“Seeing is believing,” states the old saying.
However, Rev. William Moore couldn’t quite believe what he saw during a tour of housing construction sites in North Philadelphia early last week not far from the Tenth Memorial Baptist Church, on N. 19th St. near Master St., where the widely respected Moore has served as pastor for the past 38 years.
What troubled Moore the most was not what he saw but what he didn’t see.
Rev. Moore saw virtually no Blacks working on those bustling construction sites that are creating rental housing for students attending Temple University.
“On the ten to fifteen sites we visited I saw two African Americans working,” Rev. Moore said during an interview last Friday afternoon. That lack of Black workers, Moore said, “is representative of hundreds of sites in North Philadelphia.”
What Moore witnessed is another body-shot from the structural unemployment historically plaguing Black residents of North Philadelphia.
Sprawling North Philly, located several blocks north of Center City, houses Philadelphia’s largest concentration of communities containing rates of unemployment ranging from 20.2 percent to 37.2 percent according to data compiled this year by the Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board.
North Philadelphia — its lower and upper sections — contains “higher unemployment than citywide figures” according to statistics posted by the Workforce Board.
Citywide, Philadelphia’s unemployment rate hovers between 10 and 11 percent. Unemployment rates for North Philly and citywide do not include the long-term unemployed — making Philadelphia’s real unemployment rates much higher.
The purposeful exclusion of Black workers from the tens-of-millions-of-dollars worth of (principally) private sector student housing construction in North Philly parallels the exclusion of Black subcontractors, architects, suppliers and other professionals on those projects.
“The developers of many of these projects bring workers into the community everyday by the vanloads. These workers [many of them Mexican] are paid in cash every day. Paying these workers in cash avoids the payment of city, state and federal taxes,” Rev. Moore said.
This exclusion of Blacks on North Philadelphia student housing projects comports with the exclusion Black construction workers and Black-owned construction businesses from over a billion dollars of publicly funded construction currently underway across Philadelphia.
This purposeful exclusion is an enduring shame for Philadelphia yet public and private sector leaders (whites and increasingly Blacks) shamelessly skirt their duties to attack this illegal and immoral exclusion.
“City officials are co-conspirators with this institutional racism,” one knowledgeable source said. “When was the last time a Philadelphia mayor walked one of these private or public construction sites, saw this exclusion and expressed strong outrage publicly?”
This purposeful exclusion from employment and contracting opportunities is another vivid example of the societal prejudice aggravating the poverty/unemployment ravishing communities like North Philly.
Impacts radiating from this purposeful exclusion contradict the [purposeful] misperceptions that ‘ghetto dwellers’ possess a predilection for quality-of-life-crippling joblessness and impoverishment.
The poor housing, abandoned housing and razed housing plaguing North Philly arose in large part from purposeful public/private sector policies & practices like the Rizzo Administration withholding millions of dollars in federal Community Development housing renovation funding during the 1970s plus decades of ‘redlining’ by banks and insurance companies.
“The residents of North Philadelphia have endured years of hardships created by circumstances beyond their control including the absence of governmental investment in infrastructure, housing stock and social services,” James S. White said during City Council testimony in March opposing a measure to give owners of multi-unit rental properties in North Philadelphia unprecedented control over development decisions in that area.
White held ranking City Hall posts under two Philadelphia mayors, including housing related positions, served as Temple University’s chief operating officer and currently serves on Temple’s University board of trustees.
Guiding Rev. Moore on that construction site tour were Tom Massaro, a former City of Philadelphia housing director and Philadelphia Hospital Workers Union President Henry Nicolas.
Both Massaro and Nicolas live in North Philadelphia. And both Massaro and Nicolas have vigorously complained about some of that student housing construction in North Philly violating City zoning and building codes — blatant violations currently receiving the blind-eye from City Hall.
“Debris from some of that construction is dumped on vacant lots with cement running into the sewers. Plus, the dust, containing asbestos and lime, goes into homes. There is one playground at a daycare center where this dangerous dust coats the equipment every day,” Massaro said.
“There is one site where a developer is putting 72 units on three lots that under zoning are to have three single family homes,” Massaro said. “These developers are not even using the kids from YouthBuild (charter school) who are trained in construction and go to school blocks from these building sites.”
Rev. Moore said he saw an “egregious” example of corruption where a city trash truck removed construction debris from one site where the developer is supposed to retain private removal instead of paying-off city workers for removal.
Rev. Moore said people in North Philadelphia want to work.
