It’s not too late to enter the Black History Month Annual Essay Contest and Black History Celebration sponsored by the Finley Advisory Council in Mount Airy.
With the theme “Fighting Black on Black Crime in our Neighborhoods” the competition will offer elementary to high school students an opportunity to express themselves and earn cash prizes for their award-winning submissions.
The submission deadline is Monday, Feb. 20. Essays will be presented at the Black History Month program to be held at Finley Playground, Upsal and Phil-Ellena streets on Saturday, Feb. 25 at 6 p.m. To obtain an entry form and guidelines visit Finley or call (215) 685-2890.
“The program will feature winning essays and performances by Jaleel McCoy from Freedom Theatre Arts and Dance Program,” said Gerry Sizemore of Mount Airy, who is co-coordinator of the program along with Margaret Turner and the council’s president Walter Marlin. “It will also feature the U. S. Postal Workers Choir. Come prepared to participate in the Black History Trivia Contest and win prizes.”
The essay topic for elementary school students is “how would you help fight crime and violence in your school and neighborhood?”
The middle-schoolers will write on the importance of witnessing a crime and the contradictions that exist under the label of being a snitch.
Secondary students would be challenged to tell how “Black on Black crime” interrupts one’s future promise and the promise of the victim.
All winners receive a framed certificate. For elementary students there is a $50 prize for the first place winner and a $25 prize for the second.
For middle school students, the prizes are $75 and $50, for the first and second place winners, respectively. High school students can earn a prize of $100 for first prize and $75 for second prize.
All entries must be typed and doubled space or printed legibly in black ink. The essays should be a maximum of 500 words for elementary students, 600 for middle school, and 1,000 words for high school. Of course, all entries must be the original work of the entrant.
The Finley Advisory Council is the volunteer organization that provides programming at the city-run facility.
In addition to the Black History Month essay competition and program, the council also hosts a Women’s History Month event in March, a Back to School Rally in September, and other programs throughout the year.
The city remembered the late veteran journalist Fatimah Ali at her “Celebration of Life” memorial service on Monday, Jan. 30.
It was standing room only at the Summit Presbyterian Church, Greene Street and Westview Avenue in the West Mount Airy section of the city.
Family, childhood and college friends, journalism colleagues, sister friends and listeners to “The Real Deal with Fatimah Ali” which aired daily on 900AM WURD were on hand. They filled the church where Ali was baptized, made confirmation and grew up attending Sunday School before converting to Islam.
Among those who gave remarks were Mayor Michael Nutter, Art Sanctuary director Lorene Cary of Mount Airy, poet Sonia Sanchez of West Germantown, WURD general manager Sara Lomax-Reese of Mount Airy, Barbara Grant, the former Philadelphia New Observer editor Helen Blue of West Oak Lane, and actor Tom Page from Freedom Theatre.
Childhood friends and family members also gave their tributes during the community memorial.
For West Mount Airy native Pamela Chestnut it was an emotional experience. Though she readily admitted she never met Ali, she knows many who knew her personally and she herself has been an avid listener of her morning radio show for the past year. Chestnut used to read Ali’s columns in the Philadelphia Daily News and the former Philadelphia New Observer.
“She was such an inspirational sister,” Chestnut said. “She advocated for education, those who were incarcerated and the homeless. She was just so honest and direct. I knew that I had to come here to pay tribute to someone who affected our community so much,
“I am also concerned about her children,” she added. “I know that she had a strong family, but like most of us there are struggles. Though I can’t donate much at this time, when I get some money soon I plan to give more. I understand, like she did, that it takes a village to rear our children, and we have to ensure that hers will be okay.”
Zahfar Rashied of Germantown was busily taking photographs and video footage of what he referred to as “an historical moment.”
He was hired by Ali at WDAS-FM in 1990 when she was the news director, he said. Rashied remembered that she always patiently worked with him as he was learning the ropes of the broadcast industry.
“She was always a tremendously giving and supportive person,” he said. “When I heard the news I was saddened. I know that she’s not here — but the way she lived her life — she is continuing her journey now. God sends us persons like her to teach us how to walk on this earth.”
Among the memories that radio salesperson and photographer Saundra Ali — not related to Fatimah — had about the late journalist was their last conversation and email.
