Historically, African Americans have worn large, colorfully adorned church hats as part of their “Sunday Best” — a saying that dates back to their ancestors when dressing up for church was one of the few opportunities African Americans had to remove domestic aprons and house dresses.
These drab garments were replaced by bright colors, fancy shoes and elaborate hats that would stand out in a crowd. Style and sophistication would rule on Sundays when African-American women went to church. The annual tea at Mother Bethel embraced this tradition at one of the annual, premiere events in Philadelphia. On Saturday, more than 150 African-American women and young girls donned church hats, lace gloves, and pearls. Men and young boys wore tuxedos, bow ties for Mother Bethel AME Church’s annual tea “Pearls of Wisdom.”
The formal tea, held at the church, 419 S. 6th St., and featured three courses: bread, savory, and sweets with food presentations. There were performances by local pianist and vocalist Dena Underwood; dramatic readings by comedian Najwah Abdul Sabur; and singing and dancing by the Mother Bethel teenagers and youth. There was a “Hat Promenade” featuring all of the women in attendance sporting their fancy chapeaus.
Arthur H. James was a former Philadelphia assistant district attorney.
James died Sunday, March 31, 2013. He was 66.
He was born July 13, 1946 in Philadelphia to the late Ella James Martin and Agashion James.
“Beaver,” as he was known by his grade school and later, college friends, graduated with honors from West Philadelphia High School in 1964. He went on to attend Lincoln University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics.
As an undergraduate at Lincoln University, James served as polemarch of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Epsilon Chapter.
He met and married Constance Faith Moore in 1968.
He headed many social movements including civil rights demonstrations. He traveled to the Mississippi Delta top aid those beleaguered by racism and poverty.
In 1975, James graduated from Temple University School of Law, where he served in leadership roles for the Black Law Students Association.
He worked as an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia in the early 80s. He subsequently entered into private practice as a counselor-at-law.
He was the lead defense counselor in several high profile cases that made the evening news. One of his favorite comments was: “Some lawyers may know more case law. But once they put 12 in the box, I know people.”
He joined forces with three other successful and young Black lawyers to create the law firm Gaskins, Irwin, James and Philips. He later began to broaden his scope of legal discipline and took on medical malpractice and personal injury cases as well. James would often work on various cases for neighborhood friends pro bono.
Later in life, James became a stronger advocate in the nonprofit arena focused on aiding organizations whose aim was to improve the economic and social status of the underprivileged inner city population. His family said James worked tirelessly to get as many people gainfully employed as he could.
James was also a prominent proponent for strengthening family bonds while working under the auspices of the National Comprehensive Center for Fathers.
“He worked to the best of his abilities to assist men who may have made some mistakes in fortifying their relationships with their children, communities and most importantly, God,” his family said.
His family said he was an extremely gifted orator who had an uncanny ability for influencing others. He dressed impeccably and loved music, particularly jazz and R&B. According to his family, James was a great dancer who would stop to appreciate his love of music and dance, anywhere at anytime.
“Those fortunate to have known him, loved him for his enormous passion for life,” his family said.
At the time of his death, he was an active member of Men’s Choir and Usher Board at Vine Memorial Baptist Church.
In addition to his wife, James is survived by his daughter, Ife Nilaya James; son, Arthur Henry James II; grandchildren, James Scott III, Faith Ella Estee Campbell, Julia Marion Verlene James and Arthur Henry James III; daughter-in-law, Fatima James; stepson, Travis Smith; godson, Love McCune and other relatives and friends.
Services were held April 8 at Vine Memorial Baptist Church, 5600 West Girard Ave.
Wood Funeral Home handled the arrangements.
City Council, in an otherwise uneventful session, passed two resolutions, with one dealing with advertising on municipal buildings and properties, and the other to consider Councilman David Oh’s bill that would cause the city to receive and disburse late fee funds from the Free Library of Philadelphia network.
Bill 130109, reintroduced this week by Council President Darrell Clarke after Clarke initially introduced the bill in February, will amend the Philadelphia Code’s “Public Property” entry, and calls for council to provide a “a comprehensive plan for the placement of advertising on municipal property.”
“Digital advertising has become an effective way for governments to communicate public service messages and real time conditions such as weather and road conditions in conjunction with commercial advertising,” read, in part, a selection of Clarke’s bill. “[It would also allow] advertising, including digital advertising, to be placed on municipal property would provide the City with an effective means of communicating public service messages in tandem with commercial advertising messages.”
While Clarke’s bill required little in the way of explanation, Oh sought to clarify his bill, one which would amend the Philadelphia Code’s “Parks and Recreation” entry pertaining to libraries.
