Drawing new district lines will benefit some and hurts others. For the city’s African-American community, including the strong voting wards in Northwest Philadelphia, moving district lines could signal change. Yet those in the area’s Latino community insist that it is needed and now.
So, those who support redistricting were scheduled to go to Harrisburg to make their voices heard on Monday, Feb. 27. It was on President’s Day, Monday, Feb. 20 that some Northwest Philadelphians were found outside the Federal Court House in Center City, airing their concerns about how this would affect the Latino vote.
“This is not partisan,” said former City Councilman Angel Ortiz, who founded Latino Lines along with Joe Garcia and Wynne Alexander. “This is about fairness. Most Puerto Ricans and other Latinos do vote overwhelmingly Democratic. This is not a Democratic or Republican issue, but it’s a fairness issue. Latinos, according to the last U.S. Census, have 760,000 citizens who can vote in Pennsylvania. In 10 years we will have a million.
“The excuse given for keeping the district lines of 2001 is that they don’t want to move the primary date. I heard in New York they are having three different primaries. So this is not about a date. Election Day will be Nov. 6, but the primary dates are flexible. We want justice,” Ortiz said.
All redistricting is not fair, according to Ortiz. The former councilman is quick to single out the 197th district as an example. He said though Latinos would get a district of almost 60 percent it was “gerrymandering towards African Americans,” which is said was unfair. He said because to create this heavily Latino district the line was drawn to dilute the African-American vote on both sides of Broad Street — which is not what Latino Lines is advocating for, he said.
Garcia agreed. He said that by consolidating the Latino voting power it will remedy many of the problems facing that community. This, he said, would also assist the African Americans who live in the area.
“With keeping the 2001 lines it makes people feel disenfranchised,” said Garcia. “Many already don’t trust the system. They will feel more voiceless. They will feel it doesn’t matter whether they vote — which is not true.”
Garcia added that this is not even about just electing Latino candidates either. It is about voting for those who they feel can best represent the Latino community, he stressed. “So if we feel that Tony Payton is the best representative we can vote for him. This is not an issue about party lines or only Latino (officials) it’s about Latino lines,” Garcia said.
State Rep. Cherelle Parker of Mount Airy hopes that any redistricting is both constitutional and beneficial to all of Philadelphia’s constituencies. She is quick to point out that meandering lines through current divisions would be counterproductive.
“Philadelphia is broken up into political wards,” said Parker. “We want to make sure that Philadelphia can keep that. I am extremely sensitive to all constituencies. So while we have to be guided by the state constitution and the census figures to give all communities their fair voice, I would hope the committee’s plan takes into account the political lines within our city and throughout the commonwealth.”
Parker said by doing so the state could avert the redistricting in New York that is causing the state to have three primaries. “So I think that the Pennsylvania court is sensitive to having an organized order and avoid raucous,” Parker said.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court threw out the redistricting maps based on the 2010 census last month. They cited among their reasons for voting this way that new lines would crisscross through too many counties and municipalities. The Legislative Reapportionment Commission held its first meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 22, to review the status of the proposals since the court’s ruling.
When it comes to redistricting there are certainly two sides to the story. Perhaps no one is more aware of this than state Rep. Dwight Evans of West Oak Lane. He serves in the 203rd District in a state where there are 50 state senatorial and 203 state house districts. Yet Evans is brief and to the point on the matter. “I support the Supreme Court’s direction on this issue,” Evans said.
There will be no shortage of Women’s History Month programs in the Northwest Philadelphia area this March. “The Good Raised Up” will be held at the Johnson House, Germantown Avenue and Johnson Street on the Germantown–Mount Airy border, on Saturday, March 3. The program will feature women artists, including storyteller Charlotte Blake-Alston along with jazz violinist John Blake Jr.
“The Good Raised Up is an original work of ‘sung story’ at the Johnson House,” said Cornelia Swinson, director of the Johnson House. “This is about a fateful night when a community came together at the Johnson House to conceal escaped slaves from a search party seeking to return the fugitives to slavery. This is a free festival and is open to the public.
When the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia holds its 30th Annual “Preaching with Power” forum on Black Teaching and Theology, one female preacher will open the March 18–22 series, and another will close it. The Rev. Dr. Jasmin Sculark will speak at the Janes United Methodist Church, 47 Haines St. on Sunday, March 18 at 6:30 p.m., and the Rev. Dr. Jessica Ingram will be the speaker at the Mother Bethel AME Church in Center City on Thursday, March 22 at 7 p.m. For more information call 215-248-4616 or visit www.ltsp.edu/preachingwithpower.
The Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority’s Phi Beta Omega Chapter in the Northwest Philadelphia and Lower Montgomery County area will host “Soliloquy, Her Story” at Salem Baptist Church of Jenkintown, 610 Summit Ave. on Friday, March 23 at 7 p.m. Members of the chapter will showcase this production again at the Church of the Redeemer Baptist, 1440 S. 24th St. on Friday, March 30 at 7 p.m.
“There will be a free will offering,” said Pat Augustus Gilbert of East Norriton, a chapter member. “Our proceeds will be donated to the Phi Beta Omega’s scholarship and other grant endeavors.”
Civil Rights Movement icon Rosa Park’s story will be among those told in the return of FreshVision Youth Theatre’s “Marching to Freedomland” which will run until Sunday, March 11. This year’s production opened on Friday, Feb. 24 and continues every weekend with Friday evening performances, March 2 and 9 at 8 p.m., Saturday evening performances, March 3 and 10 at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees, March 3 and 10 at 3 p.m. The theater is located at 4821 Germantown Ave.
“This is a journey in America that has inspired millions of people worldwide,” said Bruce Robinson, artistic director of FreshVisions. If you’ve seen it before, relive the excitement. If you’ve never see it, please see it.” For ticket information call 267-226-7135.
The National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. will hold their 26th Anniversary Madam C.J. Walker Awards Luncheon and Economic Development Seminar this month. It will take place at the Loews Hotel in Center City on Saturday, March 10 with the seminar at 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. followed by the noon luncheon. There is no charge for the seminar, and tickets are available for the luncheon.
Northwest Philadelphia women are among the coordinators and honorees. For more information or to obtain luncheon tickets call 215-970-7114 or visit http://nc100bw-pa.com.
Dawn Carter of Mount Airy may be legally blind, but that certainly does not dampen her vision for improving her neighborhood. In fact, she and her husband Clarence, who is also visually challenged, made it to the grand opening of Philadelphia’s first Obama for America field office in West Oak Lane on Wednesday, Feb. 15.
She returned to the new location for a phone bank a week later on Wednesday Feb. 22 which was preceded by a pep talk from Congressman Steny Hoyer, the Democratic Whip on ways to ensure that Northwest Philadelphia and other communities remain viable.
At both events one could find Dawn Carter signing in those who were among the more than 300 who showed for the event. Those in attendance for the Feb. 15 ribbon cutting included Mayor Michael Nutter, state Rep. Dwight Evans of West Oak Lane and OFA regional field director Philip Gaskin. Also present were guest speakers Stefanie Brown, OFA national African-American outreach director and Michael Blake, OFA deputy operation vote director.
Yet most of those on hand were just local community residents, like Dawn Carter, who have no official titles and just want to volunteer in their community. Carter, who has been volunteering with OFA since last summer, is excited to have a home base for the team she works with.
“The well-attended opening gave me more energy and drive to continue,” said Carter. “It was so enthusiastic and upbeat. I thought it was just fabulous how people came together. I thought all the speakers were great.
“I really thought that Michael Blake coming in from the national campaign was great. He was just awesome. He really got the crowd energized, and everyone got charged up listening to him. It was just a good night, and I really enjoyed the experience. More importantly though, I believe in the positive changes that have taken place,” Carter said.
In his remarks, Mayor Nutter stressed how President Obama’s initiatives kept the city afloat despite its own budget crisis. Evans, too, spoke about the importance of grassroots organizing in taking ownership of the campaign to improve the quality of life in Northwest Philadelphia. While Brown shared her personal story about getting involved in NAACP voter drives at a young age, Blake pumped up the crowd with his energetic Biblical references to the president’s national and global vision.
OFA previously held the grand opening for its Center City headquarters on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011. The organization has been organizing in the state since early 2009. For the past three years it has been boosting the number of Democrats statewide through voter registration and voter education, and by embarking on various field organizing efforts.
In addition to field offices the campaign launched a nationwide “Truth Team” initiative. The goals are to show how the president has kept his word, to keep the GOP honest, and to respond to untruthful attacks on the president’s record with the truth, according to OFA.