The two Alis were brainstorming about a cookbook in which Fatimah Ali, a gourmet cook, would pen the recipes and Saundra Ali would provide the photos. They also toyed with the idea of starting a national African-American newspaper.
“We said the book was going to make us rich,” said Saundra Ali, who coordinated Fatimah Ali’s Muslim funeral, held in West Philadelphia on Friday. “We were going to meet about the newspaper idea, but she sent me an email the night before she died saying that she didn’t feel well and just wanted to sleep. I am glad the last time I saw her that we hugged and she said to me, ‘You are my sister.’ That’s how I’ll always remember her.”
Among the tributes that were read by broadcaster and SCOOP USA columnist Thera Martin Millings was a testimonial from Fran Aulston, founder and director of the West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance and the Paul Robeson House. Aulston and Cary noted Fatimah Ali had a commitment to the arts.
“She was just an aware sister,” said Raja Thomas of Germantown. “I learned about life from her. I started reading the One Step Away newspaper for and by the homeless because of her show. She understood what it is to be human. That’s why she’s up there with the saints now.”
The Evening Baptist Ministers’ Conference of Philadelphia and Vicinity have installed a new president.
The Rev. Harry E. Bronson, pastor of the Rising Sun Baptist Church, 745 S. 12th St. was installed on Monday. For Bronson, who most recently served as first vice president of the group, this will only increase his chance to serve the Delaware Valley.
Bronson is quick to point out that what sets the organization and his own congregation apart from many others is their belief in “old time country tradition.”
A native of Barnwell and Columbia, S.C., Bronson said during his 34-year tenure at Rising Sun Baptist he has been able to maintain a family atmosphere that is continuing to sustain its members despite economic hard times.
“Our conference is truly a fellowship, a brotherhood, and a kinship,” Bronson said. “Many of us are small churches but we are truly brothers and sisters. Many of the people (have roots) in Georgia and South Carolina and still retain that southern flavor.”
Among the hallmarks of many of the churches like Rising Sun is the very visible deaconate and deaconesses. Every week many of the churches still hold a prayer service and a Bible class. Like their larger counterparts, they may have a choir but usually there is no praise and worship team stimulating the congregation before the sermon.
Bronson and the group’s public relations “reporter” the Rev. Raymond T. Blue added that none of the churches within the evening conference is “in foreclosure that we know of.”
This Bronson credits to the fact that their close fellowship allows them to know when someone is in need. The church members then rally around the person to help them secure employment or get back on their feet which enables them to fulfill their church membership with dignity.
“The whole conference is one of cooperation,” Bronson said. “Every Monday we meet at Gethsemane Church. We take care of church business in an efficient manner. We look to each other for support. We discuss who is in need and try to help the misfortunate. We do what we can for those struggling in our communities.”
For Bronson, his ministry and association with the evening Baptist ministers has been a positive journey. He counts among the benefits the many strong friendships he has developed with those among the 70 pastors from Philadelphia, Chester, South Jersey and Delaware. Many will be attending his installation on Monday.
Bronson was elected as pastor of Rising Sun Baptist Church on March 10, 1977. He received his theological education at the New Era School of Theology and Manna Bible Institute, where he studied under the late Rev. Dr. J. H. Patton. The president-elect is a member of the Philadelphia Council of Clergy.
He is married to his high school sweetheart, the former Betty Jean Daniels. The Bronson have four children, 10 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
The Evening Baptist Ministers’ Conference of Philadelphia and Vicinity is an arm of the Baptist Ministers’ Conference of Philadelphia. While the latter holds their meetings in the mornings, the former holds their meetings in the afternoon or early evening.
For more information contact Blue at (215) 758-7129 or visit http://eveningbaptistconference.org/.
Wadsworth Concerned Neighbors (WCN) is planning on being more active in 2012. Even with the death of core member Ruth Butcher and with youth organizer Mary Mosley relocating to Virginia, the group is still meeting monthly.
The group recently held its January session at the Dorothy Emanuel Playground, Provident Road and Gowen Street on Wednesday.
Among the special projects on this year’s agenda will be reinstituting the non-profit groups’ adoption of neighborhood schools.
In the past the group adopted the John F. McCloskey Elementary School, adjacent to its meeting venue, and other schools. Members would coordinate special programs like essay contests, provide tutorial services, and assist the school with their needs.
