Growing up around actors and performers on various television and movie sets has had a great impact on Etienne Maurice, son of actress Sheryl Lee Ralph. Like his mother, Maurice has big dreams of making it big in film.
Maurice, 20-year-old film major at Drexel University, recently took on the role of William Henry Brown in “Richard III,” a production by the University of Pennsylvania’s African American Arts Alliance. Different from Shakespeare’s traditional “Richard III,” it’s a play within a play—based on a true story of the trials and tribulations of a Black company competing to put on “Richard III” in 1820’s.
Although Maurice is a Drexel student, he auditioned for the play at Penn and was thrilled when he got the part. Delivering his comedic role in a Jamaican accent, Maurice feels this is only the start to his career.
“It definitely pushes me to want to continue to do more,” he said. “I always ask my mom how did she get better with her craft.”
Ralph, actress, singer and activist known for many roles including, Dee Marshall in television series “Moesha” and her role as Deena Jones in the original Broadway musical “Dream Girls,” was proud of her son’s performance and felt the play was executed successfully.
“I thought it was great—excellent,” Ralph said. “I was like ‘wow, that’s my son’.”
Maurice remembers being on the set of “Moesha,” meeting the actors and watching his mom “do her thing” on set.
“I was always so excited about it,” Maurice said. “I was reading the script like I was on the show with her.”
As Maurice got older his interest in filmmaking grew and he began making films and building his media entity Longnightsshortdays.com, a platform for the latest entertainment and news in music, fashion and hip-hop culture. He aspires to turn this into a 501 © nonprofit and venture out to various schools in Philadelphia to reach out to high school students aspiring to be filmmakers and web designers. He plans to hold a blog contest where high school students with the most hits on their developed blog, will receive a $500 scholarship for school. Maurice hopes this will encourage the youth to chase their dreams.
Maurice enjoys the behind the scene work and working with the African American Arts Alliance reassured is interest for on stage work as well.
The African American Arts Alliance aims to promote awareness of Black culture on Penn’s campus with the emphasis on African American Theater. Candace Logan, director and sophomore at Penn, was proud of all the actors—including their Drexel addition, Maurice. It was Logan’s first time directing and she believes the hard work and preparation paid off.
“I’m really proud of everyone—all the actors did really well,” Logan said.
Ralph attended the opening show and was impressed with the organization’s production. She is pleased that Drexel and Penn students work so closely together and believes education is truly the key to success.
“An educated artist is a much more interesting artist—there’s a need for education” Ralph said. “I tell my son to understand the business, you have to understand the business of show.”
In support of The American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania’s (SEPA) Red Cross House, the Exelon Foundation, parent company to PECO, recently donated $500,000 to help its cause.
The Red Cross House—the center for disaster recovery—located at 4000 Powelton Ave., works to provide shelter to those who have been temporarily or permanently displaced from their home as a result of a disaster. Along with disaster relief, the SEPA chapter also provides community disaster education, first aid and CPR and HIV/AIDS prevention information to thousands of people across the region.
The SEPA chapter was charted in 1916 and serves nearly four million people of Philadelphia, Montgomery, Chester, Delaware and Bucks counties. It’s a humanitarian organization led by volunteers and guided by the principles of the International Red Cross movement. The representatives from the Red Cross House expressed a lot of gratitude for the donation.
Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes, CEO of American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania, felt the donation was not only generous—but sent a message to other corporations that PECO is in support of their cause.
“What Exelon and PECO has done for us has allowed for us to enhance the quality of services we provide,” Hughes said. “Their leadership means so much.”
In addition to financial contributions, the foundation also contributed to the enhancement of the building. PECO employees gathered at the Red Cross House to assist in updating one of the House’s two lounges, turning one lounge into a library and assembling and installing new furniture.
“We were looking for projects in Philadelphia and what we love about this project is, this isn’t just a program where someone comes in and gets assistance and moves on their way,” said Steve Solomon, Exelon Foundation president. “Families that have suffered a disaster of some kind can actually come together and stay together as a unit.”