Moore referenced a job fair held in North Philly three months ago, sponsored by state Rep. Curtis Thomas, where the line to get inside stretched nearly two blocks.
Thomas, during an interview with a Philadelphia Tribune reporter about that jobs fair, said, “… there’s systemic unemployment with folks having barriers cutting off access to opportunities.”
Rev. Moore said city officials must address “uncontrolled development” in North Philadelphia.
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Fellowship Program.
This year, the National Baptist Convention’s Foreign Missions Youth Division has been busy hosting local youth rallies to collect and package school supplies, clothes and financial donations to send abroad to support needy youth in foreign countries. The success of these youth rallies is credited to two local leaders, the Rev. Tamieka N. Moore of Tenth Memorial Baptist Church, and Sister Chauncee A. Thornton of Greater Enon Missionary Baptist Church.
Moore and Thornton are educating and engaging youth (and churches) about the severe plight of youth in impoverished countries, and the need to support them via foreign missionary work.
Moore and Thornton serve as officers with the Foreign Missions Board of the National Baptist Convention, in the roles of Youth Director and Assistant Youth Director, respectively. The Foreign Mission Board is the official foreign missions branch of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. The Foreign Mission Board supports mission stations in 11 countries in the continent of Africa, the Caribbean and Central America, via ministry initiatives that include clergy training, support of churches and church planting. The board also supports health care services through hospitals and clinics, schools, and economic development.
Thornton said their goal is “to make sure we re-engage the youth that are a part of National Baptist, and beyond.” Another goal is to educate them on the importance of active foreign mission service and the goals of the Foreign Missions Youth Division.
This year, the Foreign Missions Youth Division has organized three successful youth rallies in Philadelphia. More rallies are planned to support other foreign countries that have needs. Each rally is hosted by a local church and each church focuses its charitable collections and donations efforts to support a specific needy foreign country. The schedule of the three completed rallies has included: Nicaragua on March 3 at New Hope Temple Baptist Church; Swaziland on May 19 at Greater Enon Missionary Baptist Church; and Malawi on Aug. 11 at New Gethsemane Baptist Church.
The aforementioned foreign territories are some of the poorest countries in the world. The average annual per capita income for a person in Nicaragua is $3,200 (data in U.S. dollars in 2011); in Swaziland its $5,200 and in Malawi its $900.
Thornton is zealous about engaging youth for active ministry service abroad where there’s a great need for such assistance.
“Our hope and our prayer is that, not only to get them to support our missions nations abroad, but also have them consider missions as a first career choice,” she said.
Moore, 36, concurs. She believes that while many youth may not be able to physically travel abroad to actively serve in foreign locations, youth can “go” in other supportive ways, via collection and donation of finances, heading up letter writing campaigns, holding prayer vigils, etc.
One of Moore’s strategic goals is to empower the foreign communities they support to become more self-sufficient, versus being ever reliant on the support from her Foreign Missions Board.
“Our Foreign Missions Board, of course, works to extend our arm to the foreign missions field, to help meet both short term and long term needs,” she said. “Ideally, with the Foreign Missions Board, our goal is to move from a more paternal relationship to an independent relationship.”
Under Moore’s leadership, she created the I Am initiative. She said this ministry initiative promotes the engagement of individual youth and youth groups to serve in foreign missions. According to Moore, the I Am initiative is all about individual and group service.
“[It’s] the notion that I AM, YOU ARE, WE ARE the Foreign Mission Board,” she said. “Each of us has a responsibility to ensure the success of this work.”
Moore said New Gethsemane Baptist Church is a national trailblazing model for planning and executing successful missions campaigns abroad.
“They have a heart for foreign missions, they truly set the standard,” said Moore. “For the past 20 years, they have been the largest (financial) contributor to the work of foreign missions. Every year they give no less than $50,000. This is not a mega church that we’re talking about; they have put the work of foreign missions in the forefront of their ministry work.”
Rev. Samuel B. Jordan Jr., is the senior pastor of New Gethsemane Baptist Church, located in Germantown.
To make charitable donations or for more information about the National Baptist Convention’s Foreign Missions Youth Division, contact the Foreign Mission Board office, 701 South 19th Street, Philadelphia, Pa. 19146 or cal (215) 735-9853. Its website is www.fmbnbc.org.
Philadelphia is known as “The City of Brotherly Love” — such a warm and engaging moniker, but crime in the city often tarnishes the goodwill and benevolence that’s generously expressed by upstanding residents throughout the city. A group of local men from area churches have been rallying together weekly, walking the streets in high-crime neighborhoods and praying for residents to help restore brotherly love throughout the community.
