the Voter ID bill comes our way,” Robinson said.
The “Preaching with Power” series opened at the Janes United Methodist Church in Germantown on Sunday, March 18. Other events that were part of the series was a lecture on the African American church by Dr. Eddie Glaude at LTSP’s Brossman Center on Tuesday, March 20 at 11:15 a.m. followed by the preaching of the Rev. Dr. Kevin Dudley at Reformation Lutheran Church, 1215 E. Vernon Rd. in East Mount Airy that evening at 7 p.m.
A “Black Sacred Music Concert” was also held at LTSP Schaeffer-Ashmead Chapter in Mount Airy on Wednesday, March 21 at 11:15 a.m. Additionally, the Mount Airy Church of God in Christ, 6401 Ogontz Ave. in West Oak Lane, hosted the series that evening at 7 p.m.
Abandoned stone buildings with broken windows, crumbling walls and mounds of debris in the back yard are eyesores along East Rittenhouse Street.
There is trash with the stench of old garbage on a front porch facing nearby Wakefield Street. Yet these structures are nestled between pristine and painted homes where Germantown families have lived for decades and across generations.
Finally, some of the residents of the northeast section of Germantown blocks were able to show Raymond Jones their complaints during a walking neighborhood tour. Jones handles constituent services for the office of 8th District Councilwoman Cindy Bass. The tours March 17 was spearheaded by the interfaith non-profit POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and ReBuild) Local Organizing Committee and St. Vincent DePaul parish located in Germantown.
“I plan to stay involved with my community through POWER,” said Angel Saysay, who relocated back to Germantown for 10 years. “It is important to empower your neighborhood. I was born and raised here and lived in Logan for a while. I remember when this neighborhood was cleaner, when all the houses were fixed up and when we had an active recreation center behind Fulton School.
“Now there are just too many eyesores. The children in this area have to go over to Water Tower or some other recreation center ever since L&I closed ours. We need things for the children to do. We need to have a safe and clean community,” Saysay said.
The Rev. Joseph Rock, pastor of St. Vincent’s was a familiar face during the tour. Many of the local residents called him by name as he passed them sitting on the front porch or walking down the street.
“We hope this area is cleaned up and we are grateful for any help we can get,” Rock said. “We are hopeful because Councilwoman Cindy Bass has only been in office a month and her office is out here as soon as we made the appointment. I hope that the church can acquire a property behind us that’s vacant and can be used for the children.”
The tour began at a vacant lot located at the corner of Price and Lena streets. After visiting a lot at 30 E. Rittenhouse St. the entourage made their way over to the now defunct Rittenhouse Recreation Center, owned by the city’s office for Licenses & Inspections before going to vacant properties along the 100 block of E. Rittenhouse Street and the 200 block of E. Haines Street. The group made a stop at another vacant lot located at Stafford and Lena streets before ending the tour at 5801-03 Germantown Ave.
Though not on the March 17 tour but on the POWER list of projects to be addressed in the neighborhood were two empty buildings. They are the old Germantown Town Hall and the YWCA building, both located on Germantown Avenue between Chelten Avenue and E. Haines Street.
“I would really like to plant grass and grow a vegetable garden there,” said block captain Willard McGruder. “I was thinking about putting up a fence with a gate. I don’t want to do anything because it has not gone up for sheriff’s sale. I know back taxes are owed and I think I should get it so I can (develop) it into something nice. That’s really what we want…to get rid of the houses that are run down to bring this neighborhood back.”
POWER is working on a local and regional wide level, according to. The group’s next project will be ensuring that local residents are among those hired for the airport expansion project. For more information about St. Vincent’s POWER affiliate call 215-438-2925. For more information about POWER call (215) 232-7697 or visit www.powerphiladelphi.org.
One would expect to find the Johnson family at the grand opening of the Germantown Organizing for America field office. Volunteer team member Elaine Johnson was busily signing in the guests at the reception desk, while her mother-in-law Anna Johnson and her sister-in-law Tanya Johnson were busily showing attendees their presidential memorabilia. The three stressed that this office will help them do more neighborhood outreach.
The opening ceremony for OFA’s second Northwest Philadelphia field office was held at 322 W. Chelten Ave. on March 15 at 6 p.m. On hand were Eighth District Councilwoman Cindy Bass, OFA Field Director Alison Zelman, OFA Regional Field Director Philip Gaskin, and the Germantown neighborhood team leader David Schogel. The spirit there was as vibrant as the red, pale blue-grey, royal blue and deep navy that are the campaign’s signature colors.
“We are the Obama-ites,” Tanya Johnson of Overbrook Park said. “We began having house parties four years ago. We donated to the campaign and received these beautiful photographs of the first family. As Obama-ites we are interested in spreading the word about all the good things the president has done.”
Anna Johnson concurred. She said that the opening of the Germantown OFA office was only rivaled by the time she got to see first lady Michelle Obama up close and personal at Villanova University. For her the 1,000 square foot office in the historic section of Germantown represents progress.