“Lately, with all the changes in the members getting older, we have not been as visible as we used to be,” admitted Greg Wicks, president of WCN. “Some of us did get together and go to Ruth’s memorial service which was held a month after her passing in December. Her father is still alive and is 101. So we were there to lend our support by our presence.”
At the January meeting, Wicks read the crime report for the area. Members were relieved the reported crimes did not reflect the rash of murders that other parts of the city faced. Some were concerned about the crimes nearby. Others vowed to try to do their part to insure that those crimes did not spill over into their part of the neighborhood, according to Wicks.
WCN has a focused target area. It extends from Ivy Hill Road east to Wadsworth Avenue, and Cheltenham Avenue south to Michener Avenue. Though those who live in other parts of the Cedarbrook section of Mount Airy and the larger Mount Airy or adjacent Wyndmoor communities are welcome to their meeting, they are clear about their boundaries.
“We have been doing a lot of community outreach without any publicity,” Wicks said.
He is quick to point out that during the recent holiday season they did reach out to local shelters and needy families. Wicks said that they are very careful “not to embarrass” the recipients or to draw undue attention to the organization for its philanthropic endeavors.
“This is a time when organizations are suffering because they don’t get the donations like they usually do,” he said. “Fortunately for us we have members who can assist, but we do it anonymously. When we used to have those who did community service with us because they were mandated to do so we always treated them as any other volunteer. So when we give we treat those we give to with the same respect.”
WCN was originally organized as Wadsworth Concerned Neighbors Against Drugs. They were part of the citywide coalition of anti-drug community organizations that sprang from Mantua Against Drugs or MAD in West Philadelphia. Their next meeting will be held at the Dorothy Emanuel Playground on Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m.
African-American Children’s Book Fair set for Feb. 3
Children’s author Sharon Flake is using her North Philadelphia roots to help children develop the love of reading.
Though she has not been to the African-American Children’s Book Fair in several years, when she arrives from Pittsburgh she will bring her Disney books that capture the voices of youngsters who live in neighborhoods like Germantown and East Falls, near her old “stomping ground” around the 33rd Street side of Fairmount Park.
Young African American boys will find their counterpart as the main character in “You Don’t Even Know Me.” For Flake this book came about as she noticed that the average Black boy is invisible. He is often overshadowed by the stereotypical rebel or troublemaker who gets most of the press.
“Writing from a child’s perspective is something I was called to do,” Flake said. “I started out writing in college and just knew even before that I could tell stories from a kid’s perspective. After working in P.R. at the University of Pittsburgh for 18 years I finally took that leap of faith to do what I was originally called to do.
“I am writing in the voice of those African-American boys who feel that no one is listening to them,” she added. “That’s why the first story in my collection of short stories is about a boy who wants to get married. So often we don’t think of Black boys wanting to grow up, fall in love and get married.”
Around the time President Barack Obama was elected as the first African-American president, Flake penned “President of the World.”
Though the idea for the book was birthed before the president announced he was running for office, the Philadelphia-born author remembered that while growing up boys she knew had high aspirations.
“I guess on some level I completed it because of President Obama, but I was thinking of this one along with ‘Broken Black Boy and the Queen of 33rd Street,” she said.
Through the eyes of the “Queen of 33rd Street” Flake captures the African American girls’ voice. This is the girl who is precocious, imaginative and creative. She is extremely bright, but has the challenge of exploring how she will use that aptitude.
“My stories have a moral but it’s done creatively,” Flake said. “It has honesty and frankness. When children leave they know the value of writing and rewriting, as well as things that they can take on their journey through life.”
So, Flake is looking forward to returning to Philadelphia to read to local children.
“I love the children who live here,” she said. “I believe that their story reflects the hopes, dreams and challenges of other young people living around the world.”
Flake will be joined at the fair by many of African-American authors and illustrators. They include Vanessa Brantley Newton, Shadra Strickland, and Elizabeth Zunon. Also present will be Kerri Conner, Jerry Craft, E. B. Lewis, Walter Dean Myers, Marilyn Nelson, and many others.
The African American Children’s Book Fair will be held at the Community College of Philadelphia’s Gymnasium, 17th and Spring Garden streets on Saturday, Feb. 4 from 1 to 3 p.m.
For more information, including a full list of authors and illustrators visit http://theafricanamericanchildrensbookproject.org/.