The weekly prayer walk was conceived as a way to demonstrate love and support of the North Philadelphia community and its residents.
“As we know, a lot of gangland shootings and a lot of unwholesome things are going on in the community, so we thought that men from various churches should get together and pray about concerns of the community,” said Rev. Fred Robinson, an associate minister of Tenth Memorial Baptist Church, 19th and Master streets.
Robinson believes that praying at traffic intersections, praying at high crime drug corners, praying at popular beer take-out spots, and praying with neighbors on the stroll through the neighborhood, sends a strong message that Christian men are deeply concerned about making a positive change in their community, “People are aware that we are in the community, trying to make a difference.”
Alford Terry serves as a deacon at Greater Enon Missionary Baptist Church, 22nd and Berks streets, and he is a strong supporter and volunteer of the weekly prayer walk initiative, “We participate with (neighboring) churches — Miller Memorial Baptist Church, Tenth Memorial Baptist Church, Second Shiloh Baptist Church and other churches. We decided that we were going to hit the streets and start out with prayer at intersections, and as we meet people along the way, we would ask if we could pray with them.”
Terry, who has served as a Deacon at Greater Enon for seven years and has been a member since 1994, said the response from those they encounter on the street has been very positive.
The architect of the neighborhood prayer walk initiative is Rev. Alfonso Callazo, he serves as Associate Pastor at Tenth Memorial Baptist Church.
“The concept came about when six churches gathered together to begin to evangelize in the community — to let the community know that these are men who are concerned about the community,” he said. “And as we go out and pray every Saturday, the community will see that the church is concerned about the (wellbeing of the) community, and then as people gather in the circle of prayer, that gives us the opportunity to evangelize to people to invite them to church.”
Callazo believes that the more residents are positively impacted by the prayer walk initiative, the greater the potential to remove the dark cloud of crime in Philadelphia. Callazo also serves as a police chaplain in the 22nd Police District. He focuses on North Philadelphia communities within his designated precinct because of the high concentration of violent crimes.
Callazo continued, “I think it’s important for people to see men out there trying to help take back the community. And it’s good that the kids see that it’s men,” rallying together for the weekly prayer walk.
Keith Davis, is a deacon at Greater Enon Missionary Baptist Church, he’s been a member for 10 years. Davis is another strong advocate of the prayer walk initiative, “It shows that the men are finally stepping up.” Davis believes that for so many years, the women have always stepped up to serve in the church in very visible and meaningful ways, “(The prayer walk) is finally showing men taking the lead … we’re finally taking our rightful place.”
On Sunday August 12 at 6 p.m., area clergy leaders will band together to host a “Voter ID Rally” at Bright Hope Baptist Church, 12th Street & Cecil B. Moore Avenue.
According to Pennsylvania’s Voter ID Law, Act 18 of 2012 (starting with the upcoming November 2012 General Election), state law now requires voters to show an acceptable photo ID to vote at the polls. All IDs must contain a name, a photo and an expiration date that is current, unless otherwise noted. And there are restrictions on what’s considered acceptable identification.
“A number of clergy from the Philadelphia community have decided to come together, because we are very upset with the efforts in Harrisburg to suppress the votes, particularly in the African American and Hispanic communities,” said the Rev. Dr. Kevin R. Johnson, senior pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church. The rally is designed to educate the voters on what proper identification they will need to vote in the upcoming November election.
“This rally is so important that we’re asking for all people, here in this great city, to come to Bright Hope Baptist Church on Aug. 12 at 6 p.m. … this election is too crucial, our people have fought too much, bled too much, died too much, during the early part of the 20th century, we cannot allow their hard work and sacrifice to be in vain, simply because we’re not educated and registered to vote.”
The Rev. Dr. William Moore, senior pastor of Tenth Memorial Baptist Church said: “We want to push for a large [voter] turnout, not a low turnout. We want people to participate in this election in November, in this political process, as they’ve never done before. … We want this [year’s voter turnout] to make a statement in the political process.”
Including Johnson and Moore, the other key Voter ID clergy coordinators for Sunday’s Voter ID Rally include:
·The Rev. Charles Quann, Bethlehem Baptist Church
·The Rev. James Baker, President of AME Minister’s Alliance of Philadelphia, Harrisburg & Vicinity
·Bishop Audrey Brunson, Sanctuary of the Open Door
·The Rev. Wayne M. Weathers, Miller Memorial Baptist Church
·The Rev. J. Daniel Jones, President of Baptist Ministers Conference of Philadelphia and Vicinity
Some prominent Pennsylvanian Republicans disagree with the thought that the Voter ID Law is a form of voter suppression. They earnestly believe that it’s a way to protect and ensure the integrity of the voting process and individual voter rights.