“I grew up during the Great Depression,” said 84-year-old Anna Johnson. “I was there through Jim Crow. That’s why I can understand that this president saved us from another depression and yet they are not giving him credit”
Schogel hopes that with the new office, the 12 OFA PA offices in the commonwealth, he will be able to expand his team of volunteers. “This is the place where we are going to rally, do voter registration drives, boost the volunteers and phone bank all to get out the vote. This is a tremendous boost for us to have a place because it gives us space to do all this,” he said.
Among those who plan to be a mainstay among the Germantown team is Esther Solomon, a longtime Northwest Philadelphia resident. She volunteered for the Obama campaign in 2008 and is now back.
“I think we need him back in office so he can finish the job he started,” Solomon said. “He is one of the best presidents we have ever had in this country. This is such a nice office, and it’s good to have a nice place to volunteer. When you have nice (surroundings) it makes you want to hang around. So I plan to spend a lot of time here.”
Those attending the Germantown office opening were also privy to the premiere of “The Road We’ve Traveled” a 17-minute documentary about President Obama’s first three years in office. The short flick was produced by award-winning filmmaker and director P. Davis Guggenheim.
The Germantown office is the third office OFA PA office in Philadelphia. The OFA headquarters held its grand opening in Center City last October. The Northwest Philadelphia field office, 7171 Ogontz Ave. held its ribbon cutting ceremony on Feb. 15. Thus far, OFA PA has made over a half a million phone calls locally to voters and supporters, and has had more than 6,100 one-on-one conversations with people about the president’s accomplishments to aid his re-election efforts.
The Germantown office, like the Northwest Philadelphia field office, is open from Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
A community arts promoter, a block captain, a local contractor, a food drive philanthropist and an historic home renovator were among the persons who participated in “Coffee with the Councilwoman” recently. Eighth District Councilwoman Cindy Bass made a small rustic wood table in the rear corner of The Night Kitchen Baker, 7725 Germantown Ave. in Chestnut Hill her meeting place with constituents on Friday, March 9, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.
This is part of an ongoing series where Bass and her staff sit down with local residents. Bass said that since she is a freshman to Philadelphia City Council she does not yet have a community office. These breakfast sessions which began earlier this year are a way for her to meet with constituents in the Northwest Philadelphia area.
“Going to my office in Center City is not always convenient for some,” said Bass, who was taking notes about constituent concerns on her iPad. “We always have a good turnout. It’s a way to connect directly with those I serve.”
For Paula Paul, “Coffee with the Councilwoman” gave her a chance to invite Bass to come and support the Artists Roundtable. She said that some 100 Germantown artists are involved in this initiative which showcases the visual and performing artists who live in the community. The group holds regular showcases at Germantown venues.
“I think that having this shows that our councilwoman is actually sincere about her job,” said Teresa Duncan of Nicetown, who serves as a committeewoman in the 13th Democratic ward. “I respect the fact that she has a vision for a better community.
“I am excited whenever we get a new elected official who seems honest and will speak to our issues honestly. I am concerned about education because our real estate taxes keep going up, but we don’t have a superintendent. I want to ensure that we get someone in that position who will be invested in improving the Philadelphia School District,” Duncan said.
Ben Trail brought a list of the things he felt Bass should address. High on his list was ensuring that whenever there is new development the contractors use community people for their sub-contracting. As a business owner he hopes that he is among those who will secure sub-contracts as Chelten Avenue and other commercial corridors are revitalized.
“We really need to have some type of program to show young men in the community how to become handymen,” said Trail. “Let’s face it, not everyone is going to go to college. Some of these young guys are on the corner because they don’t know how to do anything. They are killing time, and they don’t even know how to use a screwdriver. Yet we have people always saying they can’t find a good handyman.”
Laurene Toppin and Doug McBride shared with Bass their needs for their Meals on Wheels. This initiative feeds the unemployed, underemployed and seniors. They pointed out that even in the more affluent areas in Northwest Philadelphia there are those who need their services.
Not everyone was singing praises of Bass, however. Connie Winters challenged Bass to include her on committees that are spearheading the redevelopment of Germantown. Since she has revitalized several historic buildings she felt that she “was being excluded from having a seat at the table.” Bass said that there is an interim committee that she appointed who will be making the selection of those seats.
The breakfast meeting came on the heels of a standing room only community meeting hosted by Bass. This was the councilwoman’s first neighborhood session. It was held at the Deliverance Evangelistic Church in North Philadelphia on Tuesday, March 6.
“These are constituents who want to be heard and are actively looking for ways to improve their community,” said Bass. “During my campaign I heard over and over again that accessibility to the councilperson is a major issue. Meetings like this are a great opportunity to find out the issues and concerns of constituents.”
The next community meeting will be held at LaSalle University on April 17, and then at Triumph Baptist Church on May 10.