The Red Cross House is available to families in need. As opposed to some shelter systems, families are able to stay together until they’re back on their feet. One resident of the house, Chenelle Brown, feels the Red Cross House has been a blessing to her and her family.
After waking up to a fire in her home at 1:30 a.m. one night, Brown was lucky she, her four children, mother and sister were able to escape the fire which was ignited from a neighbor’s house.
“It was only by the grace of God we escaped the fire,” Brown. “By the time that I got out, The American Red Cross was immediately there to assist—everyone was hysterical.”
Brown was touched by the warm welcome her family received at the Red Cross House. They met with a case manager upon arrival and were given guidance and assistance in what do next.
“People here were so selfless and encouraging to us,” Brown said. “They just did everything that they were supposed to do and they did it with a smile—they really make you feel comfortable at Red Cross.”
Brown and her family recently received the keys to their rebuilt home and are in the process of moving back in.
PECO has worked with The American Red Cross throughout the years and has had Denis O’Brien, PECO president, on The American Red Cross board for over six years. Judge Hughes felt their relationship was a “natural” one.
“PECO works with us on a daily basis.” Hughes said. “They are helping us many ways beyond the work with the house.”
Community members joined at the First African Baptist Church, 1608 Christian St., on Saturday March 3 to learn about the impact of slavery on the Black church and to take part in the church’s “Museum Open house Tour.” With artifacts, presentations and tours, the day was full of events.
The group met in a large room below the sanctuary and speaker J. Justin Ragsdale, presented an in-depth presentation discussing the impact of slavery. Ragsdale brought artifacts from his museum, Lest We Forget (LWF), 3659 Richmond St. LWF is a museum that houses a private collection of slavery artifacts and Jim Crow memorabilia. Ragsdale and his wife Gwen Ragsdale opened the museum around six years ago, after 20 years of collecting and showing artifacts. Ragsdale has been collecting artifacts for more than 45 years. After a long time of people requesting to see a place for all these artifacts, they decided to open LWF.
Ragsdale brought shackles from his museum to show what slaves were confined to in order to keep them together and on slave ships. He felt the crowd was moved from his presentation.
“They definitely got the message, I know I reached them,” he said.
Ragsdale believes it is most important to educate the youth. He feels younger people, especially in today’s society; need to understand their history.
“Without their history, they’re not going anywhere,” he said. “It gives you a foundation."
After the conclusion of the presentation, the group was able to look at the artifacts Ragsdale brought and discuss what they saw with one another.
Once the Rev. Arnold Singletary visited the LWF Museum, he felt it was important to orchestrate this event at the church. Mae Brown, mistress of ceremony last Saturday and Singletary worked with Ragsdale to coordinate the demonstration at the church.
“Today was great, I was glad to see parents brought their kids,” Singletary said. “One thing that was clear today is our education is important—we need to learn about where we came from.”
After Ragsdale’s presentation the group was given a tour of the church’s museum. They were escorted through various rooms of the church that housed paintings and photographs of past trustee board members dating back as early as the 1920’s. They looked at sculptures representing the past 13 pastors and documents displaying the church’s history.
Ragsdale hopes this event will encourage communities to educate the youth and to keep them informed of slavery.
“Our children don’t want to know anything about our history anymore,” He said. “They’re making history by killing each other and doing all the wrong things.”
The Dixon House, at 1920 S. 20th St., has been a neighborhood community center in the South Philadelphia community for 75 years. Providing the neighborhood with social services, community forums, health services, Girl Scouts and an array of activities—this division of Diversified Community Services (DCS), has made its mark in the neighborhood.
Incorporated in 1968, DCS is a nonprofit, multi-purpose social service agency in South Philadelphia, giving families and children the opportunity to be self-sufficient in their neighborhoods. The Dixon House has been a go-to place for neighbors and community members to receive housing counseling and other forms of financial guidance.