Responding to the groundswell of foul-cries from Pennsylvanians, the media, and the legal communities regarding the new Voter ID law, Carol Aichele, secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, issued a recent statewide letter to Pennsylvanians to quell tensions and to educate voters on requirements to vote in the upcoming November election. Aichele wrote: “My goal, as secretary of the Commonwealth, is to make sure that every eligible voter has an opportunity to vote and that every vote counts. Pennsylvania’s new voter identification law requires voters to show a photo ID … This gives one person one vote.”
On Aug. 6, Gov. Tom Corbett told The Tribune at the Governor’s Mansion: “in this day and age, when everywhere we go, we’re asked for photo ID, why [is] everybody so upset about that? I think everybody wants to ensure, that: A, they have the right to vote, and this [voter ID law] isn’t stopping anyone from the right to vote; and B, that they vote one time, and where they’re supposed to vote. That’s all we’re asking for.”
According to Aichele, the following is a list of acceptable photo IDs issued by the U.S. Government or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania:
·Pennsylvania driver’s license or PennDOT photo ID card (valid for voting 12 months past expiration date)
·U.S. military ID (active duty and retired military IDs may designate an expiration date that is indefinite). Military dependents’ IDs must contain a current expiration date.
·Employee photo identification issued by federal, Pennsylvania, or a Pennsylvania County, or municipal government
·Photo identification issued by an accredited Pennsylvania public or private institution of higher learning
·Photo identification issued by a Pennsylvania care facility
In the case of a voter who has a RELIGIOUS OBJECTION to being photographed, acceptable IDs include the following:
·Valid without-photo Pennsylvania driver’s license
·PennDOT without-photo identification card
What if a voter does not have an acceptable form of ID?
·A person who is registered to vote, but does not have an acceptable form of ID, may obtain a FREE PHOTO ID for voting purposes at a PennDOT Driver’s License Center.
Pennsylvanians can view or download a free copy of voter identification requirements and related information by logging online to:
For more information about the voter ID rally, contact the Rev. Kevin Johnson at 215-232-6004 or the Rev. William Moore, 215-787-2780.
As plans to establish a special services district — much like the one in University City — move forward near Temple University in North Philadelphia, one long-time community activist is pressing to make sure residents share in its oversight.
“I’d like to see some neighborhood people involved in that special service district,” said the Rev. William Moore, pastor of Tenth Memorial Baptist Church. “Not just people that put up big money.”
Under a proposal now in front of city Council, the city would create a special services district in the neighborhoods surrounding Temple, providing residents extra security and cleanup services.
It would be funded through an added property tax assessment, a percentage of the value of the property, assessed only on student rental properties.
Plans for the district include an area that extends roughly on the west side of Broad Street from 19th Street in the west to York Street on the north and Girard Avenue on the south. East of Broad Street it would run to 10th Street, north of Susquehanna Avenue to Lehigh. Within that area, the Yorktown section, already governed by a special controls district, Temple University’s campus and the properties on North Broad Street would be exempted.
Councilman Darrell Clarke, who introduced the legislation last month, said a growing conflict between residents and students made the new district necessary.
“We’ve had significant issues with the amount of student housing that’s been built up in that area without any planning or structure whatsoever,” he said. “It’s popping up in the middle of residential blocks. There have been a number of incidents between residents and students. It’s just been an ongoing problem for several years.”
Similar conflicts, mostly over noise, garbage and parking, led to more stringent rental rules in Yorktown. Student housing there is now limited to owner-occupied homes. That rule has been challenged in court. The city won the first round, but the case is under appeal. A similar, expanded measure, including the area that is now part of Clarke’s proposed special services district, is also being considered by Council.
Moore supports the special services district — as long as it helps strengthen the community.
“It ought to be a cooperative venture,” he said.
Clarke acknowledged Moore’s concerns, noting that the details of the board makeup have not yet been fleshed out.
“There is some concern by the residents, who are concerned that they will have minimal or no input,” he said. “Then on the other side, you have property owners whose position is that we are paying for the extra support, so we should have significant members of the board.”
He promised that the board would be made up of a diverse group of people, adding, “We’ll work that out.”