While Oh’s bill requires “the imposition of fines by The Free Library of Philadelphia for the loss or late return of borrowed materials for all patrons including adults and children, and The Free Library of Philadelphia to spend net revenues from such fines collected by children for the benefit enhancing technology and youth specific programming,” Oh clarified the situation, noting that there are hundreds of thousands of uncollected return dues that the city could use, or in lieu of city action, the library system itself could use those recouped funds to improve its technology and provide more services.
“One of the more important issues to come before this body is the funding the local branch libraries, and the challenges they have in providing not only the time for children and parents to come to the library, but also the resources, such as computers, and other types of programs,” Oh said. “Recently, the [Nutter] Administration announced it would no longer collect fees from late children’s books. I think it’s very well-intended, but I have a few issues with that.
“If the problem is that children who have late books are not allowed to use library resources, that can simply be remedied,” Oh continued. “But late fees are substantial; it was $430,000 last year, and three years ago, it was $700.000; this is money no one is complaining about. If the city doesn’t want the money, I think it should be placed in a separate fund to be distributed to the branches, so they can get some of the funding they need and have been requesting to provide programs for children.”
Deana Woodall and Caliph Gamble exchanged wedding vows at an elegant ceremony on April 21 at Estia Restaurant. Caliph is the son of Philadelphia International Records co-founder Kenneth Gamble and radio personality Dyana Williams. The wedding was officiated by the Rev. Louise Williams Bishop and entertainment was provided by R&B singer Jean Carne.
The evening of December 6, 2001 was the night that forever changed the life of Dorothy Johnson-Speight.
That night she received a phone call and learned that her son, Khaaliq Johnson, had been murdered and the seed of what would become Mothers in Charge – a growing organization of women who had lost their sons and daughters to violence — took root. It’s been said that Mothers in Charge is an organization no woman wants to belong to — but since that fateful day, the organization has spread and formed chapters in Wilmington, San Francisco and Los Angeles, Nashville, Atlantic City and New York.
On May 6 and 7, Mothers in Charge will be conducting a special event – The Cost of Violence: National Conference on Violence Prevention and Behavioral Health. On those days a new model for addressing the cost — financial and emotional — of violence and bridging the gap between grass roots community advocates and experts in the field of behavioral health. The national two day conference, which will be held at the Sheraton Hotel at 17th and Race, will bring together groups from across the country for panel discussions, workshops and strategy sessions. The main concern of attendees is to how to prevent the deadly violence that has taken so many lives over the last several decades with increasing momentum. Johnson-Speight said that addressing the emotional fracturing that takes place for relatives of the slain is of major importance.
“It’s not something anyone can easily get over,” Johnson said. “I’ve been at this for 12 years now and my son’s murder still seems like it was yesterday. But a mother’s influence is a powerful thing; we’ve seen that with the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving. They made a tremendous difference and I think eventually we’ll see the same thing happen against the senseless violence. Too many young people have been killed and the mothers of this country can change that.”
Mayor Michael Nutter will be among those scheduled to speak. Other guest speakers include keynote speaker Dr. Arthur Evans, Commissioner of the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and Rev. Dr. Alyn Waller, Pastor of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church.
Johnson said that since the 1980’s, the Center for Disease Control has recognized violence as a public health crisis. They took on the perspective that if the behavioral health of at-risk populations could be impacted through education in social, cognitive, emotional and behavioral treatments and therapies, communities could experience significant change in the violence epidemic.
Since the beginning of 2013 there have been 78 homicides in Philadelphia; a 39 percent decrease from the 104 murders for the same time in 2012. Law enforcement officials said that could easily change, especially now that the weather is getting warmer.
Mayor Michael Nutter, who will be delivering the welcoming remarks, acknowledged that America needs a national approach to dealing with the gun violence. During a recent meeting with Tribune editors and reporters he said it needs to be handled as a domestic terrorism issue; with a comparable level of determination and resources used to combat international terrorism.
“There were 3,000 people killed on 9-11,” Nutter said. “Since that day eleven years ago over 100,000 people have been murdered in this country yet we’ve not seen a comparable level of action taken in changing procedures, laws, training personnel or increasing levels of funding.”
Johnson-Speight said that regardless of the federal government’s lack of action when it comes to gun violence, that’s not a reason for those affected by the violence to give up.
“We saw that the Senate refused to pass any new gun control laws but that doesn’t mean we’re supposed to give up,” she said. “Meetings and conferences like this one we’ve planned raise awareness and helps keep these problems before our elected officials. Are we going to see things change overnight? No, but the violence has to stop and united, organized mothers have great influence. Most of the people attending this conference have lost children, they live with that pain and they’re passionate about stopping the bloodshed. That passion is like no other.”