Among those who are members of the new Truth Team is Nutter. “President Obama’s achievements should speak for themselves, but they won’t,” said Nutter. “That’s why this work to engage our supporters is so essential. We’ve got to stand up for the president, let our friends and family knows what we’ve achieved these past three years and help supporters get the word out.”
West Oak Lane block captain Johnnie Stitt will always remember photographer John Patillo as a son and kindred spirit.
Stitt remembers meeting the freelance photographer when he had relocated back to Northwest Philadelphia and began taking photographs for local newspapers. Stitt was saddened and shocked to learn that Paitllo, 48, had died on Monday, Feb. 6.
Patillo, whose funeral services took place Tuesday, Feb. 14 at the West Oak Lane Church of God, leaves a rich legacy, according to Stitt.
“I always liked taking pictures so I would show John my old camera and he would give me tips,” Stitt said. “At one time I even had a couple of pictures published but I was never as good at taking pictures as John was.”
Yet Stitt said it was Patillo’s mild mannered and polite demeanor that captivated her more than his photography prowess. He was known for going around the neighborhood to run errands for older adults.
“I think of him like an adopted son,” Stitt said. “So many younger people are not mannerly anymore. They are often so full of themselves. John just went about his business in a low key way. You didn’t even know that he took these wonderful pictures and even took famous people. He was just a sweet person. That’s how we will remember him.”
“He was just a loving and kind-hearted man,” said wife Gladys Patillo at her home. “John has many passions, but photography was first. He just took pictures of everything and everyone. You just could not separate John from his camera.
“John was particularly proud of taking pictures of President Obama (in Vernon Park) because he was really proud of our first Black president,” she said. “It made the front page. He’d say the pictures were historic.”
Yet John Patillo was also multi-dimensional, according to family members.
His mother Carla Mae Patillo added that her son also had a passion for the outdoors. To this end, Patillo would take it upon himself to engage in beautification projects in his community. He was often found planting, pruning and mowing lawns along and around his Cedarbrook Avenue home.
“You could find him out in everyone’s yard, especially the senior citizens,” said Belinda Patillo-Clay, his oldest sister.
The late photographer’s only daughter, Tiana, said her father also had a passion for painting houses.
“I think it just came from his love of art and coloring, because when I was growing up he would always color with me,” she said.
Local organizers for Obama for America (OFA) are set to host a grand opening of their Northwest Philadelphia field office this week.
Located at 7171 Ogontz Ave. in the heart of the Ogontz Plaza Shopping Center in West Oak Lane, the office is scheduled to have its unveiling on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. Scheduled to be on hand for the ceremony were Stefanie Brown, OFA National African-American voter outreach director and Michael Blake, OFA deputy vote director.
The new office will be headquarters for some of the city’s strongest voting wards including the 50th, 10th and 17th.
This is the state’s seventh OFA-PA headquarters since the launch of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign last April.
The West Oak Lane office is set to increase the grassroots community organization that is the hallmark of the president’s campaign, according to Devora Kaye of OFA.
“Since the launch of the re-election campaign OFA Pennsylvania staff and volunteers have held trainings, planning sessions, house parties and phone banks,” she said. “OFA-PA volunteers have made over 375,000 phone calls to voter and supporters and have held more than 4,800 one-on-one conversations with supporters about the president’s accomplishments, and how they can get involved going forward.”
Phone banking will begin at the West Oak Lane site Saturday, Feb. 18 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The East Mount Airy/West Oak Lane team will hold phone banks every Saturday as well as during the week. They will also be engaged in canvassing efforts and other voter outreach.
It was in 2008 when excitement spread as neighborhood offices opened throughout the Philadelphia area for the Obama campaign.
Among them was the red ribbon cutting ceremony outside the South Philadelphia office. Music mogul Kenny Gamble had the privilege of cutting that ribbon and spoke about the importance of field offices in local communities.
“I believe that having these field offices is what we need,” he said. “I feel Obama is the best thing for America. We will be impacting the change. That’s what having this office here is all about.”
At that time Cheryl Harper of the Democratic National Committee was spearheading the voter activities in the 50th, 10th and 17th wards of Northwest Philadelphia.
“In the Northwest wards there is a high voter turnout, but we still need these offices,” she said. “It’s important to have these neighborhood centers to get the vote out in all parts of the city, because that could determine who takes the election.”