“Most people know about Dixon House and our services—like our utility programs,” said Diane Grimes, director. “We help people who are on the verge of having utilities cut off, people who are on the verge of losing their home, people who need rental assistance or people who are in domestic violence.”
Grimes has been with the center for 27 years and has seen it develop and meet the needs of the community throughout the years. She started off as a volunteer and at the time the center did not offer social programs, Grimes said.
“As a volunteer I went out in the neighborhood and found out a lot of neighbors were living with one of their utilities shut off, so I began to advocate with the gas companies and electric companies—I wanted to help people get their utilities back” she said. “Then the city approached us with some money and then we became a social service center.”
One of the services the center provides is a computer class taught Mondays and Wednesdays to help familiarize residents who may not have access to computers, with necessary computer skills that will assist them in job applications, resumes and other purposes.
Along with these classes, the center offers housing counseling that helps families become first time homeowners. They provide financial management and home ownership workshops that explore budgeting, credit repair and mortgage foreclosure prevention.
Charlene Houston, housing counselor, feels when counseling clients, it’s important to gain relationships.
“You really need to get to know the clients,” Houston said. “It’s nice to be able to see what other opportunities may be available to them.”
Houston feels their impact in the community is “huge” because they assist people in purchasing homes, finding a home and bringing awareness to programs that are beneficial to the process.
“There are a lot of programs out there that are available for homeowners but they’re not aware of them,” she said. “We play a crucial role in educating the homeowners and letting them know what resources are available.”
Dixon House also offers “Adult & Family Services,” a parenting program that consists of a 13-week class, offering guidance on appropriate usage of discipline, anger management and conflict resolution sessions. Their Homeless Prevention Program keeps community members from being evicted and the center’s community forums inform residents of available public and private benefits.
With a wide range of services, this community-based organization aims to help their neighbors in a variety of ways.
“We are just a community center that does everything,” Grimes said.
Malik Tappe made strides in his community when he became a sports instructor at the Christian Street YMCA located at 1724 Christian St. As the recipient of the “Christian Street YMCA 2011 Employee of the Year,” he is living proof that hard work does pay off.
Tappe became a role model to young boys at the Christian Street Y when he started teaching his “Children Bittie Sampler” class at the center. As a South Philadelphia native, Tappe found that the YMCA forced him to stay on the right path. Now as employee of the year, Tappe believes that anything is possible.
“I was so excited when I heard the news — it was a Thursday — I walked into the center and was told ‘I better have a suit and tie,’” Tappe said.
Tappe was recognized as “Employee of the Year” at the YMCA of Philadelphia & Vicinity’s Employee Recognition Luncheon on Jan. 17, 2011. He was recognized by John F. Flynn, CEO and YMCA of Philadelphia & Vicinity President, Gary Burgess, Senior Vice President of Human Resources at Crown Cork & Seal USA, Inc. and Tom Bender, chair of the Association Board of Directors of the YMCA of Philadelphia & Vicinity.
The staff employees at the Christian Street center are proud of the man Tappe has become and voted for him for employee of the year. Michele Stevenson, executive director, is proud of Tappe’s achievement and believes he was very deserving of the award.
“He really has taken on the role of instructor and role model, they love him to death,” Stevenson said. “He is a role model with the high school kids who come here to play ball and who are achievers.”
Tappe is studying at the Community College of Philadelphia and plans to attend a university in the city after he earns his degree. Along with early childhood education, Tappe is also exploring the study of sports medicine. He is proud and grateful to add “employee of the year” to his résumé. He feels the reward is another way to be encouraged.
“The award made me feel special, but I am awarded everyday seeing the kids,” Tappe said.
Tappe was selected as “employee of the month” before being named “employee of the year.”
Starting at four years old as a youth member of the YMCA, he went on to become youth sports coordinator and now as employee of the year, Tappe feels this experience has been a “rollercoaster ride.”
With his goals and dreams seeming more attainable each day, Tappe is proud of his growth and the positive example he sets for the youth members.
“It’s a big accomplishment,” he said. “I once never thought I would be employee of anything — yet alone employee of the year.”