Long a community activist in North Philadelphia, Moore has seen the neighborhood undergo radical changes over the last 30-plus years. What was once a prosperous middle-class neighborhood started to slip into decay in the mid-1970s as drug dealers invaded its streets and the homeowners who could afford to leave did so. At one point there were 20,000 vacant lots in the area, he said.
“When I came, Master Street was a model block,” he said. “Then, there was a time when this was a wilderness situation. Banks would not even loan money to buy or fix up property in North Central Philadelphia. All of a sudden we’re being rediscovered.”
That rediscovery has yielded mixed results.
“You can’t argue that [redevelopment] enhances the neighborhood,” he acknowledged. “It’s better than vacant lots.”
But, students don’t put the down same roots, he noted — and don’t have the same concern for the neighborhood.
“On Friday night it’s like a disco,” Moore said, worrying that redevelopment geared only toward students would, ultimately, fail to stabilize the entire community.
“North Philadelphia is becoming the inner-city bedroom community for Temple students,” Moore said, continuing that he’d like to see a more diverse neighborhood. “I’m not anti-development. I’m for responsible and balanced development.”
Ultimately, whether or not the district is created depends on the owners of student rentals.
The city will hold two hearings on the matter, which Clarke said he expected to happen before the end of the year. Then, owners of student rentals will vote on the proposal, which will fail only if a majority opposes the plan. According to Clarke, if 51 percent of student rental owners oppose the assessment it would be defeated. Otherwise, it will be implemented, probably by early spring, Clarke said.
Moore said he would keep urging that community residents be given a role.
“They ought not to just be rolled over because they don’t have any money,” he said.
According to noted historian, lecturer and author Cornel West and syndicated talk show host Tavis Smiley, neither mainstream political party — nor their chosen representatives in the general election — are doing enough to talk about poverty, the destruction it causes in urban communities and the impact it has on families.
Smiley, West and a myriad of community action groups — including the Philadelphia Student Union — took turns discussing poverty and how to best eradicate it during the Philadelphia stop of the “Poverty 2.0 Tour,” which has already taken the pair through Ohio and Virginia, with Florida being the last leg of the tour. The Tenth Memorial Baptist Church, on 19th Street near Masters in North Philadelphia, hosted the third tour stop.
This is the second year in which Smiley and West embarked on such a tour, which visits key battleground states and hosts town hall-styled meetings with local residents.
Tenth Memorial Baptist Church Pastor Rev. Dr. William B. Moore and state house hopeful Jordan Harris also offered remarks.
“The sprint between Labor Day and Election Day is when the attention of the nation is focused intently on the presidential race,” Smiley said, noting that last year, he and West visited nine states and 15 cities. “We know the two candidates, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, and the truth of the matter is, neither has said enough, as of yet, about the issue of poverty.
“The moderators need to put poverty front and center in the upcoming debates,” he added.
Although Smiley took both candidates to task for not mentioning the uncomfortable topic, he noted Obama ran on a platform of eliminating poverty, and so far, has failed to deliver.
“Obama is infinitely better in this election than Mitt Romney,” Smiley said. “But, Barack Obama, when he ran for president as a senator four years ago, he ran on a platform saying he was going to fight to eradicate poverty in America. He hasn’t quite gotten around to that yet. He said he was going to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour; he hasn’t gotten around to it yet.
“Before you perceive this as hating on the president, we’re talking about accountability,” he added. “We want to get poverty on the agenda, and sometimes, you have to fight with your friends to push this issue out there.”
Smiley also said the media needs to ask the questions, if the candidates are unwilling to voluntarily bring the topic up.
“So one, we have get the candidates to address the issue. If the candidates won’t address the issue, then the media will have to address the issue, because the media is covering the horse race,” said Smiley, who noted that here, in the richest country in the world, more than 50 million people go to bed hungry, and of that number, 9 million are children. “The second way is for the media to talk about it, which will make the candidates talk about it.
“So [the candidates] can force the media to cover about it, and the media can force the candidates to talk about it,” Smiley continued. “You do that by demanding the four American journalists moderating the debate to put this on the agenda.”
West agreed, noting that not enough is being done to fight poverty — and there’s not enough people willing to fight, Civil Rights-era style, for their fellow man.
“We expect that the forthcoming census data will reveal that poverty in America is not an abstraction, and too many Americans are living hand to mouth. Basic needs such as living-wage jobs, food, clothing, medicine and shelter cannot be ignored by the major parties,” West said. “We live in a society of warped priorities; we live in a system that is failing poor people and working people, and is not working for poor people and working people.”